Why You Should Question More

The question was, in between the mountains in the south of Brazil, what the hell happened on 9/11 in New York? Right after the tragedy went down there were various stories making rounds and over the years a fierce battle of truth was (and still is) being waged between so called conspiracy theorists and mainstream scientists. Regardless of why things happened there are certain things that every person can see for himself, however the mainstream story deviates from this. However, not only when it comes to 9/11, also when it comes to diet, your perception of yourself and what you experienced last weekend can be different in many ways. For me this is all the more reason to question. This is why you should as well.

Questionable Truths

How many buildings went down on 9/11? Two? Or three? There were three buildings that went down, nevertheless, little people are aware of this. Why isn’t this known to the general public, because it seems quite relevant right?

In a recent blog I wrote about Your Ultimate Personal Diet Guide because there is so much conflicting information around diet. I tried to lay out the commonalities between all this information. The main message is though, there is no one perfect diet. Even though, there are different sides that question each other – paleo, vegan, no gluten, no lactose and sugar free all have there supporters that claim to thrive on their choice.

On a similar note, when I come back after a holiday and my girlfriend is asked the same question as me, she will answer severely different. Where I will say it was awesome and I had a good time, she however, manages to create a detailed extravaganza of every small thing that happened. A couple of minutes into the story you have a strong visual image that stimulates your taste buds, visual capacity, and sound perception. However extrapolated from my perspective, we were both there. My question is then, who is right?

In Physical Therapy school in my first year I had to study for my living anatomy exams. I needed to know all the origin, endings, and functions of muscles, every bone, every ligament and a bunch of other things. More over, I had to be able to approach and show them physically to my examiner. One day we learned about the muscles of the forearm. A particular muscle there, the palmaris longus, that runs from the elbow to your hand palm is not present in all humans. I was one of the two people in my class that didn’t have it. Which body is right?

In his books People Like Us and A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wife, Joris Luyendijk writes about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East. One thing in particular that I remember well of his books, is the news he reported on. It turned out that he was almost never allowed to have a look first hand. Because of security regulations and bureaucracy he always had to go through news agencies like Reuters. After, there is a whole process of finding out what actually happened and a struggle to put this into a two-minute item at the 8′ o clock news. I can’t help questioning then, what is left of what really happened once it reaches the sleepy post-diner public in the Netherlands?

Different Truths

In philosophical terms truth is explained as how the world actually is. The truth is though, that everything that we think and do we always perceive through our senses. This empirical way of perceiving the world is of the highest importance in our scientific understanding of the world. That is, something is only true once we have empirical evidence for it.

glasses

However, the result of this philosophy is that we build our ideas of what is true on what we belief is true rather than what actually is. Everything we say and write about truth is nothing more than a representation in either spoken language or writing of a supposed truth. 9/11, the stories on the 8 o’clock news, the holiday stories of me and my girlfriend, and the differences in anatomy are all subject to our beliefs. It get’s even more tricky once you talk about these things from memory.

Memory

According to Daniela Schiller, a professor at Mount Sinai School, our memory is all but to be trusted. It seems that memory isn’t static, but something that changes every time it is recalled. This means that every time I ask you how your weekend was, the memory of this experience changes. During my teenage years in high school I experienced this first hand week after week. As one of my friends would come on the bus he would tell me in colorful details how his weekend was. Upon arrival at school he would at least tell that “same” story at least three more times. Since we were in the same class I had the honor of hearing it over and over again. Interestingly every time the story got more colorful and exciting.

photo

I believe there is always a tension between what actually happened and what is experienced by someone. It depends on the state the person was in at the time of experiencing the event things might be memorized totally different.

No Independent Truth

As a consequence I realize that is hard to be sure if there is an independent truth out there. It always depends on the observer or the person experiencing it. This is something you become very aware of once you cross cultural boundaries, start working with new people, or move in with somebody you else.

If this knowledge becomes a common part of your belief system there is all the more reason to question, and subscribe less to one form of truth. This will not only allow you to adapt better in all day every day situations, it also leaves you free to redefine your beliefs any moment.

How To Use Your Daily Irrationality

As children we are often irrational, cruel, unforgiving, crying, screaming, laughing, and very irresponsible. I remember how I tried to rip my brother off on regular basis proposing shaky deals to make his toys mine. I remember screaming and cursing at my parents for no reason (in retrospect), I remember running through the house being frustrated, and I remember drinking so much beer when I was a bit older that I offered the sink in the upstairs bathroom a taste of the insides of my stomach. In the field of economics humans are considered rational beings. When you say A you do A. When you did that one time, you will do it another time as well. Children though, are far from capable of thinking and acting this way. Look at me as a child. However, are adults really that different?

If somebody scratches the screen of your television do you get angry? Have you ever screamed at somebody cutting you off in traffic? Have you ever drank alcohol and driven your car home anyway? All these things we would be able to explain when we are kids, but adults?

pillowfight

As adults we have developed prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is at the front of our skull, and is supposedly what makes us the most awesome animal on earth. However, why do we get in the car when we drank alcohol, even though we know the risks will never outweigh the cost? Why do we get angry when something material breaks down, even though this emotional state gets us far from what we want. And, why do we wage war across the globe, when this consequently, instantly or ultimately backfires?

Predictably Irrational

In his books Predictably Irrational and the Upside of Irrationality, behavioral economist Dan Ariely seeks to answer questions like these. Behavioral economics reasons that, unlike in the field of economics, humans are not rational. Humans are influenced by tons of factors like emotions, social norms, and relativity that make us a lot more irrational than most animals.

The crux lies in the fact that we are usually unable to recognize that we are limited in such profound ways. At the same time we have constructed our society with ourselves on top of  the world, that it is hard not to think that we are gods, compared to all other animals on this planet. This failure to recognize our own limitations makes it only more plausible that we cut ourselves short.

Relativity

The most important thing I learned from reading the books on irrationality is that human behavior is always subject to relativity. I believe this subject is so powerful because it makes a difference every day.

You walk into a store to look at shoes. You see two different pairs of which one is on sale. This is amazing, you are definitely going to buy these because you like them and they are cheaper than the other pair. However, did you need shoes in the first place?

I remember when I was traveling through Uruguay. There is this beautiful place called Cabo Polonio which is a protected area at the coast. Beautiful beaches, sandy roads, and only accessible by walking 10km or a half an hour off-road truck ride. Obviously this place is very expensive. After I continued hitchhiking and ended up at an Eco Camping the day after. Even though it was cheaper than Cabo Polonio, my friend considered me crazy. She had booked her stay at Cabo Polonio earlier and had payed a lot less.

cabo-polonio

You are selling your car, your customer bargains a €100,- discount, however you still earn €5000,-. Then when you walk into the supermarket and you are not buying the strawberries today because they are €1,-, more expensive than normal.

This relativity is being used on us all the time by marketing companies making us buy stuff we don’t need. Therefore to be aware of this, might not only make decisions more satisfying in the long term, it might also save you a couple of bucks.

Next time fight a bit harder to keep the price of the car you are selling up, and buy the strawberries. The next time you walk into a store compare the clothes with what is hanging in your wardrobe at home instead with what’s on offer in the store. And, the next time you start fighting with your spouse over an unorganized living room, zoom out and wonder what would you like your interaction with the other to be like in this very moment, instead of going berserk over an easy to solve issue.

Failure to Consider Human Adaptability

This fascinating concept I had never really considered but is truly remarkable. I for myself realized that I have very little trouble traveling alone, living abroad, learning new languages, and taking on the challenge to integrate in different places. Nevertheless, plenty friends, family and others I know regularly comment “that they could never do that”.

wheelchair-racer

In his books Dan Ariely uses his own example being severely injured after being hit by an exploding magnesium flare. After this he never managed to live without pain. Particularly his right arm has never fully recovered. At the time the doctors proposed amputating the arm and installing a prosthesis. He decided not to, as he could not see himself live without the arm.

Now imagine the last time you lost a loved one or you broke up. This usually is accompanied by grief, confusion, and often also hopelessness. “How can I live without this person?” you wonder. Over time however, the pain gets less, and life continues.

If you would have taken your adaptability into account at the time, what would the situation have looked like?

Or on a more material note – remember when you bought that awesome new Iphone with retina screen, the most beautiful on the market. Two weeks later however, you drop your new phone and there is a giant crack in the screen. First you are angry and frustrated, but 4 months later you are still walking around with that crack in you screen.

Take Home Messages

Once you realize that you are probably more capable of adapting to difficult situations life should already become a bit brighter. Similarly if you manage to zoom out at any moment of comparison – is this what I want to compare or should there be other factors included?

I am a firm believer of the fact that once you know your limitations they are easily dealt with. Only being aware of them already makes a huge difference, at the same time this allows for using them. Ultimately, I know this will create freedom.

The Ultimate Guide to Your Personal Diet

On your quest for your best diet you will encounter low carb, high protein, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, nutritional balancing, high fat, eggs, no eggs, and alcohol; yes or no? Then, to eat healthy, should you avoid night shade vegetables, dairy, gluten, and red meat? And what about the heavy metals in salmon and tuna; good, or not? If there is one area where there is a lot of contradictory information available, it’s in the field of dieting and nutrition. The everlasting search for the optimal diet seems to take you from left to right and back again. However, let me give you the best tip regarding the ultimate diet right now: the best diet doesn’t exist.

Yes, you heard that right, the optimal diet doesn’t exist. This means that there is no one best diet for everybody. However, there is an optimal diet for you. The question is however, how do you figure this out?

This blog is based on what I have learned from over ten years of personal research. This started for me as a teenager trying to reduce fat and increase muscle mass. This led me down the path of defining everything by its protein contents, at the same time only focusing on muscle and fat. Nowadays, I aim to feel good all throughout the day, perform well both cognitively and physically, and look for sustainable ways to live. Interestingly, barely anything that I believed at the start has made it to my current lifestyle. Nevertheless, over time I have come to understand quite well what works for me. In this light, I hope I can shed some light on the direction you could take in figuring out your optimal personal diet.

The Garbage That Nobody Should Eat

Before I continue providing information on how to figure out your personal diet, there are a couple of things that every single person should avoid. This might be the moment you tell me: “I have a friend that can eat anything he wants, it doesn’t do anything to him.” Well, in reality, he is not. The fact that you don’t see it, and he doesn’t feel it, doesn’t mean there are no detrimental effects.

Processed food of any kind, fried, packaged, ready-to-microwave is not food. These are products. As a rule of thumb, everything you are not buying the way it came out of the ground or of the animal, is not food. It’s best to avoid these foods all together, but depending on your situation there could be a place for pasta, chocolate, or fries. Every now and then.

burger

Then what about sugar? No, fruits do not equal processed sugar. When you eat fruit you eat unprocessed sugar together with fiber, which gets digested the way it should be. However, processed sugar of any kind, in your coffee, in cake, cookies, or ice cream, is all far from being processed by your body in a nice way. What happens exactly is beyond the scope of this blog, but more about that here.

Processed foods and processed sugar often come together. A good rule of thumb on processed foods; anything with more than 4 ingredients, put it back. Anything with ingredients you don’t know, leave it be.

If you have cut the above out of your diet, you have made the biggest health gain already. Now, you are eating a diet based on whole foods. What follows, is just some tweaking to reach the full potential of your diet.

How Do You Decide What is Best for You?

The best diet for you is the diet that you can adhere to. It has been proven time and time again that it is not the diet itself that makes people lose weight. What is more important, is if somebody can adhere to his or her diet choice over a longer period. The only result you get from switching between diets is nothing. This also holds true for the people that are trying to gain weight. Therefore, it is all the more important to choose the form of eating that allows you to eat consequently as healthy as possible.

The next important factor to maintaining your optimal diet is, that of all the information coming your way, you should know its context. Where is the information coming from? Is it scientific research, your friend that read something, or is it your nutritionist giving you advise? In all cases, again, context. Who did the scientific research, how was it done, how many people participated? Where did your friend read about nutrition, is he or she able to tell you the full picture? And your nutritionist, what education did he or she have, and what are his or her personal beliefs and experiences?

The Life Your Food Had

Another thing that I believe to be very important is how your food was treated before it ended up on your plate. This could be the way the animal lived before it was slaughtered, but also from what source your fresh produce comes. The antibiotics that are put into the bodies of animals, the stress they experience living in closed environments, will all end up in that piece of meat on your plate. This also holds true for fruits and vegetables, that more often than not are covered in pesticides and could be imported from across the globe.

I believe it best to eat foods that grew as close to your home as possible and as little processed as possible.

cows
Disputed Foods

So far I have mentioned the foods you should definitely not eat. However, there are a lot of foods that are heavily disputed. This became beautifully clear in a recent debate between Dr. Joel Kahn, a vegan heat doctor, and Chris Kresser, specialist in functional medicine, on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Both Doctors are well read scientists but have opposing opinions based on scientific research.

The first one of the three disputed foods I will cover is alcohol. Alcohol, usually spoken about in the form of wine, is it good or not? As I mentioned in an earlier blog on the people that live the longest on earth, there is reason to believe that a glass or two of wine per day will do little damage. However, alcohol does disrupt sleep quality and is potentially very destructive if you are out of balance already.

Second, is meat consumption. Is meat consumption bad, or good? I think in this case it’s important to know, processed meat is carcinogenic, that means it’s just as bad as smoking. So leave the hot dogs, shoarma, and sausages be. If you have access to organic meat though, from as humanely possible raised animals, you should be fine. As long as you eat in moderation.

The third and final food I will get into is dairy. Again, just like meat I think it’s important to consider how did the animal live, where did it live, and to what extent was the dairy processed before it enters your body. It’s also important to consider that a giant percentage of the population is intolerant to dairy. In Eastern Asia 90-100% are intolerant, and in Africa 70-90%. In North Eastern Europe people seem to have less trouble with lactose. There, up to 73.7% of the people have the LCT gene that makes you tolerant to lactose.

milk
Dynamic Diet

I think that it’s important to realize that diet is a dynamic phenomenon. Your dietary requirements change over time as a consequence of aging and other lifestyle factors. The clue above all is therefore, to test things yourself. What works for you? To test foods optimally you should adhere to a change for 30 days to get at least some meaningful feedback from your body.

If you want to make a process like this easier, you could use either food trackers like myfitnesspal or Cronometer. You could also use the scale to see if you are gaining or losing weight, or use a centimeter to measure your waist. If you are not sure how certain foods make you feel, a diary might be a better solution. You could create scales from one to ten for your mood, level of bloating, or sleepiness, and track this for 30 days. After you’ll be able to correlate what you eat with how you feel pretty well.

More Important Than Diet

If it comes to what the most important building blocks are of your health, diet is among the most important. However, there are two things that are definitely more powerful, one of which is a good night sleep. A good 8 hours per sleep per night all by itself can help you lose weight, increase your focus, and make you a smarter human being.

Second thing is fasting. Call it intermittent fasting, time-restricted eating, or just not eating for a prolonged period of time. This simple act has amazing benefits. A daily fast between 12-16 hours will help you stay lean and regulate blood sugar. A prolonged fast a couple of times a year, raging from 24 hours to three days for example, helps your body repair old damage and increases the excretion of stem cells. These cells can form into any other cell and are therefore very valuable in regenerative processes.

Take Home Messages

To close this all down, here are the take home messages:

  1. Eliminate processed foods and processed sugar from your diet
  2. Try different things to figure out what’s best for you. Use diet trackers, diaries, and other measurements to generate objective findings
  3. If your body is out of balance, it could be useful to eliminate possible allergens like gluten, lactose, or night shade vegetables. That could be reintroduced later on.
  4. Generate an eating style that fits both your lifestyle and schedule
  5. Do not eat for 12-16 hours a day
  6. Sleep 8 hours a night
  7. Realizing step 1-6 above you already reached 80-90% of your diets potential
  8. Only after you managed to do the above, you can think about optimizing your diet to reach specific goals

This post was in response to a request of a client of mine. I hope it was useful to help you find a direction in discovering what your optimal diet looks like.

Is There Another Way To Live Life?

Retirement is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance.

Tim Ferris

I read Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Workweek, which turned out to be a conflicting experience. Only until the very last pages I realized why this book provoked this sentiment in me. In there he provides his perspective on the regular 9-5 work structure, and the knowledge and tools to get away from that.

Mobility

The single most important tool in this process, he argues, is mobility. The ability to generate income from anywhere you want. If you are an employee this ideally means “working from home”. When you have your own business, the trick is to create a product or service that can be offered online. Finally, another fully explored option in the book is to fully automatize your company, if it’s not suitable for the internet.

Anyway, all well so far, the thing is though that mister Ferris earned 5 figures a month on the time of writing that book. Easy talking for him right?

I don’t think so. The fact that he earns a lot of money does not mean, that money is the only tool to get what you “want”. If you want to be a millionaire it’s probably not because of all the paper you can now stuff your mattress with, but the possibilities that come as a consequence.

The 80-20 Principle

It is nice therefore, that money is not the only way to get those things. When you work from 9-5, there is a high chance that what you are doing could be done in a lot less time. The 80-20 Principle, striking similarities to Matthews Law that I mentioned in another blog, was introduced by economist Vilfredo Pareto. It dictates that 80% of the output gets generated by 20% of the input.

80% of consequences result from 20% of the causes, 80% of the results from 20% of effort and time, 80% of a company’s revenue will be generated by 20% of the products and customers, and 20% of the people have 80% of the financial capacity. This list is endless and encompasses even your clothes. 80% of the time you wear 20% of what’s in your wardrobe. The division is often more extreme than it is less, 85-15 or 90-10 is not uncommon. So when we talk about your clothes for example, why would you hold on to that 80 percent? And why should you engage in that 80% of work that only generates 20% more output?

Even though, it seems counter intuitive, give it a try. Show your boss, professor, or most importantly yourself, what quality you can provide in 20% of the time. Nobody will probably notice, because the fine tuning you do for 80% of the time usually does not create anything of value.

When you redesign your life this way, you are already getting closer to living like a millionaire right? And you haven’t earned a penny more than before!

Retirement

Then, for a couple of years already I have been wondering about the value of retirement.

old-couple-on-porch
Why wait until your retirement?

Why the hell should I wait until I am 65 to have all the time in the world to do everything I have been wanting to do for 40 years?

Only if you believe that money is an end-goal and security isn’t a sensation but an externally acquirable object, retirement is for you.

I conceive money as a tool, and security as a sensation that doesn’t depend on money. Then how does retirement still make sense? Only if you don’t like your job. When you consider this information, and The Four Hour Workweek gives you plenty ideas and insights on how to do this, there are plenty possibilities to start doing the things you want now.

Those three months turned into 15, and I started to ask myself, “Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving all for the end?

Tim Ferris

To me, it doesn’t make sense to wait to go rock climbing when you are seventy, start learning a new language when you can only use it for 10 more years, or start hanging out with your family when you can’t lift your children up anymore. Why not start now?

What The Four Hour Workweek Did With Me

I find that the book does a great job putting these decisions in your face. However, it might just be that you are happy where you are, right?

If yes, that’s amazing. I wasn’t sure while reading. I was continuously imagining living in Thailand. I would take a sabbatical, find an opportunity to create some small revenue online, and take up mini-pensions every two years. I felt increasingly conflicted and unhappy with my current situation.

A day later I was walking back home after stopping by the supermarket. I was carrying two backpacks on my back and stomach, full of groceries, wearing my sunglasses even though sun was down. Overthinking the book, I realized: I already live this life. I don’t know if there was anybody watching me but it must have been funny to see a tall gringo, with two backpacks, and sunglasses, laughing like a maniac.

Where Tim Ferris calls it The Four Hour Workweek, I call it living an authentic life, true to your desires. In both cases the lifestyle design is the process to realize evermore of the way of life you want to live. I know that it helps immensely to expand your knowledge, see how others write the rules to their life, and understand your own reasons for working and motivations in life. After reading this book, I realized that that is what this blog is about. I am happy to have figured that out after 9 months!