Tag Archive: lifestyle


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!

Those who would laugh at you, ridicule your attempts to show them something of worth, mock you for the cheap trick of getting a laugh themselves; do they have something to offer that is greater?

If not, then don’t take their words to heart, they are merely jealous of your greater ability (…though they probably don’t realise it) and their jibes can be ignored, because if all they have to offer is derision without substance, then they have nothing to offer at all.

Be confidant with your gifts and skills.

Go forth and express your being; your self, show the world who and what you are!

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…?

Increasingly, I find it frustrating when I hear of people saying with a resigned air:
I’d like to, but no, I don’t do that sport anymore [insert pursuit of choice…], ‘cause… well, you know what it’s like when you get married and have kids, get promoted at work, etc… you know… life gets in the way doesn’t it.

Yes, I DO know what it’s like, but I’ve never ever seen it as a reason to stop doing whatever it is I pursue at that time.
Surely that’s what life is about? About finding something of value that makes the hard work all worthwhile. Something that you can look forward to, even in the knowledge that it is going to be difficult to arrange things like babysitters, or transportation, finance, etc, …but also knowing that when you’re doing this thing that you love, that all the stress goes away. It’s a relief valve…
Equally, it eventually becomes something that you can look back upon through memories and friendships and laughs, when the body no longer allows you to carry on.
Surely life is about enjoying this chance we each have to make the experience of living worthwhile… and not only through our children.

Now, perhaps some people would say that I’m not the best of parent’s when I say that you should not fully sacrifice your passions so that you can give your children the best chance at pursuing theirs.
Partially, yes. But not fully.
After all, isn’t that the same as giving away a life to save a life? No net gain…? Surely better if you both have a passion to pursue…?

I actually feel that even though it is logistically a harder path, I feel that I am being a better parent by demonstrating to my children that I can have passions and interests of my own, as well as helping them find and develop theirs. I feel that I am setting a better example to follow, and a more useful one for them, for when they one day, find themselves in the same position with children of their own.

Is it not an almost equal waste of a life to live a life of living though others as opposed to living a life of not bothering with pursuing anything of interest…?
Perhaps a little bit of selfishness is a good thing.

I’ve been rather busy lately, hence the lack of action on this blog this year.
However, I’m still around, still lovin’ life, and thought I’d tell you all about my year… as I’m actually quite proud of it.

But first…
You might recall from an earlier post on this blog (May 1st 2012) about an idea proposed to me some years ago entitled ‘The old man in me’.
The core of this idea has been a driving force for me for some years, and continues to determine how my decisions are made, and the paths I choose to take in life (.and why are they never easy?!).
By way of this, over the last three years I have been trying to put into action a number of things that will enable me to live life in the way I would best enjoy.
For many years prior to this, I had been trying to understand what sort of professional role in life would suit me best. Eventually I realised that the best type of job for any person, is one where they are doing what they would happily do for free… so, you get paid for having fun! Your type of fun.

I finally realised one day what I wanted to do when I was sitting on the side of a running track watching my son compete. I was sitting there watching all the teenagers and young men and women trying their hardest to throw, run, jump, vault, hurdle, etc to the very best of their ability, each wanting to get a new ‘personal best’ (PB), and I found myself itching to get down and help. I could see those who were a little injured. Those who’s movements could be improved, whether for power, efficiency or speed, and those who were lacking in confidence, thus restricting themselves.
And I knew from my years in Track and Field that there would be others unable to compete that day due to injury… and I wanted to help them too.
I guess that because I find it emotional watching people succeeding in sport at something that they have a great passion for; something that they have put in so many hours of hard work, knowing from personal experience the amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into reaching that podium, or whatever equivalent there is for any given sport… that it is this connection that I share with each and every true athlete that makes me want to be a part of it… I want to help them reach their goals!
It was this day when I finally realised that where I had always been interested in the workings of the body from the perspective of sports performance (I had considered going into physiotherapy as a 16 year old), that this was now becoming my true calling.

So going back to three years ago, I had changed jobs to a higher paid role in order that I could afford to tear down our garage and build something that could be used for multiple sporting purposes – a mini gym / dojo. Then two and half years ago (July 2012), I found myself sat on the side of that running track and subsequently starting looking into sports physiotherapy-like jobs.
So, two years ago I booked myself onto a Level 5 Sports Therapy course offered by Active Health Group in Manchester, UK (who, I’d like to say, offer excellent tuition on a really well structured course – highly recommended!), which started in earnest in September last year. From October last year I have been taking on occasion clients as a Sports Therapy student in order to have a good selection of case studies for a part of the coursework. I have however, been dragging my heels on getting the academic side of the course completed!

In and around all this I have also been training hard within the Karate system I study with the goal of gaining my 1st Dan Black Belt in June this year and then starting up a club after completing the Sports Therapy course.
Also, using the diminishing fitness built up for that Karate grading, a friend and I entered the Rat Race event ‘Scotland Coast to Coast’ which is 105 miles across Scotland on foot, bike and kayak in September this year… then two weeks after that I took part in my first ever 10k race… just for fun.

Oh yes… it’s been busy!
Now, the reason I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself is because I’ve managed to fit all this around a normal life of 40 hours a week job, normal household and family activites, which means, in my eyes, that I am heading some way towards the ultimate goal within the idea of ‘The old man in me’, which is to be able to lie in my deathbed at, say 80 years old, and look back at my life and think “Yep… I did alright. These memories were worth all that hard work.” and to die with a smile on my face.

This year (actually closer to two years) has been the first year where I’ve managed to get that close to right. And with a bit of luck… and a lot of hard work, hopefully next year will yield the same!

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.

Between now and your death, or between now and the time where you can no longer do the things that enhance your enjoyment of life; what are you going to do with your time?
Do you really want to continue sitting at that desk for all your future working years punching away at the keyboard?
…or surfing the internet for nothing in particular in the evenings… just filling time?
…or going to the gym to keep fit… but without definable purpose or reason… just to fit in?
Perhaps you are faintly aware of your life years, months , weeks, minutes and seconds gradually ticking away from you, never to return. Each one you only get once… or as Dan Millman wrote ‘There are no ordinary moments.’ …each second, and the events within are special. They occur only once!
Do you feel trapped by your circumstances?  …are you what is meant by Erwan Le Corre’s ‘Zoo humans’?

Recently, here in Bristol, UK, was a beautiful spring day. I went out at dinnertime and so nearly didn’t go back into the office…
It was moments like that eighteen months ago that made me awaken to the fact that I am in the wrong job; that I must change career.
Those changes are now well underway, but I am still painfully aware of my life seconds slipping away. I might be getting paid for my time, but money can never pay for the time passed, it is only a token gesture.

I believe a person, any person, YOU! – should aim towards those things that draw your attention; those things that interests you; that which makes you smile; that which makes you feel good inside; the events of life that make you go ‘Wowww!’ with eyes wide, or make you cry with joy, or pleasure, or compassion, or empathy… it is those indicators that you should be looking for, as when they occur, that is the universe telling you what you should be doing with your time here on Earth… some will say that it is God talking to you… others will use other explanations, but all will agree that it is that feeling that is telling you what you were made for!
…just as a tuning fork will start to ring when the same pitch of sound is placed near it… your spirit will start to resonate when you are near those things that are in tune with you. It is that attraction to things that shows you the starting point of your intended path of life – it literally feels right!

So sit for a while, think about what it is that makes you feel this way.
Write down those events that you have enjoyed and wished they would never end… a bit like a bucket list! (…you do have one of those don’t you…? I hope so…)
Try and find the common denominator within these times.
Now comes the hard bit… now you need to look to find a role in life that would repeatedly give you that feeling again!

Now, go sit and think! …good luck.

“Another week done!” said my boss on my way out the door.
“Yep, another week of my life gone.” said I.
“Aww, don’t look at it that way.” he said.
‘Why not? That’s what it is.‘ I thought, but said “Yeah, but it’s just the way you choose to use it…”
“That’s it!” he said… implying ‘That’s a better attitude!’

Couldn’t help but think that he is using the culturally accepted way of justifying a ‘waste’ of life time. [sic]

Each hour of our lives belongs to us and only us. How we choose to use those hours is a matter of choice.
It may not be a direct choice, i.e. you may have previously chosen to commit to a mortgage, and in turn you committing yourself to having to pay for it… which, for most of us, means working. However, it is still a choice!

To my mind, I choose to work for the amount of hours needed to pay the mortgage and bills… and to pay for future dreams!
I do NOT subscribe to the idea of the accumulation of money as being a goal worth substituting my life hours to.
Each hour that passes will never pass again… what I’m doing in those hours better be bloody worth it!

One cannot plan a journey of discovery,
just as one cannot plan a sculpture.

Sculptures, paintings, dance, music and other arts come from a process of creativity,
each step revealing its own self, ready for the discovery of what the next step will become.

It is the same with the discovery of the self,
each new step of awakening revealing the start of the next.

If you are working to a pre-determined plan, you are unlikely to discover anything of worth.

Open your mind, let go of plans, and choose distant goals instead,
for they provide direction, but do so with the anticipation of an unplanned journey.

Life is a journey, not a destination.