Tag Archive: health


Within the last couple of weeks, I have discovered something that I thought was true, but now I have experienced it, I know it to be true.
Six months ago I was diagnosed as having testicular cancer. Thankfully this was caught early and after having the offending anatomical item removed and analysed , I was told that I was in the 5% to 10% bracket of not having to do anything else.
Great news!
However, this was not to be true. Four months later I got the call that a CT scan showed that three lymph nodes in typical positions for the spread of this cancer were a little enlarged and I was going to have to go through a course of chemotherapy.

After following the sad demise of a friend who suffered from a far more aggressive form of cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma), and her experience of chemotherapy, I was more than a little anxious as to how bad this experience was going to be.
The course I was put on was a nine week course of three lots of three week cycles, back to back, with the chemotherapy drugs known as BEP. The first five days of each three week cycle was as an in-patient, then on day’s nine and sixteen I would go in for a top-up of one of the chemo drugs in particular.
After the first cycle I went home and felt a little under the weather, but to be honest it wasn’t anything more than the feeling of contracting a heavy cold for a few days. I was still able to function and think and do all the usual day-to-day tasks, just without the energy to do any physical activity.
Not too bad.
The second cycle was a little heavier, and so when I came home on day five I went straight to bed with a low level of energy, then was pretty incapable of anything useful for a couple of days after that. By day nine I was feeling a lot more alive and able to do most things slowly.

However, the ‘something I discovered’ that I speak of in the first line was learned after coming out of the third cycle (and I’m still in it at the moment – I’m typing this at day ten).
Until last night – day nine – my energy level has been so low that even sitting up was an immense effort. To walk would require something to hold onto every ten metres or so. Even just standing was so exhausting I couldn’t do it for any longer than a couple of minutes.
For a person who is used to leading an active life, I found this complete physical inability emotionally and spiritually draining. Being dragged down so low and not being able to do anything was quite possibly the worst experience of my life. It was like the essence of me had been removed… it was quite literally draining my life–force from me.

…and this is where the lesson was learned…

Something so important to my life… my feeling of purpose… my method of achieving self-worth and accomplishment… the ability to be physically active… having had it so completely removed allowed me to see that that ability is the very essence of what makes my life worth living. The loss of it is something that I NEVER want to experience again.

If life is most profoundly experienced by doing that which makes the spirit soar,
then death is to have that ability removed from ones being, and mere existence is all that is left.

For the rest of my life I vow to be active to whatever degree my body allows… because if I am not, then I am already dead!

If, like me, you are a person that sees dieting as a way of controlling what is eaten for the purposes of physical and mental performance, rather than reducing the amount that is eaten simply in order to get thinner, then perhaps you have been confused and baffled by the plethora of often conflicting advice found on websites and in magazines.
So, as a thinker, rather than scientist, I thought I’d try and work out a diet plan (for performance remember…) that made sense to me. Probably as good as any other!

So… what makes a healthy diet?
Well as a thinker, not a scientist, I’d like to go back to square one, back to the roots of our ancestral diet and intuitively, the diet that must suit us the most in the natural sense!

Square one:
Humans evolved as a part of the mammalian chain which if you go back far enough (perhaps as far back as 225 MYA) is found to branch off from the reptilian evolutionary path.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I reckon it’s a pretty safe bet to say that weren’t any food stores or fast food outlets at that time, so the available food in this natural state would have consisted of whatever they could forage or scavenge, or catch and kill.

Fast forward to perhaps only 200,000 years ago and the first of modern-day humans (Homo Sapien) appeared… and possibly the ability to control fire and therefore cook food had already been discovered. Certainly there is evidence that the use of fire predates this time.
It is easy to appreciate that the diet of those first humans, and the diets of all other animals surrounding them, will still have only consisted of whatever they could forage or scavenge, or catch and kill… and I still don’t think that there was a drive-in Burger King or similar.
Therefore, it is also self-evident that the diets of the very first modern-day humans would simply be that which they were taught by their parents and peers, and be limited to that which was available in their immediate surroundings and of course, that which was available at that time of year… so as a side note, it can be appreciated that a truly natural diet is also related to the seasons.
Also, much of what was easily available would be limited by how easy it was to gather, so as plant matter would be easier to gather than animal (except insects) because it doesn’t run away, it stands to reason that the majority of the diet of the day would be vegetarian, but supplemented with the occasional meat meal, and perhaps more often with eggs.
I can imagine that the individuals of the day would naturally tend to go for food with a higher calorific value, i.e. foods with fat and natural sugars, rather than leaves or other tougher foodstuffs that was more difficult to digest within the human digestive system i.e. grass or leaves. I’m sure that the unit of measurement of this, would be how tasty it was!

(Incidentally, within our western diets today, this measuring stick of tastiness, is something that can no longer be trusted, as we, as a species, have managed to be ‘clever’ enough to create what I refer to as ‘pseudo foods’. Look at sweets for instance. They appear to be food because they taste great and can be eaten, and if you have enough, then they can fill you up too. But the actual nutritional value is generally limited to that which can be provided by refined and then processed cane sugar. So essentially, all that is eaten is simple carbohydrates. Apart from the energy value, they are of very little use for the body.
All the other false ingredients (colourings, preservatives, etc) are not something that we are evolutionarily equipped to deal with, meaning that our genetically bequeathed knowledge gathered by the millions of generations of our ancestors, has no knowledge base to call upon in order to understand what to do with these ‘synthetic’ materials. So either the body ejects these unnatural chemicals, or it stores them because it doesn’t know what else to do. So those that are stored, now start creating a toxic reservoir within our bodies – doesn’t sound a good thing to me!)

So, to my mind, the food part of life’s pressures that would have helped create our inherent design, would be driven by the combined forces of evolution (changes due to environmental stresses), necessity (hunger driving changes in diet when a part of the staple diet ran out), food flavour and availability (for when there was enough that there were options), and the balance of energy expenditure vs danger vs energy gathered, i.e. hunting large dangerous prey;
…this resultant design then of our species, must be best suited to predominantly vegetarian whole foods as they don’t run away, so fruits, nuts and berries, and other vegetable matter such as cabbage, spinach, fat hen; and root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips; with handfuls of insects when you can get them, supplemented with meat and innards on the few occasions you can carry out a successful hunt. Not forgetting that none of this would have been washed any more than to get rid of excess soil or similar… so plenty of soil (rotting vegetation and animal matter) would also have been consumed on a meal by meal basis.
So as an example, perhaps in summer and autumn when the abundance of fruits, berries and nuts are at their highest, there would be less hunting and more gathering, but through the changes in seasons, the abundance of certain food types would cycle, so at colder times the risks of hunting would be outweighed by the fight for survival, and so at these colder parts of the year the meat intake may have been greater.

So… back to the present day.
It is generally accepted amongst anthropologists, that we are going to be physiologically similar to our distant Homo Sapien ancestors, so whatever they would eat, we can also eat (putting aside the bacterial resistance of the gut that would naturally grow from being exposed to the harshness of a Palaeolithic lifestyle).

As a result of my own observations over the years, demonstrated by this thought train, my personal recommendations for a healthy diet are simply to eat whole foods, not processed, predominantly vegetarian in the warm months, and more meat based through the colder months of the year.
In this age where food is available ‘on tap’, the only other problem for us is to only eat enough, never too much – a little bit of abstinence becomes key!

I cannot see the need to define diet control any more ‘accurately’ than this.
To my mind, all the scientific studies, and all the expert nutritional advice, should only be required for special cases such as where we are aiming for specific sporting goals, or where today as a community, we try to keep everyone alive, rather than where in the past a person would have died through not being able to be provided for, or being able to provide for themselves.

So, todays Palaeolithic diet fad makes sense in my head as it self-evidently comes from a ‘natural place’, but I think some of the other points above, such as seasonally available foods, and handfuls of insects should also be considered to be truly paleolithic.

Hmm… I wonder what that beetle tastes like…?

In relation to yesterday’s post (see here), there is another point that I choose to believe is true (I say ‘choose’ quite simply because there is no way of proving it true, but my observations and experiences suggest to me that it is true…).
My friend of the previous post, and I used to train together as teenagers as part of the local Track and Field team. Some of the winter training was pretty tough, well certainly for the age we were at, and I have distinct memories of the expression on her face when she was gritting her teeth, fighting hard against fatigue and the effects of lactic acid flooding the muscles… showing way back then the characteristics that are helping her today.

Since those days, I have continued to train in various disciplines, but for the last 16 years it has been in traditional Martial Arts.
Being constantly active, and being forever surrounded by the same type of people, I have seen some of them grow old, but never really suffer much from illness, and those few that have, seem to have the presence of mind to attack their illness like it is just another hard training session; i.e. something to grit your teeth against; something to fight against, and most importantly, something to overcome!

Similarly, it seems that my distant friend has also continued to train in one way or another over the years, and before she was diagnosed with cancer, she was training hard in Crossfit, and taking part in daft events like Tough Mudder’s.

In the light of what she is going through, but more importantly, how she is handling it, it further reinforces my belief that those who take part in tough physical training; tough enough that it also becomes mental training through having to develop the will to overcome the body’s desire to rest; will be those who are best equipped to deal with the worst that life has to throw at them.

I believe that something grows within those who regularly fight the little battles by choice, something that enables them to find the will-power to overcome the bigger battles likely to come later in life.

So… my advice to those of you who enjoy sitting back and watching the soaps on TV a lot more often than stepping up and staying active, is quite simply – you need to make a decision as to whether you would regret the easy, fun life when a bigger, unavoidable battle comes along.

Read this [The old man in me], and think hard, then make your chosen future happen!

There is a friend of mine (not yet 40 years old) that is currently fighting the battle of her life against a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
In doing so, she is proving to be one of life’s special people in that she has instinctively turned to face it head on and obviously has no intention of backing down!

I haven’t seen her for over 20 years, but through the wonders of Facebook, have fairly recently got back in contact… even though she is now the other side of the world!
In her own inimitable fashion, she feeds her Facebook friends with regular updates on her condition and progress, and in doing so has revealed her true colours… and incredible colours they are!
As much as it was nice to get back in contact with her, I’m am now so glad that I did as she is proving to be the sort of person I admire the most – she has what I consider to be a warrior nature – a willingness to fight for what is right, with an unremitting strength of spirit that simply doesn’t know how to give up! – and I now feel honoured to know her.

So many of her friends regularly reply to her updates by saying how amazing she is, how inspirational, and what a fantastic attitude she has toward beating the illness.
One of her replies was to say thanks for the comments, but really she’s just getting on with it, that there’s nothing special about her, and that anyone would be able to do it.

But that’s just it, isn’t it.
She is the only one in the wrong position to see what’s see’s doing. She is the only one inside the cocoon of the illness, all others are outside looking in. I don’t think she realises what this illness has brought out in her. Inversely to the debilitating effect of the cancer and the treatments, it has made her shine so brightly that her positivity is almost blinding. It is truly awe-inspiring.
If she was right that anyone could do it, then people wouldn’t react in less positive ways than she is, people wouldn’t give up, everyone would have that ability to soldier on regardless… but her friends are seeing something different to the norm, they are seeing something greater… and that, of course, is what they are astounded by.
She has unwittingly become a leader to her friends, a leader by example, an inspiring person, and one that makes the greatest of leaders.

At the risk of losing the last remnants of my manliness, I’ll admit to being in tears as I type this, but not through sadness of her suffering, emotional weakness of my own, or any other such anti-masculine reason, but through some kind of resonance I feel that makes me smile and feel so alive and good when I encounter people like this lady, and hear of their experiences that to me, epitomise the very essence of life.

No matter what;, today is a good day… some other days may be even better, but rain or shine, if I’m breathing, then every day is a good day!

I hope that if I ever have to fight a big battle that could cost me my life, that I’ll be able to show the same strength of character as my friend… and I hope I can be even partially as inspirational as her.

I have, for some time, been considering becoming vegetarian, but I find myself at internal conflict.
I am a person of strong principles, but also of strong faith in my ideas (when I feel they are well enough researched).

The idea…:
Humans have incisors.
Humans have a digestive system suitable for extracting protein from meat.
Humans are capable of catching and killing animals.
It is pretty obvious that regardless of how a person chooses to think, that the human body/mind system is designed to eat, amongst other things, meat.

The faith…:
I strongly believe that a person who wishes to obtain the optimum performance from body and mind, and the greatest experience of this thing we call ‘life’, that they should attempt to live a lifestyle that approaches the state of only consuming natural foods, only training in natural movements, only living by cycles of natural rhythms, etc.
(Obviously, the extent that this can occur is down to how much a person is willing to commit to it.)
With this position, and the above ‘idea’, it becomes obvious that I believe that a person should eat meat.

The recent change…:
Over the years, my respect for living things has grown and grown. So far this has reached the level of saying to others ‘Don’t kill it!‘ when seeing that they are about to squash a spider, or fly, or wasp, etc.
Also, I have, for some time felt that a person shouldn’t be prepared to eat meat if they’re not prepared to kill the animal first.
This weekend, this feeling rose to another level when I thought of looking the creature in the eye before taking it’s life. I don’t think I could do it.
Today I found myself actively looking for vegetarian options instead of the usual meat based food that I so love.

The conflict…
So, I have a strong faith in the idea that I should eat meat, but now the developing principle has grown sufficiently that I am no longer willing to take the life of an animal simply because I like the flavour of its flesh; unless I’m literally starving to death, in which case I think it is definitely justified!

Hmm… I wonder where I’ll go from here…!

For those of you that know me well, you’ll have heard me talking of my belief that training in natural movements is the best possible way to train body and mind. In fact, I would imagine that this may come through within the essence of this blog… I hope it does!
A few months ago, I discovered that there is a man who came to the same conclusion years ago, and has since developed a method that is becoming popular across the world.
This is certainly a training method that I intend to pursue, but currently am trying to adjust my lifestyle in other ways as well… but it’ll happen fairly soon 🙂

See the links below for an interview with Erwan Le Corre… maybe you’ll understand my belief after reading this – enjoy!

Part 1:
http://breakingmuscle.com/interviews/featured-coach-erwan-le-corre-part-1-roots-movnat

Part 2:
http://breakingmuscle.com/interviews/featured-coach-erwan-le-corre-part-2-freedom-movement-and-mind

From a young age, we start to learn the importance of monetary wealth.
“Mummy, can I have one of those please?”
“Sorry darling, we don’t have enough money.”

We are taught the ‘value’ of something that is destined to be detrimental to our health.

Modern schooling is designed to lift us up high, to positions of responsibility and power,
but is not designed to teach us the importance of spiritual health,
and the well-being that comes from being free to do as you choose,
without feeling restricted by the expectations of others.
The enrichment that comes from the satisfaction of self-sufficiency,
only really requiring help when you truly cannot do anything more.
The joy and fun that comes from running in the summer rain with no shoes,
and climbing trees just because you can.
The freedom that comes from being able to choose not to work just because the sun is shining,
And the mental health that comes from being free of the trappings of responsibility and power…
the very thing that you were taught would be your greatest achievement!

The more I see the benefits of greater monetary wealth,
the more I see how restrictive that wealth becomes.
If you had no money, no possessions, and no responsibilities to anyone but yourself,
then how much freer would your life be…
how truly wealthy would you then be…?

I am driven by the old man in me,
the old me looking back in time to now,
guiding me every day,
showing me what I should do to become the man I wish to be.

The old man in me is an octogenarian marathon runner,
the oldest rock-climber, and experienced adventure racer,
the one who shows others what is possible, if every day you live to ensure
that you are still capable of doing what you could do yesterday.

The old man in me speaks of fond memories of past accomplishments,
and of the things that he wished he’d done… not regrets; just simply because he didn’t have the time!
He warns me of how short life is, and of how I will never get the time to do everything I dream of.
Choose your goals well, but never give up on the dream.” he says…

The old man in me speaks of people I’ll lose in life: of how I’ll be witness to the results of poor lifestyles,
and the realisation that a rich lifestyle comes not from wealth, but from living life chasing dreams!
He shows me that to reach my goals, it is me that must look after me… and that I will become what I practice the most.
…hmm, I wish I didn’t practice sitting down in an office so much!

At nearly 40 years old, I look forward in time to my old self, pleased to see what I could become.
Pleased that today, I already fulfil some parts of what I wish to be.
Life is a journey. But it is a journey to becoming old; at the end looking back over the journey to remember the best bits.
Choose your goals well, for the destination of your life’s journey is in the memories of what the old you will look back upon.

When I reach my death bed, I hope that I will be able to smile and say “Wow. What a ride!

A long time ago (at least a decade) I learned of the idea of listening to your intuition in order to let it guide you in times of stress.
Ever since then I have tried; first to find this ‘voice’, then to learn how to hear it when it is so much quieter than the voice of the mind, then to learn how to trust it.
This is the stage that I am currently at… and I think the next, and possibly last stage, is to follow it as a primary source of internal guidence.

Yesterday morning I was doing some circuit training with my fellow Karate nutters, and whilst my body was getting tired, but there was still hard work to do, and my body-mind was shouting loudly at me to STOP, I became aware that in the background this little voice that I’ve learned to trust, but am still learning to hear, was saying ‘You can still do more. You can ignore that other voice. It’ll be alright.
What I realised yesterday morning, is that the voice of intuition cannot lie!
It cannot tell you something that is not true, as it relays information from the body-mind to the conscious mind that is a true indication of your reality. It is only your conscious mind that screws things up by putting some wierd perception or spin on the facts presented.
In other words, if it says that you can do more, then you can! Obviously, this also means that if it says ‘It’s time to stop!’, then you should especially listen then! (How many of us have continued working hard and got injured when we know in hindsight that we should have stopped…? I have… too often…)
It doesn’t matter what anything else says, whether that be your own internal dialogue, or another person saying ‘You’ve done enough, you can stop now.

Your reality can ONLY be experienced by you. But your reality can be SO MUCH MORE if you learn to trust in your voice of intuition.

The energy of Happiness

I was listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2 on the way to work one morning last week when they started to discuss a recent study that concludes that unhappy people live longer. ( Woah! Talk about humans being negative creatures! )
Chris’ view was that he would rather live for less time and be happy, than not… probably the sentiment of most, I would imagine!
He then highlighted this with quite a profound comment:

The thing is, it’s easy to be miserable. It takes a lot of energy to be happy.’

Quite right Chris! …and a great example you are too!