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Planning 2015 Goals with Beeminder

I spent 2 days planning goals for 2015 this year.  I reviewed three previous years of previously set goals.  There were highlights – three years ago my motorcycle was just a dream, my plans to hunt were a vague idea that I should sign up for a hunter’s ed course, and starting my own business was a very long term goal.  I’ve achieved all 3 of those goals.  This year I set some goals that I had set before and some new ones.

This is serious.   I am trying to be as serious about my personal goals as I am about my job.

I tried to apply SMART criteria to my goals.  I went to a local meetup to discuss my goals.  I put myself through a 40-hour fast followed by a 4-hour isolation tank float during which I visualized myself executing my goals.  I practiced setting an “implementation intention” where I tried to imagine exaggerated sensations around my goals – what achieving them might feel, taste, smell, and sound like.  I challenged myself by imagining myself a month in the future, having failed a particular goal, and considering what my future excuses would be for failing that goal.  When I could think of a good excuse, I made an action item or sub goal specific to resolving that excuse.

This is also the first year that I actually set business goals.  By this time next year, I will be as serious about my career goals as I am about each client job I work.

This year I won’t be making the mistake of setting big impossible to achieve goals.  I’ve had experience breaking my goals down into smaller chunks.  For example, weight loss will not be one of my goals.  I do have half dozen habits that I can track though and if I follow them then I am sure weight loss will result.

This year I also won’t be making any “every day I’ll..” goals.  Consistency means setting goals that are achievable.

One of the things I’m most excited about is my new tracking app: Beeminder.  For each goal I set, Beeminder sends me a reminder email in the morning.  I respond to that email with any progress I’ve made on the goal.  If I fail to achieve the goal after a certain period of time, Beeminder charges me $5.  If I fail again, they up the fee to $10.  The fee schedule is:  $5, $10, $30, $90, $270, $810, $2430.    My intent is to layer in different goals each month that will help me achieve my larger goals.

On January first I set up 3 new beeminder goals:

  •          Meditate 4 times per week
  •          Exercise 4 times per week
  •          Read 4 hours per week

They sound a little underwhelming, don’t they?  Here they are again in less than 140 characters:

The idea here is to take some existing habits and ensure consistency.  By setting a goal that I can achieve for the entire year, I am confident that I’ll make these goals happen.  In February, I’ll layer in a few more goals.


Genova 2200 GI Effects Test Results

I received my results today from the Genova 2200 GI Effects Results panel and am sharing some of them here.  You can check out a sample report from Genova here:

This test was taken before starting any potato starch supplementation.

I have much research to do on my own still before even commenting on this.  The main target for my functional medicine practitioner side seems to be the yeast issue.  While the potato starch has helped, I do not think it has totally stopped the yeast issue.

One interesting side note, the functional med practitioner also identified signs of some periodontal distress.

Proposed action plan:

  • Digestive Support (digestive enzymes), L-Glutamine
  • Oral Health Items (floss, oil pulling, hydrogen peroxide rinsing)
  • Elimination diet: 3 weeks of no sugar/no dairy/no nuts seeds to starve off the yeast.   Basically GAPS intro.
  • Follow elimination diet up with alternating anti-fungals and biofilm treatments







Potato Starch Day 2: Waiting to Explode

This morning, I mixed a teaspoon of Bob’s Red Mill potato starch into a half cup of full fat goat milk kefir and drank it up.   I’m already getting more used to pungent taste of the Kefir.  I’m still waiting for the gassy bulletproof explosion or crazy sex dreams that I’ve been warned about.  So far neither has happened.

In the afternoon, my new probiotics arrived: Primal Defense Ultra and Prescript-Assist.   I haven’t researched these probiotics much. I’m following the leaders at FreeTheAnimal on this one.  They really look like soil when you break them open.

2014-03-29 07.02.38

I was so excited about the new probiotics and lack of gas that I had to make another kefir drink for dinner. How does “kefir gut bomb” sound?

Mix with immersion blender for frothy goodness.

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Food Diary:

Breakfast: 4oz goat milk kefir, 1tsp potato starch, 2oz butter, 1/2oz MCT oil
Lunch: 2oz sprouted almond/mulberry trail mix, 2oz butter, 1/2oz MCT oil
Dinner: 5oz lamb, homemade broth, 4oz goat milk kefir, 1tsp potato starch, 2oz sprouted trail mix
Snacks: 1/3 bar of dark chocolate, 2oz semi-sweet chocolate, bag of seaweed snacks, few tsp honey, some macadamias, more sprouted trail mix

Total calories: 2476 kcal

Ketosis: Based on the ketostix, I was in a strong ketosis in the evening after dinner.  In the late evening I snacked on some semi-sweet chocolate chips and was not in ketosis in the morning.

Weight: Down 0.8 lbs from 215 to 214.2 between day 2  and 3.  (I’m a 5’8″ male for reference).  Today is also weekly measurement day for me.  242 inches total for 8 sites.

GI: Amazing on both day 2 and day 3.  Zero gas and great BMs with good volume after a month of IBS-D like GI distress.  On day 2/3 at only 2 tsp PS, the credit here goes more to my restricted food choices rather than the potato starch.

FBG:  86mg/dL in the morning of day 3.  This is a great number for me.  After a night with some sweet chocolate I might see a swing in either direction but not today.  Don’t worry I plan to test this with much bigger PS+carb intakes.

A Year of Blood Glucose Testing

I’ve been playing with a Precision Xtra glucometer for about a year now. I bought 50 test strips and used them throughout the past year.  My goals were:
  1.  Identify what sort of metabolic damage I have
  2.  Identify a way of eating that will generally keep my blood glucose as low and tight as possible.
I was inspired by this Chris Kresser post:“How to prevent diabetes and heart disease for $16”

“Test your blood sugar first thing in the morning after fasting for at least 12 hours. Drink a little bit of water just after rising, but don’t eat anything or exercise before the test. This is your fasting blood sugar level.

  1. Test your blood sugar again just before lunch.
  2. Eat your typical lunch. Do not eat anything for the next three hours.Test your blood sugar one hour after lunch.
  3. Test your blood sugar two hours after lunch.
  4. Test your blood sugar three hours after lunch.
    …. On the third day, you’re going to do it a little differently. On step 3, instead of eating your typical lunch, you’re going to eat 60 – 70 grams of fast acting carbohydrate.

Then he sets some ideal results (mg/Dl):

Fasting blood glucose: <86
1 hour post carb meal: <140
2 hours post carb meal: <120
3 hours post carb meal: baseline

I was also inspired other N=1 experiments from Jimmy Moore with Nutritional Ketosis and the BJJ Caveman’s work with nutritional ketosis/carb nite.

I did not design a very good experiment though.  I never came close to 3 consistent days of testing like Chris describes.  The data I collected has major problems.  First, I didn’t even consistently test fasting blood glucose as opposed to mid-day or evening readings.   Second, my diet was very inconsistent.

Some observations after a year of playing with the glucometer and 50 strips. I used about 25 strips in 2013 and another 25 in 2014.  All numbers are mg/dL:

  • My average BG in 2013 was 92 without much carbohydrate restriction.  Highest BG was 115.
  • My average BG in 2014 was 84 while restricting carbohydrates to <50g on most days.  Highest BG observed was 95.
  • 3-5 days of low carb dieting seems to drop my fasting blood glucose into the 60-70 mg/dL range
  • When eating carbs with each meal, BG seems to float around 100-110 throughout the day
  • When restricting carbs, BG seems to stay much closer to 80.
  • When restricting carbs, the day after a 250g-300g refeed my BG can vary greatly.  It might be 10 points higher than average or it might be 10 points lower than average the next day.
  • 60-70 feels different depending on how many days I have been since a large carbohydrate load. The day after a refeed I might have cold hands/feed and be tired at 65.  3 or 4 days afterwards it might not bother me at all.
HbA1c scores:
  • 5.4 in November 2012
  • 5.2 in May 2013
  • 5.5 in December 2013
I just ordered 100 more glucose strips and 30 blood ketone strips.  I’m looking forward to better using them for some more consistent testing of my cyclical ketogenic diet.

A Year in Unblogged Hacks

I want to provide only well-researched or quantitative material on this blog.  I took a year off blogging to try and achieve those things and to be sure, it’s not going well.  So I’m back anyways and I’ll be sticking to things I excel in: personal experience based on sketchy data and speculation.

Since I’ve been gone I’ve been:

  • Trying out the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program
  • Taking an organic chemistry lecture and lab to help me better understand the science of nutrition
  • Experimenting with the “Perfect Health Diet” and long diet break in 2013
  • Experimenting with a cyclical ketogenic diet in 2014
  • Working on my digestive issues
  • Focusing on my sleep
  • Exploring different emotional and psychological strategies
  • Meeting Mark Sisson at PrimalCon Lake Tahoe and Chris Kresser at his book signing in Berkeley
  • Attending meetups in the San Francisco Bay area ranging from Paleo to Biohacking to Futurism

Coming up I’m excited about PaleoFX in a few weeks.  I’m also looking forward to trying my hand at some hands-on biolab work at the Berkeley Biolabs.

How I improved my Cholesterol and Vitamin D levels with WellnessFX

In an earlier post, I describe a blood test I took in November through WellnessFX.  With only a few changes, I have been able to improve some of these markers in just 4 months.

As a reminder, here was my action plan to improve some of the markers:

I switched to a moderate carbohydrate diet based off The Perfect Health Diet in early 2013.  Otherwise I have followed this plan quite well.  I also lost about 5 lbs.

I had a follow-up test done at the end of March and saw some great results.  The second test was not through WellnessFX, but I mocked-up my new scores alongside their original graphics.

Increased Cholesterol

During my WellnessFX consult in November, my practitioner tipped me on to the idea that the low cholesterol that I have had all my life could be the result of malnutrition.  While my physician was not on board with this idea, I was concerned enough about my low HDL and low testosterone to make a change.

For those of you unfamiliar with the idea that cholesterol might not be such a bad thing, I’d recommend this article by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride: “Cholesterol: Friend or Foe?”.  Dr. Mercola also has an article on this topic: “The Truth about High Cholesterol”.

I was already eating copious amounts of saturated animal fats.  In order to improve digestion, I eliminated Gluten from my diet and adding Now Foods Betaine HCL and Now Foods Super Enzymes.  With these two changes, I was able to raise my total cholesterol by 28%.  My new HDL-C score also takes me out of a high risk area for cardiovascular disease.  This increased total cholesterol should provide my body more building materials to create testosterone and other hormones.


Increased Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplementation seems to be one of the favorite topics of the Paleosphere and my WellnessFX practitioner felt I should be supplementing.  I used these Green Pastures Cod Liver Oil and Life Extension Vitamin D3 supplements to increase mine 62%.  I do also make an effort to get sun exposure each day.  Unfortunately with the winter temperatures that sun only seems to hit my face, head, and hands.   I may add brief weekly tanning into my wellness regime.

There is another possibility here which is that my low cholesterol was preventing my body from generating sufficient Vitamin D.

Regarding Vitamin D supplementation, Todd Becker makes an excellent point here about how this supplementation could be a bad thing in his post at “Why I don’t take Vitamin D supplements”.    I have to say that I was not amused by getting the stomach flu and a two-week cold over the past few months.  I am also in favor of the most natural way of fixing a problem.  In his other excellent post “An Alternative to Vitamin D supplements”, he suggests calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, brief strenuous exercise, and general hormetic stressors (such as cold showers) as alternatives to Vitamin D supplementation.


Elevated Liver Enzymes

The final piece of the puzzle during my WellnessFX consult was my Liver Enzyme levels.  My practitioner felt my liver was working overtime to process toxins in my body and suggested Apex Energetics Clearvite-SF, a protein powder designed to help detoxify the liver.  I will confess that this sounded like some new age voodoo magic to me – I am still not comfortable with the generic word “toxins.”   In addition, each serving contains 15g of carbs which did not jive with my low-carb diet.  What I did do was take a Thorne Research SAT capsule each morning.  This product contains Silymarin (milk thisle), Circumin (tumeric), and Cynara (artichoke) – all of which are purported to help the liver.

As you can see from my updated test results, some of my Liver Enzyme tests improved and some worsened.   My action now is to double my dose of the SAT and further reduce my alcohol intake .

I found a great resource “When and How to evaluate mildly elevated liver enzymes in apparently healthy patients”  that also describes Liver enzymes in much more detail.

I would also add that my physician was not concerned about these scores.  I’ve had some slightly out of range Liver enzymes scores like these since my first blood work over a decade ago (they blamed Ephedra back then!) yet I am still keen to try and improve them.


The Best Diet for America: Low Carb or Caloric Restriction?

When I think about my journey, I realize that I have made a pretty stunning number of changes.  The metamorphosis I am undergoing has been a multi-year process requiring education, habit change, and skill building.   I am still cycling through diets trying to find the best: high protein, high fat, and (less intentionally) high carb.  I taught myself to cook meals from scratch – first standard American meals and then nourishing, paleo ones.  I am still working to change a lifetime of poor habits that I had formed.

I favor a low-carb, ketogenic diet for the committed individual who wants rapid weight loss, but there is a tremendous mind shift required to make the changes required to execute this.  I think it is easier and sustainable for the average person to start with a focus on optimizing one habit: caloric restriction.  Then they can gradually add habits to this first one as they work to achieve their goal.

What diet strategy do you propose for the 150 million Americans who are dangerously overweight or worse?

Whether choosing low-carb or not, I am in complete support of both habit change and social engagement applications.  I used DietBet during my 2 month ketosis experiment.  I also use the Lift application daily to focus on learning new habits.

Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Exec tweeted a link yesterday to this Quantified Self Article by Adam Bosworth: “The Un-quantified Self: Reaching True Health is about Habits, Not Gadgets.”   In the article, Adam says that creating new habits is more important than quantification, apps, or tools.  He stresses that weight loss programs work better with social support, something I guess he finds “un-quantified.”  This is a bit ironic to me considering that the Quantified Self movement revolves around conferences (meetups) – a topic that he does not mention.  He also says that weight loss is going to require a significant caloric deficit, not just exercise:

The truth is we simply have to eat less: smaller portions, no snacks and fewer desserts – taking in about 500-750 fewer calories a day.

Adam also uses this quite depressing chart to remind me that I’m “obese” by BMI.  At least I’m no longer “morbidly obese” as I was before I started my nutritional ketosis experiment.  If I met the highest allowable “fit” BMI at 5’8″ / 164 lbs, I’d have to have 4% bodyfat!


I think Dave’s concern was that the article talked about a reduction of calories being necessary for weight loss.  He’s arguing that by using a “bulletproof” low-carb diet you can eat a surplus of fat calories and still lose weight.  I haven’t verified this through self-experimentation yet.  I did find that without viscosity changes (specifically melted fats), it takes some significant work to make a caloric surplus palatable in ketosis.  I will definitely try eating a surplus in my next experiment with ketosis.