No news challenge: day 1

A few days ago, Mrs. Precise brought this manifesto under my attention. The author, Rolf Dobelli, is explaining how bad news consumption is for the mind. Further in the text he also makes a case why the first sentence of this article is very bad for your attention, since it has 2 links in it. Sorry, I’ll try not to do that again.

You know I recently did a no sugar challenge, so his first sentence immediately caught my attention, which is good news. I still seem to have some sort of attention span!

News is to the mind what sugar is to the body.

It also made me worried and already think a few steps ahead. I do have a much worse mental focus than in the past. I do read more news than in the past. He might be on to something…

The whole manifesto contains 15 points about why news is bad for you. I’ll give them here so you have a nice little recap of the text, but please go and read it in full. It’s an easy read and I think it contains many valid points.

  1. News misleads us systematically
  2. News is irrelevant
  3. News limits understanding
  4. News is toxic to your body
  5. News massively increases cognitive errors
  6. News inhibits thinking
  7. News changes the structure of your brain
  8. News is costly
  9. News sunders the relationship between reputation and achievement
  10. News is produced by journalists
  11. Reported facts are sometimes wrong, forecasts always
  12. News is manipulative
  13. News makes us passive
  14. News gives us the illusion of caring
  15. News kills creativity

Then somewhere on page 10 I read this:

The first week will be the hardest. Deciding not to check the news while you are thinking, writing or reading takes discipline. You are fighting your brain’s built-in tendency. Initially, you will feel out of touch or even socially isolated. Every day you will be tempted to check your favorite news Web site. Don’t do it. Stick to the cold-turkey plan. Go 30 days without news. After 30 days, you will have a more relaxed attitude toward the news. You will find that you have more time, more concentration and a better understanding of the world.

No more this. (Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)

Was there ever a more clear sign? I found my next challenge! I have the feeling that this could be a quite difficult one, I’m really pretty addicted to news. I have this one local news site of which I just refresh the timeline with articles and read every single one that interests me. It has me refreshing the timeline about 5 times a day and then I’m continuously reading the articles as small attention breakers in between work. It really dawned upon me: this is bad, I have to change something.

So there you have it. Starting today, there’s no more news for me.

One meal a day challenge: day 11-29

As I was expecting, you really do get used to not eating all day. Of course you also definitely have less energy to spend as the day progresses, but it’s not that I ever felt dizzy or something like that. It’s when running or lifting things (or drilling in the ceiling to hang lamps…) that I noticed a lower energy level.

High and dry.

Last Sunday I had a nice challenge coming up. We recently moved to the 11th floor of a brand new apartment building. Because so many people are moving, the building manager decided to disable one of the two elevators, so it doesn’t get damaged. You can’t believe how inconsiderate people are… Anyway. I get home from the Zoo with the children and the other, enabled, elevator is not functioning anymore! This was definitely a challenge. Our youngest child is 3 years old, so I also had to carry him up for 8 of the 10 stairs. I can tell you this, my heart was racing and didn’t stop for quite a while and I most surely felt that I had muscles in my legs! Later that evening I suddenly remembered that I had to put the garbage out. Elevator still broken. Damn it! Being the genius that I am, I decided to run back up. I lasted for 6 floors and then I could just barely manage to walk further up. Still no dizziness, only a pure lack of force in my legs. A big thank you to Mrs. Precise for taking the cartoons out after I came back up!

By the way, did I mention that I lost weight? A month ago I was weighing 81 kg, after the 29 day fast I was down to 73 kg. A few days later, now I’m back up to 76 without eating big amounts, maybe because my intestines are more filled with food now? I didn’t have much weight to spare in the beginning, but still I managed to shave off some of my “extra’s”.

One more challenge down, neext!

One meal a day challenge: day 1-10

Not me nor mine, but this looks extremely tasty, especially since I didn’t eat in 22 hours! (Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels)

How do I start here… well this is… it’s easy and not. A lot depends on how busy you are and in which way you are busy it seems. I’m working in IT, so I just ‘sit in front of a computer all day’. On a busy day, it’s not difficult at all to fast during office hours. But when it’s a slow day, my mind is constantly thinking about other stuff. Food stuff. And then there’s the weekend. Last weekend on Sunday I went to do some things with my son, which meant I biked here and there. The sun was happily shining and I was definitely feeling less energetic, less powerful. And very, very thirsty! During the week I’m really almost never thirsty. I guess sitting still in a climate controlled environment doesn’t make you thirsty, while moving around in the sun does. That’s no rocket science, right? The Saturday before was much slower, we walked to and in the Zoo and did some groceries etc. Mentally I was always busy, but there was no physical challenge. Fasting was quite easy then.

Of course it’s more difficult the first day(s), but now after 10 days I’m really getting used to eating just once a day already. The first days I was also constantly explaining to my colleagues (with whom I was still going to lunch, just to socialize) what the Ramadan is and that what I’m doing is not dangerous or especially difficult. I didn’t try to explain intermittent fasting to them, these are the same people that couldn’t imagine not eating sugar for even a day, remember… Actually we had some nice discussions around the topic, which is not what regularly would happen in a group of non Muslims I guess.

Now that I’m mostly used to not eating during the day, I find that waiting to eat in the evening is the most annoying. I’m home, the children are in bed, the kitchen has been cleaned… and now we wait. For almost 2 hours we’re just waiting for dinnertime to come. Of course we keep ourselves busy by reading a book or so but still. We’re just waiting. Time never passes slower than when you’re waiting for something nice.

But then! Then, everything tastes like heaven! You could give me a dry piece of bread and it would be the best damn piece of bread I ever ate! But I’m a lucky bastard, because we don’t eat just dry bread, but some nice and healthy balanced things. I eat until I’m full, which is roughly the equivalent of what I would normally eat in 2 meals, I guess. I don’t really stuff myself, but Mrs. Precise is regularly ‘complaining’ that she ate too much.

I seems to me this challenge will get easier as time progresses, let’s see!

One meal a day challenge: day 0

A mosque just before sunset, or dinnertime starting tomorrow! (Photo by David McEachan from Pexels)

You may be or may not be aware, but tomorrow Ramadan will start for our Muslim friends. Am I allowed to say those 2 words in one sentence in the current political climate? Well, it’s my blog so I can do what I want, ow yeah! Since my wife is a Muslim, we have a Ramadan going on in our house. I thought it’s the perfect opportunity to do another challenge.

As you might know, Muslims don’t eat or drink (or swear, smoke, have intercourse) while the sun is above the horizon. You have to stop eating in the morning even more early for some reason I don’t understand. All this makes it so that we would have to wake up on some ungodly hour to eat in the morning. Instead of being sleep deprived, we decided to just eat once, in the evening. This year it will be around 21h45 and roughly a minute later every day.

So there you go, my next challenge will be to go from (likely, it’s a lunar calendar) 17 May until 14 June. So it will be 29 days. I’m really bad at this 30 day thing…

You might be thinking now: this time Pete chose a bad challenge, he said he only take challenges that will improve his health.

Guess what?! Almost everything they told you about fasting is plain wrong.

  • Skipping breakfast is bad for your metabolism.
  • You have to eat 5-6 meals per day to keep that metabolism going.
  • If you fast, you will lose muscle mass

These are all myths, probably brought to you by Big Food. Look around and read a bit about intermittent fasting. I’m not going to give a lengthy lecture here, it’s not a food blog, but the short synopsis could be something like this: “Short fasts make your metabolism go faster, your body takes energy from it’s reserves, and those are your bodyfat.”. That’s about it.

Let’s see  how this one works out. I’m not so much worried about the food, but I will also not dirnk water during daytime, which might be harder with the weather we’ve been having. Luckily I’m working an airco’d office job, so it shouldn’t be too difficult either.

Here we go for challenge nr 3!

No sugar challenge: day 16-33

You might notice from the title that again I couldnt stick with 30 days for my 30 day challenge. I sincerely apologise. The reason is that tomorrow it’s my birthday (yaaaaay!) and that I found it fitting to start eating fruit again on that merriest of merry days.

The last 2 weeks were actually not more difficult than the first 2 weeks, possibly even easier since everyone I know was up to date on my dietary status now. Just the occasional “I could NEVER EVER do that”. I don’t want to call them out and everyone lives their own life how they want to, but it’s probably not a coincidence that those people are not the most thin examples of humankind.

Yummy! Fruit! (Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels)

Anyway, this was quite an easy-peasy 30 day challenge for me and I look forward to eating fruit again tomorrow. I will take blueberry’s and apples to work as a treat.

Let’s see what I do next.

No sugar challenge: day 2-15

I wanted to make clear something that I’m also doing. Apparently many people that stop eating sugar, are replacing it. They can’t help but eat sweets so they are looking for the alternatives that are offered nowadays. Corn syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup, coconut sugar, artificial sweeteners, stevia extract,… Besides the fact that some of these products might be even worse for your health than normal plain refined white sugar, there’s a bigger problem at play here.

If you don’t stop consuming sweets, your body will keep craving sweet food and it will be more and more difficult to stay away from food that’s sweetened with bad sweeteners too. Besides that, some other side effects might be at play when consuming artificial sweeteners.

My diet. Did I mention I’m eating vegan? That’s a permanent challenge! (Photo by Artem Bulbfish from Pexels)

So ok, I’m just skipping basically everything that tastes sweet for these 30 days. In the mean time, I’m halfway there. It’s said that after a while your taste gets reset, and it seems I can testify to that. A few days ago I was eating a bowl of (brown!) rice with tomatosauce, a pinch of salt and some herbs and hot sauce. Among the herbs was also some turmeric. It tasted as if there was pineapple in it! It was an amazing taste experience… This is not the only difference in taste, I really have the impression that all food tastes more sweet-ish. I like to eat my bread with peanut butter (real one, 99.7%peanut and some salt) and it really tastes sweet. Try to eat cashew nuts after a week of no sugar… as if they’re dipped in sugar!  It”s really amazing how much more tasty everything is now.

The downside is that I have to say no more. I have to explain at least once a day that I’m not eating sugar. No, not for this time only too. No, it’s not that difficult to say “No”. Yes, you could do it too if you didnt already say no before even thinking about it. The amount of people that seem to have a problem with even imagining not eating sugar for one day is amazing. Am I the only person with some willpower left in this world?

I do miss eating fruit, but it’s not that difficult to handle. 2 more weeks and I’ll start eating fruit again. Sweeteners? Not likely…

No sugar challenge: day 1

In our family, we are constantly trying to make our lives better. A big part of a good life is a healthy life and to be healthy there are 2 main factors: what you eat and how much you move.

Mmmm… sweet! (Photo by mali maeder from Pexels)

My next challenge will focus on the food part. I’m sure you’re all aware how in the modern diet we eat a lot of refined sugars. I’m already very conscious of this fact because of my habit of reading the food content labels on everything I buy. We hardly buy any processed food, but still we eat desserts. Self-made or when eating out. Whenever there’s a birthday at work, 90% of people just bring candy to hand out and I’m always the first to celebrate with them! There’s always this small guilt voice in the back of my head, but I would quickly dismiss it by saying: “I already eat healthy, how bad can it be to eat a few candies once in a while”. But when I looked back later, that was already the 2nd or 3rd birthday that week. Saturday we went to eat out and we had desserts. I also finished the desserts of the children because it would be a waste to just leave them there half eaten… I’m still eating a whole lot of sugar!

And sugar is super bad for you.

I decided to go fully sugar free for 30 days. This means not just skipping added sugars in processed foods, but also no fruits for a month. No more desserts, no more birthday treats and no more fruit! Once you read up on this a bit, it’s actually quite a no brainer.

Day 1 came and passed: no sugar… was very easy. At least the first day, luckily it’s not like the cold shower challenge where I’m forcing myself to say yes to do something unpleasant. This is psychologically more or less the opposite side of things, I have to say no to a pleasant thing. And I know from experience, I’m good at saying no. Keep it coming! Or not coming… Whatever.

Cold shower challenge: epilogue

A box filled with snow to make a snow sculpture (Ekenäs, Finland, Feb 2007). Sometimes the shower was feeling like such a box, with me inside.

I could’ve also named this post “day 21-46”. That’s right, I made it royally past 30 days! I’ve written this before and think that probably in the future I will do so too for other challenges: I do not nearly notice as much (positive) change in how the challenge feels, than many/most other people who wrote about their cold shower experiences. Could be me, could be people trying too hard to write nice, positive and encouraging articles? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s because of the season (the bathroom is cold, the water equally so), but it continued being a drag until I gave up. No glowing feeling, no further habituation,… I’m not sure how all those shiny happy people get the nice feelings that they describe, but I am not one of them. I do occasionally shine and I’m generally a happy person, but that has little to do with the cold shower challenge.

I did the challenge for 46 days and then I stopped, since it was not making me happy. Every morning I would be in the bed doubting whether I should already go to the bathroom. Every morning I would stand in front of the freezing water doubting whether I should already jump under. Yes it’s supposedly healthy and it is probably saving me some cents on the heating and water bill. The one consistent advantage is that it really wakes you up. These things kept me going, but eventually I was sick of feeling so bad and hesitant every morning. Especially when you don’t feel very good already, it’s really very difficult mentally to go and take a freezing shower. At day 45 I was feeling somewhat bad, physically. I wasn’t sick or so but let’s say it might’ve been creeping in. On the third day of ‘being almost sick’ I stopped. It was just all feeling too bad. Anyway I overshot my initial target by 50%, so I think I can still be proud of myself!

In the future I will probably do more cold shower streaks, but I will not start at the onset of winter, that was a bad decision on my part.

Boy, that was one negative sounding post… oh well, good to give some counterweight to all those overly positive cold shower challenge posts I guess? Anyway, let’s go for the next challenge, coming soon!

Cold shower challenge: day 6-20

Ice bears I saw a few years back. Next time I'll join them.
Ice bears I saw a few years back. Next time I’ll join them.

I’ve been doing the cold shower challenge for 20 days now, time for an update.

First things first. Yes, I’m still taking cold showers! On many sites I hear people telling how it gets easy/nice/fun after 10 days. Well, I can tell you that it’s not the case for everyone, or not in such a strong way anyway. I still have to mentally fight myself every day for a minute while I’m standing there, under the shower head, in the morning.

I did find a better tactic to handle it, the most annoying part of getting in cold water, anywhere, is the first touch. When walking into the sea, it seems extremely cold wherever the waterline is, but not nearly so much (or not at all), at the body parts that have already been wet. So If you would watch me shower, which I will not let you, you would see that the first 10 seconds I’m frantically rubbing water all over myself. After that it does get better. When I’m all wet, it’s not so difficult to stay under really.

I also have some data! At this moment our bathroom is more or less 17°C every morning. The water is 12°C. I can tell you, that feels as cold as you can imagine. The outside morning temperature range the last 2 weeks was between 0°C-10°C. It must be such an easy challenge to do in summer, when I was already taking cool (not cold) showers just because hot water is just not nice then.

Cold shower challenge: day 3-5

In flames is a Swedish metal band.

I guess everyone will understand that I can’t write a full post about how I showered every single day, so I’m going to start grouping the days. I also found another very fitting (har har har) t-shirt in my cupboard that will surely help against the cold, though obviously I don’t wear t-shirts in the shower. Yes, another metal band.

Day 3-5. There are a few things I’m starting to notice, now that I’m past the first shocking days:

  • First of all: yes, I’m slowly getting used to go in, the inhale reaction is less abrupt. It’s still there but I can control it more.
  • Cold skin becomes very sensitive, at least on my belly. When I’m putting soap on my underarms with my belly¹, it’s like I can feel the individual hairs, rubbing my skin. As if the are 10 times thicker than normal.
  • Shower gel actually feels warm, in hot showers I used to actually hold it in my hands for a few seconds for “acclimatization”, before applying. Last week me was such a wuss.
  • I think I actually notice now when the water that was present all night in the internal plumbing, has been used up. It’s cold. But at night it’s under 5°C at night now, so the water that comes from the outside is still noticeably colder. Maybe it’s something in my mind, but I really have the feeling that after a minute or so, the temperature drops a bit again.
  • I still don’t look forward to it. It’s almost winter and we don’t heat the bathroom². To get this nice and hot feeling, I’m thinking I need to spend more time in the shower or get out in a hotter environment?
  • I actually think my hair is getting softer.
  • Many people think you are slightly crazy if you take cold showers, but also recognize that they are simply not bad ass enough to even try it. Actually the teenage son of one of my colleagues is also taking daily cold showers. Props!

¹ If you really need to know, I put soap on my hands and rub it more or less everywhere. Then I use the soap on my belly to put soap on my underarms.
² Actually we don’t heat the house, except for a fireplace 2 floors down for an hour or 2 in the morning, with current outside temperatures. The open stairs make the air spread through the house, but we keep our bedroom (and adjacent bathroom) doors shut. I don’t measure the temperature in the bathroom, but I think it’s more likely to be 15°C than 20°C.