Monday, October 14, 2013

THAT was an awkward doctor's visit: Being on the other side

I went in to see my primary care physician last week... and learned I had gained around 10 lbs in the last few months. The conversation went like this:
Doctor: "So... you gained 10 lbs since I last saw you... you're still ok, but is this becoming a trend?"
Me: "Oh...I wore shoes on the scale this time."
Doctor: "Shoes don't weigh 10 lbs..."
Me: "I...I...also had my wallet and keys..."
Doctor: "We're still looking at at least 5 lbs..."
Me: "It's all muscle!!!"
Doctor: "Oh have you been weight training?"
Me: "Yeah! See?" <flexing so he could see my new muscles>
Doctor: "It's not all muscle... what have you been eating? Are you still exercising?" 

AAAHHHHHH!!! How did this happen? After all the time I spend counseling patients on diet and exercise... it was surreal to be on the other side of it. I felt like a kid being scolded, and I came up with one excuse after another. I wonder if that's how all patients feel when they sit on the exam table: this feeling of being in trouble and not knowing what to do but minimize the problem with excuses. I wonder if I make my patients feel like that. Moving forward, I'd like to be more aware of trying to make lifestyle change discussions more inspirational instead of just pointing out problems. I want my patients to leave the room going, "I'm going to do it" instead of thinking, "I wasn't doing it right..." I'm just not entirely sure how to accomplish this yet. The doctor-patient dynamic inherently makes these discussions so difficult. It is a power dynamic similar to getting sent to the principal's office, and even my first reaction was to go on the defensive. So how do you bring out the pal in princiPAL (saw that on a sign once as a way to remember the different between principle and principal... stuck with me all these years), for the doctor-patient relationship? 

On another note... I'm apparently a non-compliant patient too... At my last visit, my doctor discovered I had a heart murmur and ordered for me to get an ECHO just to see what it was. I wasn't overly concerned about it given that I have been able to run and do Crossfit without feeling light headed or anything... and completely forgot about it. "So did you get the ECHO done?" "What ECHO?" "Last time, we heard a murmur and I ordered an ECHO" "Oh you did? I didn't know". 

I hope my patients are better patients than I.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tips to cook with limited time

Hey everyone! Five consecutive weeks of nights down, one more to go. I'm still alive, still kicking, and still cooking. I've gotten some comments about how amazed people are that I'm cooking while working night shifts, and how people feel like they don't have enough time to do it. Not true at all. You can make simple, and delicious meals in barely any time at all. I literally shop and cook for one hour a week. That, along with then just picking out salads or veggies at the hospital cafeteria as I mentioned in my last post, is enough to still have healthy foods around all week. Here's two things that have made cooking super easy:

1) Glass tupperware - What a genius invention! I literally cook, refrigerate, and transport all in the
Chicken in glass tupperware
same container. I cook two servings per container, and then take the entire thing to work, eat one serving that day, and leave the leftover in the fridge in the call room for the next day. Afterward, I just bring the entire thing home and toss it in the dishwasher, it can't get easier. I remember how long it used to take when I cooked in a group to first do the cooking, then have to wait for things to cool before transferring to a container for people to take it home. I just cut out all the time.

Various spices from Penzeys
2) Pre-made spice blends - There's this store around the corner from me called Penzeys spices that sells tons of spice blends that are delicious, but let's be honest, you can buy spice blends from any super market spice aisle, and if you're being Paleo, the ones at Whole Foods are paleo compliant. Just try some random spice, coat your meat/veggies in it, and you're done. If you use multiple spices, then you can have several flavors going the same week. Especially since I'm cooking 2 servings per container, and 3 containers, I use 3 different spices each week.

I cook a week's worth of meals while doing laundry. Literally, I'll go out and buy the groceries while my clothes are in the washer, then come back, put my clothes in the drier, and then cook the food while the clothes are drying. All I do is coat the meat/veggies in spice blend and toss in the oven (if chicken breasts around 25 minutes at 425F). The food is ready and placed on my counter for cooling before my clothes are finished drying. Then after I get my laundry, I'll cover the tupperware and put the food in the fridge. If the containers are still warm, I might put pot holder under so it doesn't hurt my shelf, but other than that, it is done until I take it to work. So if you have time to do laundry, (which I hope you do, because otherwise you're stinky, and according to Kristen Chenoweth who is wise in many things... nobody likes a stinky witch. I'm sure the same applies for doctors.) then you have time to cook.

Do I supplement with eating out? Why yes, yes I do. Do I supplement with some store bought snacks? Yup. I'll write more about those later, but in the meantime, just wanted to show that there's always time to cook. Not having time isn't an actual reason, it is a random excuse because either you don't really want to do it, or don't know how. If the latter, now you know how! :-)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't let an "all or nothing" mindset let your attempts just turn into nothing

In my last post about trying to be healthy in residency, I said that my mantra would be, "You can do anything, you just can't do everything". After my first rotation, I'm realizing that "anything" might be more limited than I originally anticipated. So, unfortunately, my tried and true habit of cooking a week's worth of healthy meals a week at a time has been put on hold, at least for now. Time for a new strategy.

So I'm 3 weeks into a month and a half of being a zombie doctor (no I don't eat patients' brains... I'm referencing being on night shift). During this run of being only up at nights, I discovered two things: 1) I want to go to bed immediately when I get home and sleep for the little time I do have, and 2) On my days off, a combination of having other errands and having a completely zonked out circadian rhythm usually means I'm ready to go grocery shopping at around 1am... which hasn't proved very effective.

Steamed veggies at California Hospital's hot food bar
Salad bar at California Hospital
I also got to thinking... wait a sec... why am I spending so much money on groceries when the hospital pays for my meals at the hospital cafeteria? It is like how Google and other tech companies provides incentives and benefits for their employees working long hours... except the difference is, they actually have good food, or more specifically, more healthy food options. I find hospital cafeterias, just to be lacking in variety, particularly in the department of healthy proteins. So, I learned to compromise. Instead of spending 3-4 hours a week planning a weekly meal, grocery shopping, and cooking, now I spend 1 hour running to the grocery store and buying protein that I then throw random spices onto and bake for 30 minutes while doing other things. I then take 1-2 servings to the hospital every night and combine it with whatever healthy options are available in the cafeteria. Although it's slim pickings, at least so far in every hospital cafeteria I've found at least a bare bones salad bar, and then usually at the hot food station, one of their meals will come with a side of vegetables. So I'll combine my protein with their salad/side of veggies and make my own healthy meal.

Usually I'm a go big or go home type of person... but in this case, I've learned to be in a "I'll use the resources around me to make something work" frame of mind. It saves me time, saves me money, and helps me keep my habits sustainable, because unfortunately, sometimes all or nothing... just turns into nothing.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

You can do anything, you just can't do everything

In the past 2 months, I've been busy transitioning to a new life in Southern California. Sorry for the delay in posts, but it took me a while to get over leaving Stanford as a med student, and adjusting to my new lifestyle as a new Family Medicine resident at UCLA, as well as adjusting to a new city. I think I'm finally hitting my stride though.

In orientation, we were warned about how common it is to gain weight our first year as a resident physician. A combination of stress eating, long and odd work hours that makes exercising difficult, and ironically unhealthy hospital food equates to weight gain for many. After working so hard to lose my 45lbs, I was determined to let this happen to me. My motto to achieve this with such a busy schedule is this: "You can do anything, you just can't do everything." In the context of extremely limited time, I'm just deciding to prioritize my own health and wellbeing, and in doing so, some other things might slide. We'll see how that plays out.

So far so good. I'm trying to just stick to what I know works. I started off my residency on night shift for our family medicine in-patient service the past week, and have one more week to go. Work hours are 6:30pm-7:30am every night, except Monday night where I work until 10am Tuesday morning, and then have Tuesday night off. My routine so far has been to get home and be asleep by 8:30-9am so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep. I then wake up at 4:30pm, and start my night off at my newly found Crossfit Sandbox around the corner for a 5pm workout on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. After an hour workout, I jump into the shower at the gym, and then bike to the hospital with enough time to grab a coffee before our 6:30pm sign-out to keep me going through the night. On the days I'm not doing Crossfit, I've been going to the gym to lift weights once a week. I tried to muster up enough motivation to run for an hour on another day, but instead chose to sleep. For diet, I'm also sticking to what I know best: preparing a week's worth of meals at a time. That takes up my Tuesday nights off. I cook enough food to last me through the night, with my "breakfast" at early evening consisting of a salad I get from the cafeteria before it closes. So far it has been fine. What have I given up to do this? Mostly my social life. I did go to dinner with a friend once, but other than that I haven't logged onto facebook, and am not so good about returning social texts/calls. I haven't even turned on my laptop except to write this post in the past week.

Preparing for a week's worth of meals overnight, with meatballs, chicken, veggies, and boiled eggs
In general though, in terms of my fairly recent journey towards a healthy lifestyle, the more things change, the more things stay the same. The only thing I'm really missing is the community I built while in Northern California and my Crossfit Palo Alto community that I used to cook with weekly. Besides being in a new city, it's hard to get people to come cook with you between the hours of 1am-4am. Hopefully the community will come with time, but for now, this works. More to come hopefully next week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My uncensored thoughts on the Paleo Diet

I constantly get questioned from friends about "how did you do it," in reference to my dramatic and sustained weight loss in the last year and half. I attribute a lot of it to changing my diet and adhering to the Paleo diet starting last May 2012 when I participated in my first Whole 30 (adhering strictly to the Paleo diet for 30+1 days for the entirety of May) with Crossfit Palo Alto. Now that I'm two weeks into my second Whole 30 this May, I thought it would be timely to reflect on my thoughts about the Paleo Diet and why I still do it.

Let's start off by addressing the elephant in the room: do I buy into the anthropological philosophy behind the Paleo diet? Absolutely not. If you've heard about the Paleo diet before, you've probably heard that it's a diet where we only eat foods our ancestors ate because that's what our bodies are evolutionarily designed to eat. As such, the Paleo diet does not allow any processed foods (including processed cooking oils), no grains (pre-agriculture), no dairy (pre-domesticated cows), and no sugar. I can buy that... but then, the Paleo diet throws in other rules that I find a bit arbitrary, such as no legumes (including soy or peanuts) or white potatoes. Most critics tend to question the validity of our knowledge of the actual Paleolithic-era diet. In this regard, I tend to agree with the critics. I know nothing about how Paleolithic-era people ate, and frankly, I don't think anyone can legitimately say for sure that they do, so I'm not sure we can accurately reflect a paleolithic-era diet. Then, it begs the question, if I don't believe in the basic idea of the Paleo diet that gives it the namesake, why am I still Paleo?

I've stayed with the Paleo diet, because for me, the point of the Paleo diet isn't to eat what we're evolutionarily adapted to eat, but instead, self-empowerment to make healthy decisions regarding what we eat. That's the real reason I do Paleo. I originally did Whole 30 just because I felt like I had nothing to lose in trying it. I didn't know when I embarked on it last year that it would entirely change my life by changing my relationship with food.

Being strict Paleo for a month changed my eating habits dramatically. In order to adhere to the diet's strict and seemingly odd rules, I had to do several things: 1) Plan my meals so I always had compliant foods available, 2) Prepare my own meals using fresh ingredients, 3) Be extremely conscious of what was in the foods I was purchasing to ensure there were no forbidden ingredients/chemicals, and 4) Exercise self-control. For me, I think these were the benefits of doing a Whole 30. By adhering to these rules for a month, I learned how to be an active participant when choosing what to eat in order to stick to the diet. It was no longer about eating what was around, but eating what I wanted to eat. This meant turning away food and alcohol all the time, not being shy at restaurants to control what I was eating, and checking everything I buy at a supermarket to make sure the ingredients I was using were Paleo compliant. I had gotten so used to these habits, that even after my Whole 30, it became common place for me to try and make smart decisions. At restaurants, I still customize dishes so they are as healthy as possible, such as switching out french fries for a side of vegetables. I still say no to random junk food sitting around and don't eat it just because it is available. I still plan and prepare my meals. The Paleo diet provided me a structure to develop these healthy habits.

You'll see lots of claims on the web about the Paleo diet leading to better sleep, more energy, more normalized insulin levels, less inflammation, and other health claims. I'll get back to you on that. At this point, I don't know if the composition of the Paleo diet is what makes it healthy, and I'm trying to do some reading to make my own informed opinion. However, I do know that I still believe in the Paleo diet because it is what I used to become an active participant in my diet that resulted in jump starting and sustaining my journey towards a healthy lifestyle.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Traveling Healthy Strategy 3: Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day...

Most of the people around me have gotten used to my strict diet, but part of having a sustainable lifestyle change is making your lifestyle reasonable. That means, there has to be times that you allow yourself to let loose, enjoy life, and in doing so, you improve your own mental satisfaction with your lifestyle choice and improve chances for long term sustainability. That's exactly what I did in Taiwan, I allowed myself to enjoy myself and let loose, not for every meal, but moreso than I usually would for my own mental health. Here are my recommendations for things worth trying, even if it isn't Paleo, if you ever find yourself in Taiwan, and also a post to show I'm not a paleo robot

Front Counter and menu at 阜杭豆漿

Stairs leading up to 阜杭豆漿, and line coming out door on weekends
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Taiwanese breakfast is particularly special. My favorite spot for Taiwanese breakfast in Taipei is 阜杭豆漿, (2樓之28No. 108號, Section 1, Zhōngxiào East Rd, go to Shandao Temple Station, take Exit 5, turn right on Shaoxing St, and you'll see stairs like the one in the picture, and if you go on a weekend a line out the door. Go up to 2nd floor. Hours are 5:30am - 12:30pm.) A picture of a typical Taiwanese breakfast is below. The sweet variety (豆漿, tian doe jiang) comes in cold (reng), warm (woon) or hot (ru), and the salty variety (咸豆漿) is always hot, and includes fried dough, pickled vegetables, and other goodies (the top bowl on the right). Next to that is a egg biscuit (餅, dan bing), which is kinda like a rolled egg pancake. To the left is a rice ball (飯糰, fan tuan) filled with fried dough, pickled vegetables, and shredded meat. To the left of that is the fried dough that's being used in everything else, called literally "oil stick" (油條, yo tiao). Finally in the middle is a thick biscuit with egg in the middle (you can also get it with...surprised, fried dough... see I made some healthy decisions by using egg instead of fried dough? yeah?) (加蛋, ho bing jia dan (egg) or 油條, ho bing jia yo tiao). Anyways, I added the chinese and my version of phonetics to help people order, but in the end, I would highly recommend playing dumb, pointing, and using English, someone will help you, Taiwanese people are quite friendly.

Typical Taiwanese Breakfast
Ok, I'm going to keep these "Traveling Healthy Strategies" going, but after a short break. I might want to call them "Traveling (un)Healthy Strategies" as I keep going because as time went on, I found that my rules just got laxer and laxer... and though I didn't gain much weight during the trip because the portions in Taiwan were smaller, when I came back to the U.S., I had lost a lot of my self-discipline. I just went crazy. I had a hard time saying no to anything, and would have tons of desserts all the time and unhealthy foods. It wasn't so much not being Paleo while traveling, it was coming back after losing my ability to self-regulate, and then being surrounded by tons of unhealthy American food waiting to be gorged on in huge portions. And for that reason, I am embarking on a Whole 30 again in May with Crossfit Palo Alto and will blog about that first in as much realtime as I can... and THEN, I think we should go back to fun foods in my month of earned indulgence.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Traveling Healthy Strategy 2: Running to sightsee and maximizing hotel gyms

My name is Raymond Tsai, and I'm a foodie. I love trying new foods and will go out of my way to find delicious food. Though I can do it in moderation during my normal routine, there's just too much amazing food here in Taiwan. I do make efforts to eat as healthy as possible, which I'll go over in a future post, but my main strategy right now is trying to exercise regularly. My original goal was 3-4 times a week, but I'm working out even more since I found a way to use it to enhance my sightseeing. I have three main strategies to keep up my exercise regimen while on holiday: 1) Jogging to sightsee; 2) Making the most of hotel gyms, and; 3) Incorporating exercise in everyday activities.

Vacation Exercise Log

Day Type Activities and Time Notes
Day 1 Rest Arrived into Taipei at 5am, slept at 8pm
Day 2 Run Ran 6.18 miles in 59m 16s To Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Day 3 Run Ran 3.18 miles in 32m 45s To Taipei 101, then got tired and took metro back
Day 4 Hotel Gym Elliptical 15m, free weights chestx3 sets of 10 and biceps x3 sets of 10 with 15 burpees between sets
Day 5 Run 4.75 miles in 51m 5s With brother-in-law who doesn't run much so wanted to support his fitness efforts and walked a mile with him in the middle
Day 6 Hotel Gym Elliptical for 20m, burpees x60, situps x20, back hyperextensions x20 and lat pulldown bar x4 sets of 10
Day 7 Run turned hike 4.63miles in 1h 23m 35s Got lost, then distracted by the sights

Running through Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
At first, I was just planning on running regularly to train for the 200 mile, 12 person relay I'm doing in May. So the first day, I got on my running gear and took off in a random direction, and while on my run I passed by the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and a light went off in my head... wait a sec... what if I ran around to see the sights of Taipei, then I could hit two birds with one stone. It seemed brilliant at the time... until I tried to do it again the next day and ran to Taipei 101. I was running slower and overall felt pretty tired, so instead of doing my planned 6 miles, after 3 miles when I reached Taipei 101, I turned myself into a mall walker (i.e. shopping quickly with gym clothes on, which if it were an olympic
Ran unintentionally to Wen Wu temple, at the end of the trail mentioned at the right picture caption, you can go up the 5 flights of stairs to find the temple and take a break before going back. Do not pass the stairs, it dead ends.
Shueishi Trail is a great running trail along Sun Moon Lake's NW side (Googlemap of road along trail, the trail isn't mapped out yet, just find stairs (there are multiple) going down off the road to lakeside to find the trail), around 3.5 miles roundtrip, and well paved
event, I think I'd do quite well... I'm a fast shopper. In Taiwan, the store clerks say, "歡迎光臨", pronounced "huan ying guang lin", as you enter and again when you leave the store. It essentially strings together "welcome" and "thank you" efficiently. I make it even more efficient because I peruse the store as they get out the first 歡迎光臨, and usually am already on my way out so they'd just repeat it again immediately after. If you're in the mall with me, you'd just hear a repeating echo of 歡迎光臨 as I run in and out of stores one after another... I think Taiwanese store clerks hate me). There was clearly a kink in my plan because I was burnt out running two days in a row already, but I do like the strategy of using running as a means to sightsee, because you get to learn the landscape in a way you can't appreciate if traveling only on public transportation. Be prepared though, that sometimes you'll get sidetracked from running. For instance, this morning I was running by Sun Moon Lake, and was thwarted by getting lost, finding a big temple I decided to walk in, enjoying the views, and seeing a pretty snail on the ground... it really was quite pretty and worth stopping to watch it travel across the trail. And these stops turned my normally 10 minute mile into a 19 minute mile, but that's ok, I still got out, saw sights, and ran for a lot of it.

Enjoying Taiwanese wildlife during my run: Snail with a pretty shell (I'm easily amused)
Tiny hotel gym with lake view at Fleur de Chine
Since I can't run all the time to sightsee because my legs get burnt out, I decided to add hotel gyms to my regimen. Unfortunately, hotel gyms aren't the most equipped because I don't think there is a big gym culture here in Taiwan. For instance, take a look at this gym with a wonderful lake view at Sun Moon Lake's Fleur de Chine Hotel, a 5-star luxury resort that was otherwise impeccable, but the gym had 2 treadmills, 1 eliptical, 2 bicycle machines, and a lat pulldown machine. That's it. Oh and a cushioned bench. So I turned into a gym MacGuyver and just started adapting things to my own use. I used the elliptical machine to warm up for 20 minutes, and then did 2 rounds of 15 burpees on the tiny floor space, 10 lat pull downs, and 10 knees to chest sit ups by pulling out a nice cushioned bench they had against the wall, putting its pillows on the floor, and laying a towel over it to turn into a flat bench. I then did another 2 rounds of 15 burpees, 10 bicep lat pull downs, and then laid stomach down on the lat pull down seat, hooked my legs into the machine away from the weights, and did 10 back hyperextensions. All in an hour. The hotel staff looked at my like I was insane as they were bringing me a towel and water and I was sprawled out on their floor doing burpees and their gym furniture was rearranged. Lesson learned: Every gym has a floor, burpees can be done anywhere, and then you can just mix in whatever else the gym happens to have.

Choice of a squatting or sitting bathroom stall in Taiwan
Finally, my third and final strategy for increasing physical activity while traveling is taking every opportunity to exercise, even in mundane everyday activities. For instance, I found a restroom in Taiwan, and was given the choice of stall to either squat or use a toilet seat, so I always choose to squat in order to maximize time for working out. Ok... that last one is a joke, that might be a bit overboard, but the previous two strategies of running to sightsee alternating with maximizing hotel gyms still stand.

I'm exercising so much because I really am eating so much amazing (and often unhealthy) food here in Taiwan that I feel like I need to offset it by something. Plus, as mentioned, running to sightsee is actually quite rewarding and fun. However, in homage to the food of Taiwan, my next post will be a foodie post about greats finds that are definitely worth putting aside any diet, and I'll follow that up with how I make food selections to be as healthy as possible.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Traveling Healthy Strategy 1: My dirty little secret to portion control

In order to eat as healthy as possible while still indulging in the culinary delights of Taiwan, I have a really bad habit for which I'm not particularly proud. I'm ashamed. My name is Raymond, and I will waste food to be healthy.

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts about me trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling in Taiwan. One thing that I hear quite commonly is how hard it is to be healthy when away from home, so here begins a documentation of my own attempt to do so, and I have no idea how successful I'll be.

Example 1: Leaving behind the men in ramen to be healthy
Example 2: Leaving behind the rice at dinner
Strategy 1: Don't eat anything you don't want to. One of the great pleasures of traveling is eating out and trying different foods. However, the food I order often comes with stuff that I don't want, or I just want a taste without making a meal out of it. The solution? I just don't eat what I don't want to eat. It is my way to portion control when I'm not cooking and serving myself. Ideally, I would customize the order, but that's not always an option. For instance, yesterday, I had a hankering for ramen noodles, so I got some, and ate my favorite parts: the broth, the meat, the veggies, and tried the noodles. For the most part, however, I left the noodles and accompanying bowl of rice untouched. Similarly, for dinner tonight, I just didn't eat the rice that came with the meal.
Chen Ji Noodle House has arguably better Oyster Vermicelli than Ay-Chung

Though when all is said and done, I am on vacation, so sometimes it is worth it to indulge. I just always ask myself, is the pleasure I will get from eating something worth the break from my healthy eating? The answer should usually be yes to try a bit of something and enjoy life, but no to go overboard and eat the entire thing. Sometimes, however, the answer to eat the whole thing can be yes because you know you will enjoy yourself

What's worth breaking a diet for: oyster vermicelli noodles.

 What type of things warrant a yes for me? How about oyster vermicelli noodles? Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodles are arguably the most famous in Taipei (No. 8之1號, Éméi St, or if you get off the Xi Men MRT stop, cross Zhong Hua Street and the alley should be on the left). However, today, my friend diverted the scooter to a place he likes better, because he claims Ay-Chung is too sweet. We went to the Long Shan Temple Station's Chen Ji Noodle House (No. 166 Heping West Rd, Sec 3) instead, and I agree. I think it is better. The flavor is great, but the oysters are bigger as well.

Arm westling at the arcade by Ximen
There you have it, one of my traveling strategies, as well as a suggestion for going off the beaten path for one of my favorite Taiwanese foods. Stay tuned to the next post where I'll go over exercise while traveling, which involves more than just arm wrestling at the arcade, though that's fun too.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Still fighting one year later: An update on progress

Hi everyone! I'm baaaaaack. Sorry for the hiatus, but based on feedback from mentors, I decided to play it safe and stop posting during my medical residency application cycle. However, on the heels of recently matching at the UCLA Family Medicine Residency Program, and my guest blog post to Stanford Scope Blog about my decision to pursue family medicine, I'm excited to come back to my personal blog about my own fitness journey. To start off, I just want to give a general update on my progress.

Fight for Air Climb 2012 and 2013
This past weekend (on Saturday, March 23, 2013), I participated in the Fight for Air Climb in San Francisco to raise money for the American Lung Association. Besides doing it for a good cause, it is also a way for me to measure my own fitness progress in the past year. Over the past year, I've lost 40+ lbs and have had to change out my wardrobe, but now I can report that I'm actually fitter, faster, and stronger too comparing my results from the past 2 years! Last year, I climbed 52 stories in 17:18, which I was already proud of. At that time, I remember hearing other people set time-based goals, and I would just think to myself, "I just don't want to die and I hope I can finish." I was thrilled to make it to the top alive and still breathing, which was a huge fitness feat. This year, I knew I had progressed because I had a time goal too, to climb 52 stories in less than 15:00, and in the end, I clocked in at 12:29. It felt great!

In short, don't take my leave of absence as an indication that I put my healthy lifestyle on hold. I'll continue posting with some lessons learned in the past few months, including being off of Paleo for a month while in Guatemala in February, my strategy for staying healthy while traveling to Taiwan in the next few weeks, and some new recipes as well. Stay tuned! Thanks all, nice to be back!

Comparison of my results in climbing 52 stories for Fight for Air Climb 2013 (top) and Fight for Air Climb 2012 (bottom). Of note, our technology also advanced in the past year from paper based results to a futuristic computer results kiosk....