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Staying Healthy and Sane At a Startup (al3x.net)
254 points by ssclafani on Sept 7, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments

I ride my bicycle just about everywhere: to the office, grocery store, restaurants, everywhere. It's a great way to get exercise and doesn't cut into your schedule all that much, because due to traffic lights you can often get to where you are going on a bike only slightly slower than in a car.

Also starting the day after my 7 mile commute is fantastic, my brain is rocking and ready.

My problem with riding my bike to the office is that I arrive all sweaty. I can change my T-shirt (I don't have to wear a suit), but I'll still smell afterwards.

Thanks to the London bike scheme I can now take a bike home in the evening without having to ride one to work in the morning.

A similar scheme would be great in Manhattan, the rides between a lot of high density places (including Brooklyn and Manhattan) are pretty short. At 70k people per square mile they could put in a bike pick up/drop off point on every block. Plus it might give them enough critical mass to shut off some lanes as cycle paths.

The more you use your bike, the less tired you will be after your commute. It took me ~6 months to go from really sweaty after 7km to barely breaking a sweat. Just keep in mind that you have to take off some of your clothes on the way once you warm up.

Some more tips:

- Proper clothing (e.g. dry fit) which helps sweat evaporate faster

- Using a more efficient road bike if you're currently riding a mountain/hybrid bike

- Pedaling at a lower gear, and higher cadence

- Properly inflated tires

- A bag with mesh back support, so your back doesn't get all sweaty.

Showers at work are helpful. In the morning i just wake up, throw on my bike clothes and go, and finish my morning routine once at work.

Agreed. 7 miles at a moderate pace shouldn't get you too sweaty either, but you do lose time by most likely having to spend 5 minutes cooling down or cleaning up before actually sitting down at your desk.

Also helps to live in a city such as Madison, WI with tons of paved bike paths.

Does your city have a bicycle trail, has only light traffic, or are you hyperventilating on car exhaust fumes?

I never really got why would people cycle/jog on busy roads.

Being knocked off my bicycle by a car door finally convinced me, after too many uncomfortably close encounters, that I was somehow invisible to drivers. Today I believe that for my well-being the risks of biking far outweigh any potential benefits.

1. You, the cyclist, need to be driving very defensively. Read the road and always assume you have not been seen and take action to do fix that.

Here in the tiny streets of Cambridge, UK, I sometimes feel cycling in the middle of the street is the best option. BTW, an equally big risk to cyclists is pedestrians who, by sheer stupidity or collectively having death wishes, start crossing the road without looking. It's worse when it's a group.

2. Get some high visibility gear and get a helmet and pads. I also use two sets of lights: the reds at the back are placed one high (my back or helmet) and one low, and the front lights are angled differently to give me full coverage for a good distance.

The cheapest and lightest way for visibility gear is the "jacket" type that you wear over your clothes.

I used to commute by bicycle about 20 miles a day (total) from the East side of Edinburgh, through the middle of town and out to the West (to the Riccarton Campus) - I worked late a lot so I was often returning in the dark.

Best thing I ever did was get an extremely powerful set of lights (Vistalite I think) - they were very expensive but I'm sure they saved my life on multiple occasions. I used to have one light angled so that it illuminated the road with the other pretty much shining into the faces of car drivers - probably not legal but at least I knew I could wiggle the handlebars to shine a light into a drivers face if they were about to do something that would cause a problem.

Unfortunately, bright lights can't protect you from other road hazzards - kids throwing a brick at me being an example of what cyclists have to put up with.

Where do you live and where do you work?

I work in downtown Denver and live nearby. Denver is a pretty bike friendly city.

  > Couldn't resist.

    > Do, or do not.
    > There is no try.

One tip I'd add to the diet section is to drink enough water. I find that always having cold water at arm's reach helps keep my mind fresh and alert.

Also, making the switch from coffee to tea can have innumerable benefits to one's energy level and overall health.

I was up to about 4 cups of coffee a day and my sleep was suffering because of it. So I gave up coffee altogether and I now drink a lot of tea (mostly herbal, caffeine free). It was pretty painful for about two weeks, but I feel so much better now it's just crazy.

A thousand times yes. Having water at hand and always sipping is a really great way to tame hunger and oral fixations, and is great for your body to be flushing itself out.

I find that tea doesn't give me as much of a high as coffee, but it lasts longer without any come-down. Awesome.

How does drinking water "flush [your body] out"? I often hear this by proponents of extra water drinking, and I'm intrigued as to what physiological benefit drinking too much water is supposed to allow.

Without sufficient hydration, metabolic wastes stay around longer than they should. Most toxin removal is performed by the kidneys. Keeping your body hydrated assists the kidneys in their normal functioning and ensures that toxins acquired through food consumption are rapidly eliminated. At an optimal level of hydration, this occurs naturally; however, most people are at least somewhat dehydrated a large majority of the time. Drinking lots of water prevents this issue.

> ...however, most people are at least somewhat dehydrated a large majority of the time.

No. From sources described at http://www.snopes.com/medical/myths/8glasses.asp:

Kidney specialists do agree on one thing, however: that the 8-by-8 rule is a gross overestimate of any required minimum.

"The notion that there is widespread dehydration has no basis in medical fact," says Dr. Robert Alpern, dean of the medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Doctors from a wide range of specialties agree: By all evidence, we are a well-hydrated nation. Furthermore, they say, the current infatuation with water as an all-purpose health potion — tonic for the skin, key to weight loss — is a blend of fashion and fiction and very little science.

From an LA Times reader:

The advice fully meets three important criteria for being an American health urban legend: excess, public virtue, and the search for a cheap "magic bullet."

Additional research and articles:




It's unfair to use supporting material out of context.

The first article mentions "widespread dehydration" ..that's an exaggeration at best of what's being discussed here.

People do get dehydrated. We, as a nation, have the means of staying hydrated and therefore we don't have a major epidemic. But, dehydration is definitely an issue--and always will be.

I was responding specifically to the parent's assertion that "most people are at least somewhat dehydrated a large majority of the time."

I consider that statement equivalent to asserting "widespread dehydration" of the nation's populace. So I stand by the material I quoted.

> People do get dehydrated.

Of course they do, just like they get hungry when they don't eat. But we're discussing drinking water in excess of thirst. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by your last paragraph. The discussion here is about health primarily in the first world, not about the hydration problems in many developing countries.

What toxins?

By the way, I mentioned specifically too much water. You only need to drink when you're thirsty. I'm asking what benefit you get from drinking water when you're not thirsty.

By the way, "people are dehydrated a large majority of the time" -- citation needed.

This is an interesting question. The guideline I have heard over and over is 2L/day. I wondered what this is based on. Wikipedia says the 2L/day guideline comes from the EPA, and the corresponding British guideline is 1.8L/day.

Following the links on Wikipedia I got to this article: http://www.aafp.org/afp/991115ap/2269.html It lists low fluid intake (as well as restricted access to a bathroom) as a risk factor in kidney stone formation. However, another article (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12576800) reports some conflicting results. Apparently, as people drink more water, they consume more sodium to compensate, negating some of the benefits.

I wonder what someone who actually knows about this would say. Also, 2L isn't that much, but I wonder if I drink 8 glasses of water a day. An experiment is in order.

It doesn't need to be pure water to get benefits out of it. There was a study published on whether diuretic drinks (coffee, caffeinated sodas) provided equal hydration benefit. Pretty much, they do. Coke now uses it as part of their advertising campaign. http://www.dietcoke.com/wellness-balance/hydration.jsp

From what I know, the statement "You only need to drink when you're thirsty" is incorrect. Also, you are unlikely to "drink too much" when you just have water at your desk.

Toxins? Again, no specific answer, but the food is not necessarily "clean", so that's what our kidneys and liver are for.

Pesticides, steroids, residual contaminants from environmental deposition, and many other sources. Drinking water when you're not thirsty is controversial and may actually overwork your kidneys if done too often; however, with the large amount of caffeine, soda, and alcohol (all diuretics) consumed by the general population, that's rarely an issue.

Obviously, I can't speak for any large body of humans without some kind of rigorous scientific evidence, but passive observation of coworkers, friends, and family leads me to believe that most people don't drink nearly enough water. It could be different where you live though.

I am concerned about overzealous water drinking leading to water intoxication.

I also got taken in by the nice scientific sounding words before I realize that I should shout "CITATION NEEDED".

Here's but one: Cholesterol: When dehydration causes too much liquid to be removed from inside the cells, the body tries to stop this loss by producing more cholesterol.


Again, not talking about dehydration. What benefit does excess water consumption give, versus just having a drink when I'm thirsty?

You might be dehydrated even when your thirst is quenched. Dehydration is not just like being in a desert about to die. You'll need to engage in 'excess water consumption' to reset to a new non-dehydrated equilibrium for your body.

Tea puts me to sleep. I can drink the most caffeinated tea on the market, and I'll be nodding off in an hour. It's a real pain because I have difficulty digesting coffee, and I'm looking for alternatives. Appreciate any suggestions.

Try some Yerba Mate. Tea is made from the roots of that plant and has enough caffeine to give you a nice kick when you need it.

Try a true english tea like PG Tips - there's just no way you'll fall asleep after drinking a cup of that; the teabag is about 60% bigger than the average american teabag (one of those strange things is that teabags in america are smaller than the english version (same brand)).

third the Yerba Mate. I order from amigofoods.com and have had good luck! try the rosamonte especial!

have you tried yerba mate?

One more I'd add: Pick a time after which you will not check your email.

For me it's 10pm. Too many times I'd be winding down the day, getting ready for sleep, and decided (more like, was subconsciously compelled) to check my email one last time. Every so often, some nagging issue would come up that, in hindsight, definitely could have waited till the next morning, but once I started thinking about it, there was no way I could rest until it was resolved. This obviously cut into my sleep time (not good for the long term) and also often left me in an agitated state that made it harder to get good sleep.

Maybe it's 6pm, maybe it's 2am, but I recommend drawing the line somewhere, so that you can preserve the quality of your downtime.

I'd go further than that. Leave work at work. Don't check work email out of the office. Don't take work home: stay late if you must.

This is harder to manage if "the office" is actually your home but it's important to make it work.

You can't really help where your brain wanders in your downtime, but there's no need to encourage it by doing work in your downtime.

I've also found that turning off all push notifications of emails to my phone helps me ignore emails until I actually get to them. I pick a few times per day to go through them in batches and immediately take care of anything I can do quickly, and star or archive the rest, depending on whether I need to follow up or not. I do my last check at about 9pm.

A lot of this applies to working for yourself, or for a big company. Startups exaggerate the extremes of stress and crunch, but I pretty much do all these things (and have done for the last 18 months or so, so ~8 months of BigCo and ~10 months of CEO) and they work equally well in both contexts. As long as you're working somewhere that you can go and take a walk when your wheels are spinning.

Things that I've found helpful: Vegetarian diet (currently trying vegan out to break my fro-yo addiction), yoga, running with a goal in mind, running without a goal in mind, massages, a long commute without a laptop. All except the former help me let my thoughts just drift and it's surprising what pops out.

I probably should have put massage in there. I don't get massages regularly, but man do I ever feel better when I do. Good suggestion.

When it all gets to be too much, I like to go the Imperial Day Spa (on Geary & Fillmore) and just soak for a while. Then, the acupressure. Highly recommended.

This could have easily been titled "Staying Healthy and Sane." Useful ideas all around.

In particular, business on meditation is interesting to me. I do all my best thinking in the shower. I suspect this is because without meaning to be, I'm in a meditative state there. Every time I have a really hard problem to ponder, I find a shower has the power to jolt me in the direction of the solution.

I'd like to find a way to harness this in a more convenient way that doesn't require soap, water or nudity, so I'm going to check out the NSR site Alex recommends.

Try thinking about the issue before you go to sleep. This has worked great for me, often I'll awake to a keen sense of understanding what I was thinking of, although a few times it has resulted in keeping me up for hours frustrasted with neither sleep or understanding!

Every time the challenge du jour pops into my head before sleep I just end up thinking about it for hours. And not sleeping. It's tough.

Me too. For a little while it feels productive and nice because I often have good ideas, but then after half an hour or so, I want my brain to shut up so I can sleep.

A friend of mine told me she has a similar issue and has a special meditation that she does in bed to wind her brain down. I should email her, but if anyone has ways they deal with this issue, I'd love to hear them.

I absolutely do not think about stuff like that before I sleep - I try to spend at least an hour winding down with a book and peppermint tea or something similar.

I do however think about tough issues when I'm half asleep in the morning, reaching for the snooze button. (Sometimes it's counterproductive, making me want to snooze more to make the world go away, but I reach some surprising insights here - and then crystallise them in the shower, of course!)

I too use the book trick :) so to speak . Just 30 minutes of reading some SF before I go to sleep helps a lot. I then tend to think about the characters in the book or I imagine being on another planet :) . It really helps when I do that.

I'd love to hear her advice if she gets back to you on this.

I'm having trouble putting this all together. Let's figure 9 hours at work, 1 hour of commute, 1.5 hours eating, 1.5 hours exercising, .75 hours meditating, and 7.5 hours sleeping. That leaves less than three hours for showering, changing clothes, and a little downtime. When do you do chores around the house, run errands, visit family, and hang out with friends?

First off, I work from a coworking space that's a five minute walk from where I live, so I don't have a commute.

Secondly, 90 minutes is probably on the high end for a workout for me. If I'm pressed for time, it's closer to an hour.

Also, I don't know that I always work 9 hours a day. Realistically, I probably work a normal 8. I also often eat lunch at my desk, which shaves off half an hour from your estimated eating time.

As for chores: I pay someone to clean my apartment. I'd rather spend the time on other things.

I don't watch much TV. I also don't spend a lot of time hanging out with friends during the week. My wife and I don't have kids yet, so "family time" often consists of her and I reading or watching a movie together.

I'm sure it'll be harder to stick to this schedule when some of the above changes.

One of the attractions for me of doing contracting, telecommuting and/or startup work is the greater freedom to work from home or wherever, untethered, and having a zero-commute job. It's a great lifestyle.

I figure if I can get my total weekday required commute down from say 2 hours to 0-0.25 hours I save roughly 500 hours a year. All of which become hours spent on things which give me a better quality of life (more sleep, more exercise, more meditation, more relaxation, more friend time, family time, etc.)

I hope an increasing percentage of folks do it in the future, because I truly think it will help make the world a better place, especially through the indirect benefits of reduced traffic, reduced pollution, reduced vehicle accidents, fossil fuel consumption, miles-o-asphalt-culture, etc.

Crossfit never takes longer than 30 minutes. Some workouts can be as short as 3 minutes.

^^ this. if you're pressed for time, crossfit is amazing (well it's amazing anyway).

my cf gym is full of professional people-- doctors, lawyers, and engineers and by looking at them you'd think they were gym rats.

I second this one. You're really wasting your time if you're there for more than 45 minutes. Means you're resting too much between exercises. Quality over quantity when it comes to gym time.

For example, do 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 burpees, and 20 jumping jacks. Repeat ten times with little rest between rounds. Then jump rope a 100 times.

Should take you no more than twenty minutes. It's hard to get up from that one though.

I think that 1.5 hours exercising is a bit too much. Most people tend to recommend at most 1 hour per day, including warm-up (so this means 30 extra minutes of sleep :-)).

I think you'll find a wide range of times works for folks, depending on what sort of routine and exercise you do and stick to.

If you love road biking, you will probably spend more time exercising then someone who loves doing a lot of high intensity interval training and cross-fit style workouts, simply because of the nature of the workout. You can ride bike for 3 hours easy when you are in shape, but there is no way you can do intervals for more than 45 minutes unless you are nuts.

The advantage of Hacker News exposure: I bought the meditation package that Alex mentioned and the company that sells it just emailed me asking if I knew why they had just received a large number of orders in a very short time period. I let them know.

90 minutes gym sessions? That's ridiculous. 45 and you should be out of there! You're on the way to over train which will lead to negative results on your body. 45 max and you will feel so much more energized. Not to mention that there is no way a geek can keep up with 90 minutes of gym 3 or 4 times a week without loosing his mind and dropping the idea.

Also dropping carbs is a very bad idea, reducing it is good. But dropping them in the long term is going to affect your bone structure, the muscles will eat themselves for energy and you might land some heavy calcium supplementation in 20 years.

Also the fact that you're german/english does not explain a slow metabolism. Com'on. Have you seen europeans? Do they look fat to you? Generations of cold weather does not dictate your endomorphism. It's the food you eat, with bad habits and a high sugar intake that results in turning into a fat slob. Sure we all have genetic predispositions but it can be kept in the balance. Our bodies were never designed to eat what the american market has to offer.

Here's where I get 90 minutes: stretches, about 30 minutes on an elliptical, another 25 on an exercise bike, then weights, then crunches, then stretches. I mean 90 minutes for the entire gym-going process, not like 90 minutes of flat-out cardio or heavy-duty lifting. That would indeed be ridiculous for someone who isn't a professional athlete. Like I said, that routine works for me; it's what I need to feel like I got a good workout. But I also want to try other techniques. Part of the appeal of CrossFit is that you get a "better" workout in a shorter period of time.

You can find sources that say dropping carbs is bad idea, and you can find sources that say dropping carbs is a great idea. Again: it's what works for me. I'll still eat some whole grains and other "good" carbs.

If you noticed, the bit about the German/English heritage ended in a joke, suggesting that I was exaggerating a bit there. But since you bring it up: yes, I've seen plenty of portly English and German folks, and also some quite fit ones. Like you say, it's all about diet, and that's why I'm being careful about mine.

First, numerous studies have shown that combining aerobic and anaerobic exercise is less efficient than just doing anaerobic excercise. Combining the two makes the exercise worse, not better.

Second, assuming you can do at least 20-30 crunches in one set, (normal) crunches are basically a waste of time as the resistance is too small.

Third, that you feel you've had a good workout at the time you're doing it doesn't mean it is. For instance, sweat, tiredness, or an elevated heart rate isn't even an indication that you've actually had a good workout.

Just lift heavy weights. That's the most efficient use of your time and effort. Everything else you do in a gym can be good for the purpose of keeping you motivated, or whatever, but it's all quite a bit less efficient than just lifting weights. Keep it under 60 minutes, followed by intake of protein and carbs. The science behind this is well established.

Jack Lalanne does 2 hours a day and he is 95 years old. Short workouts are in vogue but hackers are so sedentary that 90 minutes seems like the minimum needed to offset 10 hours in a chair. I manage to do 45 min cardio + 45 min weights 3x per week, then 45 min cardio + 45min yoga or other stretching type thing 2x per week. Not a big deal IMO.

"Have you seen europeans? Do they look fat to you?"

Well you should check out this one, it seems Europeans are not that far behind...


In addition to the "zero work commute" lifehack another one I like is the "zero gym" exercise hack. The idea is you find ways to exercise (cardio, strength and agility) that don't require going to some fancy gym facility. Just exercise in your home, or near it, or in or near your place of work. The hack is that you cut out #1 the membership costs and #2 the time spent traveling to/from the gym. By cutting out the money & time costs you reduce the number of possible excuses you have for not doing it. Plus, you decrease the amount of non-productice/wasted time you spend each day. And if you save time driving to/from a gym, you also reduce expose to accident risk, reduce contribution to traffic, pollution, etc. as a bonus.

Just by the fact that you're in a body of fresh air (which is all that your lungs require), and in a gravitational field, and can move your body around (all your body/muscles require), there are plenty of exercises accessible to you. And they require no special separate equipment or paid services. Walking is dead simple, it's practical, you have to do it anyway, and it buys you a lot. Pushups are simple, they exercise a lot of muscles, require no fancy equipment, and buy you a lot of effect. Kicking. Lots of other motions and activities like this. I highly recommend people first try incorporating this sort of exercise into their life first, and only if that utterly fails for them should they consider moving on to a subscription-and-commute-requiring gym.

Oh it also has the benefit of requiring greater willpower and time management, so it has psychological self-improvement benefits as well.

For me, spending time with my kids (ages: 0, 2, 4) produces a similar results as exercise and meditation do for Alex:

  - "combats stress"
  - "always feel calmer than when I started"
  - "feel like I’ve got my head screwed on straight"
  - "makes my work time more productive"
YMMV, but this is what works for me.

When they hit 2/4/6 or 4/6/8 I'll be curious if you'll say the same thing. :) I know there are many parents who, after having to put up with kids and their behavior/mindsets long enough, without break, feel like they are starting to go crazy from the stress, headaches and heartaches they cause. Plus the guilt from having those negative feelings and reactions from their own children, so it snowballs and yo-yos even.

Just a small tip: don't stretch before strength training. You want the blood to remain in your muscles for the duration of your workout. Warm up by doing some cardio instead.

whoa this seems a bit dangerous and flies in the face of what we get drilled into us since children about weightlifting. Do you have any authoritative source for this?

Well, this is a bit of a fools' errand. I went ahead and searched google and found support for any conceivable position on the whole stretching situation. Anyways, this is what I was taught:


For strength training, there’s evidence that stretching before a workout is counter-productive. Strength training requires muscles to contract tightly against a heavy weight, and loosening the muscle fibres by stretching them first reduces their ability to do this. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warm your muscles up before strength training – just avoid stretching them first. If you want to include stretching in the same workout as strength training, it’s better to wait until after you’ve finished your weights work.

I typically warm up on the elliptical machine for 5 minutes and then for each muscle group I'm doing that day I start with a set of low weight/high reps to warm it up. After the workout I do stretch my hamstrings because I sit on my ass all day.

I have heard the same thing from other fitness nuts. I'm pretty into health and fitness myself. I'll try to find a reference. Cardio before and after to warm up and cool down your heart. No stretching before. Deep stretching after.

Look at results from this search: http://www.google.com/search?q=dont+stretch+before+weightlif...

Here's an example from : http://www.bodybuildingforyou.com/articles-submit/tanja-gard...

"For strength training, there’s evidence that stretching before a workout is counter-productive. Strength training requires muscles to contract tightly against a heavy weight, and loosening the muscle fibres by stretching them first reduces their ability to do this. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warm your muscles up before strength training – just avoid stretching them first. If you want to include stretching in the same workout as strength training, it’s better to wait until after you’ve finished your weights work."

[Note: I did not refresh the page and see that user naner replied similarly. May I say: great minds think alike! Haha.]

This is also a myth.

As someone who has trained a lot of regular people, some are incredibly tight, to the point that they will not be able to perform movements correctly without stretching prior to the workout. Sure, they don't stretch right off the bat--a 5-10 "active warmup" is great--but sometimes stretching before a workout is necessary. It's not like we're dealing with elite athletes here; no one on HN is going for an 800 lb squat. And even in that realm, Jim Wendler of EliteFTS.com recommends static stretching prior to workouts.

Even better than stretching or at least as good, which I don't think anyone has mentioned, is myofascial release. Basically it's a self massage with a lacrosse ball or a foam roller. Mix a little bit of this soft-tissue work into your regular stretching and you'll see huge results.

A good approach is to do an 'active warmup' - some light cardio, maybe ~5 min of biking or jogging, followed by a series of exercises done over ~20meters or so, going out and back:

pull your knee to your chest, quad pulls, lunges, high knees, butt kicks, shuffles, drinking birds, toe touches, karaokes, leg swings, others...

takes a little time, and sometimes looks a little funny... but is great for getting you warmed up.

Exercise is basic necessary maintenance required by the human body. You either do it and have a happy/healthy body, or you don't. Eating healthy is just as important, separated into two categories: overall caloric intake, and nutritional content.

Car analogies are a dime a dozen in computing, but they apply here as well. Not exercising is like changing the oil in your car every 10,000-15,000 miles, instead of every 3,000 - 6,000. Your car is still going to last years, but its lifespan will be shortened, and it's going to run poorly towards the end of it. The nice thing about a car is you can repair it, or buy a new one. Repairing a human is tricky, and you definitely can't buy a new one.

I'm absolutely baffled by those who put their careers or money at a higher priority than their own physical health. You really want to be rich and famous with a crappy body? Is type 2 diabetes, along with likely amputations, blindness, and erectile dysfunction, your thing? Looking forward to clogged arteries and heart disease? What about stroke, wiping away your ability to control your own body, or even being able to think or speak? Etc, etc...

I don't intend to be mean, but many American's simply don't prioritize their health high enough. People seem to have every excuse in the world not to do it, except for a good one.


True story. My brother is enrolled for his doctoral in physical therapy. He dissected cadavers (donated human corpses) during one of his classes. My family and I went out to visit, and he was able to let us look at one.

My father, who is about 30 pounds overweight in his late-50's, hasn't really cared about his health. He eats too much high-saturated-fat ice cream, puts cream in his coffee, likes cookies with lots of butter in them, etc... I've been trying to get him to eat healthier and exercise for years to no avail.

Well, my brother was having me hold/feel the heart from the cadaver (it was already cut out of the dissected body). I was squishing some of the arteries with gloves on, and my brother said "Try squishing this Coronary Artery. Sometimes it might be crunchy from heart disease."

So I did, and WOW! It was ROCK SOLID! So much calcium and plaque had built up inside this persons heart that it completely clogged the artery. It was as if there was a pebble-sized rock inside of it.

Of course, I forced my father to put some gloves on and feel it for himself. Well, that scared the SHIT out of him! These last few weeks since, he's made a decision to stay away from high-fat foods (and has been doing so - non-fat ice cream now, skim milk in coffee, etc...). He's also putting together an exercise room.

It looks like he's in the right mindset now, which is a very good thing! Sometimes the dagger of death hanging over your head is the best motivator. :)

I'm not a doctor. I can't help but notice that when you mention the things your Father eats too much of, the problem may very well be the high refined carbohydrate content, not the saturated fat. It could very well be that the combined presence of both is more detrimental too.

In any case, it would be wise to actually measure arterial plaque over time, and other risk markers (Lp-a triglycerides, C-reactive protein, homocystein, etc.), especially if he's starting into a dietary change.

Track these variables over time, and this should provide a good assessment of whether you've put him on the right path, or not.

Good point. From the literature I've encountered it also folows that nonfat icecream is not the solution, it's the problem.

You may be doing it worse by just avoiding fat. You should worry more about sugar, to begin with.

For a sobering look at the impact of dietary sugar in the American diet (particularly fructose), check out this informative lecture by UCSF Professor Dr. Robert H. Lustig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

(argues that current U.S. obesity epidemic is largely the result of low-fat, high sugar diet)

Wow, he claims the American Heart Association's PR campaign for low-fat diets is based on the classic "denying the antecedent" fallacy.

  1. Dietary fat raises LDL (A -> B)
  2. LDL correlated with heart disease (B -> C)
  Faulty conclusion: no A -> no C
I guess you don't have to study Symbolic Logic to get into med school. ;-)

Add to that "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes and that's a start!


Add to that Jamie Oliver's TED Award acceptance talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIwrV5e6fMY

Wow, thanks for all the links! :) I'll put some time aside later this week to watch up on them.


When I lost around 100 pounds years ago, I did it on a mountain dew and rice cake diet (not recommended). That introduced calorie restriction, and it worked. After losing weight, it eventually motivated me to find and eventually adopt a diet that was long-term sustainable.

Hopefully the path my father takes is similar. Step #1 isn't always perfect, but it's much easier to take a single step than it is to try and run up a flight of stairs.

A former roommate of mine did the same. He went on an all fruit and vegetable diet, going from around 280 pounds down to about 170. That "beginning" diet wasn't sustainable, but it helped him lose weight through calorie restriction. Now he's a extremely athletic cyclist, and eats a very healthy well-balanced diet. Step #1 wasn't necessarily perfect, but it eventually got him on the right track.


A lot of the hard research on refined sugar appears to just be coming into light. It'll likely take several more years/decades before its effects are truly understood. Human nutrition in general is AMAZINGLY complex, as there are so many variables interacting with one another.

I find it's best to question anything anyone says on the internet regarding nutrition. Ensure they cite sources, state their educational background, etc... Even someone who's a Doctor doesn't always know a lot about nutrition. Typically your best sources are people with PHD's in nutrition, active in the field.

Almost everyone on the internet doesn't fall into that category. So when you end up with is a lot of "snake oil" advice mixed in with the good. It's a tough problem that needs a solution: "Verification of the accuracy of online information." It extends well beyond nutrition and fitness. The solver of that problem has the potential to be larger than even Google. :)

I don't exercise for one simple reason - its a temporary solution to a permanent problem and as a geek I hate, hate, hate those with a passion.

I don't mind things that are hard, or things that are difficult or things that take a long time or even things that are all three; what I hate is things that doesn't last - once you learned to drive, you can drive, etc.

Combine that with the fact that it sucks doing exercise and you have the reason I don't do it.

"I don't exercise for one simple reason - its a temporary solution to a permanent problem"

Why are you viewing it as a temporary solution?

I'd agree that exercise binges to get into shape aren't ideal but generally what people are talking about is regular exercise which should be seen as an integral part of a healthy life style.

Exercise doesn't have to be sports or going to the gym, it can be walking or cycling to get about or in some other way swapping sedentary activity for something more demanding, but whatever you choose it should be seen as something long term and on-going.

Step back 50,000 years. Human civilization was extremely primitive and unlike anything in our world today. What was your day like? What did you do? What did you think about?

Most of your existance was dominated by finding food and eating it. Your job was walk/run around all day long, trying to find as much to eat, expending as little energy as possible. You might climb a tree to pick fruit, swim across a river towards a good fishing spot, run after and try to spear an animal, fight with other people and steal their food/have food stolen from you, etc...

Our bodies evolved for this type of work. Fast-forward 50,000 years to the present day, and you'll find we don't do anything like that anymore. My brother put it best:

"You wake up in the morning and get out of your bed couch, stumbling over to your toilet couch. After you get into your car couch and drive to work. Then you arrive at work and sit in your chair couch all day long. After work is done it's back to your car couch. Once you're home, it's off to your couch couch to watch some TV. When you're done with that, go to sleep in your bed couch. The cycle repeats."

So the permanent solution for our bodies is, simply, to be more active! Our advanced society has introduced the permanent problem, not our bodies. We're genetically designed to be active.


When I started exercising about 10 years ago, I picked running specifically because I hated it more than just about anything. In a few more months I estimate that I would have run approximately 15,000 miles since starting, which is about 3/5th's around the Earth.

How does one learn to enjoy something that one hates? You find the little things that excite you and focus on that. Eventually that snowballs into bigger and better things, and before you know it, you love something you use to hate. :)

If you ever decide to try exercising, I'd recommend finding a personal trainer to teach you the basics. There are TONS of different things to do. If you don't like going to the gym, try rock climbing, or mountain biking, or swimming, or anything that floats your boat! I "guarantee" that you'll find something that you'll like. The best part of all is after you start, it becomes addictive, and you'll wonder how you ever survived without it!

I don't exercise for one simple reason - its a temporary solution to a permanent problem and as a geek I hate, hate, hate those with a passion.

Breathing, eating - also a temporary solution to a permanent problem. It just takes more time for the problem of "not exercising" to reveal itself compared to the problem of "not eating".

Do you also not change the oil of your car, since that's just temporary?

This is a great article, very useful ideas.

I think that the last point he makes is probably the most valuable and one that I only just learned, that is to not worry if you miss a workout or two, or if you have that cake on the weekend every once in a while. I always used to set myself a very strict plan for whatever I was trying to do, and inevitably whenever I fell off I would feel like I failed and wouldn't be able to get back to it. I've recently started taking a more relaxed approach to my 'goals' and I feel like I've made much more progress, as long as the trend is in the right direction you're good to go.

It amazes me how stress can have physical, not just mental, effects. At the peaks of the stressful times I would get these really weird vague aches and pains. I saw my doctor (in the valley) and when I told her I was founding a startup she told me these were very common symptoms among our kind...

(granted my company was probably nowhere near as stressful as Twitter circa 2008-2009)

No mention of getting an adequate amount of sleep? Exercise makes me feel even worse if I'm not getting enough sleep.

I've spent the past two weeks working on-site at a client where I walk about a half mile each way to/from the office and another half mile to/from dinner, which is a stark change from my normal "get in the car and drive to work" routine.

Even this small change (which is paired with eating out and having a few beers each night) has allowed me to sleep less than I normally do, while staying just as alert throughout the day and craving caffeine less than usual.

I'll be going back home this weekend and I need to figure out a way to push myself to do some walking even though I'm not forced to. Hopefully my experience these past two weeks will be enough.

Radiolab's "Stress" episode (http://www.radiolab.org/2007/apr/09/) mentions rat studies in which experimenters made rats sick by subjecting them to extreme physical stressors (cold, treadmills, forcing them to swim for hours until exhaustion, etc.). Other rats merely had their food put out and taken away at the last minute a couple of times. Amazingly, the researchers could make the rats equally sick by simply frustrating them. I thought that was a powerful reminder of the real physical effects of stress.

You are so right. I have been in the space for 15 years. Started my career at Netscape and kept going to smaller and more edgy startups since. The most stressful episodes happened at dead-in-the-water memories like RealNames and OpenHarbor. Let's put it this way though, I have learned and I am proud to say that I am now a sustainable contributor. I can keep going for a long time but there will always be something crazy about working in any entrepreneurial setting that is both my engine and a best that has to be tamed or else...

One other thing that has helped me keep my sanity: wash and fold laundry service. You take your dirty laundry, put it in a bag, and they'll clean and fold it for a modest fee (the place around the corner from me is around $1.10 a pound). In urban areas you can find services that will pickup and deliver.

It's a luxury, but it isn't that expensive (especially if you typically rely on coin-op laundromats anyway) and it's one less thing to worry about.

Funny, for me it's the opposite. I've taken to kind of _enjoying_ folding laundry since I started working on AppStoreHQ. It's the mindless release that I need every once in a while.

I do laundry about once a week, and it takes about 2 minutes to load and start the washer, and after an hour (or whenever you get back to it) another 2 minutes to load and start the dryer. After that, you can just get clean clothes out of the dryer instead of dresser drawers. My girlfriend doesn't like this life-optimization.

the place around the corner from me is around $1.10 a pound

The pricing is based on weight? It seems to me that the time it takes to fold a pound of clothing varies dramatically based on the type of clothing...

But is it quicker to charge every customer the same rate per lb of laundry than to spend time analysing the laundry or ask your customers to pre-sort? I'd say yes.

Getting out for a 10-15 minute walk can work wonders for body and mind. I try to do that in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon to break things up and re-energize.

I go every day at lunch and workout for an hour. At first people viewed it as wasted time. Now about half my team leaves for an hour at some point during the day to workout. As soon as people feel low energy they leave. The change in their output has been remarkable. What we found was that people have low energy at some point and the change in energy level after causes them to be more productive and clear headed.

"I’ve found that time management has little to do with “lifehacks” and how you manage your email inbox and more to do with prioritization, saying “no” to people, and clearly communicating the expectations you have for yourself and others."

Well said.

For those interested in similar ideas regarding diet and exercise, you might enjoy http://www.marksdailyapple.com

Since he mentioned Krav Maga:


I'd add that it's a good idea to take it easy because it's never going to be less work, as DHH suggested at Startup School http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY

Been shopping for a martial arts school for the exact same reason - seems like a great way to add variety to what would otherwise become a dull workout routine.

"Taking in a brainy podcast at the gym combats that feeling."

Similarly, I find watching TED videos while lifting weights (at home) is a nice combination.

Great advice, although it could just as easily have been titled "Staying Healthy and Sane Under Emotional Stress".

Exercise (physical work) + diet (same organic food each day) + meditation + regime (the same routines each day) = monastery or village life in Asia. Why 174 up-votes for a turning back to the basics?

Stupid fucking down voters, you never have seen a Nepaly mountaineering guide, who are going to claim an above six thousand meters peak twice a week just as a routine, or Tibetan yakmen and horsemen, who just going several thousand meters up and down with their caravan, but you're so fast in pushing a buttons. The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn from the crow. ^_^

And don't forget to use streak.ly for all those habits you want to do daily ;)

"Streak.ly is coming soon."

Maybe you should promote it after it launches.

Oh, it's not mine. But in any case, I think there's a special invite link:


Why is HN so obsessed with exercise?

I'm quite happy as a lazy slob. I ran track and x country in high school, but I didn't like exercise then and I still don't.

I'm sure it would probably make me healthier, but it just isn't worth the discomfort to me. Stop making me look bad, guys.

I have never liked exercise, and I have never liked dieting, but I had a rude wakeup call about the wages of "curry and a fried porkchop" four days a week plus a sedentary lifestyle a few years ago. My physician said that, at that rate, I would be lucky to make it to 30, despite the fact that I was skinny like a beanpole.

So I started going to the gym. I despise actually being at the gym and exercising. But it makes me feel drastically better: I have more energy now, I get sick less, and my general comportment no longer suggests illness to friends and family. I even get more work done on days I go to the gym, since it refreshes my mental batteries and contributes more than a minute of marginal thinking time for every minute I spend there.

But even if the energy/health/acuity benefits don't do it for you, take a look around you at the people who would miss you if you were gone, and go to the gym for them. Aside from quitting smoking (don't smoke, but quit if you do!) it is the cheapest way to buy extra time with your loved ones.

Darn it patio11, from your startup to your insightful comments on HN and even healthy habits you're practically a poster on my mental wall of who I am working to be like.

I couldn't agree more though, I've been doing about 90 minutes a day of exercise. I wasn't completely out of shape to begin with but I feel much more alert and better throughout the day.

If you where thin, why would you die before you where 30? I mean, heart attacks, etc are all correlated with fat.

Not fat, clogged arteries. Skinny-looking people can have thinned arteries. This is mostly attributed to fats in your diet but also to your genes.

I shouldn't have to say this, but correlation != causation.

Did your blood test have high cholesterol or something?

I had full health work-up last year and everything came back better than ideal. And I get sick very, very rarely. I eat well; I just don't move around much.

Family history of $COMMON_FATAL_CONDITION plus a cholesterol reading that one should never have in a 120 lb 22 year old.

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