Maybe the Optimization Bros were a little right afterall. Implementing some changes
Failed Health Plans After a stretch of health excellence I made a number of changes that have taken me the wrong direction
Feels Bad Man
My HRV is off a cliff (89 -> 69). Deep sleep way down (1 hour 30+ -> 45 mins). Lifts and running speed going in the wrong direction (-30% across the board). Screen time way up (45 min daily average to above 2.5 hours).
This post is an attempt to do a diagnostic snapshot and get back on track.
It’s really discouraging when you get awesome results. You get cocky and think you can layer in new things. Then, everything goes in reverse.
Sometimes with a codebase or trading strategy the best thing to do when stuff breaks is roll-back to previous baselines. Applying this to lifestyle and health.
I made some changes prior to this event and documenting what they are:
- Tried working in an office vs working at home. This created more friction for meal prep - especially with transit and clean up
- Gave up eating window partly bc of office commute (doing at peak sun was not viable)
- Added unplanned foods to diet. Main ones being PB2 powder, protein powder with Stevia in it. Random 3rd meal. Honey roasted penauts during travel.
- Started more frequent travel to NYC (relationship things)
- No longer have personal trainer that I had this summer in Vancouver
- Was unable to complete Friday, Saturday and Sunday workouts routinely
- Moved sleep time to 11:45 PM so that I could have the same sleep time every night with NYC travel
- Spending time in airports / airplanes end up scrolling a lot on the phone to kill time. Vastly overestimated amount of deep work I could get done
By and far the most important life change I made was regular travel to NYC over weekends. This was - for the most part - a big mistake. Inevitable large delays on airlines. Often times airlines have no wifi so there are productivity holes that force you to work more on weekdays to make up for lost time. Had to shift bedtime later to accommodate for travel delays / consistency with NYC social scene.
End up forming short term relationships that have chaotic follow on because you’re going back to Puerto Rico. I did not anticipate this and should have.
The second “meta problem” was that the non-compliance with Saturday/ Sunday workout plans made my entire diet /exercise plan more of a guideline than a strict regimen. This was not good. I think it’s far better to spell out exactly what you’re going to do rather than what you’re going to aspirationally do.
To do the amount of Cardio that I want to do along with the amount of weight training, I also split my exericse up into 2 sessions. This did not originally have a negative affect on HRV but it did when I started layering in late eating and losing control of my overall diet/exercise routine. Essentially I was operating in too much of a caloric deficit - and so would inhale like 400 calories, often at night - otherwise I’d get too hungry to sleep. The time committment was also too high to be sustainable, especially going into earnings season.
The other note here - is I’m still in optically very good shape. I think that’s also part of the problem. My secret KPI was my abdominal definition not my overall health metrics, but I know for sure that the health metrics are the first thing to go as the workout intensity and energy levels are dropping far before physiological changes kick in.
So just going step by step rolling back changes:
- Halting routine travel. I’m stopping traveling to NYC every weekend. This has some painful relationship consequences. It is what it is. My priorities are building my start-up with my constraint of health not living it up. It’s ironic that I’m writing this after a piece called “Utility gaps” where I thought I had it all figured out but biometrics don’t lie. My hypothesis was that greater joy/diet variety, and socialization would send my biometrics in the right direction and the opposite has been true. When you treat NYC as a ‘transactional place to have fun’ you inevitably treat its residents as ‘diversions’… which is just kind of a crappy way to be as a person, and has consequences if you can’t actually behave that way. And then when you try to “fix that” your time allocation to relationships goes way above target.
- Roll back sleep time to align wake up with sunrise. The end of NYC travel will allow me to roll back my sleep time to 10:00 pm from 11:45 pm which will allow me to wake up in time for sunrise. This will A] allow me to kick the can on improving the black outs in my room which is surprisingly hard bc PR is extremely bright and contractors are a nightmare (even a tiny gap in a black out results in the entire room lighting up). B] Allow me to walk on the beach when it’s 80 degrees as opposed to 89 degrees near dinner. I want to note here that I think PR is a great deal and continue to be grateful for opportunity to be here, but meshing it with health is definitely a challenge.
- Get rid of office, enhance work from home set-up. Got rid of my office and moved my 4 screen setup back home. This has required me to install a Starlink internet backup and get another long lasting battery. Also need to install some air filters at home
- Consolidate gym time into 1 session (was 2). I think timing wise I need to bite the bullet and consolidate my gym sessions. My work intensity is too high for 2 separate 1 hour sessions - especially going into a critical earnings season. I’m going to severely ramp the heart rate of my cardio from 150-160 bpm for 1 hour to well above 180 for 30 mins which means either 10+mph running or high intensity elliptical. In order to have energy to do this I am going to need to have sugar - likely gatorade during my weight lifting. Studies show that evening workouts drastically outperform morning workouts and I tend to believe this - but for me I think strength starts picking up in the afternoon so going to move workouts to then. Think move dinner back to 3 or 4 pm to allow longer time to digest food before sleep and completely stop consuming liquids foods after that.
- Sign up for mobility classes. I think it’s unlikely I can get a good personal trainer in Puerto Rico who is on par with my trainer in Vancouver in any reasonable proximity to my house. However - my mobility is terrible and because the Saturday workouts are core focused anyways I’m going to force myself to go to Yoga and/or pilates classes on Saturdays. This should focus on the same muscle group as my earlier workout. I also want to explicitly train running on weekends as it’s fundamentally different from my elliptical sessions.
- Replace 1x/ week miscellaneous weight workout with high intensity running training. Sunday - once again, spending the entire time core training seems like a waste of time (not to mention I’m not implementing it) and isn’t giving me enough muscle recovery so I would rather explicitly make it a cardio training day with 3 miles of running and 30 mins of intense cardio plus stretching. This is more in line with my Vancouver schedule with 5 weight training sessions a week and cardio on weekends
- Be explicit with the third meal. I want to be a lot more explicit about 3rd meal. I started eating meat again and that caused a large ramp in my HRV. But the meat meals are not spelled out anywhere on my website. So my standard meat meal is grilled fish, chicken or steak served on top of salad with granny smith apples and some walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette. An alternate third meal is a protein /fruit infused Frozen Yogurt. I have both a froyo machine and a yogurt maker. My final third meal option is a peanut / chili / vinegar Chinese themed grilled fish/chicken served with green beans. This adds some variety. I’d also note that Chinese vinegar is not sweet like Balsamic is, which is +ev.
- Adding low sodium bone broth to “Super Veggie”. This adds protein, and delicious flavor. With some cardamom and coriander - my lentil broccoli cauliflower puree ends up tasting like mulligatawny soup.
- Cut sugar from PB powder. I really like peanut butter powder. And so it drifted into my diet without being tracked. However existing PB powder brands have added sugar which is unacceptable from a longevity perspective. So I have ordered some sugar free peanut butter powder - which I’ll sweeten as needed with monkfruit. It has great macros and I really like the taste of it which should keep diet compliance solid.
- Removing “nut protein pudding” and replacing it with grapefruit+nut dish given added protein in 3rd meal. I’m also making some changes to my shakes. My morning shake I vastly prefer with yogurt. And I was having - essentially another shake with “nutty pudding” which is too much. I still want to have nuts / berries in my diet but don’t need that extra protein if I’m having a 3rd meal with meat in it. So I’m swapping out my “nutty pudding” dish with grapefruit, berries and some chopped almonds topped with cinnamon
- Remove bad sweeteners, replace with Monkfruit. I’m booting Stevia and have replaced it with Organic Monk Fruit powder. Monkfruit has been shown to not vastly accelerate cancer cell growth, whereas Erytriol and Stevia have. I’m not yet willing to stop sweetening things - especially with cocoa powder in them
- Keep it real. The only way I can possibly do enough hours of work and keep my sleep schedule is by seriously dialing back relationships and social commitments. If we’re being real, if my new company is a success lots of people will want to be my friend. It’s a rather dark vignette but when I got essentially booted out of my company and wasn’t making money trading, most of my old friends ditched me or I couldn’t afford to hang with them in the various situations they were involved with. So I became totally isolated. As soon as things started getting financially better, I got plenty of friends and became less lonely. I had time to go to the gym and it was much easier to date. So I’m - at some level - willing to underwrite a large amount of loneliness/pain if it’s in service of a large scale corporate success which I think I have here (more on that in separate thread)
- Ramp Spanish study. Socially and in terms of neuroplasticity, learning Spanish better is a much better risk reward bet than traveling to NYC regularly. This should also enhance my personal safety in Puerto Rico and make me less likely to generate negative sentiment among locals especially in an economic downturn which I now view as incredibly likely. To this effect I’ve purchased the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish which I’m working through.This should also offset some of the social downsides as I’ll make friends locally more easily. I’ll time this along with a beach walk.
- Drawer the phone post 4 PM. Finally - going to “drawer” my phone after market close. The primary use of my phone is for log ins and high urgency market communications / phone calls. I also use it to read books. To this effect I’ve purchased an Amazon Kindle and loaded it up with books. This way I’m not reading on an addictive device.
- Increase the amount of tracked sleep. Go back to wearing an Apple Watch when sleeping. I stopped wearing it which has hindered deep sleep tracking and improvement strategies. I don’t really believe that Oura or Whoop are going to compete with Apple on health stuff long term so don’t want to adopt those product sets.
- If you’re going to be explicit about a program it’s important that you do everything in the program. If you aren’t going to do something you need to remove it and replace it with something doable otherwise the entire program suffers from the idea that it’s “optionally compliant”
- Regular travel (2x+ per month) isn’t a tenable strategy for health optimization. Thus - in my case, where travel is very much part of island life - and US presence is very much discouraged (for Puerto Rico tax considerations) - I need to build out travel options that are longer term, and ex-US. The pernicious thing about regular travel (especially leisure travel) is that you turn people in places you’re traveling to as “elements of leisure” which does not respect their agency or humanity. I think keeping in mind the stereotype of the shady middle aged dude doing sex tourism in Thailand, or the divorced desperado woman doing sex tourism in Europe trying to “find themselves” are not things that are admirable or worth pursuing
- Processes should be robust to randomness. Travel delays and the need to account for them spiral into all sorts of areas, like forcing a change of bed-time which then bounces into the time of day you can walk outside being too hot. Similarly - diets should be constructed with compliance in mind.
- Romantic relationships with other people aren’t robust to randomness if they’re long distance. You can’t maintain long distance relationships without extensive travel and random variables (such as them needing your support in person, or needing to change travel plans for work). I now can say this with a high degree of confidence - which perhaps sounds inhuman, but it would be more inhuman to keep air dropping into unsustainable interactions - a form of bad faith. It might work for other people but long-distance relationships + startup for me do not seem realistic.
- Concepts sound cool but data speaks and ignoring it is the path to doom. I had all these big picture ideas about how Bryan Johnson’s Blueprint was overly restrictive and didn’t allow for enough joy, etc etc. But when these ideas met the quantitative reality of health tracking they simply did not hold up. This is true of many types of investing and trading ideas as well. What sounds good often does not actually work.
- You have to be able to answer “what gives” if you’re doing a start-up. Realistically doing a start-up along with any other large commitment is too extreme such that you won’t be able to layer on a third thing. For Elon - he ends up running with nuking his sleep, so he abandoned the health constraint but seems to manage having a lot of fulfilling relationships and children. Other entrepreneurs keep their health and start-up but can’t have robust social or family lives. I think it’s important to identify what you’re willing to sacrifice up front so you don’t inadvertently take on too much and then incur costs rolling back commitments.