The Choice is Up to You

I got inspired after reading this post. Here’s the FGFG spin on it.

The choice is up to you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have the choice. You have the power. You have control.

You choose whether or not to get offended when someone cuts you off in traffic.

You choose whether or not to get angry when someone bumps into you.

You choose whether or not to wake up in a good mood.

You choose whether or not to be offended by what someone says.

You choose whether or not to let other people affect you.

You choose whether or not to watch tv or do something beneficial for yourself.

You choose whether or not to treat your body right.

You choose whether or not to eat foods you know are good/bad for you.

You choose whether or not to implement good/bad habits.

You choose whether to complain or not.

You choose to be grateful for what you have or whine about what you don’t have.

You choose to be a victim or take responsibility for your own life.

You choose what you think.

You choose your actions.

It is your choice to be positive or negative.

It is your choice to be happy or miserable.

You have the choice. You have the power. You have control. Stop being attached to stories you tell yourself. Be present. And discover how empowering life can be.

The choice is up to you.

How to Overcome Being in a Slump

I was dealing with the post-trip blues at work this week after my trip to Honduras. It’s always difficult getting back into grind mode after a vacation. My concentration was nonexistent. I had the attention span of a goldfish. I felt anxious. I couldn’t sit still. I was in a slump, and I needed to snap out of it. By Friday, I was back to feelin’ good, feelin’ great mode. Here’s what worked for me, and it’ll probably work for you too.

Slump crushing 101:

Don’t internalize everything. Express your feelings to someone, or even just write it down. Internalizing and stuffing emotions is bad news bears. The mere act of getting something out works wonders for your well-being. It sounds corny and it’s not the most masculine tool in the shed, but it works. Do what I did, call up momma and tell her how you feel.

Do something fun. Do something enjoyable during your free time. For me, it was going out on a phenomenal Valentine’s Day date (you know who you are).

Workout and release tension. Mobility exercises first thing in the morning relieve all kindzzz of bodily tension. And throwing heavy weights around is the best stress reliever I’ve ever come across. Just move yo body, and you’ll instantly feel better.

Recharge the batteries. Do some sort of meditative activity to clear the brain. Breathe deeply for 2 minutes. Lay down with your eyes closed for a bit. Those worked for me, but do whatever you prefer. It’s so refreshing to mentally escape from everything (including your own mind) for even a few minutes.

Get some sleep. The positive changes a good night of sleep can bring are borderline magical. You wake up feeling like a phoenix rising out of its ashes.

Have a goal/goals to work towards. I’m back on my health and fitness grind (Carb Backloading and working on mastering bodyweight exercises), making my own almond butter, and setting goals for this site. I’m kind of all over the place with this, but it keeps me positive and focused. Anything goal-oriented (skill acquisition, accomplishing something…etc) fosters self-improvement, which is crucial for long-term happiness and living an awesome life.

If you ever feel yourself slipping into a downward spiral, try out these techniques, and throw up a middle finger and a smile to the blues.

-Stevie-to-the-P

Waterfall

A Week In Honduras

I just got back from a week long trip to Honduras. An absolutely amazing experience to say the least, so I have to share it with you. One of my best friends is a hiking guide at D&D Brewery in a village called Los Naranjos (check it out by clicking HERE), which is an awesome place by the way. I went with another friend to visit him and genuinely experience Honduras. And ohh boy, it definitely didn’t disappoint. We spent most of our time in rural areas. The week consisted of a lot of hiking, row-boating, cliff jumping, camping, whitewater rafting, traveling, practicing my Spanish, crazy taxi rides, and interacting with all different types of people.

Me in Honduras

Overlooking Lake Yojoa

So many aspects of the world we live in are very paradoxical. Though extreme poverty is widespread throughout Honduras, many Hondurans are rich in ways that Americans aren’t.

Nature comes to mind first. There are epic landscapes everywhere in Honduras. Lush greenery, majestic mountains, and gorgeous waterfalls shape the countryside. There is natural beauty everywhere you look, which is a stark contrast to the concrete jungle of NYC. Food also comes into the picture as an extension of this environment. Yes there are (sadly) economic factors that come into play with access to food, but locally grown, natural food is readily available. And plus there’s the possibility of growing food in your own backyard. How many Americans can say those things?

The other aspect is family. In the midst of widespread poverty and hardships, the family structure has maintained importance in Honduras. Families stick together and help each other out, while some families in the US can’t even share a meal together. This type of culture extends into the world of hospitality as well. Many people will help you out with directions, a meal, or anything you need without second thought. It is the embodiment of the expression, “mi casa es su casa.” It’s a beautiful thing. While here in the US most people don’t even say hi to their neighbors.

Things we take for granted in the US and the rest of the Western world:

Safety– In Honduras, there’s armed guards in front of anything of importance. All homes are fenced off with barbed wire. Police are corrupt and unreliable. It’s like the wild west. You can’t safely walk the streets at night. Compare this to New York City, where you can stumble around drunk at 3am and be alright.

Lack of extreme poverty– Yes, we have poverty in the US and other western countries, but not third world poverty. The poverty in some parts of Honduras is on another level. You really have to see it for yourself to wrap your head around it. This leads me to my next point.

Opportunity– For the impoverished people living in third world nations, there is very, very little opportunity. People are relegated to their small world, without the ability to go anywhere else. With no access to books or new knowledge. It isn’t impossible to find a better life, but it’s a steep, uphill battle. Compare this to the US, where everybody has access to information (libraries, internet, newspapers…etc). Anybody can start a business. Even for people born in the poorest areas of the US, for example, there is at least the opportunity for a better life. A lot of people in third world countries don’t have that kind of opportunity.

Lessons I learned:

Appreciate everything I have. I was forced to. As an American, the contrast is so in your face that you’re literally forced to appreciate everything you have that many people don’t. I’m instantly more grateful.

Admire nature. I don’t get to see landscapes like those of Honduras everyday, ya know? Check out the pics.

Savor the moment. Every moment is fleeting. Every moment is once in a lifetime. A vacation to a new place makes this blatantly obvious.

Go with the flow. Don’t resist new experiences. Be flexible. Be easygoing. Do new things. Don’t worry about what you can’t change. As Bruce Lee said, “be like water, my friend.” Life is more enjoyable that way.

Realize what’s really important. Experiences and the bonds made with others. That’s what is really important. That’s what life is all about. Chasing material wealth and gathering “stuff” is intrinsically unfulfilling.

All in all, I’m so grateful for my experience in Honduras. Thank you Cerone for accompanying me, and thank you Jwalk for having us. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

Here’s some more pics from my trip:

Cliff Jumping

Cliff Jumping

Sorry TLC, I went chasing waterfalls

Sorry TLC, I went chasing waterfalls

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

 

4

Carb Backloading Experimentation (Updated)

Happy new year everyone!

To kick off 2013, I’m conducting a self-experiment with Carb Backloading.

But first of all, what is Carb Backloading?

Well, it’s a diet. To sum it up, you skip breakfast (or push it back, if you wanna get technical) and eat protein and fat (Paleo-esque) during the day. Eat lighter throughout the day, with the majority of calories being eaten at night. And if you resistance train in the afternoon/evening, you slam down simple sugars and insulin spiking carbohydrates at night. On off-days, you continue the protein and fat theme at night. That’s Carb Backloading in a nutshell. Sounds almost too enjoyable, right? It’s geared towards people who lift weights and are looking for body recomposition (more muscle, less fat). And the diet’s creator is a physicist by the name of Kiefer, who literally cites thousands of studies that contribute to the idea behind the diet. For more info on Carb Backloading, check out Kiefer’s website HERE.

So I’m trying out Carb Backloading and documenting my progress for the first month.

My goals with Carb Backloading for January:

  • More ab definition
  • Lose the love handles
  • Lose at least 3 lbs of fat
  • Gain at least 3 lbs of muscle

Before (the starting point): 1/1/2013

Weight: 173 lbs

Before pic… (after a night out for New Years Eve, months of no sun, and heavy indulgence in holiday season food and drink.)

I don't usually take shirtless pictures in the mirror, but when I do it's for self-experimentation.

I don’t usually take shirtless pictures in the mirror, but when I do it’s to document self-experimentation.

“Your body is almost always within your control. This is rare in life, perhaps unique. Simply focusing on some measurable element of your physical nature can prevent you from becoming a ‘Dow Joneser’, someone whose self-worth is dependent on things largely outside of their control. Job not going well? Company having issues? Some idiot making life difficult? If you add ten laps to your swimming, or if you cut five seconds on your best mile time, it can still be a great week. Controlling your body puts you in life’s driver’s seat.” -Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Body)

Expect an update at the end of January with my exact protocol and results.

Happy 2013 everyone!

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UPDATE (1/31/2013)

It’s been a month of Carb Backloading, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Oh, and I’m going on vacation to Honduras in 2 days, so this acted as a deadline of sorts. I’ll be there for 8 days, with a lot to share when I get back. But for now, here’s my results from the past month.

Weight– 180lbs…So I gained 7lbs while getting slightly leaner (see the evidence below).

The Photo Evidence: (Double the mirror picture fun this time!)

Round 2 (notice the duck shower curtain)

 

Up close and personal

So… I made some progress (and lost some body hair haha). I didn’t expect a grandiose transformation in one month, as I’ve been in pretty good shape for a while now. But I’m pleased nonetheless. I’m slightly leaner, but I look bigger, and feel more powerful. Lovin it.

My Protocol:

Prep phase (1/1-1/10)
Ultra low carb (<30 grams per day). No fruits, starches, wheat, bread, legumes, berries, grain…etc. Lots of (grass-fed) meat, (wild-caught) fish, and veggies; with some dairy and nuts thrown in there.

Carb Backloading (Starting 1/11)
Wake up routine:
Glass of lemon water and apple cider vinegar
Bio-Energizer warm up
Listen to a 30 minute Spanish lesson while walking, because I’m going to Honduras on Saturday. (I did this about 20 out of 30 days)
Cold shower

Coconut oil coffee at least 2 hours after waking (black coffee if <2 hours of waking)

Typical Lunch:
Canned fish in a spinach salad, with onions, salsa, olive oil, whatever spices I had, and a lot of sauerkraut for digestion.

Typical Dinner:

Non-training days:
Ultra low carb (ULC). See prep phase.

Training days:
Backload after every other workout! (every 4 days) Just PWO (Post-Workout) shake on non-backload workout day, then eat ULC as normal.

Typical backload:
2 bowls of Nature’s Path Envirokidz Cereal (usually Koala Krisp) with Almond milk
White Rice with 1 egg cooked with Liquid Aminos.
16oz Cottage cheese (with cereal, honey, and whatever else seemed tasty at the time)

Supplements I used:
PWO (Post-Workout) shake: 3g Leucine and 5g creatine, and 15-20g whey isolate.
Greens powder (in water, before my first meal of the day)
Fish oil (about 5,000mg per day, whenever I remembered to take it)
Vitamin D (5,000mg) every morning. (Because it’s winter and flu season. Look ma, no flu shot.)

See my article HERE on supplementation.

Workouts

Workout every other day, switching between workouts A, B, and C. (Ex/ Monday=A, Wednesday=B, Friday=C, Sunday=A…etc)

Workouts (a variation of German Volume Training):
A- Push
10 sets of 10 with 90 seconds of rest
1- Overhead press with 30lb dumbbells (I know, I know. That seems light. But try doing 10 sets of 10 with 90 seconds of rest in between, then get back to me. I managed 10 reps for about 4 sets each time. Never got less than 7 reps on a set though.)
2 sets
3A- Close-grip pushups
3B- Baby birds aka Rear delt fly
Medball 200 as finisher

B- Pull
10 sets of 8 with 90 seconds of rest
1- Neutral Grip Pullups (I managed 8 for about 3-4 sets each time. Never got less than 5 reps on a set though.)
2 sets
3A- Underhand cable row from lower point
3B- Face pull (high)
Grip training

C- Legs
5 sets of 5 with 90 seconds of rest
1- Pistol squat
2 sets
2- Reverse Lunge (holding 30lbs on each side)
3 sets
3A- Hanging leg raise
3B- Jump Squats

Other random routines:

100 calf raises everyday (did it about 25 out of 30 days. Not bad.)

Put an ice pack on my neck 20-30 minutes 4-5 nights per week (described in Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Body”) for fat loss.

The Matrix

I re-watched The Matrix for the first time in a while a few nights ago. It’s definitely a paradigm shifter, and it threw me into philosophy mode. If you’re not familiar with the movie, read the synopsis HERE.

matrix_red_blue_pill

Themes that got me philosophizing:

1. What is real?

The Matrix forces you to question reality. At one point, Morpheus says to Neo, “How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

Bringing this concept closer to home, a recent article in the Huffington Post UK states that physicists may have evidence that our universe is a computer simulation.

To quote Ab-Soul, “I don’t even know what’s real, I’m just being real.”

Another interesting insight is that many people, as children, have intuitive thoughts of reality not being as it appears on the surface. When I was a kid, I thought that maybe I was a character in someone’s elaborate storybook. My sister would entertain the possibility of her being a part of someone’s dollhouse. Young children maintain a spiritual essence of sorts, which gets lost through conditioning and “growing up.” So maybe I was on to something back in the day…

2. Entities (behind the scenes) manipulating the human race.

In The Matrix, the antagonists literally harvest humans and feed off of them for sustenance. Humans are kept blinded from the “real world” in a coma-like state. The simulated matrix acts as their perceived reality.

This is a strikingly similar concept to David Icke’s reptilian theory (first introduced in his book “The Biggest Secret”). Icke hypothesizes that fourth dimensional reptilian entities control humanity behind the scenes, creating a perceived reality, and feeding off of negative energy. Outlandish? Definitely. But you never know…

Is this swiftian satire, or hints at the truth?

Weigh the evidence for yourself and form your own, unbiased opinion.

Oh, and keep this in mind

Oh, and keep this in mind

3. Limitations

In the Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo to free his mind, and repeatedly emphasizes this point. When Neo finally does free his mind, he makes the impossible possible.

The only limitations that exist are those you place upon yourself. Once you rid yourself of limiting beliefs, you open yourself up to infinite possibility. And this is when the formerly impossible now becomes possible. Break out of the boxes you’ve put yourself in, stop repeating negative mantras, and abandon all self-imposed limitations.

Neo- “Are you saying I can dodge bullets?”
Morpheus- “No, Neo. I am saying that when you are ready, you won’t have to.”

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And, to wrap things up, I love the quote about deja vu in The Matrix. Definitely something to marinate on.

Deja vu matrix

Is this applicable to the “real world” as well?

1

Working Out Alone

For me, working out (I’m referring to lifting weights/resistance training) is not just a physical experience, but a spiritual one as well. I’m fully immersed in the activity. I have intense focus and concentration. I am completely present. My mind is still, free of incessant thought. There are no distractions. No worries. I don’t care about what is happening in the outside world. All is well here and now.

I am in control. I dictate the pace. I regulate the intensity. I’m not out to impress anyone, except my former self. I directly cause my improvement here. I directly impact my achievement. I’m fully responsible for my performance, and I love that.

This is how working out becomes an all-encompassing physical, mental, and spiritual practice. It’s an explosion, a discharge of all bodily tension. It’s a release of all stress. It’s a spiritual cleansing. It’s an endeavor of rebirth, with a stronger version of myself emerging after every session.

 

Body is the temple

 

A focused workout can be a fleeting glimpse into something we rarely experience in today’s world. A break from all of the external noise. It’s my alone time; “me time.”

And we all can benefit from such a practice. Think of working out like Clark Kent stepping inside of the phone booth. Let your inner superhero out!

-P!

My 2 Cents on Supplementation

Fish Oil

What supp?

Well, first thing’s first. What is considered a supplement?

In this context, I’m defining a supplement as any nutrition one gets that is not from whole foods.

Supplements are called supplements for a reason. They’re meant to supplement your diet (the real foods you eat). Nutrition from whole foods should come first and foremost. But it’s a well-known fact that the nutritional value of most food in the modernized western world just ain’t what it used to be. It’s much more difficult to obtain the ideal amount of vitamins and micronutrients in today’s world. So that means it’s a good idea to supplement our diet, even if we’re eating healthy. I’m not a huge fan of supplementation, but there are two supplements I never leave home without.

Greens Powder– This covers all nutritional grounds. It’s often referred to as “nutritional insurance,” ensuring that no nutritional deficiencies develop. Most high-quality greens powders contain the whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals (in varied amounts), probiotics, herbal extracts, and condensed “superfoods” that promote optimum health.

Fish Oil– Reduces inflammation, joint health, exercise recovery, cognitive function, skeletal health…etc. The list of benefits from fish oil is so extensive that I CAN’T NOT take it. For me, I noticed a significant improvement in skin (never dry, and radiant) and joint health after taking fish oil. It’s a must have for everyone, especially people who exercise regularly.

Those are the only 2 supplements that I take consistently. Everything else I use gets cycled in and out depending on what I’m looking to accomplish at that specific time.

Other supplements I cycle:

Vitamin D– During times when I’m not getting enough sunlight or want to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Vitamin D is obtained through direct sunlight (without sunscreen) and in some foods. A deficiency in Vitamin D creates a whole host of health problems (see this report). Vitamin D supports healthy immune function, among many other things. I’m taking vitamin D daily right now, and enjoying perfect health while everyone is worrying about the flu.

Creatine– When I want to focus on gettin swole or increase performance in the gym.

Whey Protein– Same as creatine (I use grass-fed whey protein, gluten/soy-free, and look for brands that have the least amount of complex-sounding ingredients in them).

I don’t like including something as a part of my long-term routine unless I’m 100% sure that it’s beneficial for me. This is why I cycle supplements like Creatine and Whey Protein. Although I believe they’re not harmful (at least the brands I buy), it’s best to periodically give the body some rest.

*Remember; do your research before taking any supplement, and err on the side of caution with your dosage when you start out.

As with everything else in life, it’s good to try new things, as long as you’re not being stupid about it.

2

A Great Paradox of Our Age

We live in an age where everything we desire is available at the push of a button. We do not have to expend much effort to do anything. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. It’s a problem.

"What it must be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?"

“What it must be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?” (excerpt from The Hunger Games)

Isn’t it ironic that as everything is becoming easier for us, our mind and body, the two most fundamental facets of our lives (and the only things we have full control of), are becoming more and more difficult to maintain?

This is a result of giving our power away.

We no longer find and cook our own food, we allow others to do it for us. This disassociation from the food chain makes it oh so easy for companies to produce and sell us “food” that destroys health. It makes it easy for us to place the responsibility of our bodies in the hands the medical community. It makes it easy for “big pharma” to sell dangerous drugs to everyone with so much as a slight headache. Having food available at our beck and call 24/7 makes it easy for us to overeat. In terms of food, we view chicken not as the living animal, but as a chicken nugget. Our ignorance regarding this has made us vulnerable to a whole host of health problems. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and all other diseases associated with poor diet and lifestyle choices (key word) are rampant in modern society. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Knowledge is power, and applied knowledge is a powerful tool for change. We need to educate ourselves on health, learn to cook (create) for ourselves, and listen to our bodies. This empowers us, because being in control of our health creates an unshakeable foundation for success in all other aspects of life.

We no longer think for ourselves, we allow others to do it for us. Look around at all of the institutions in place that tell people how and what to think. The education system, the mainstream media, organized religion…etc. All of these institutions delimit free thinking. And what’s the result of this? So many people walk around with an underlying feeling of purposeless. The feeling that something is missing; that something is not quite right. Depression, fear, and anxiety are rampant in modern society. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Knowledge is power, and applied knowledge is a powerful tool for change. We need to start thinking for ourselves, keeping an open mind, being open to unlimited possibility, and letting our inherent creativity flow. It’s amazing how this creates a sense of empowerment and instills an enchanting purpose in everything we do.

Let’s take our power back, and hop in the driver’s seat of this ride we call life.

Shad

Today’s post is about music. Everybody knows music has the ability to instantaneously elevate moods. You not only hear music, but often FEEL IT on an intrinsic level.

So without further ado, I present you Shad aka the “Canadian rap sensation” (see “Yaa I Get It” below to “get it”).

You probably haven’t even heard of him, but “if you don’t know, now you know…”

Listening to Shad always puts a smile on my face. Wielding a masterful combination of technical rapping prowess, witty punchlines, uncanny wordplay,  positivity, music with a message, and relatable subject matter; Shad’s whole aura is a breathe of fresh (Canadian) air.

My favorite thing about Shad is that it always sounds like he’s smiling while rapping. A half-laughing, euphoric permasmirk. That kind of smile when you’re all giggly with infatuation around a newly intimate partner. Shad’s girl is hip-hop, and he’s having a grand ole time with her.

 

Some quotables from Shad (plus the songs they’re in):

  • “I’d rather live with these ups and downs than flat-line” -Wild
  • “Brainwashed, I’m still learning how to be me, worth millions, I’d rather be free” -Rock to It
  • “We’re breaking up, can’t hear what she’s saying but I get the tone” -Telephone
  • “I use to want to find the love of my life, now I’m trying to live a life of love, it’s not just a husband and wife” -Keep Shining
  • “You can’t be everything to everyone, so let me be anything to anyone” -Keep Shining
  • “If they treat you like a substitute teacher it’s probably because you’ve got no class” -Out of Love
  • “Know who the staff you roll with is, your staff can turn to snakes like Moses’ “-Now a Daze
  • “Ya’ll cowards couldn’t (w)rap this dope with a zig zag” -I Don’t Like To (now THAT’S a punchline)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He drops gems left and right. I’ll leave some for you to discover for yourself.

Must-watch videos: (Enjoy!)

Rose Garden (possibly my favorite video of all-time)

I Don’t Like To

Brother (Watching)

Yaa I Get It

And, in conclusion…

TSOL Outro (lyrics below, because it’s that good)

Lyrics:
“Yeah beautiful
Dangerous season the fall of youth
Souls wither like gold diggers we follow suit
The booth is starting to feel small
I should feel appalled
Instead I feel it all and can’t call it
My heroes have the heart to lose the life I wanna live
In the end I’m hoping that I take less than I give
We go through stages I ain’t talkin’ bout gigs
And I ain’t talkin bout famous when I talk about big
Prophetic poetics connect my life to my words
Some cause play-back pain right to the nerves
For me it’s hard to hear (that you’re hard of hearing)
Didn’t believe I was def till some checks started clearin
Now thats a different kind of clarity
And love for your brother
That’s a different kind of charity
Ya I rap fearlessly
But I act carelessly
When I’m busy on my grizzly
I’m a quarter bi-polar bear with me
The rarest breed
Naw I’m just a parakeet
I talk what I hear
I do as they do
And I hate what I fear you see
A simple animal sin is sincerity
But when I get carried away
You carry me, TSOL”

^Now that’s some put-a-smile-on-your-face kind of lyrical dexterity. And a good note to end on.

Keep shining.

-Stevie P

shad