Friday, 7 October 2016

Post 27: My Food Philosophy

*** Warning, this week the post is not about food... directly. It relates to food, but is more often about life. It may offend some people, but I really hope that it doesn’t. You might even recognise some of the analogies as pertaining to someone similar to yourself, but in keeping with the message of this post, take this as an opportunity. I’m putting this disclaimer in because I don’t want to feel like I’m holding back (but also to make sure I convey that I’m not a sad, angry man!). I recently heard someone say that your secret sauce is a function of your “carefully cultivated awesomeness”. From my perspective, that includes not just my knowledge, but also my philosophy. From this post I want to open up new perspectives. For once be truly harsh on yourself, and you’ll have the power to make a change. ***

Hi Guys,

I like to bring the science (you know I like to bring the science!), and some would say to a fanatical level. I really do enjoy getting up on my soapbox each week to spread a message and (hopefully) help people to lose weight and feel great, all the while changing a few perspectives and breaking down some long held beliefs. But I digress...

All my oddities are well rationalised

As I recently said to a colleague: “all of my oddities are well rationalised”. One example which springs to mind is fasting, and how me just having coffee for breakfast isn’t out of sheer laziness!

It was in that moment that I encapsulated my whole thought process behind food and life. A lot of people speak about mindful action, being aware of what we are doing, but I want to talk about reasoned action. The ability to say exactly *why* we are doing something, and never to just be happy with the excuse of “it was something to do”.

One of my favourite Warren Buffet quote/philosophies, is the following: what if you had an investment punch-card, and you could only pick 20 stocks in your life, ever! If you’re immediate reaction to something isn’t “heck yeh!”, then your response should be no. Settling for average is only going to lead to average results. If you settle on a sandwich for lunch because that’s only what was there (when fasting could even be the answer), then you know what’s around the corner!

What I’m getting at in my usual, long winded way, is that the motivation and the psychology behind our actions are worth considering. Sometimes when presented between a sub-par choice and nothing, you could easily better off choosing nothing. Sometimes “the only way to win is not to play”.

Consider a person who you know who always seems to be tired. Then you learn from them that this is because they stayed up late to watch junk TV, and just wait for the why! Because it was too early to go to bed! This is the same person who eats crap for lunch then “wonders” why they feel tired around 3pm! Observe the pattern of reasoning for someone I’d like to identify as as a lifestyle luddite (LL):

  1. Person identifies problem in their life
  2. Select one of the following:
    1. Person neglects to ask for help
    2. Person is offered help but is too afraid to take a hit to their ego by listening
    3. Person is already aware of what is causing the issue but chooses to ignore their knowledge
  3. Person makes excuses and continues to suffer

Cowlean Top Tip! if someone ever “wonders out loud” to you about an issue, they are not looking for a solution. They are looking for acceptance of their defeat. It sounds harsh, but think about it. When you offered unconditional support, was it brushed away, or was it accepted and chased for?

This might all be down to a problem of motivation, because motivation really is the driving factor. When I say “wanted to change”, I mean *really* wanted to change! Imagine how your efforts would gain intensity if you had a gun pointed to your head. Incentives make the world go around.

  1. Person identifies problem in their life
  2. Person approaches someone/something more knowledgeable than them for a solution, starting with the easiest available and understandable source
  3. Person applies knowledge gained
  4. Person uses their results as a feedback loop

What is a feedback loop? A feedback loop occurs when you utilise information gained from a previous action to fine tune a future action. What it effectively leads to, is a win-win life. If I am successful, then I am successful! If I fail, I learn what doesn’t work, and am better suited to succeed next time.

Also take note that I specify the “easiest available and understandable source”. The journey of 10,000 steps starts with the first. Observe and pursue the low-hanging fruit principle. Basically, go for the easiest options first!

The key to escaping the LL way, is to move beyond step 3. If you sample something new, but never utilise a feedback loop, then one day you will fail and you’ll never get past your bottleneck. Think about all of the people you know who have tried, and failed to lose weight and keep it off, via calorie restriction. These are the people who identify the problem (they are unhealthy), they cut calories to an unsustainable level, it works for a bit but then they get right back on the fast food wagon and BOOM, it’s three months later and they’re halfway through a tear spotted tub of Ben and Jerry’s. It is at this point that they have another great idea “I should start eating healthy!”.

That turns into a vicious circle of failure, with no growth: a lifestyle black hole.

Some people need to go it alone, and that’s when they do their best. Some people need love, care, and support, to grow to their potential. The truth is that it doesn’t matter which camp you might sway towards (because everyone needs a combination of both), but the unrelenting constant between the two is ego and pride. Can you suffer being wrong for long enough to actually be right for once?

Never settle for average

The next step is never to settle for average. Like I said last week, you want to feel great, not just good. So when it comes to health, you want to first survive, then thrive. To be honest, for how many of us reading this post is survival an issue?

Writing this makes me think of two quotes, which emerge from as disparate sources as you might find. The first is from a fitness YouTuber: Christian Guzman, who is “proud but never satisfied”. Now, what the LL might start to do is try and pick this phrase apart. They might say “if you think that you’ll never be happy”. If you take the phrase literally, then I agree, but by appreciating the intention, I see it as saying that you need to be happy with your achievements, but understand that nothing is ever perfect. There is always something to strive for.

The next phrase (and I warned you about the disparity!), comes from my main man Socrates; “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”. In this quote, my attention is drawn to the virtuous couplet of “beauty and strength”. On a superficial level (the one we spend most of our life in), this means just looking good. On a higher level, I see it as a call to be charismatic, to be a leader, and to inspire people. It also tells me that in mediocrity you are never deserving, apart from the middle of the road experience you’ve brought upon yourself. The aim is to make your life feel unreal. Therefore the way forward is to be in perpetual growth. Much like with stock prices, growth is valued more than absolute earnings.

So don’t let the food in that is going to make you weak! By being consciously rational, you select what goes into your body and ensure that everything you consume is going to make you feel terrific.

Be in perpetual growth

Now, I always have three takeaways at the end of each post, and so far we have two points, so for the sake of continuity I’ll be presenting my third tenet for unreal living.

Again these two quotes are from two very different sources (I hope by now you see that I like to draw inspiration from everywhere in my life). The first is from a podcast I listen to about Taoism called “What’s this Tao All About”: “things are never going to be as bad you think they will be”. The second comes from a book called “Man 2.0”, a book which is part health and fitness, part modern age masculinity reassessment. The quote from that source is “Don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness”.

What we commonly observe in life is that people ponder events, overthink the risks and negatives, and underweight the positives. It goes without saying that people are notoriously awful calculated risk takers.

So the first step is to take more risks? Yes. But a simpler way of saying this is to take the initiative. Be proactive. How many times have you thought of a way to complete a task but then asked for approval by someone else? Don’t ask permission from your family to kickstart a change in your life. This works especially well for the lone wolves, the people who sway towards going it alone. The describes me quite well. I like to research independently, apply, and see what works. I suppose it is ego protecting in a way, but no one finds out about your failures!

That’s where the second quote comes in: “don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness”. Trust your own intelligence to pick the correct course of action. If you succeed, then great! In fact, the people who you were going to ask permission from will congratulate you more. If you fail, then just provide your justifications and be done with it. Using a feedback loop you’ll know what to do next time and also what the person expects you to do. It all ends up with the classic question: “have you lost weight? You’re looking really good!” (cue awkward admittance that you always looked good and it was just a turn of phrase…).

Life scorecard

Now let’s take this all and bring it back to food and health. You’ve tried various methods of losing weight but they haven’t worked. Each time you learn what you liked and what you didn’t like. You accumulate this information and put together a custom plan, for yourself, which caters for your every need. You stop caring about what people say about it, because it works for you. You stop acknowledging other people’s disparaging attempts to slow you down, because they are stuck in the lifestyle luddite way of thinking. You start to systematically eliminate the negatives in your life, and your plate suddenly becomes much clearer and cleaner. That scorecard you hold in your hand starts to open up, and you only fill your life with things that bring you joy.

This week’s takeaways;
  1. Begin to consciously rationalise your actions utilising feedback loops
  2. Never settle for average
  3. Take the initiative, and however cliched it sounds, be the force for change in your life

That’s it folks. That’s the part of my stream of consciousness which I could capture and put down into words. I hope you like it, see similarities to yourself, and can get to know me better.

What psychological tips and tricks do you use to overcome obstacles? Do you have any lifestyle hacks which make you awesome at what you do? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear what you guys have to say.

So until next time,
Stay superhuman,



  1. Brilliant writing. Excellent tips. Incredibly well thought out.
    Thank you for responding on Twitter, I am very glad to have found your excellent work!
    Life Hack for my excellence?
    I was told I have ADD/ADHD years ago. And I had a Coach disavow that and say that I had a very active brain. I liked that, a lot. He turned a strength into a weakness. So when I get manic about doing 10 projects at once... I do them. I revel in the chaos of cleaning the house; buying stuff online; making phone callls; doing social media for my company; an clipping my toe nails; all in a mad rush towards a deadline of my partner coming home at 5pm for us to rush off to an event.
    Your article spoke to me.
    So I guess I found out something about myself a long time ago - used 30 years of feedback loops, and succeeded.
    Thank you very much again for this amazing article.

  2. Hi Sandy, thank you! :) It's pretty cool that you were able to turn your strengths around; perception is key. I've done the same with what some would call an "obsession". It's also cool, I think, that we've both used feedback loops (unity consciousness anyone?). Keep up the awesome work, and good luck in your next bout!
    All the best,