Health & Fitness: A Minimalist’s Approach in 6 steps.

2020 was a year to stay at home and work on yourself. I decided to spend a portion of my time trying different diets and home routines to find one that suits me. I’ve tried different things with varying results because of A. a lack of knowledge and B. only partial commitment.

Disclaimer: I am not a fitness guru of any kind. In terms of health and fitness, I’m just an average person who has done some research and self-experimentation. You should always check with your doctor first regarding your health and fitness levels and what is safe for you!

There are a million different programs out there that will tell you to eat this, don’t eat this, do this exercise, don’t do this exercise, hormones come into play, you should count your macros, sleep enough….and the list goes on. It’s really easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of information and feel a bit lost. As a minimalist, I prefer to have things simply laid out for me so I can just check the boxes and move on with my day. So I’ve created a very simplified guideline that you can overcomplicate later:

  1. To lose weight, implement a calorie deficit. I just love James Smith’s multitude of videos that simply state “To lose fat, you must have a calorie deficit.”
  2. Pay attention to the quality of your calories. As a very basic rule of thumb I only eat things that are what they say they are. This would include things like fruit, vegetables, meat, beans, nuts, etc.
  3. Intermittent Fasting/Eating Window. You can try different things to find one that works for you, a general rule of thumb is fast 18 hours and eat in a window of 8 hours.
  4. Vary your fitness routine. Variety keeps the muscles guessing, breaking down and rebuilding.
  5. Stay Hydrated! Drink enough water. If you’re drinking coffee or alcohol, drink more water to offset this or minimize the coffee/alcohol intake.
  6. Get Enough GOOD RESTFUL sleep.

My year on Sleep: 2020 was a great year for some of us to catch up on sleep. Who wants to keep up with all the murder hornets, politics, losing your job, eating your feelings stuff anyway? Better to just sleep through this year and hope for a better 2021. ;-). Honestly though, this year I got a Fitbit and started tracking my sleep, only to find that it’s terrible. Making sure you have a set bed time, a dark room to sleep in, and that you won’t be disturbed while you get your beauty rest are all super important for getting good sleep. For me this meant getting black-out curtains, shutting my cats out of my sleeping room, getting a weighted blanket and sleeping with ear plugs.

My year on hydration: I did not do well on staying hydrated. I’m chronically addicted to coffee. Though I managed to quit drinking alcohol and I minimized my coffee intake to one cup a day in the morning, I still feel like I don’t drink enough water throughout the day. I will continue to work on this point.

My year on varying the workout routine: I started the year training for a Marathon. This worked out pretty well. I was able to stick to my workout schedule and actually ran the race solo in March with a finishing time of something like 7 hours. After that I decided that I didn’t like running as much as I thought.

I moved on to the p90x and did that for about 60 days. It was so damn hard. The one I did was the old school p90x where each workout is about 60 minutes long. Mostly I just felt tired while doing this and eventually gave up.

Next I switched to 4 hours of soccer a week and commuting 90 minutes on my bike 4 times a week. That was pretty awesome and for me felt the best out of all the work out routines. I think I liked this one the most because all the activities were functional. I didn’t feel like I had to carve time out of my day to do the workouts. Inevitably winter showed up so I had to switch again.

Next I tried the Jillian Michael’s app and I think it’s pretty awesome. Her workouts are designed specifically for your level and needs. I also liked that her workouts were between 7-30 minutes long (a lot less time than the p90x). She also packs in a lot of variety. I would have stuck with this app only, but with the pandemic I needed to get out of the house and I also enjoy the hydro massage at the gym.

Now I’m working out at a gym 5 days a week. At the suggestion of James Smith, I am lifting weights before cardio. I switch up what I do for weights and cardio every time to keep the variety in my routines. Soon I will start training for mountain climbing so I can tackle Mt. Shasta and Mt. Rainier in the springtime of 2021.

My year on diet: Okay, this was the hardest category to get pinned down. Because I had the time this year, I had multiple full panel blood tests done and spoke with my doctor on a regular basis to find a balanced diet and vitamin situation that would work for me. I tried so hard to be vegan and vegetarian, but I just ended up becoming anemic and tired. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right and just need to work on finding higher protein foods, maybe it’s partly genetic, maybe I can find a bunch of other reasons why it didn’t work out……long story longer, I switched back to primarily Paleo. I am gluten free even on my indulgent diet days. I’m mostly dairy free (except for yogurt & cheese on occasion). The rest of the time I’m Paleo. This works for me. I encourage you to find a diet regimen that works for you. What I mean by it works is A. I get all the nutrients that my body needs to do what it needs to do B. It’s easy for me to stick to…. meaning I enjoy the food I eat. You may be a vegan Masterchef or Pescatarian, whatever works for you do that!

To lose weight, implement a calorie deficit. Okay, so the reason I like this instead of counting Macros is because it’s simple. It’s easy to do. I don’t have to think that much. If you’re at the point where counting Macros is not too much thinking, by all means do that.

Side Note – I tried the whole “Cabbage Soup Weight-loss Diet” and I think it’s complete garbage. It’s way too hard and you end up gaining most of the weight back. It wasn’t worth the trouble and you should only try this if you enjoy torturing yourself. This is one of those things I think would be good to put into the 1984 history incinerators. It’s a good reminder to not believe everything you read on the internet.

In addition to a good diet, I think it’s important to have a vitamin regimen to supplement what you may not be getting from your food. So for me, I have a bunch of vitamins that I take in the morning: Multivitamin, B12, Vitamin D & Iron. In the evening I take Magnesium to help my muscles relax and to fall asleep.

I have a cup of coffee in the morning…..but dammit, I am not perfect. Sometimes I have a coffee at 7pm and I’m up all night, then I order gluten free pizza and eat candy. I enjoy myself. Then the next day, I’m back at the gym and back to my routine and HAPPY! I think that’s the most important thing about diet and fitness…. maintaining a sense of HAPPINESS about who you are and the choices that you’re making. You are making steps to improve your health and wellbeing. You should be happy about that. You may not see changes over night…. being healthy is a LIFESTYLE not an end game. You don’t get to a healthy spot and then go “Oh I made it, now back to the take out and sitting around all day.” No, you are actually changing your LIFESTYLE by getting active and giving a damn about what you put in your face. It’s something you continually work at.

I hope you have enjoyed the post and my semi-minimalistic approach to health and fitness. If you have other ideas, things you’ve tried, your review on certain fitness programs, diets, whatever you like–please comment below! I can’t wait to hear about your health and fitness journey in 2020.

The Social Dilemma: How to Get Beyond it and Create your Online Experience

In 2020, a year we’ve spent on our devices in isolation, The Social Dilemma was released and has revealed the dark sides of social media. If you haven’t watched the film yet and still plan to, I suggest that you stop reading now because there are spoilers below.

The documentary film is a collection of interviews from founders, programmers, and other people who were behind platforms like Facebook, instagram, and twitter when they first came into being. They comment on the dark sides of social media like surveillance capitalism, data mining, the influence on teen mental health, how it is designed to nurture addiction, political issues, and conspiracy theories. Many of these “dark side” attributes are enacted by algorithmic codes generated by artificial intelligence. The machines are essentially using human weaknesses to meet goals that are hidden from the consumer.

At the time when this film came out, I was already taking a break from social media. I decided to take a break for the last week of September and the month of October to avoid being exposed excessive amounts of political ranting. I still received a fair share of information from my friends and clients and that was an amount that I felt I could handle. I anticipated this election would be fraught with a lot of slandering and mud slinging and I already chose not to add my energy into the mix.

I think the timing of The Social Dilemma couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s a really thought provoking piece that begs the question of “What actually is true in our media and in social media?”. I’ve never felt more a part of “The Matrix” than I did after watching the film. The feelings were as follows:

  • Validation: I totally knew this on some level, I just didn’t realize how deep the rabbit hole actually went.
  • Anger: I knew it, social media is total bullshit! We should all return to the good old days and just interact in person.
  • Helplessness & Fear: Wow, if a computer can figure out how to manipulate people with a formula, maybe we are actually headed for a Terminator type future.
  • Doubt & Suspicion: If social media is run by an algorithm, what have I been being fed? How is that different from other people? Who is trying to divide us? What on social media is actually real?
  • Relief: The truth is ultimately freeing.
  • Curiosity: What can I do about this?

I tried to remain off of social media, but with the pandemic happening and half my life still in some kind of lock down mode, it was really hard to keep myself occupied without the endless hours of entertainment freely available through social media. I think all human inventions have the potential for good and evil in the world. The thing that makes it one way or the other is the consciousness and intention we put into utilizing the technology. Social media has been able to connect people all around the world on platforms where they can communicate, learn, share ideas, laugh, keep updated on each other’s lives, and collaborate. I didn’t want to throw all the good out the window.

The time away did give me a chance to think about the kinds of information I wanted to consume when scrolling through social media. For me I wanted to have positive inspirational speakers, art videos, comedy, relationship advice, and animal rescue videos. When I did return to Facebook I made a point to start selecting the types of content that would show up in my feed. There’s options to turn off certain advertisements and videos so I took full advantage of this feature. You can also “snooze” friends if you need a break from their political rants or whatever. Another feature was turning on the notifications for my favorite content creators.

After about a week of working at choosing the content in my feed I was able to create a social media experience that is enjoyable for me and supports my mental health.

I hope this post was helpful for you. If you have any additional tips please write them in the comments below!

-Ananda