Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sugar and Carbohydrates are the real baddies, not Fat

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For most of my adult life, I've heard that FAT is the main reason why people are unhealthy and obese. Most of the time I haven't taken much notice of this because being fat hasn't been one of my issues. One thing I do remember is people being grossed out because I've eaten the fatty part of bacon and ham. Because of what we've been told, most people equate fat on food with getting fat. The latest studies seem to disprove this.

A report in yesterday's Independent, points the chubby finger at carbohydrates, not at fats. Sugar and refined carbohydrates like white bread are increasingly being seen as the bad guys (rice and noodles?) and ironically these are the foods found in 'low fat' ready meals and other 'low fat' alternatives. I was really surprised that through eating 'low fat' products people were eating an additional 21 teaspoons of SUGAR a day, let me repeat that 'AN EXTRA 21 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR A DAY.'

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What's convincing about this report, is that it's an analysis of related studies that cover 350,000 people.

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So the latest evidence is that sugar and carbohydrates are worse for you than fat. Which reminds me, when I was just a kid, our fridge used to be fill of animal fat (dripping). Everything was cooked with dripping but that has changed over the past thirty years because people have become more 'fat' conscious. Now it seems that we have been mislead. Bring back the dripping?

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heavy to Moderate Drinker - Thoughts

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One for the road, yet you don't get on the road until three or four later. Sounds familiar? It is to me. Whilst I'm a different drinker to when I was twenty and probably a more controlled one, I still advance from one or two drinks to five or six without thinking or even with any resistance. When I'm sober, I can cringe at my lack of control but as soon as I start I want to get happy (pissed).

Why can't my sober self moderate my drinking? Well, I've been thinking about this a lot over the pass couple of months.

First I think a lot of it has to do with how you perceived drinking as a child and how you started drinking.

When I was a kid, most of the adults in the house drank (I live with my grandparents, their friend and my dad). They drank to relax after a day's work. Guinness was their favourite and they drank in moderation. We were allowed to try and I enjoyed the fact that the head on Guinness made me sneeze. Anyway, I'm getting away from the point, to me, drinking booze meant that you were an adult. This was very strong in my mind and as I think most people can remember, every kid wants to grow up (that's until they've grown up and then many want to regress). So I think drinking is a very adult thing to do.

I drank some drink throughout my childhood but it wasn't until I was fifteen, coming on sixteen, that I really started to drink. It was very much an escape into another world. We had 'Mad' nights, where the intention was to drink as much as possible and go mad. Drinking gave us excitement and release as well as stories. Getting sick and nursing handovers didn't really matter that much, when you were telling a friend an anecdote from the night before.

The believes behind our drinking;

• The more, the better.
• It's cool to drink.
• Getting wasted gives experiences.
• Getting drunk is the point.
• Drink and be happy.

This basically drove my drinking habits through till I my thirties. In fact, moving to London added some new believes like

• Eating is cheating
• Halves are for 'poofs' (Well, I think this one is throughout the UK).
• Cheer up, have a beer/drink!

I do drink differently now to when I was in my early twenties. Then I just drank to get drunk (I fooled myself I was socialising) and achieved it 100% of the time, sometimes I ended up being sick. As I’ve got older I’ve cut back a little on drinking, I definitely drink less often and to a lesser extent. I still drink fast and without pause between drinks, though I now occasionally drink water with alcohol.

How to change to be a moderate drinker?

I need to disassociate ‘the more the better’ with ‘some is good but a lot is bad’. In an academic sense I know this to be true but when I’m in a bar, this is not what I think. I kinda go on autopilot, drink a drink, finish, get a new drink. Repeat until I feel tired (which I do now I’m older) or drunk.

I can work harder on replacing the thinking ‘the more the better’, with ‘some alcohol for a good time but a lot makes me feel bad.’ Perhaps, I can put this message in my wallet to remind me when I'm drinking.

I’m not sure why I drink so fast, perhaps it’s to get that ‘goodness’ from feeling tipsy. And I haven't come up with a way to try and tackle this yet.

I believe the area where I can make the biggest different at the moment is to wait between drinks. This is part of my drinking pattern that I believe is the easiest to break. There’s no need to get another drink straight away. Perhaps, I can set a stopwatch for 30 minutes so that I get a break between drinks or I just replace a ‘drink’ with water. I think if I wait, I'll feel anxious at first but it's a point in my habit that can be changed. If I wait it out enough times, it'll become a new habit.

I think working on these two points will help me moderate my drinking, once I’ve started. From my experience so far, I’ve found it easier not to drink than to drink a little. Now I want to solve that problem, by changing the habit of my drinking.

Are you in a similar position? Do you want to moderate your drinking? Do you have any suggestions on how to moderate (not give up!)?

Thanks for reading.

From a sober Chris - good night.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Review

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Another month has gone.
How quickly time goes.
To recap, here were my aims for March

• To maintain a sugar free diet.
• To experiment with low carbohydrate diet. At first, I want to take notes on the effects of eating or not eating carbohydrates on the teeth.
• To backup internet research on teeth with conversations with professions from the industry.
• Read up and publish a blog on Vitamin D
• Cut down on the number of days I drink, especially the number of days I drink more than 3 pints (UK measure)
• Exercise 14 times. I also want to include swimming and tennis this time.

My diet has been basically sugar free and I usually have no problems avoiding it. I ate sugar, knowingly, on three occasions this month. Two were birthday cakes and the other was high cacao chocolate - a chocolate night. At the moment, there's loads of chocolate in the house, so will probably have another chocolate soon.

Low carbohydrate diet, I did at the start of the month, had many meals without carbohydrates. I felt that my teeth feel cleaner if I didn't eat carbohydrates but to be honest this is just a feeling. I didn't consciously check. On the 14th I went to Japan and since then I haven't been avoiding carbohydrates.

I didn't contact any professions about teeth care.

Vitamin D - I didn't do anything on this. Perhaps, my motivation is low because I probably get enough Vit D as I live in a hot sunny country and I'm spending more time outside these days.

Drinking, the breakdown is thus; 17 days I had some drink, 14 days I didn't. I drank more than 3 pints on 9 days and less than 3 pints on 7 days. I feel this is still too high but I did a lot of thinking why I drink like I do. I'll publish that in a separate blog.

Exercise, Low energy exercise for more than three hours - 14 times (mostly in Japan), high energy 5 times (jogging and sprinting, and biking). I didn't go swimming or play tennis, though I went swimming today.

In general, I'm happy with the process I've made this month. I want to push up the amount of high energy exercising I'm doing. I'm pretty sure this will go up in April. I'm also still flossing everyday and I usually swill my teeth with water after eating. I had no problems with my teeth this month.

The only downside, health wise was getting a cold just before going to Japan.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Zen Meditation

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I've been in Japan for 10 excellent days and had the opportunity to take a Zen meditation class. The class was at the Shunko-in Temple, Kyoto, with the Rev. Takafumi Kawakami giving the class.

Rev. Takafumi Kawakami said that Zen Buddhism is concern with making the right choices in the moment. Focusing on now, can change your past and your future, with every decision opening up a different set of options. Unfortunately, most people are not focus on the moment but are lost in the past or the future. This is especially true with modern life.

Meditation is one way to help you focus on the moment.

In the class we focused on our breathing in two 15 minutes sessions.

First, we focused on the bridge of the nose when we breathed in. The focus is here because the area is very sensitive. We were told to breath in deeply.

Next we held our breathe for a short time.

Then we exhaled slowly and after we had finished we paused before repeating the cycle again.

After the sessions, I felt very relaxed and energized.

The Rev. Takafumi Kawakami said that it's best to practice often, even for a minute or two a day rather than doing a long session.

Shunko-in Temple website - if you go to Kyoto, you can stay at the temple. They have rooms.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The 10 Minutes Exercise Routine

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I came across this last year and I used it for a while, especially on days I felt lazy.

The Routine

3-4 minutes slowly warming up.

If on an exercise bike

1. 30 seconds pedaling as fast as possible.
2. 30 seconds slow pedaling.
3. Repeat four times.

I ran on the spot.

It felt good doing it and it was fun in a mad way. Last spring, I used this exercise, with running and swimming and I felt great and very alive.

The only worry I had was that I was running bare feet on tiles and I wasn't sure about the impact on my knees.

Studies in Scotland and Canada shows that the exercise has many benefits.

• Reduces the risk of developing Diabetes.
• Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The Scottish study was done on young men aged 20 or so.

Further reading

Independent Article

Video on a simalar workout

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time is Wealth

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This is how travel writer Rolf Potts sees it and it makes perfect sense to me too. But in this modern world of endless distractions it's difficult to keep to this in mind.

To make the most of my time, I've been writing down the 2 or 3 most important things I need to do each day. This has helped and last week gave me some very productive days at writing. I managed to contact two editors and sent an email to the local English Newspaper asking for editorial contact detail, as well as drafting some articles.

But I'm still distracted very easily.

I used to waste a lot of time reading the news. I've managed to cut this down dramatically but sometimes the headlines grab me and I find that I've wasted 10, 20, 30 minutes. But why not read the news? Why not; Because it's usually depressing, you can't do much about it and it's mostly irrelevant to your life. The same could be said about celebrity worship.

Microstocks - I need to streamline my time on this. I need to concentrate on more profitable pictures, streamline my workload and constantly ask myself, am I doing something valuable now. The biggest waste of time, is constantly checking to see if I got any new sales - usually there isn't and I feel disappointed. When I check for sales, I also just click on random stuff as something to full in the time.

E-mails - I've subscribed to many streamlines of information and I've found my inbox is now overloaded. I think I will change the way I use email, so that I only check it twice a week and at those times, I'll response quickly to urgent emails.

My home is cluttered, which is a big distraction.

I'm going to take notes on what distracts me and I'll see how I can make better use of my time.

Next post - Exercise for People short of time.


Zenhabits on limiting distractions

Rolf Potts Travel Blog

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Aims

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Since the beginning of the year, my health has been going in the right direction. I haven't stuffed any colds this year, I feel that I have more energy and I'm doing more exercise. I've cut down drastically on the sugar in my diet and I've learnt a lot about health that I didn't know before.

There has been set backs, like the teeth incident last month, but even that has turned out to be positive as I took the opportunity to learn more about what people could do to take care of their teeth. Also, I'm still drinking too often to get drunk.

From this the experience of the last two months and from what I've read, I'm confident that if you want to be healthy, you can. It's up to you!

Here are the targets for this month

• To maintain a sugar free diet.
• To experiment with low carbohydrate diet. At first, I want to take notes on the effects of eating or not eating carbohydrates on the teeth.
• To backup internet research on teeth with conversations with professions from the industry.
• Read up and publish a blog on Vitamin D
• Cut down on the number of days I drink, especially the number of days I drink more than 3 pints (UK measure)
• Exercise 14 times. I also want to include swimming and tennis this time.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Review

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An eventful month, even though it's the shortest month, it actually seems like a very long month because so much has happened.

The highlight was the bungee jump, I also had trips to Macau and South Taiwan, finished working and I've got my first Extended Licence picture sold for a whopping $28!

Health highlights; It's been a month of long walks (mostly urban), some runs, a worrying toothache and resulting swelling on my left cheek. I've stayed mostly sugar free and kept my tea/coffee count respectful, though I've probably drunk the most alcohol in a very long time. I've done some more reading on 'cavemen' eating and a lot of reading on teeth care.

The details


3rd Feb - a friend bought me a Starbuck's Iced Choco-Coffee concoction with sugary cream on top. After drinking, I felt a headache come on.
14th Feb - Had ice cream. After eating this, I felt a rush of energy, though it could've been the two coffees I had as well (or a combination of them both.
19th Feb - Had a sweet soft tofu dish with condensed milk. No after affects.

It feels good not to have sugar and I now like saying no to offers that contain sugar. I will continue this and hopefully, get a completely sugar free month.

Tea and Coffee

Most days I've kept to 2, though there's been 2 or 3 days when I had 3. Towards the end of the month I had a lot of green tea on some days.


10 non-drink days
7 moderate drink days
12 heavy drink days (more than 3 pints)

It looks bad and my excuse is Chinese New Year. I know excuses are lame. Despite the 12 heavy drink days, I think it was only 2 time that I suffered a hangover. I'll definitely drink less this month (March).

Physical Exercise

10 Long slow walks - though these walks were urban and contained many stops as I was taking pictures.
5 Runs - The runs were between 15 and 20 mins. I've started including 'sprints' with the runs to vary the pace and it's more fun.
1 Bike Ride

I've started taking care of my teeth more.

As well as brushing twice a day I now;

Floss once a day and usually carry some with me.
Swill water around my mouth after I finished eating.
If I'm at home, I finish my meals with a lump of cheese.

The swelling on my cheek was a bit of a scary but it prompted me to go to the dentist and also to do a lot of research about 'teeth care'. I've came across some very interesting information, some of which I've already posted. I've come across other information, which claims that teeth can heal themselves and also they seem to have a more detailed view of what causes dental decay. I'll digest this information and share that post with you this month.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gingivitis - Gum Disease

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This is what the dentist told me I have, though he didn't think it would cause swelling on my cheek. Sounds scary and potentially is very scary as it can lead onto periodontitis (Click and be grossed out). Also dental diseases have been linked to a number of diseases that affect the whole body - cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer's, diabetes, pancreatic etc.

Gingivitis is a common disease and up to 80% of the American adult population suffer from it at sometime.

Luckily, coupled with regular visits to the dentist, you can do a lot to improve the situation though good dental care and diet.

Dental problems, including tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontitis have the same cause. Bacteria present in the month, feed on sugars and fermentable carbohydrates, they then secrete organic acids which lower the PH levels in the mouth. When the PH levels fall below 5.7 problems start. The acids then attack the teeth and gums.

So how to control it?

Reduce the acidity level in your mouth and the time it is exposed to these conditions and you'll improve your oral health. The easiest why to do this is to reduce your sugars and fermentable carbohydrates intake and to control the times when you eat them.

Food to be aware of

The higher the glycemic level of a carbohydrate the more acidic it can make the mouth. Glucose and Maltose are both a 100 but foods such as bread, potatoes, rice also have a high gylcemic level.

For a mind blogging list of carbohydrates and their gylcemic level Mendosa website

A shorter simpler list healthy weight forum

I've mostly removed sugary foods from my diet (but not starchy foods) but you don't have to be so extreme (Though Hujeol, a professor at Washington University states that any fermentable carbohydrate can cause tooth decay). We all need to eat and as long as meals contain a mixture of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, this should counteract the worst effects of foods with a high gylcemic level. From what I read, I still think it's a good idea to wash your mouth with water after a meal and ideally have a lump of cheese to reduce the acidity of your mouth.

After eating your mouth can remind acidic for 20-30 minutes. So if you are sweet toothed, it's better to get that evil sweetness during a main meal and avoid snacking on it. Each time you eat (sugars and starches) you can make your mouth acidic and create the conditions for dental decay.

Snacks to avoid

Sugary things, soft drinks, bananas, dried fruit, probably bread (white and brown).

Possible replacements

Nuts, cheese, I think I need to do more research on this. Some advice from your oral health on possible snacks.

This is the advice from Colgate on snacking. Though most breads have a high gylcermic level.

Changes in diet should be coupled with better care of your teeth and gums.

Brushing twice a day but remember don't brush after eating sugary food or soft drinks as they soften the teeth and if you brush straight after eating these foods, you are likely to etch your teeth.

Floss - once a day. Flossing sites recommend that you carry some on you at all time. I'd agree with this, especially if you already have some troublesome teeth. I have on the top lefthand side of my mouth and food often gets stuck in them.

Sorry, a long one today. I'll work on making the information more concise. I'd like to contact some 'experts' for further advise. I've done a lot of reading on the subject and I'm finding it very interesting.

Lets get rid of dental diseases and smile!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dental Problem - How to take better care.

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Today, I’ve got to go the dentist again. I’ve got an infection in the base of the tooth and I need to get this sorted out. The pain hasn’t been that bad but my face has puffed up a bit. It’s worrying and I hope the dentist will be able to solve the problem.

I’ll let everyone know the problem when I do.

I’ve taken this ‘opportunity’ to research good practice for looking after your teeth.

Things I knew

• Brush your teeth twice a day.
• Flossing your teeth is good.
• Visit a dentist every six months.
• Sugar is bad for your teeth.
• Coke is very bad for your teeth, not because of the sugar but because of the acid in it.

Things that I didn’t know

• Drink water after eating. This washes your teeth and is especially good if you swill the water around your mouth. This is perfect common sense and a practice I’ll like to adopt.
• The reason sugar and carbohydrates are bad for your teeth is that they are turned into acids by bacteria in the month. It’s the acid that attacks the teeth. If you have a sweet tooth and can’t stop eating sweets things, it’s best to eat them all at one time.
• Don’t brush your teeth after drinking a soft drink, juice or eating fruit as this can cause etching on the enamel. It’s better to wash your teeth with water and wait a while.
• Eating raw vegetables such as carrots and celery after a meal is good. This helps clean the teeth and stimulate salvia production. Salvia is the mouth’s natural protection for teeth.
• Cheese is good for your teeth. It’s ideal for snacks and as dessert.

Things that are worth farther investigation

Fermentable carbohydrates, which include rice, bread, corn, flour, potato etc, are considered by a lot of dentists to be bad for dental health. Fermentable carbohydrates breakdown into simple sugars in the mouth and can be turned into acids by bad bacteria. Though dentists are reluctant to advice against eating these foods as the prevailing view is that they are needed for a healthy diet.

But why would our bodies be so designed? Surely food that’s good for dental health would be good for general health. Perhaps there is reason behind the paleo-diet, which sees fats and protein as better for your health than carbohydrates (unless they’re from vegetables). Interesting article on oral health and overall health

From now on

• I’ll start to floss my teeth one a day and will always carry some with me. I remember from flossing before that it’s good for the gums. At first my gums were bleeding when I flossed but this soon stopped and my teeth felt very clean.
• Drink water after eating.
• Continue with no-sugar diet.
• Look into carbohydrates more and possible reduce the amount I eat.


Well laid out article on oral health

Useful article on oral health

Food good for oral health

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

World's Highest Bungee Jump

Pre Jump

The world highest bungee jump is from the Macau Tower and this was also my biggest 'comfort challenge' to date.

I’m better with heights than the average person but throwing yourself off a stupidly high height with just a bungee sounded like madness to me. So much so, I've avoided it for the past twenty years.

From the video you can see I was having trouble with the challenge. At the start of the video, I really couldn't think that well, stay with it though, as the jump is quite funny. I needed two countdowns and I was shaking like mad. The drop is very impressive.


I felt great after and I intended to do another jump the following day but the weather was pretty bad.

I'm glad I did this challenge as it was a difficult one for me. I now have the photos and certificate above my computer. They scream at me "I can do", so if I need to contact an editor for article, I can look at them, and think 'Just do it, I can do anything now'.

My record breaking jump 10/10

Hope you enjoy the video.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Comfort Challenges

I'm writing from Macau, where the weather is getting worse by the minute. It's now heavy rain outside. No photo today.

Comfort Challenges is a termed used (coined?) by Tim Ferriss for challenges that get you outside your comfort zone. One of the ones he suggests is to lie on the floor in a public space and if someone ask if anything is wrong, just answer you need to lie down.

The purpose of them is to breakout of your self imposed limits. Most of us have dreams but they tend to be outside our comfort zone and therefore we need to do things that we find uncomfortable to get them.

Some of mine 'comfort zone' issues include calling myself a photographer (in a serious sense), a travel writer, contacting editors and selling myself (I mean my skills). When I talk to an editor about an article I tend to be a bit defensive and unconfident. I want to change this and I've decided to do a number of 'comfort challenges' to celebrate my 40th birthday.

I'm please to say that I did my biggest comfort challenge yesterday. I was very nervous as you'll see in the video, when I put it up. I did it in Macau to give you a clue but I won't reveal just yet what I did.

Completed Comfort Challenges

Celebrating with everyone in a Sake Bar my 40th. I said that 'I'm 40'. I bought everyone a beer to celebrate with me.
Watching Avatar from 1:30 - 4:30 in the morning and working the next day.
What I did yesterday.

Ones coming up

Getting my hair shaved off - Tuesday

Arranging a video shoot (taking the lead) - theme 'Easy English --- Easy Chinese'. - by the end of Feb

Arranging a photo shoot with some friends (also taking the lead)- the idea is to have fun with photography and to get some model shots for microstock use that my friends would be comfortable with.

Chinese week - I'll go out onto the streets with a dictaphone or video camera. I'll record the written Chinese in my area that I see everyday and more important start conversations with strangers. After the end of Chinese New Year.

Contact 10 editors by the end of February

Those are my 'comfort challenges'. I've done well so far and I feel they are all achievable. I want this to lead on to a 'Can Do Attitude.' That's what I was saying yesterday after I completed yesterday's mystery task.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February Health Targets

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• To remain sugar free. I'll make an exception for a 'custard tart' in Macau.
• To stay to only two caffeinated drinks per day.
• To do strenuous physical exercise 10 times this month. I'll also start researching how other people are exercising.
• To drink more water.
• When I’m at home, to prepare healthy food at home.

Health aims are not the direct focus this month. The focus is ‘Getting Things Done’. I finish work today and I want to get a ‘business mindset’ and focus on what I want to achieve this year.

To do this;

• I’ll write down the three or four most important things I want to achieve the next day. This has already started. (Exercise might be included in this)
• To write about the good things that have happened that day. I’ll write for 10 minutes each day on this. This will start tomorrow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

January Health Round Up

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Late, but I spent the weekend away at Sun Moon Lake with my girlfriend.

January Health Round Up

The (refined) sugar free month. Nearly but not quite.

Known times I had sugar

• Two bread rolls made by my girlfriend.
• 26th Jan - baked beans that come with an English Breakfast
• 30th Jan - last day teaching at a school. My youngest class presented me with a cake. After group hugs and a lovely card with letters from all the students in that class, I felt I couldn't say no. Also had a cup of cola that day.

I feel healthier but I'd find it hard to say why. I'm definitely feeling better now than at the start of the month. Also, I can see a lot easier what effect drinking has on my energy levels.

Around about the 11th I had a persistant headache. I felt bad as I haven't had any sugar but I still wasn't feeling that good. I checked a Patrick Holford book on nutrition to see what he said about sugars. I discovered from this that its not only sugar that affects the blood sugar levels. Many other things do as well, so from that review, I cut down on caffeinated drinks. It was cold and I was drinking 7 or 8 cups a day. I now drink only two. My replacement drinks for the other teas and coffees has been boiled water. It's good and it keeps me warm.

An indirect benefit of having a ban on a certain type of food, is that you get to say no more often. I quite enjoyed saying no to sweets and it feels good.


Being sugar free is good and I think I've got a health boost from it. I intent to stay sugar free.


I did strenuous training five times. I went running 3 times and walk for more than 3hrs two times. I think I can do more.


I had 16 non-drinking days
I had 6 moderate drinking days
I had 9 heavy drinking days

Drinking days were a little up from normal. I turned 40 in January, which I think accounted for some of the increase.

On the positive side, I've been much more consistent with drinking water whilst drinking alcohol, especially at home. It's starting to feel more natural now.

That's my health round up. I think I succeed in having a lot less sugar than normal and I feel confident that this will become a habit. I'm also happy that I've changed my caffeine habit to something more moderate. I see that I don't do enough exercise and would like to do more.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Start of a New Age

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I'm 40 today and I feel I'm entering a new age. For much of my 30's I had been in denial about aging. I didn't want to know and often lied about my age but after turning 40, I want to be different.

I'm beginning to realise that life is limited. You only live so long and it's better to accept this and concentrate on the things you want to do. I want my 40s to be great and this is partly why I started this blog as I think good health will help a lot towards having a great life.

Also, I want to stretch myself over the next 40 days by taking 'comfort challenges'. These are challenges where you do things that you don't normally do. An example from strong>Tim Ferriss (general link) is lying on the ground in public.

I made sure I did one as the day turned from the 25th to the 26th(actually I'm 40 and 1 day in Taiwan but still 40 in some places in the world). I was at a Japanese bar with some friends and just before midnight I offered everyone at the bar a drink, so that we could all celebrate my 40th. It was great fun and I felt happy about turning 40. As it turned out, my friend paid the bill and one of the people at the bar, went out and got me a bottle of peach wine. Honesty pays!!

I'll post more about comfort challenges later and as I do them. To everyone, enjoy life! Don't worry about age, use it as force to get things done. Thanks


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting Inspiration from Others

Me, Steph and two performers from Fuerzabruta

Fuerzabruta - Water Dance

A couple of weekends ago I was blown away by people being creative. First, I saw some friends playing at Vicious Cicle, Taipei. It was great seeing friends making fantastic music. I particularly liked it when Ben Smith sang his own song about being 'addicted to smoking' and then Ben Seal sang a song in Chinese. After that I went to Fuerzabruta, which to put it simply, WOW! What they did with lights, dance, music and performance was brilliant. Also, they completely change the audience and performers relationship - with the audience being very much part of the show - amazing fun.

As for inspiration for being healthy, I've decided to look into health sites recommended by Leo Babauta. Leo Babauta has changed his whole life around in the past few years, including quitting smoking, losing a tonne of weight and going from a couch potato to running long distance races.

Here are the sites he's recommended

Mark's Daily Apple is a site that focuses on health from an evolutionally point of view. He believes that pre-agricultural diets are the best diet for humans, as it is the diet that human bodies are most in tuned to. He also believe that exercise should be either short and intense or long and slow as this form of exercise would fit our pre-agricultural lives better.

Fitness Black Book promotes the ideal hollywood body over that of weight lifters. He seems practical and is aware that people have lives where you might deviate from the 'healthy lifestyle'.

Zen to Fitness seems to focus on a simple approach to staying fit.

Fit and Busy Dad is exactly what it says. A busy man, with five children, who manages his life well so that he is fit and healthy too.

Fitness sportlight is written by two bloggers and guides people through various health missions.

I have only scanned these blogs and I've already learned a lot. Certainly, after reading some of their posts, I realise that there's a long way to go and many things to try out before I can think of myself as fit. But that's exciting in itself.

Enjoy and if you know of other useful health blogs then please leave a message.

Spiderman Ben sings Chinese

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How I gave up smoking for FREE

Are they sexy now?

How I gave up smoking - a little at first, delaying the first cigarette of each day but this eventually lead to a great end result. I now haven't smoked a cigarette for over 10 years.

What brought this memory back was reading
'The Power of Less: Changing Behavior with Leo Babauta on the 'Four Hour Working Week' blog.
This suggests concentrating on changing one habit at a time, over a period of a month. The article says changing more than one habit at a time is counter productive. It also said that starting small and gradually make the challenge bigger leads to more success as you get many more successes behind you this way.

This rang true with how I quit smoking

I was in Thailand, with about a month's money left before I needed to returned to the UK. I was smoking between 10 and 15 cigarettes a day, more if I went out drinking. It was my first time to spend many months travelling and I loved it very much. Which got me thinking, how can I save the money to go traveling again? Quitting was a good option as cigarettes were about 5 pounds a packet back at home, ten times the price they were in Thailand. This made me feel that smoking was daylight robbery in the UK.
I guess that how I started, with a strong vision.... I'll go travelling again, something which I really wanted to do. I also felt passionate about it as I didn't want to give my money away to the UK government.
But despite this strong vision I didn't stop straight away
Here's how I did it;
  • I created a powerful reason for giving up. Also that reason was an award.
  • I smoked my first cigarette of the day at a later time each day. If I did this then the day was a success. The amount of time didn't matter, so as long as it was later.
  • I also couldn't smoke any more cigarettes then the day before. Even if I smoked the same number of cigarettes as the day before but smoked the first cigarette later; the day was still a success.
  • I did this over a period of about two to three weeks until I run out of time and 'number' of cigarettes to smoke.
I haven't smoked since.

War on Smoking
I think the good thing about this approach is that I won in my battle against smoking everyday for 2-3 weeks before I actually stopped smoking. With this success behind me, I was able to continue despite being in a country where cigarettes were cheap and there were plenty of opportunities to go out and party. And I did.
By the time I got back to the UK, I had already stopped for more than 7 days and was able to resist starting again.

If you really want to change a bad habit, I strongly recommend that you read Leo's approach. I'll be using his method to adopt good habits and change bad habits.
I would love to hear from you.
How did you give up? Or are you giving up or want to give up smoking?

The images are ones I took, if you're interested in using them, please leave a comment and a contact email.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Changing Habits

dreamtime free images

We are creatures of habit. I'm sure that's a quote but who's? I don't care.

Someone once wrote that 90% of the things we do everyday are the same as the day before. We run on auto. We buy the same things, we do the same things and we do them, near enough at the same time.

Sounds boring, but that's just how we are. Or is it? Perhaps it's more accurate to say that's how we run but not who we are. Habits are like genes, they mutate over time and some can turn into bad ones. I started smoking as an excuse to talk to girls in nightclubs, but I didn't start so that I could have a fag break at work, which at one point that habit developed into.

So, being creatures of habit and wanting to get healthy, we need to identify bad ones and replacement them with good ones.

Changing Habits

Changing a bad habit can be difficult and the New Years Resolution approach doesn't help much. The big bang approach maybe works for a few days but once there's a small failure many people just capitulate. Also the New Years Resolution approach doesn't prepare people for the change. Some friends who wanted to give up smoking, choose New Years Day to stop, but on the run up to New Years Day, they smoked as much as they could, which to me, make it seem that smoking was a pleasure. To be fair to one of them, he still not smoking (except for a sneaky drag when his girlfriend isn't there).

A better approach is one describe by Leo Babauta. He advocates changing one habit at a time and starting small. For example, if you wanted to do physical exercise five times a week, make it the most important thing for that month (or perhaps two months) and get to the target by the end of the time period, not the beginning. In the first week, perhaps, you walk three times, building up from 15 mins, to 20 mins to 30 mins for the third walk. Then, as the weeks progress, you introduce a forth day, starting running some of the time, maybe take up swimming. The important thing is that you get there gradually and that you treat each step like a victory.

In my next post, I'll tell you how I gave up smoking, which essentially follow the path suggested by Leo Babauta. Later in the year, I'll want to change my drinking habits from heavy drinker who's unsure when to stop to moderate drink, who drinks two or three and then stops. I'll also used this approach for getting more physical. How exciting, I bet you can't wait.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Goals

Speak Chinese Fluently

By this, I mean I can start a conversation with anyone and extra some useful information. I want to use my Chinese to do mini-interviews and gain permission for photography.

My current level is some way off this. My most successful conversations are with taxi drivers and sometimes when I start a conversation with someone, they just don’t understand. My listening ability has increased a lot over the last year but is still some way off understanding all the answers in a mini-interview.

I want to achieve this by the end of March but will be doing it throughout March.
At the moment

• Listen to 2-3 hours per day.
• Language exchange for an hour per week.
• Other stuff, 30 minutes a day.

From February (when I won’t be working)
• Listen to 4 hours per day
• Two language exchange for week
• Start recording people in the street, about the street

Probably in April, I’ll be travelling a little and eventually I’ll end up in Holland. When I move, I’ll want to maintain my level of Chinese, probably through online activity and audio downloads.

Later in the year, I’ll want to do a personal project, where I use the principles of Doctor Brown to learn Dutch. More on this later in the year.

Be a Writer

Get published in top travel magazines by the end of the year. To earn an income from writing whilst I’m not working.

To work influential blogs on Health and Language Learning.

At the moment

I’m writing my health blog.

• That’s probably it at the moment.

From February

• Brainstorm for stories in Taiwan and places where I plan to travel to.
• To start writing for 30 minutes a day and to set daily goals in relation to writing.

From March to increase, writing to 2 hours per day.

Start a new blog on language learning, with videos on YouTube for English and Chinese.

Learn to Dive

Get my diving licence and dive in some exotic places. Ultimately I would like to visit a shipwreck.

• Get licence in Taiwan. Write about it

April and May

• Do some dives in Southeast Asia.
• Write about them


To earn enough money from Photography, videoing and Writing to cover the costs of not working from February to probably June. I expect this to be achieve by the end of the year.

At the moment

I earn $50 per month from microstocks and very occasionally get an additional $30 for an article.

The Plan


I plan to increase my stock portfolio in the agencies I’m already in. I think I should be able to increase them dramatically as I’ll have a lot of free time during the first half of the year. Also I have a new lens that has produced excellent results.

Dreamstime Shutterstock Fotolia 123RF
2010 429 155 203 395
Jan 460 185 215 420
Feb 500 220 230 465
Mar 600 310 280 570
Jun 800 500 400 800
Sep 1100 800 600 1100
Dec 1400 1100 750 1400

Targets are for the end of the months.

• I also want to join istockphoto this year
• Use photography for travel articles and language articles
• Be opportunistic and use photography as a trading tool to get bargains, discounts and special offers whilst travelling.
• Do two personal projections
• Offer my services as a photographer to friends, family and potential business associates.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why Sugar?

Since the start of the year I’ve been refusing food with refined sugar in it (well mostly). I want to rid it from my diet, to see if feel better for it. But why do it?

It’s a haunch, I guess ever since I read that (refined) sugar has no nutritional value, I had my doubts about it. Also, it was banned in my house when I was about 10, though I need to find out from my dad why. But despite this background, sugar has crept more and more into my diet.

Most obviously, I like soft drinks, especially fizzy ones but I dramatically cut down last November after a trip to the dentist. Over the past couple of years, I have also got back into ice creams, especially as they are free with many meals in Taiwan. Also my girlfriend loves cooking and over the last half year has been making lots of cookies and some cakes.

Here are top reasons for me but there are sites that list over a 100 reasons to give up sugar.

• It’s terrible for your teeth

• It lowers your immune system’s ability to fight disease.

• It releases its energy incredibly fast. This leads to unstable blood sugar levels resulting in mood swings, headaches and fatigue. The more sugar consumed, the more unstable blood sugar levels are. When blood sugars are extremely unbalanced diseases such as diabetes can occur. Also unstable bloods sugar levels can also be a contributing factor to depression.

• Because sugar releases it energy quickly, unless the body has an immediate use for it, the sugar gets converted into fats. This is done to help regulate the blood sugar level. I don’t have scientific events to back this up but I believe that sugar contributes much more to weight gain then ‘fat’. I mainly believe this because ‘sugary foods’ don’t fill you up or provide your body with the nutrients it needs, and fairly soon afterwards you want to eat more but a cooked meal with meat and some fat tends to fill you up.

• Sugar becomes sticky in the blood system and contributes to a process called ‘glycation’. Sugar sticks to proteins, which in turns reduces the elasticity of the body’s organ. Commonly known as aging.

How’s the war on sugar going?

It’s going pretty well. I’ve been offered things with sugar in them numerous times and I’ve refused them all when before, I’d probably accepted. Well, nearly, my girlfriend made some bread with white sugar in it. Why it needs sugar I don’t know, but after initially refusing, I gave into her protests.

I think the amount of refined sugar in my diet must have been dramatically reduced since the start of the year. I’ve been reducing the amount of sugar in my diet since having two new fillings last November. Then I stopped drinking soft drinks.

How do I feel?

Well, so far I don’t feel any better. Yesterday, afternoon I felt very tired but that mainly from being a bit drunk the night before. Before yesterday, I think my energy levels maybe a bit more constant though. Nothing dramatic.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Health Targets

Keep aiming for the target and you'll get there

I know, I've posted them a few days late but here they are.

My approach to adopting these targets won’t be to do them all at once. Instead I will introduce them one at a time. I want to make them lasting habits and I believe that changing habits is a difficult process. So that's why I'll do them one at a time until I feel that they are established habits. Also, I’ll record on an excel spreadsheet how I’m doing with the targets.

Physical Goals

• To do some form of strenuous exercise (more than walking (though walking two hours plus I'll include as strenuous) five times a week. Currently, I do this about 1-2 times per week. I plan to make this a focus in either March or April.
• To do some muscle work, not much, but some, to build up my chest. My girlfriend thinks that I’m like a dinosaur, because all my power is in my legs and my arms and chest are puny. I might make this a focus later in the year. I'll see how my body is after establishing a five times a week exercise regime.
• To do introduce a new sport into my regime, probably tennis. Currently, I go for a run and swim.
• To learn to scuba dive. I plan to do this in either February or March.
• To learn to dive down whilst snorkeling.

Dietary Goals

• Return to eating a lot of vegetables and doing more home cooking. In February, I’ll do a lot more of this.
• To cut out sugar from my diet. I see sugar as far more harmful than fat. I remember reading somewhere that sugar has no nutritional value. Also heard people talking about ‘Sugar Blues’, a book that sees sugar as an additive drug with many side effects. This will be the focus for January. I’ll cut out soft drinks, cakes and sweets, things that obviously have sugar. I’ll check some products for sugar, but I live in Taiwan and my Chinese isn’t that good. I won’t check at restaurants to see if sugar has been added to their cooking.

Drink Goals

• To become a moderate drinker. By this I mean I can drink two or three glasses for enjoyment and then stop. I also want to get into the habit of spacing my drinks with a glass of water. I’ll keep a track of this by recording the days I don’t drink, the days where I drink moderately and heavily (more than 3 pints). This will be a focus in May or June.
• I want to stop drinking all soft drinks that have ‘refined’ sugar in them. I stopped last month, except for drinks that replaced alcoholic ones. I want to stop all together and only drink water or 100% fruit juices as replacements for alcoholic drinks.
I want to increase the amount of water I drink.

Mental Health Goals

• Be more positive
• Be more focus on what makes me feel excited. I'll publish the things I want to achieve this year in a blog post (in January). Also, I'll make a poster of them for my computer table, so that I'll see them everyday and I'll keep them in mind.
• Follow a low information diet as recommended by Tim Ferriss 'The 4-Hour Working Week'. I currently don't read the news, except for headlines on Yahoo. I used to do the crossword as well but now, I'll only do it if someone else has started one. Not reading the news is a habit but a shaky one at the moment. Also, I want to sort out my computer usage, so that it focuses on my goals and not on wasting time. This will be a focus in February.

Another Reason to get Healthy

The Girlfriend

Another reason why I want to get healthy is that I seem to have a constant cold. It's low level, just a cough and some flem but I can't seem to be able to shake it. It's been with me for months and occasionally flares up into a stronger cold. Not only that but it makes my girlfriend nag me. She'll say something like;

"Do something about that cough"
"I have"
"Go to the doctors"
"I've already done that and all they do is give me medicine that doesn't work"
"I'm fed up living with someone who's sick all the time"

I don't really know how to reply to that one but I want to be healthy and get rid of the cold too. To be honest, most of the time I don't think I'm sick but when Steph goes on at me, I think to myself, why can't I get of it.