How to dine out like a caveman

Posted: March 27th, 2012 | Filed under: Lessons Learned, Paleo | Comments Off

Did I forget to mention how I’m now that guy at restaurants?

A few weeks ago, at Rice Paper (a vietnamese pho noodle house), the chef and owner actually came out and asked what’s up with my diet. It’s not difficult to eat right, it’s these social interactions that drive me slightly more crazy. Explaining the diet was fun during the first year, but now I sound like a broken down recorder.

Since I’ve been doing Paleo for awhile, I’ve discovered easy ways to keep on track.

  1. Snack or eat at home before going out. Don’t stuff yourself. The goal isn’t to get full. Dining with friends is a social event, don’t make it additionally painful on yourself. The idea here is to make it easier to pick side dishes or salads. It’s a lot harder to do this when you’re famished.
  2. Be that guy at the restaurant. You do meats, veggies, fruits, nuts & seeds. Another way of thinking about it: you are gluten free, soy free, dairy free, and as-sugar free as possible. Sometimes it’s easier to say you have allergies, but you get the evil eye if you can’t back it up (try it, trust me, they ask, if you decide to fake it, make sure you can talk the talk). Pay attention to ingredients, particularly in sauces. Don’t be afraid to ask how a particular dish is made. If you’re new to the restaurant, you have to be that guy.
  3. Making easy decisions. Here’s almost a years worth knowledge:
Quick appetizers
  1. Olives
  2. Nuts (almonds, macadamia, walnuts, brazilian). No peanuts!
  3. Nachos without: nachos, sour cream, beans and with: extra chicken, guacamole
  4. Guacamole
  5. Extra veggies (no corn)

Sometimes, it’s easier to load up on a few good appetizers instead of an entree.

Entrees
  1. Salads. with meat, guacamole, and your favorite extra veggies. Season with salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Skip the cheese, croutons, and dressing.
  2. Meat & chicken. Skip the sauce.
  3. Fish, baked or seared.
  4. Burgers. Skip the bun and cheese.
  5. Sashimi. Skip the rice.
  6. Fajitas with extra veggies and guac. Skip the tortillas, beans, and sour cream.
  7. Naked burritos. Skip the cheese.
  8. Shrimp tacos, no shells, cheese
Chain restaurants:
  1. Chipotle: Fajitas, steak, guac, lettuce.
  2. Pho: Pho without noodles- Yes sacrilege, so ask for extra meat. Stuff it with lime, bean sprouts, no sriracha, or oyster sauce. Make sure the the broth is made on site, preferably a vegetarian broth.

Another great reference on how to dine out from Mark’s Daily Apple. This is a work in progress. If you have suggestions, please send them my way.


Day 30: Fight like a caveman

Posted: March 1st, 2012 | Filed under: Lessons Learned, Paleo | Comments Off

It’s the 30-day mark for my gym’s Last Caveman Standing competition. 30 days ago, 17 entered. Today, only 4 remain. It’s clear that we’re all in it for the long haul; but I’m not worried.

I started Paleo last March. The early days were fun because I got a chance to really learn and think about food differently. To be clear, during those days, my version of Paleo was not super strict–like the current challenge. In fact, now that I think about it, I was doing something closer to EZTown-Paleo, which floweth with wine, honey, and sriracha.

I couldn’t have kept going this long if I didn’t learn how to fight a few battles. Some of you might know what I’m talking about.

For example, the easy battles might be learning how to tell the difference between a craving and genuine hunger. Or making a habit out of looking at nutritional labels for everything. Then there are the slightly challenging battles, like taking the time to prepare food on Sundays. Or ordering a salad and soda water when everyone else is ordering burgers, nachos, and margaritas, then brushing aside the ham because that’s what comes on a Cobb Salad but you couldn’t remember since you didn’t want to keep everyone waiting, and had to make a decision quickly. True story. My favorite type of battles, though, are the ones where other people’s world view of food come crashing into mine.

Like when I had to tell friends I couldn’t eat rice anymore.

Giving up rice? WHAT? How can you not eat rice?

Hahahaha. No seriously, here have some rice.

Are you really Asian?

And those comments came from my friends. I even got flack when I ate out Asian restaurants. Restaurant owners and staff would berate me.

No rice? You want fried rice instead?

Are you sure? It’s free, you know?

Is that how you stay so skinny? – Seriously, I <3 Asian restaurant owners.

In case I need to spell it out for you, I am Chinese. I grew up eating rice every day. I own two rice cookers. Two. I have three different bags of rice in my pantry–basmati, jasmin, and something that I can’t even pronounce. Three. Giving up rice? Impossible. For awhile, I started questioning the diet because I had to kill my most sacred cow.

Fortunately, I knew that the span of the challenge was only 30 days. Through my curiosity I found the motivation to stick to the plan and avoided rice for 30 days. It’s been almost a year and even though I still keep those three bags of rice in my pantry, I don’t touch the stuff anymore. Okay, okay- occasionally, I indulge with sushi. If the chef says eat the rice, you eat the rice. Okay?

Another battle might be learning to be that guy at the restaurant who is always asking for shit that’s not on the menu.

I’d like this salad, without feta cheese and candied walnuts. I’d like to add sliced steak and olive oil for my dressing. Thanks.

I hate that guy, and doubly hate being that guy since I have always respected other people’s time. Eventually, I learned to think about the situation differently and how to handle that conversation.

But through these battles, I learned that when you start the Paleo diet, society will tell you that you are wrong. Nutritionists don’t believe it will work, grocery stores stock incompatible foods 99% of the time, and even restaurant staff make fun of you.

Don’t listen to any of that. Manufacture your own motivations and seek out the truth on your own. You don’t have to follow Paleo as strictly as I do. I don’t even want to follow Paleo as strictly as I do. After the challenge, I’d like to try Primal (say hello to whey protein shakes and wine).

If you’ve been reading this blog, thank you for sticking around. I still want to make it easy for people to get through their own 30-day challenges, and plan to keep this space updated with recipes, funny battle stories, and tools for succeeding on Paleo, one 30-day challenge at a time.


Day 22: Double unders

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 | Filed under: CrossFit, Food Diary, Lessons Learned | 2 Comments »

I’ve been practicing double unders every day for about the last few weeks and I’m quite happy to share that for the first time ever, I did a WOD entirely with double unders. No modifications (no halfsies or 5:1 singles mod). RX.

Wow. I’m so Awesome. Aren’t I wonderful? Not really. Let add some context for you…

I started going to Forever Strong about two years ago and recently started taking double unders seriously enough to practice them everyday for the last six weeks. Recently. In the last six weeks. Why didn’t I do this on my first day, 1 year and 10 months ago?

As far as I was concerned, the 5:1 singles modifications were good enough for me.

Whatever, I’ll just do singles. I’ll figure out double unders some other day.

Gunnery Sgt Hartman knows the truth

(By the way Figure It Out is secret procrastinator’s code for “I don’t want to face the fact that I have to put in a lot of work to get something done.”)

I’d come in on days with a double under WOD, get the rope, throw down a few half assed attempts, then sigh and realize that I’d have to figure it out some other day. Again.

This happened all the time. But you know what really made me mad? Doing a workout and watching other people fly through their double unders. Fortunately, getting mad at myself is one way I get motivated. After repeatedly getting the beat down, I gave myself a month to master double unders. It’s taken me 6 weeks so far, oops. I go three times a week, and only practice for 5 minutes during warm ups.

Here’s the video that helped me the most.

Double Unders from Again Faster on Vimeo.

For the first two weeks, I only picked up the rope during my warm up, then did 5 singles + 1 extra high jump.

In the third and forth week, I learned how to whip my wrists forward quickly enough during the extra high jump, incrementing the number of double unders on each subsequent visit to the gym.

In the last two weeks, I learned how to time my jumps and keep my posture. I’m still learning, so at the moment, I’m alternating between singles and doubles.

Soon.

Breakfast

  • 2 hard boiled eggs

WOD

  • 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 Clean and Jerk 115/85
  • 100, 80, 60, 40, 20 Double Unders

Yes, 300.

Lunch

  • Eggplant lasagna

Dinner

  • Chicken, fish, spinach, and green peppers w/ cayenne peppers marinade.

 


Day 16: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face

Posted: February 16th, 2012 | Filed under: CrossFit, Food Diary, Lessons Learned | 1 Comment »

At the Winter Open, I was impressed with how the athletes made everything look so easy. So easy in fact, that I almost forgot how much training it took to get to that point of performance. For every squat, ten thousand came before. For as many meters as they rowed, it was likely tiny compared to the total number of meters they have ever rowed.

I was thinking about that during today’s workout. For me, the biggest game I play during a WOD isn’t physical or technical–unless it’s double unders or handstand push ups. No, the biggest game I play is going on in my own head.

Part of this is because I like going in with a strategy. Here’s my inner monologue:

“All out in the first two rounds, then ease up on the third round, then all out in the last round! Okay, let’s go. Come on. Yeaaa!”

As if managing pain with magical strategy dust is somehow going to make everything okay. It’s not and it doesn’t. As Mike Tyson suggests:

Everyone Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Face

Just to be clear, there's no punching going in CrossFit

Deep down within me, I know I’m mentally handicapping myself by calling this a strategy, when it’s a more like a barrier. Something that holds people back. And if you take a step back and listen, you’ll hear them all the time.

“I’m not good enough”
“I can’t lift much weight”
“I can’t do a handstand push up”
“Box jumps, no freaking way!”

I get irritated when I hear other people saying it, and I get insanely more mad when I catch myself saying it.

The truth is, CrossFit brought out my tendency to erect barriers during highly intense situations and ever since I noticed that was happening, it made me wonder if this behavior was spilling over into other parts of my life. What other barriers have I created?

Riyad and I started CrossFit at around the same time. This quote reminds me of how I felt after about 6 months. Sometimes you just have to tell the voice of doubt to shut the fuck up and get past your own state of mind and execute the WOD even if your legs are burning, your heart is pounding, and you can’t feel your calves anymore.

But I didn’t do that today. I haven’t beaten my own mind, yet. But like the competitors in last week’s Winter Open who practiced distance rowing and speed squatting, beating the mental game will take practice. And that I can do.

Breakfast

  • Banana nut pancakes
  • Sausage links

WOD

  • 1 Round for fastest times: 500 m Row, 100 m Row, 250 m Row, 1000 m Row

Lunch

  • More awesome quail
  • Side of butternut squash
  • Side of broccoli
  • Side of cauliflower

Dinner

  • Pesto squash with chicken
  • Side of cauliflower
  • Side of broccoli

Yes, I know it’s only 4pm, but I’m forecasting what I’m having for dinner.


Beating Superbowl Sunday

Posted: February 5th, 2012 | Filed under: Lessons Learned, Paleo | Comments Off

My current 30-Day Challenge takes place over Super Bowl Sunday. I’m sure the organizers thought this would be funny *wink* *wink *nudge* *nudge* if you know what I mean.

So you’re probably thinking about how today only happens once a year, which totally makes it okay to cheat, right? I have some news for you.

There will always be a Birthday Party, or a Baby Shower, or an Easter, or some Out Of Town Friends Who Are Visiting, or a Chinese New Year (Dim sum is my Kryptonite), or a Super Bowl Sunday, or a Valentine’s Day, or some equally Important Event Where People Celebrate By Eating Food Together™.

Believe it or not, I love these days because I get to test out different ideas for staying on track. Here are a few tactics I use in situations like a Super Bowl party.

  1. Eat before heading out to the party. By filling up on food, I’m making myself less likely to gorge when temptation strikes. In this case, temptation is a being surrounded by friends drinking beer and eating cheesy buffalo chicken dip.
  2. Make or bring a dish. I keep a recipe for guacamole deviled eggs ready for such events. Alternatively, I’ve also brought fruit or salad trays if I’m in a rush. The idea is to keep options open. I don’t ever want to decide between eating potato chips, driving to the nearest grocery store for a fruit bowl, or exerting willpower over my hunger. Convenience always win. Second place is my stomach.
  3. Keep a can of nuts in the car.  In the event that the guacamole deviled eggs are a smashing hit, it’s critical to have something as backup. Nuts are a quick and easy backup, but any snack will do: raisins, grapes, cherry tomatoes, fudge balls, etc. Just have backups stashed nearby.

Did you notice that in each of these tactics I either raise or lower specific barriers? I’m finding ways to increase or decrease certain habits. For example, in the first tactic, I make it harder to eat bad food (by filling up) and in the second and third tactics, I make it easy to eat good foods (by having it conveniently available). This is one of the strategies I’m using to stay on track and crush the competition.


My First 30 Day Challenge

Posted: February 2nd, 2012 | Filed under: Body Progress, CrossFit, Lessons Learned, Paleo | 1 Comment »

Saturday, March 5th, 2011. Almost a year ago.

That’s the day we started Paleo. And we lived happily after and that’s the end of the story.

Okay, not really. Making the switch wasn’t as easy or as quick as it sounds. In fact, even though pulling the trigger happened literally overnight, there was a lot momentum building up to that point.

In the weeks leading up to March 5th, there were a couple of things happening in my life.

  1. I was putting on weight again. A few months earlier, I lost weight for our wedding–like everyone, who gets married thinks about doing, ever. What I didn’t know then was how terrible I was at losing weight. I mean, my entire strategy revolved around eating less food and doing more cardio. So, less rice and more running. That’s called a recipe for miserable. And, as it tuns out, it was quite ineffective in the long run.
  2. My Crossfit gym was organizing a nutrition education session. A few members were also curious about healthy eating and so the owners put on a short 90-minute session.  I had been doing Crossfit for just under a year and even though I was getting stronger, my body didn’t look any better. Both my wife and I attended.
  3. Finally, I had grown tired. Tired of ridiculing my friends for their latest ‘caveman’ diet fad even though I could clearly see the results. I know, I know, at first they ignore you…

I left Saturday’s nutrition session feeling empowered. I got to see the big picture behind Paleo. Some of it seemed like common sense why do I keep eating oatmeal? and holy crap that High Fructose Corn Syrup really is all over the place. I had a curated Recipe Book that I used as a starting point. I had the support of everyone at the gym. But more importantly, I had the support of my wife, who was just crazy enough to suggest that we give Paleo a shot. We jumped right into our first 30-day challenge.

Later that weekend, we cleared out our pantry…

All The Shit I Used To Eat

Don't worry, that bacon was really awful.

and replaced it entirely with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Food I Eat Now

Snacks

Which brings me to my first tip:

TIP #1: PREPARE YOUR MEALS AHEAD OF TIME. Your chances of success dramatically increase if your ability to cheat is lowered or eliminated. This convenience ‘hack’ can make the difference between waffles or banana nut pancakes for breakfast.

I’ll talk about how to prepare for the first few days of the 30-day challenge in a later post. In the meantime, if you’re curious about how it worked out for me.

Fatty Chung, six months and 25 lbs later.