Balancing My Diet

(Personal note: I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. Between work, life changes, and friends getting married, I rarely had a moment to sit down and give you an update. I’m glad to be back on here, and I hope to keep this blog updated on a regular basis.  –D.T.)

In the past few weeks, I made small changes to my daily diet to reflect my renewed insight to health, especially after recovering from a shoulder/chest injury. (How did I end up injuring my shoulder and chest? Well, I learned the hard way not to do hindu pushups and overhead presses on the same day.) In the world of exercise and fitness, everyone is trying to follow one diet trend or another. Either they’re following the Paleo Diet, going vegan, or some other fad like eating 30 bananas a day. To be honest, recovering from an injury taught me something important: balanced nutrition is essential.

During my recovery process, I made a quick hospital trip to get examined. I had my blood pressure taken, and, to my shock, I was at 161/110. Thinking that it was because of my sodium intake (in spite of getting a decent amount of fruit in my diet and drinking water regularly), I made the resolution to go vegan. For 3 days, I kept my diet strictly plant-based, and in 3 days, I dropped from 289 lbs to 280lbs. That may sound good, but I was becoming easily irritable, and developing a case of insomnia on top of that. Also, my lack of protein was making it harder for my body to repair itself. The rapid weight loss wasn’t worth it.

The day I ended my vegan streak, the first thing I ate was a lean beef burger. I could feel the pain in my aching muscles melting away, as if that beef was the missing link from my recovery. Within 3 days, I put on 3 pounds, moving up to 283 lbs. Deciding to balance my plant-based nutrition with a small amount of animal-based protein (mostly chicken or fish), I kept a steady routine of eating at least 2 bananas and a salad (with a small cheat food like oatmeal cookies) during the day, and at night after work, indulging in a salad with a meat of my choice. By the end of one week, I had dropped 1 pound to 282 lbs. Keeping the regimen up, I dropped another pound, and as of today, I weigh 281 lbs, 8 pounds lighter than I was 3 weeks ago, and only 1 pound heavier than when I ended my vegan period. Keep in mind, this is combined with a steady exercise regimen that includes boxing, kickboxing, bodyweight exercises, stretching, and moderate resistance training.

With all the fancy gimmicks out there and people punishing themselves by denying themselves their favorite foods, the best way to eat is just by getting more fruits and vegetables in their diet, not forsaking pizza and burgers completely, but balancing their intake. In fact, the more I got into eating salad and fruits on a daily basis, the less I needed to eat pizza or burgers on a regular basis. And on that occasional cheat day, make sure you eat some fruit to keep your system craving healthy food. My last cheat day before my most recent weighing, I indulged in Taco Bell and Little Caesar’s pizza. I still ate a banana after my indulgence, and it kept me from getting too hooked on junk food. And I still managed to keep my weight going down.

So in the end, you don’t need gimmick diets to lose weight. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables along with a bit of protein, and you’ll be just fine. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(End note: Btw, if you’re wondering why my blood pressure was so high that day, it was an effect of my body recovering from the chest/shoulder injury. Once I recovered, my BP dropped down to a healthier rate. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, Traveling Without Moving

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Okay, this was a long time coming. Hurdles aside, reviewing this album was actually easier than the others, being that this album has a feel of being composed and produced with a commercial intent, but stays true to the band’s roots in spite of its mainstream aim. As with a lot of Jamiroquai fans, this album was the first one I ever bought, and this album remains the band’s most famous and remembered. This is Traveling Without Moving.

Kicking off the album is the band’s most famous song, “Virtual Insanity”. The song is a smooth commentary about society’s obsession with technological advancement and the side effects that come with it (i.e., isolation, tampering with nature, etc.). Nineteen years after this song debuted, the lyrics are as relevant as ever, and the music is still catchy as ever. It’s no wonder the song and it’s accompanying video won so many accolades in it’s day.

The rest of the album is a must for the years. While “Cosmic Girl” and “Alright” are standard dance fair, “Use The Force” is a catchy, upbeat motivational track, an anthem for believing in yourself. “Everyday” is a slow groove, very reminiscent of The Isley Brothers’ slow jams, from it’s smooth bass lines to the violins in the background.

As the album progresses, Jamiroquai manages to merge their preachy side with their disco side with “High Times”, a narrative of how a disco junkie, both in the dance sense and the drugs sense, is so immersed in the high life that it’s killing her.

One especially catchy track is Jay Kay’s dabbling in reggae with the easy going “Drifting Along”. It’s the perfect song for a lazy afternoon, laying wherever you’re laying. The title track is a brief, but catchy and upbeat groove that stays with you. Something else that stands out with this Jamiroquai album compared to their others is the presence of not one, but two Didgeridoo instrumentals, with “Didjerama” and “Didjital Vibrations”. This can easily solidify the comparison between Jamiroquai’s use of the Didgeridoo, and Earth, Wind, & Fire’s use of the Kalimba, in that both bands are fond of using exotic and traditional instruments to enhance the respective bands’ modern sounds; the didgeridoo originating from Australia’s Aboriginal tribes, and the Kalimba originating from Africa.

Overall, Traveling Without Moving is an album that hasn’t aged one bit since 1996, and is an easy pick for any music lover. Anyone looking to get into Jamiroquai will have no trouble enjoying this album.

Some High Rise Fun

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During a trip to midtown Manhattan, I stepped out onto 57th Street and 8th Avenue, looking up in awe. I had been away from Manhattan so long, I almost forgot the visual appeal of skyscrapers and high rises. The onlookers must have thought I was a tourist, the way I was in awe as I snapped these photos. I’m just a sucker for good architecture.

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Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, The Return of the Space Cowboy

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The same day I purchased Jamiroquai’s 1993 album, Emergency on Planet Earth, I also had the fortune of purchasing their 1994 follow-up, The Return Of The Space Cowboy. Amazingly, the first time I had heard of Jamiroquai was when this album debuted. I had the fortune of catching the music video of the album’s first single, “Space Cowboy”, on BET when I was 12 years old. Even then, I was hooked on the band’s sound, well before they eventually found massive success with their hit music video, “Virtual Insanity”, from their 1996 album, Traveling Without Moving. And while everyone has heard that album since that year, it can be said that only true Jamiroquai fans can say they’ve traveled with the “Space Cowboy”.

The band’s performance caliber had stepped up quite a bit compared to Emergency on Planet Earth. It could be said that the collective of vocalist/producer Jay Kay, keyboardist Toby Smith, bassist Stuart Zender, Drummer Derrick McKenzie, and Wallis Buchanan on the didgeridoo, had learned and maturedย  a bit between the two albums. The first single, “Space Cowboy”, an ode to weed (“at the speed of cheeba”), is a smooth, feel-good song to zone out to. The vibe smoothly transitions into a state of self-reflection with the second track, “Stillness in Time”, and revisits that self-reflection with “Light Years”, the latter track offering an uplifting hook to boot. (“Now I’ve got that sunshine in my life.”) Another change compared to Emergency is the presence of more love and relationship-themed songs, such as the broken heart anthem “Half The Man”, which reflects a man feeling that he’s missing his other half of himself after a breakup, and “Mr. Moon,” a lyrical plea to find that special someone, using the moon as a confidante for heartbreak.

The album does have it’s share of preaching, with tracks such as “Scam”, highlighting the common man’s economic struggle and the government’s efforts to tax the working class dry, “Manifest Destiny”, a somber reflection of the plight of the indigenous peoples of the world driven from their homes, and “Just Another Story”, a tale of a young man caught up in the drug game. The last song is as potent as Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City”. Much like Emergency, even the preachy tracks on Space Cowboy are catchy and infectious.

The Return Of The Space Cowboy is a great follow-up to Emergency on Planet Earth, and it’s a must for any true Jamiroquai fan. Of course, the strength of this album was dwarfed by the massive success of its successor, 1996’s Traveling Without Moving. Stay tuned for my review of that album.

Going Semi-Vegan

As of today, it’s been 10 days since I’ve gone semi-vegan. It’s rare to hear someone refer themselves as semi-vegan, because in this day and age, either a person is vegan or they’re not. I use the term semi-vegan because while my diet is mostly plant-based, I’ll allow myself some leeway with animal-based proteins. I estimate that my plant-to-animal ratio is about 9 to 1. That way, I can stay committed to eating fruits, vegetables, and legumes without kicking myself when I eat something like fish or eggs on rare occasions.

My primary protein comes mostly from kidney beans, which I’ve developed a great fondness for. Along with being a great source of protein and fiber, they’re able to fill you up without weighing you down. My favorite method of preparing kidney beans is to simmer them in tomato sauce, then mix them with my favorite veggie pasta. The pasta itself is a rotini made from pureed broccoli and zucchini. It hits the spot every time.

I’ve found that since I had drastically decreased my intake of red meat in favor of legumes and vegetables, my health has improved greatly in only over a week. When I weighed myself four days in, my weight had dropped 3 pounds, from 285 to 282. When I weighed myself today, I dropped another 3 pounds, from 282 to 279. I had lost 6 pounds in 10 days. This is because of a combination of my diet changes, combined with my increased frequency of exercising. I went from relying only on strength training to combining strength training, core workouts, and cardio in the form of kickboxing. I’m recovering a lot faster from my workouts, facing less fatigue, and getting more rest at night. I can honestly say it’s a direct result of my increased consumption of plant-based foods.

After this test run, I’m definitely staying the course. This won’t be a seasonal “beach body” thing like most people adopt. This is a lifestyle change. I’ve felt stronger and healthier in one week than I have the past two years. While I doubt I’ll ever be 100% vegan, I’m happy with the diet and lifestyle changes I’ve made so far. After losing 6 pounds in 10 days naturally, I know I’m on the right track.