Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Results!

Is it just me or is May the longest month in the year? This month, I challenged myself to drink nothing but water. No green tea in the morning. No wine at night. No beer after a hard day of labor. No Hendricks & Tonic at my favorite lounge.

I highlighted most of the challenging moments earlier this month but recently there have been some other key developments. Two friends from Seattle passed through Los Angeles to meet up for a drink at the Dresden. This normally wouldn't be so hard as I had mastered the art of going to a bar and not having a drink. (See: A Night at the Griffin) But going to the Dresden was different. The owner has taken a liking to me and had offered me a free drink on my next visit. Oops. A week ago I went to a brewery. Oops. Recently, I had the opportunity (twice!) to be a grill master. Hanging out grilling/barbecuing some meat to be consumed by my friends on a glorious Los Angeles day. I've waited for my turn at bat to hold the spatula in one hand, and a cold beer in the other. My time is now, could I really do it with a plastic cup of water? What about my image? My fantasy?!

Now imagine he's drinking Aquafina.

Okay, I'm not that shallow to give up a challenge over image, but I do need a lesson in self-control. The ambiguous ending to my last post lead to an outpour of responses. Two of my three readers asked me if I failed, the third confidently declared my failure. Was I able to resist the temptation of drinking wine in paradise? Could I resist smoothies made from fresh organic fruits and healthy supplements? Can one really work a day of hard manual labor and not unwind with a beer? If I succumbed to the pressure of friends and my environment, could you really blame me?

Result: PASSED

I could drink water forever.


The vocal response for this month's challenge has been polarizing. Avid water drinkers saw this as a breeze, while others labeled me as crazy for trying to go without a flavored or fermented beverage for 31 days. Turns out they were both right. The idea of just drinking water when you are thirsty is simple and easy. Drinking the RIGHT amount of water required to keep our bodies hydrated is easy especially if you already do that. What makes this challenge difficult is resisting the desire to have what you can't have, trying to develop a new habit and resisting peer pressure. And of course, I definitely missed my favorite drinks, but really it was only in social interactions or early mornings that made the challenge rough.

Drinking water, and more of it, had great benefits. I had more energy, I felt healthier, my meal portions were down, and I saved a ton of money. Interestingly enough, I found just as many studies and articles that downplay the importance of "eight cups a day" as I did touting the importance of enough water/hydration. I personally, will be drinking more water from here on out, but the biggest takeaway for me was my growth in self-control. Saying no to something my mind was telling me I wanted or needed. My current thought is that I can take the principles I practiced this month and apply it to other areas of life that need greater self-control. Hey, I might actually become a better person!

However, the million dollar question right now is, "what will be your first none-water drink?"

What would yours be?

Hydration Calculator

I've had to replace my morning tea with a morning glass of water. I've always drank some water during the day or just went without fluids. I've replaced my nighttime beverages with water. Is that enough? I've been looking into dehydration and the effects water has on the human body.

I've read some credible articles on why water is important to the human body, but also that the eight eight ounces a day is just a myth. I'll cover this more in the analysis at the end of the month, but one aspect all the experts agree on is that water and staying hydrated is very important, and the consumption of water depends on several factors. How much water should I be drinking? How much water should you be drinking? Very easy to determine with this: Hydration Calculator


Friday, May 27, 2011

Life in the Ranch Lane

I've spent the last week at the Ranch working for some longtime friends on their land. The experience alone was amazing and a challenge in and of itself. As a metropolitan, thinking of a morning "workday" routine would conjure up images of checking voice-mails, e-mails, and caffeinated beverage. Carrying large "splinter ready" wood posts wrapped in barbed wire up a small winding hill isn't the first task I'd imagine myself doing on a "workday", but that is what I did, and I loved it. The work causes a real sweat, but is often cooled by the spring breeze that covers the surface of the ranch. The work load included common tasks and projects for someone who has years or even months of experience working outside landscaping, on a farm, ranch or construction site.

To be given the opportunity to work in this environment for a few days for the first time in my life is one I will cherish. I was able to expand my skill set. Before now I had never mixed and poured concrete, dug trenches, worked a tractor, handled a chainsaw, weed whacked a small hillside, built a (proper and sustaining) fire, built a large cage for a chicken coop, used a table saw with ease or removed dry wall. These tasks were but just a few of the activities included in my adventure. Hanging off the back of a tractor as it climbed a steep, narrow, recently made trail up a mountain so we could begin construction of what will soon be a horse corral might be more thrilling than any roller coaster ride I've been on.

The work was hard but I had the energy and sustenance needed for each day as quality food was provided. Organic and raw foods. Meat from free range, grass-fed animals. Everything cooked to perfection. I'm sure you are thinking, "this week sounds pretty great. As long as you aren't a "girlie-man, where is the challenge."

Most mornings fruits or vegetables were turned into the freshest smoothies. After each day of hard work, the men would crack open a few beers. It was a Great Day For A Beer every day times 100. That however, is just the beginning.
The family, along with myself and another friend who came to work, would go to the beach to end the day with some surfing, talking, and a bottle of wine. Good wine. This family clearly has taste, and there is definitely no slacking when it comes to wine.

They all knew about my challenge, and respected it, but every time a non-water beverage was opened, made, or poured, a glass was brought out for me or one was offered. My friend, the same friend I visited in January, made an effort to get me to drink or go out of his way to explain how delicious the beverage tasted. If I declined, he had no problem having my portion. I told him to do his best to convince me to cave in. Much like January, he was very convincing and he wasn't alone. The man of the house, opened up a bottle from one of his favorite local vineyards, a 2008 Dierberg from the Drum Canyon Vineyard of Santa Rita Hills. "This one is for you Jonathan!"

I didn't want to fail this challenge but how often does an experience like this happen. Does a water challenge really matter?

Friday, May 20, 2011

April Challenge Update: The Early Riser

After accepting a job offer from Wedbush Securities it seems I will have to revisit the April Challenge indefinitely. Early indications show a 7AM start time.

While this would have been a daunting task years ago, after the April challenge, I know exactly what it takes to get up and get moving early. This time failure to succeed is not an option. Interesting how a motivator such as making money and responsibility changes things. Thanks once again for submitting that challenge Ben O! The benefits of challenging myself in April will no doubt help me out in the years ahead.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Night At The Griffin

For this first time this month, this past Monday night, I went to a bar. I walked straight to the bar and ordered a drink.

While driving to The Griffin, I practiced in my head what I'd say to the bartender. "Water on the rocks, served in a tumbler glass, with a lemon wedge, please." I normally stride to the bar top with Judi Dench like confidence, but I sort of just meandered over this time. When I finally got the bartenders attention I felt like I was ordering a drink for the first time in my life, or at least ordering a drink in a way never done before. My eye contact was weak and the following words spilled out uncomfortably:

"Can I have some water? In a tumbler glass and a woman ledge. I mean, woman ledge, I mean lemon...wedge." She replied with, "Is that it?" Thankfully, my friends spotted me and walked over so I could redeem myself by saying, "and whatever these fine folk want." Wait, they don't think I'm buying do they?

My friends and I don't typically go out on Monday nights, but it was the last night two of my friends & international spies, Dalton and Jessica, would be in town.

They commented on Living Challenged and mentioned they all discussed being as supportive as they could. They've always been very nice, but I informed them I want this to be a hard challenge, so please don't try to make it easier. Dalton quickly replied that he'd buy a round of drinks and one would sit in front of me all night.

Going out with that small group and only having water wasn't hard at all. Having the water presented like a type of drink everyone else was drinking might have played a role. Was it the appearance of fitting in that made it easier? I can surprisingly but honestly say, it was more of a challenge to refrain from having tea when visiting the folks. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with my tumbler glass of water. Also, Jessica had a glass of water with me. Are decisions easier when you don't have to make them alone? How often are decisions, even small ones, being made because of social interactions and/or environments? There is some interesting psychology here in the decision making process that deserves further investigation.

As for my international spy friends, it was a pleasure seeing you again, cheers, I hope your trip home went well.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stumble on My Trip?

Quick Mother's Day trip to the Bay Area included seeing some friends and family for the first time in nearly a year. The last time I took a trip this year, it resulted in my first obstacle and my first defeat by a challenge in January's Vegetarian Challenge. With less than a week into this month's challenge, I journeyed to the San Francisco Bay Area, my home away from home.

During the flight I was asked a simple question by the flight attendant - "What can I get for you to drink?" I had to think for a moment. My synapses fired and I thought about how I'd answered this question in the past.

At Age 10: "Your finest ale, ginger ale."

At Age 16: "Rum & Coke, just kidding, what types of juice do you have?"

At Age 21: "What type of beer do you have? Oh okay. Rum & Coke."

At Age 22: "What type of juices do you have? Vodka & Cranberry Juice, thank you. How much? Okay, I'll just have a ginger ale."

At Age 24: "Gin & Tonic, please."

None of those answer would fly now. But I'm going to treat myself, it is Mother's Day weekend right? "I'll have some sparkling water, thank you." Oh and how is it that special days have become weekends? Memorial Day Weekend, Mother's Day Weekend, Birthday Weekend. No. It's a day, twenty-four hours. There is no extension of special days to excuse for irrational or selfish behavior. (/end The Lonely Pie rant)

Can't say enough how nice it was to spend a few days with the family again, and everything that comes with it. Saturday night brought a fantastic Mexican dinner. "Want a sip of my margarita", says the older sister to the thirsty younger brother. "Straight edge, means I'm better than you", he replies after looking at her glass. The ice looked like it was having a pool party in her glass.

Sunday brought the always enjoyable Mother's Day Brunch Two-Hour Champaign Sailing Tour, wait what?! It would be this year that we decide to do something different and go on a sailing adventure around the bay complete with complimentary champagne! "Can I get you another bottle of water", says the sister, in a winning remark, right before the family unite their glasses in a cheer for Mother's Day.

Honestly, some champagne would have been nice, and it was the focus of the story as it is relevant to the challenge, but the sailing trip was beyond amazing & beautiful. The champagne aspect wasn't a big part of the sailing adventure, but it was definitely worth highlighting as it was an obstacle. I really wanted a glass, and it wasn't easy saying no. However, the family was together, having a great time, and my mom was happy. We all had a blast, we shared laughs, memories, and stories just like we always do. The important part of the day and of most gatherings is getting together with people you care about. My brother in law didn't have champagne either, but enjoyed coconut water, which I was offered, but I felt would still be a violation of the challenge. Doesn't matter if we have a brunch, go sailing, or go bowling - good times will happen.

I've returned home, and I've been invited to go out tonight with visiting friends. The journey continues...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Great Day for a Beer

Sunday began this month's challenge of drinking more water, drinking nothing but water. Sunday also came with the opportunity to help prep and paint a house in Palmdale, a community in the high desert region of the northeastern part of Los Angeles County. A great day of working outside with friends and family as well as learning about what it takes to paint a house. After a warm day of manual labor in the sun there is one beverage that reigns supreme over the rest.

Doesn't really matter what your brand of choice is. As a self-professed drink snob, this is the one occasion where drinkers of all types of quality can come together to enjoy a brew. This is also the one time when a lesser beer might even be more apropos. Why? Science.

I couldn't fail this challenge on Day 1 though.

After some hard work a few of us decided to travel into the mountains for an adventure. This adventure would lead us to the relaxing creek of Piru. With a cooler filled with chips, dried fruit, peanuts and some 'cold ones', four adventurers began the coolest Happy Hour in Los Angeles.
With our sore feet cooling in the creek, we laughed, we talked, we fished, we ate and we drank. What is it about being outdoors with your buds that makes a cold beer taste better?

Two great activities in one day, my first day of the challenge, that were begging to be capped off by a cold refreshing beer.

Did I have a cold one with my friends? Yes. But it was a different cold one.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Challenge!

Monthly Challenge

For the month of May, I will be abstaining from beverages other than water. Which means for the month of May, I will not have the following items (just some of my favorite items):
  • Green Tea
  • Hendricks & Tonic
  • Old Fashioned
  • Jameson
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Milk

Sounds easy? Try it with me then. I dare you. No coffee. Sorry soda-drinkers, put the can down.

During the month, I will attempt to keep the blog updated with obstacles I face, benefits to drinking more water, and maybe even a haiku, as I miss doing those.

After speaking with some friends about the challenge we've established that if it is customary in the United States to consume any questionable items with a spoon then it is okay. So, if I'm so inclined, soup and cereal would be fine. But if there is extra milk, cereal must be added. Whether or not a smoothies and shakes are also off limits was a subject of fun debate, but they are also banned.

If invited, I will still go to dinners, socials, and gatherings where various types of beverages are served, but during the month of May, I am drinking nothing but water.

Happy (Mimosa Free) Mother's Day!

April Results!

For the first "fan submitted" challenge I was tasked with rising each morning at 5AM and adhering to a strict schedule including a workout, a healthy breakfast, a shower, reading and meditation. Going into this challenge I knew that it would be essential that I go to bed at an early hour. On the second night of my challenge, I laid in bed staring at the ceiling unable to sleep. Don't get me wrong, I was tired and ready for bed. I did everything the experts tell you to do to ensure a great nights sleep. Avoid eating and electronic screens at least an hour before bed, read a book, keep the noise level down, and keep the room dark and cool, around 65° F or 18° C.

It was like the night before the first day of school, I couldn't wait to get up and continue this challenge which was going to change my life forever. I went to bed at a healthy hour, surely I'll fall asleep soon. Even if the clock said I wouldn't get enough sleep, I'd wake up and knock this challenge out of the park. Right?

Anyone that has lived or visited LA in the past year knows one of my favorite hang outs is the Dresden Restaurant, which features the live entertainment of Marty & Elayne. I had been looking forward to attending the 30th Anniversary of said performers for some time, and lucky for me it fell in the month of April. Surely, I could see friends, pay tribute, have one drink and be back home to answer my 5AM wake up call. Right?

Challenge Result: FAILED


Let me first start by thanking Ben O for suggesting this challenge. Not only was it timely, it was definitely challenging. This was the perfect challenge for April and if the 14th of Nisan means anything to you, you'd understand why. Every day I didn't get up at 5, it really hurt. Or when I'd get up at 5 but sluggishly move through the tasks, or not even try, it hurt. It hurt even more when people would ask how the challenge was going on days that I hadn't gotten up on time, but the days I completed the challenge, were the best days I've had in a long time. I got so much work done, I felt great, and my energy level was up. Unfortunately, this didn't happen every day.

But why didn't it happen every day? Burning the candle at both ends didn't help. I'm still noticing a lack of commitment. This was the month that I needed to push myself and that didn't happen enough. My sleeping behavior was too inconsistent. There was no strong habit of waking up at 5 established, and I confused my body with the irregular sleeping pattern. Even though I failed to complete the task every day, or even more often than not, I noticed some positive changes.

Every day my alarm went off at 5AM. The days I hit the snooze, I still woke up hours earlier than I had previous months, essentially giving myself more hours in the day to get the things done I seek, which was half of the allure to this challenge. I've changed my internal body clock. Naturally, I've begun to wake up before my alarm clock goes off and not only am I awake, I'm ready to start the day with a bang. Overall, my sleep habits have improved, so in that sense, I look at this month as a success. Will I try this again? Definitely. I'm going to try this challenge again, and the results will be different. I suggest you do the same. Here are some tips:

  • Set a schedule - will be much easier to wake up earlier if you have a reason to
  • Tell a friend - Being held accountable by friends/family is a very strong motivator
  • Keep a calendar - Tracking your habits, which days you get up earlier, which days you sleep in, is a good way to see if you need improvement, or where changes need to be made. (Credit Amy O)

I didn't wake up every day at 5AM, I didn't read as much as I wanted to, but I got up earlier, I read more than last month, and I had a great time at The Dresden supporting my friends.