Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Start of a New Age

dreamstime free image

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


Search Royalty Free stock images on Dreamstime:

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.