Friday, July 24, 2015

How aliens see luxury, fashion and money

Just the other day, when I was walking down the streets of my neighborhood, I heard a strange noise that made me stop and look around. It was a summer afternoon and the streets were empty, so I didn't understand where that low buzz could come from. I walked on and again I perceived the unusual hum. I turned around and this time I saw it. I say "it" because it was not a "she" or a "he", I mean, a human being. Nor it was an animal, as I expected. It was a short, five-legged, single-handed, blue-skinned, long-necked, three-eyed being looking at me and still buzzing. I am not a drug user, and, although high, the heat of the day was not particularly hallucinatory. Thus, the alien, or whatever it was, had to be real, and not a product of my mind. Before I could utter any reasonable expression, I heard it speak. Or better said, I heard its voice inside my head. It was communicating to me telepathically. It had been on our planet for a while, it explained, and it experienced many things about our species it just could not understand. Among the many unexplainable phenomena, it mentioned "money", "fashion" and "luxury". It seems to it that, no matter where it went, everybody here on Earth seems incredibly obsessed by grasping these apparently valueless tickets of different colors and dimensions. It was also puzzled by the weird behaviors of Earth people, especially when it comes to wear pieces of clothes and showing them off.  I was speechless, er, thoughtless. Meeting an alien in the middle of the street was the last thing I could expect that day, let alone one asking me such unpredictable questions. Seeing that my reaction was far to come, it sent me a very powerful set of brainwaves that left me bewildered, as if I were hit by a train. Then, it disappeared. You are about to read here below the content of the message I received by that "thing". It's a list containing 5 considerations related to luxury, money and fashion as they are seen by the alien. You will notice that the way it sees our world is very peculiar, if compared to our mainstream perception of reality. I don't want trouble with the police and the press, so I didn't report to the authorities the event that occurred to me. I content myself with publishing the following list in my post, trusting that you will give it a thought now and then. I think that 99,99% of Earth people is not ready to share the alien's view, so it's better to keep a low profile, at least until things change. 

1. Sport cars: people have two legs and can use them to walk. So why spending so much money with these strange four-wheeled coffins? The alien observed that it seems that owning a fast, sport, expensive car makes feel the owner (usually a male being of our species) more important and respected, which is hard to understand, considered how polluting these vehicles are. It also remarked that although the car users seems to love speed, when challenged to run using their legs only they either refuse or turn to be quite slow. 

2. Precious jewels: if the first item is more palatable to males, this one seems to attract females more, so our alien noticed. What it could not fully understand is why on Earth (no pun intended) people endow stones with so much values. It could not tell the difference from any stone it picked up from the ground and those exhibited so proudly by our women, usually around their necks, in some of their fingers or hanging from their ears. The fact that entire nations (by the way, it hardly understood the concept of "nation" either) hold reserves of a special stone called "gold", and that those stones confer an added value to the nation according to their quantity, it is something that goes beyond the alien's understanding. 

3.Name-brand clothing: fashion comes second only to luxury, in our poor alien's irrationality list. It noticed that millions of people wish to wear the same garments according to what they see on flat screens (billboards, TV, smartphone and PC screens). By doing so, people feel at easy and unique. It seems nobody is able to grasp the paradox of the whole thing.

4. Hairstyles, piercing, tattoos. Same as above. We are entering the realm of fashion, something the alien labels as highly disturbing and irrational. Through its wave-communication system, it told me that its species possess special skills, like projecting their minds in the future. Using this device, it made a simple experiment on our planet. It showed to 100 young units of our species pictures of hairstyles and fashions that will be trendy in the next 10 years. 100% of the sample screamed horrified, claiming that never and never they will ridicule themselves by dressing in such an embarrassing way.

5. Technological gadgets. Where it comes from, the alien explained to me, technology is practically invisible, noiseless and effective. It is provided for free to every member of its species and its use is strictly bound to functional reasons. Therefore it could not really understand why people here constantly show their piece of heavy machinery and utilize it for frivolous and useless tasks, like making a digital copy of already existing reality and share it among selected members of their species, probably to reassure them that the reality they recorded is still there and didn't disappear (the alien could not find any other reasonable explanation of this bizarre behavior).

Besides those listed here above, the alien added quickly further factors of puzzlement, namely the obsession to possess large properties in form of houses (and floating houses, which it later learned to label as "boats" and "yachts"); the inclination to gather to some fancy places, usually in the evening, and provide plenty of tickets (money) to eat dead animals, cooked and well served by submissive servants wearing white uniforms; and the attitude to sojourn in glamorous residences (so-called 5-star hotels) when traveling. The alien came to know that only a small fragment of human beings can afford such way of living, and they are the target of admiration, envy and emulation from their fellow species. It's a strange planet indeed.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Benefits (and drawbacks) of adopting a healthy lifestyle

If you read the previous articles about the way I was able to reduce my cholesterol level by 10% in 90 days without using any medicament, you may ask yourself the following question:
"is it really worthwhile to cut down on the tastiest foods on earth and to sweat so much, just to lower a stupid value?"
Well, it's not only about cholesterol and triglycerides. There are many more things involved: feeling fit, healthier, keeping your weight under control, getting more information about your health and breaking the chains of commercial brainwashing. Of course, also some negative effects should be taken into account. Here below, a list of pluses and minuses I have experienced so far.

Positive effects of daily physical exercise

- Runner's high: much better than any drug! When performing a moderate / high aerobic exercise, our body produces endorphins, which are responsible for feeling so "high" after a long run. It's a mix of excitement and exhaustion. In my case, no matter how bleak the world around might be, after a 5 km running at a decent pace (5 minute / km) everything seems peachy. The only disadvantage: I learned that it's better not to drive right after the running session. I feel usually too relaxed to be able to focus on the road. 

- No belly and tonic muscles: I'm not so interested in getting my body shaped like a body-builder. It's enough to have functioning arms and legs. In the last 60 days of my training I paid more attention on my upper body and I included more push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups in my sessions. When I touch my body, I feel new small muscles whose presence I ignored. Furthermore, my belly is flat and now I can easily wear trousers which I found hard to button up last summer.  

Negative effects:

- Injuries: as far as I've experienced (now and in the past) it's almost impossible not to incur injures when I train daily (or 6 days a week). Usually, when I feel a pain on my leg or foot, I interrupt the training period till the pain ceases. I wouldn't recommend to bite the bullet and to ignore the problem, it's an approach that will definitely make things even worse. 

- Boredom: to repeat again and again the same exercises and to run miles and miles can be tedious. I try to overcome this obstacle by changing progressively my exercise sessions and by challenging myself setting new targets (right now my task is to run 10 km in less than 50 minutes).

Positive effects of a cholesterol-lowering diet:

- light & fit: I feel much lighter and I can keep my body weight under constant control. As I wrote in the related posts, beginning the new diet might be hard (my motto is "starting is half the battle!") but after some weeks I was able to ignore the temptation of the poisoning food I used to eat. Now I understand how intoxicating junk food, chips, soda, pastry were. I recall feeling heavy and queasy after those sticky noshes, which had a negative impact even on my mood. 

- saving money: according to where you live, vegetables, fruit and fish can be more expansive than meat and junk food. However, the extra cost of a healthy diet can be set off by deleting unhealthy food and alcohol from your shopping list. 

Negative effects:

- time: a certain amount of time is required to take on a healthy lifestyle, both for cooking & eating and for your daily exercises. I would also add a third task, which is getting information (online, discussing with like-minded people and doctors, reading, watching programs and videos about health). Not everybody can afford that. If you want to seriously deal with it, you should consider that your choices will affect your daily time management.

-  social life: sad but true, if you decide to eat healthy and to start running, there are chances that you will be doing it alone. I forgot how it feels like drinking liters of beer with buddies, ordering shots at the disco at night or consuming cocktails at the sunset bar. Unfortunately, in our civilized western society everything seems to spin around money and alcohol. If you want to interact with people, you should participate in these crazy alcoholic gatherings. Since I started my new diet, I must say that I've radically stopped hanging around bars, disco, cafes, parties, and these changes have affected my social life. On the other hand, I'm spending more time with my family and with my 5-year old nephew, who drinks nothing but milk, water and fruit juices. Regarding doing sport, you will realize that running is not the most popular discipline. It involves pain and it's neither "social", nor competitive, so it is hard to find a pal to run with. When I run, my best friend is my MP3 player. If you want to join me, just give me a holler!

Friday, July 17, 2015

How I lowered my total cholesterol level (by 10% in 90 days) - part. 3

Let's have a recap: in part 1, we discussed on the unhealthy eating habits I quit, in order to lower my cholesterol level; in part 2, I listed the food whose consume I've increased over the last 3 months; and now, in part 3, I will illustrate the most painful element of the new lifestyle, the physical exercise!

Honestly, it was not so painful to me, as I love so much running. Nevertheless, I still remember the pain and the injuries I went through years ago, when I started practicing this sport regularly. And, woe me, I have recently decreased my weekly mileage due to a problem with my tendon. Plus, last week I hit my head on the granite-rim of the swimming pool, but this is another story...

 1. Information & education
A correct information on the kind of exercise you need to tackle your problem at best is essential. For this reason I decided to discuss about my cholesterol problems with my doctor. As a second step, I collected on the internet as many information as possible about the most effective ways to decrease cholesterol levels, the diets, the lifestyles and the most common mistakes to avoid. 

2. Keep track of your progress
After each session, I keep track of what I do: how many miles I run, what kind of exercise and how many repetitions, injuries or particular reactions from my body. Exactly three months ago, when I started running again after a long winter break, I hardly could run 1 km without stopping (what a shame!). Now I can run 10 km with no break at a decent pace! Keeping track is a big motivational support (see next point).

 3. Motivation
 Motivation is pivotal. If you want to achieve decent results, one or two weeks of sporadic exercise won't do. What you need is a constant exercise that exceeds at least 100 days. After each session, I usually sit down briefly on my PC and google "benefits of sport" or "benefits of running" and I read the related articles. That boosts my will to go on, in spite of being tired and thirsty.

 4. Running and physical exercise
Here some details about what I've been doing in the last 3 months. Important note: if I expected my total cholesterol level to lower exactly by 10% (see point 1), I was negatively surprised to find out that my HDL level remained unchanged. The HDL is the "good cholesterol", (unlike the LDL, its increase is a good sign), which is supposed to go up with the increase of phisical activity, namely running. The more and the longer you run, the higher the HDL value. I've read that a mileage of 30 km weekly is just enough to have an impact on HDL. My average was below this threshold, so this might explain the fact that my value even decreased, even if slightly. 
Coming back to my sport routine, I started moving up my bottom on April the 10th with some warming up sessions. On 14th I started getting serious: I increased my mileage and included sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups. Beginning on May the 18th, I exercised 6 days a week: 3 running sessions every other day (running at least 5 km under 25 minutes - 5 minutes/km pace) plus 3 exercises sessions a week (I started with 25 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 30 crunches per session).
After one month, I was able to run 8 km (always at a 5 min/km pace) and to perform 40 pull-ups, 40 push-ups and 100 crunches.
Unfortunately a nasty tendinitis stopped my running progress on June 26th (my task was to run 10 km non-stop at 5 min / km pace), so I focused more on physical exercise and some swimming sessions. In fact, I stopped running 15 days before the blood test and my weekly average was always around 20 km. Definitely not enough to make a dent in my HDL level, but probably enough to contribute on the lowering of the "bad cholesterol" LDL. It must be said that I like walking and I use the car only to cover distances longer than 5 km. 

That's all I wanted to say about my "cholesterol experience". I intend to adopt further my new lifestyle (probably I will eat some more ice cream in August, but I will definitely avoid alcohol) and to resume running (my task is to run 10 km in 50 minutes or less). At the end of the year I will check my blood again and I will let you know about the results!  

How I lowered my total cholesterol level (by 10% in 90 days) - part 2

Did you read the first part of this article? Are you curious to know what follows? Well, let's proceed!

Cutting down on unhealthy food is only a part of the systemic approach one should adopt to reach significant outcomes. Please keep in mind that lowering the cholesterol level is not a task to be achieved at any cost. Be aware of so-called experts trying to convince you that high cholesterol is a disease and the remedy is to swallow magic pills. As I explained in previous posts, my target is to keep my cholesterol values under control (and thus, the risk of heart diseases in the future) and to feel fit & light by quitting unhealthy habits and by taking on a healthy lifestyle, possibly avoiding the use of medical treatment. 
In the first part I talked about the food I quit and why, now I want to talk about the food I've been eating and the exercises I've been doing all over the last three months. As a result, my total cholesterol level decreased by more than 10%.

1. Fruit
Before starting my diet, I realized that the contribution of fruit in my daily food consumption was near to zero. It was my luck that I began my new eating style in May, as I love spring and summer fruit. There is nothing more pleasant than devouring a bowl of fresh fruit salad right after 1 hour of physical exercise! It's the best alternative to sugar products. Now I try to eat a portion of fruit at least twice a day, possibly between the meals or before lunch. 
 2. Vegetables
My sister lives in a country-house with a big piece of land, which includes an orchard and a vegetable garden, so we can enjoy fresh veggies and fruit for free! They are essential to keep your body healthy. Compared to the past, I tend to consume zucchini, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and salads more often (at least a portion at lunch and dinner). Grilled eggplants are fantastic! (and don't lose any health property).
3. Fish
The best alternative to meat is fish (if you're not vegetarian). On one hand, it's much more expensive than pork and lamb, on the other hand you need just a fishing rod to get some (did I tell you that I live in an island?). I like to barbecue sea bass and sea bream. Grilled shrimps are great, too, but unfortunately they're not so healthy. I've been also eating salmon, codfish, tuna and, now and then, sardines. All in all, fish is on my plate 2/3 times a week. 

 4. Special Yoghurt Drinks
Ok, I'm not sure whether such product is really effective or it's just another publicity stunt. Anyhow, I've been drinking one small plastic bottle of lowering-cholesterol yoghurt every day after my running session. It's tasty and refreshing and it's definitely not a medicament. I'm still taking it with a grain of salt, but for sure it hasn't produced any negative effect so far.  

These are the changes I included in my diet. I kept eating pasta (with lighter sauces, though), bread, rice and soups (seldom, I hate them!). For dressing salad and veggies, I use, as I always did, olive oil (home-made with our olives!). My breakfast consists in a cup of hot skinned-milk with a few drops of coffee and 4 melba toasts with a slight layer of jam. Another factor I've been taking into consideration is the quantity of food: I stopped pigging out and now I am trying to eat "more but less" (5 light meals per day, avoiding eating a lot at lunch or dinner). 

So far we've been talking about food. In the third and last part, we're going to focus about physical exercise and its impact on cholesterol.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How I lowered my total cholesterol level (by 10% in 90 days) - part 1

Warning: in order to avoid any misunderstanding and to fully understand the spirit of this article, I'd suggest that you have a look at the related post "The myth of the high cholesterol". Thank you!

 As you can see in the chart above, on April my level of total cholesterol was quite high, even if not so worrying after all. Why? What matters more is the Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio. If this value is lower than 5, the risk of heart diseases in the future is low. In April I scored 5,4, whereas in July the value decreased to 5,1 (meaning: average risk). Another factor to take into consideration is the Trygliceride/HDL ratio. The closer to 2, the better it is (in my case is even lower).
Now, here below I will list the unhealthy habits I quit and the healthy habits I took on in the last three months. The result was a reduction on the total cholesterol level, LDL level and triglycerides. Unexpectedly, the HDL level hasn't changed, but I have a theory about it (as you can see reading on).


 1. Sweet things, candies, chocolate
This was a real bad habit: right after lunch and dinner, I used to grab a fistful of candies and pralines from the "candy-plate". I think I grew gradually addicted to it, without even noticing. From the beginning of the new diet, I radically cut down on colorful and addictive sugar products. Honestly, now I don't miss them at all.
 2. Fried food
I said goodbye to french fries, fried fish, fried vegetables, fried eggs and of course fried meat. I have to say that I feel much lighter and fit now. Remember: instead of frying, you can roast, grill or bake your food.
 3. Beer (and alcohol)
I loved beer, and still I do. Mainly the local, home-brewed ones. For this reason it was hard for me to admit it: yes, beer produces negative effects on our body. I used to run up to 5 miles a day, and sometimes I indulged in a pint of brewski right after the exercise. I consumed this beverage almost on a daily basis and the result was a belly  that stuck out quite ridiculously on a thin body like mine. 
 4. Red meat & ready-sliced meat
Pork, horse, beef, sheep, need to mention that red meat consumption is associated with heart disease and stroke. I've always intended turning into a vegetarian (not only due to health reasons, but most of all because I hate the idea of eating dead animals), and sooner or later I will give up eating meat entirely (I'm looking for a vegetarian partner that will convert me). Right now, the only meat I eat is chicken and, even more seldom, light beef. Also, I quit eating sandwiches with ready-sliced meat. It goes without saying that McDonald's junk food is off-limits!
  5. Full-fat cheese
Parmesan cheese, Gorgonzola, sheep cheese, ricotta cheese, name it! Southern Europe is the land of cheese but also in Germany and Switzerland you can find excellent dairy products. Although incredibly tasty, this food has a strong impact on our cholesterol level. During my three-month diet I ate only low-fat cheese.

6. Pizza
Here it is, my major sacrifice. I adore pizza, and before starting my diet I used to eat it once a week. To make things worst, I chose to add bacon, hot salami, buffalo cheese and many more unhealthy spices. I wouldn't label it as "junk food", yet I wouldn't claim that it's a vegetable (like the US Congress did, in order to keep pizza and french fries on school lunch lines). My final compromise: a light-pizza once a month.

 7. Soda
I've never been a big fan of Pepsi, Fanta, Coke and similar fuzzy drinks. My mom used to ban me and my sister from drinking them when we were kids, so I grew up soda-free and I have to say that I am still alive. Now and then I used to grab a can out of the fridge, but now, whenever I am thirsty, I prefer drinking either water or low-calorie beverages (by the way, Coke & co do not quench your thirst, they just increase your addiction to sugar!). The results? I burp less and my belly is flat. 

  8. Pastry
 If pizza was on the top of my list of favorite food, pastry (croissant, donut, apple strudel, bear claw, berliner, cherry pie, profiterole, small cakes...) occupies the second place. It was hard to cut down on it, but since the beginning of my new eating plan I've radically stopped eating this sweet poison.

9. Packaged Ice Cream
No more! Only home-made and once in a while (for sure not every day, like I did in summer).

10. Extra-salty snacks
For sure, they pair well with beer and a nice sport evening in front of the TV. Not only do potato chips, bar mix, salty sticks contain a high quantity of salt, but they are rich in fat and calories. I decided thus to avoid them.

I admit that taking these steps was no cakewalk, especially at the beginning. The temptation to come back to the old habits was strong and the light at the end of the tunnel very dim. And I can hear your complaining: "no pizza? no pork-meat? no cheese? no beer? Is this a life worth living?". My answer is a big YES, and I'd strongly suggest to check out part.2 to find out more about it!

The myth of the high cholesterol

On April 14, 2015, I picked up my cholesterol test results and, even if I expected to find a couple of high values, I must admit that I was shocked when I read the number next to the LDL level (LDL is the so-called "bad cholesterol"): an amazingly high 208! Luckily, this value was somehow mitigated by a decent HDL level (the "good cholesterol") of 52 and a low level of triglycerides. How was it possible? Ok, I am 39, no more a teenager (well, I guess my psychological age is 19), my weight is 64 kg (140 pounds), my height 1.74 (5 feet and 8,5 inches). A real average Joe. What knocked my socks off was the fact that I am a would-be long-distance runner and I've been training for the last 4 years. Although I've never completed a half marathon, I am still working on it and on 2011/12 I ran 6 days a week. Last summer I used to run at least 10 km every other day (reaching the longest distance of 14 km). I write this because running is one of the most effective way to keep your cholesterol levels down. 
So, what went wrong? 
Discussing it over with my doctor, we agreed that the high levels detected in my blood were the result of  the combination of my recent winter sedentary attitude, my unhealthy eating and a familial hypercholesterolemia. Considering my relatively young age and my general good health conditions, we also agreed that I didn't need any medicament, but only a change in my lifestyle. 
Actually I am very suspicious about all this high-cholesterol-hysteria, created purposely by the medical industry to maximize its profit and to take advantage of ill-informed citizens. Isn't it strange that the risk of heart diseases are associated with ever-increasing levels of cholesterol? (now the threshold value of total cholesterol is 200, 20 years ago it was 250 and you can bet that it will be set lower and lower in the near future). And doesn't it sound weird that new silver-bullet pills have been invading the market, promising to solve "the problem of high cholesterol"? (which, in fact, it's not a problem but a mere index of a risk). 
What I am trying to say here is that a high level of cholesterol in itself is not the end of the world. It should be seen within a context of other measures. It shouldn't be "cured" by magical medicament. And, if necessary, it can be tackled by changes our lifestyle. 
In my post "How to lower your cholesterol level" you can find a list of steps I took to decrease my total cholesterol value by 10% in three months. With no magic pill.

Why you shouldn't call me "doctor"

Dear readers,

Go over the horizon!
My name is Doctor Egg. Well, to tell the truth, this is my nickname. It's not essential to know my real name now. Yet, it is of capital importance for you to know one thing: in spite of my nickname, I am not a doctor. So please, don't call me doctor. In some European countries it's enough to obtain a university degree (any degree) to be called "doctor", and many people enjoy that. I don't.
I know a guy who got a degree at the faculty of agriculture and was so eager to show it off that he displayed the title "doctor" before his name on the label of his intercom. In the middle of the night, he heard it buzzing, he lifted the receiver up and heard the desperate words "doc, please help me!". It was a local junkie seeking for help after an overdose. The self-declared doctor sent him to hell and hung up. The day after, he removed the unfortunate label.
You may ask yourself why my nickname is Doctor Egg, if I don't like to be called doctor. Well, the origin of the name has distant roots. When I was a teenager I intended to boil an egg but I forgot to add water on the small pot, almost causing the kitchen to explode. Kids can be absentminded sometime.
Another thing you should know about me is that I live in a Mediterranean island and English is not my mother language, so please excuse my mistakes and unorthodox syntax.
Last but not least, a couple of words regarding the contents of this blog. It contains articles on healthy lifestyles (but keep in mind that I am not a doctor! Or have I already told you that?), unconventional thinking, critical reflection. And many more things that will pop out of my head. Enjoy reading.