Leading guidelines for an optimal diet

How do you define an optimal diet? A diet that increases well-being and longevity. Are there objectively measureable nutrients which you should look out for? Calories, Micro-nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants etc. are all things we can measure today in a food. But there are big differences between what we can measure in the lab and what ultimately happens in the human body.

Dark and intense colors are an indicator of antioxidants

I recommend to trust our senses in choosing between different options of natural food sources. It is best to go for the vegetables with the brightest and most intense colors, the most complex flavors and the greatest aromas. Going this route will lead us away from animal foods and towards a variety of wild plant foods. Wild edible greens, flowers, fruits and berries provide the greatest amount of beneficial micronutrients. Our domesticated vegetables on the other hand maximize calories and weight over flavor and nutrition. Because that is what you usually pay for at the grocery store.
So the best solution would be in my opinion to collect most of your green vegetables and salads directly in nature and add in more calorically dense foods like nuts, seeds and root vegetables from the store. Get yourself a comprehensive guidebook which you can take with you when you go out collecting edible plants. I can recommend this one in german language.

One of my favorite meals is the following green super-food smoothie:

  • Wild edible greens               100-300g
  • Frozen spinach                     100gr
  • Spirulina                               10gr
  • Wheatgrass powder              10gr
  • Cacao powder                      5gr
  • Flaxseeds                             10gr
  • Nuts or seeds                        20gr
  • Banana                                 100gr
  • Dates                                    15gr
  • Stevia                                   1 tablet or drop
  •  Lemon (with peel!)              1 slice
  • Ginger                                  10gr
  • Beet juice                             100ml


I recommend blending the greens first, with as little water as possible. Later add the powders, flaxseeds and fruits and blend a second time. (In a high speed blend I blend for 30 seconds twice.) That way you are not left with any big chunks of the tougher leaves.
In this way you will maximize your nutrition while reducing your grocery bill. Because if you wanted to buy the same amount of nutrition from the store you would have to buy much larger quantities of the vegetables that usually sells there. But you can also find exceptions like kale, red cabbage, some broccoli-types and spinach.
You can also start to grow your own highly flavorful vegetables. Try out some different herbs in the smoothies or salads and you will discover that they greatly increase the variety of flavors.
If you want dive deeper into the topic of optimal nutrition for longevity, I recommend the book “How not to die”. There you will find the scientific background on which to decide what food are healthy and nutritious and which are not. I would like to point out though that these studies usually focused on foods that are available at grocery stores. So you will not find many nutritional studies on wild edible plants in that book as well. But I guess it is save to estimate that many wild plants have similar nutritional density to the commonly consumed herbs like rosemary, oregano, marjoram, peppermint or berries like goji, acai and amla. As these foods have the highest concentration of antioxidants, we can assume that highly flavorful wild plants have similar properties.

Why strive for such a diet?
Increasing the nutritional density of your diet will make you feel energized and all around better. Your mental and physical capabilities are certain to increase. As a reader of this blog I guess you are interested in achieving higher spiritual and personal goals, you are generally interested in learning and improving your life. This is a great challenge besides the daily hassles and duties you likely have to fulfill. Therefore it is wise to fuel your mind and body only with the greatest fuel available.

Only then can you truly maximize your potential. You will feel the effects on your mood - you are able to treat the people around you in a nicer, calmer and more understanding way. That’s when you can really appreciate and see the effects of a highly nutritious diet. You can design a diet that is so off the chart amazing and nutritious that you will feel so alive it is incomparable to any standard modern diet. Once you have experienced the effects of such excellent nutrition, there will be no chance you want to go back to eating processed food. It will instantly increase your capacity to practice things like all day awareness, mindfulness, meditation and concentration. Eating becomes one more aspect of your life where you act with full presence and mindfulness. While eating the most nutritious and flavorful foods it is impossible not so savor and mindfully appreciate every bite. Your taste preferences will change within the first two weeks and afterwards you will like natural levels of sweetness and bitter tastes.

Our modern health challenges show us clearly three things. We are not adapted to calorically dense food because we can become overweight, which has health consequences. We develop inflammatory diseases, which develop because of a nutrient and antioxidant poor diet. And lastly we are not adapted to properly judge our caloric requirements in a sedentary environment. We were used to get a lot more daily exercise.

Two ratios are out of balance:

  • caloric intake and caloric expenditure
  • micro-nutrient intake to micro-nutrient requirement

What role do animal product play in a diet focused on high nutrient density

The most basic problem with animal products in that scenario is the relatively low concentration of secondary micro-nutrients and especially antioxidants in combination with a high concentration of calories and protein. Those circumstances make it really difficult to argue for the inclusion of animal foods. To the contrary certain amino-acid (like Methionine and Leucine) and fatty acids and cholesterol are likely to have negative health implications. The opinions, whether such nutrients are good or bad for our health, diverge. So it would be saver to eat the foods where there is no such consensus among scientists. And those are antioxidant rich plant foods. There is no consensus about whether such foods are healthy or not. The more antioxidants a natural food contains the better it is for our health in general. This goes even so far that a variety of plant foods are so rich in antioxidants that they have historically been used as medicine. An example is the indian gooseberry called amla. It is most antioxidant rich plant food discovered so far and has a long history of medicinal use for a great variety of ailments.


Animal foods can certainly have a place in a healthy diet. But in a very limited quantity and they must come from the cleanest sources. Because toxins accumulate upwards throughout the food-chain.

The greatest obstacles to early retirement - and how to overcome them

Why are so few people actually retiring early? I think the answer lies in our fear of the judgement of others. We are judging our own actions by what others might think about us. Cultural stigma becomes internalized and we fear the judgements of others. Workless people become stigmatized. Associations with a certain character-type arise and they are judged as less valuable.  Even though this is only true for a minority of people, many people carry these false beliefs. And in unnecessarily keeping to our jobs or compensating with increasing our consumption we reinforce those believes.


Think back about a time when you had much less money available for spending or consuming literally unnecessary products and services. Some of you might have to think as far back as early childhood, when everything you could afford to buy each week was a bag of mixed sweets for example. Or you might think back of the time when you were studying. And others might just be working to make ends meet anyways. But when you imagine yourself being again in the situation where you earn or get only what you really needed and it was socially accepted. No one would say a child is poor because it only gets what it needs through his parents. Children are perfectly capable of being happy without ever considering their financial situation. Similarly it is socially accepted to be a student, who barely gets by, lives in a shared apartment and eats mostly pasta or rice.

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The picture changes when we are earning an income which allows us to buy more than we need. In todays world it is oftentimes difficult to find a job which offers just the amount of work and salary that would be needed to cover ones needs. Therefore most people are stuck working in a full time job earning more than what they needed at others times when they had less money at their disposal. So if you are mostly unconscious about your financial goals, than it is likely that you will be influenced by culture and advertisements. Ultimately this leads to a slow but noticeable increase in spending, called lifestyle inflation. You end up buying bigger apartments, bigger cars, bigger TVs, more exotic vacations, gourmet foods,…
And in doing so most people do not notice that they are not any more happy than at times when they had less money to spend. On the contrary, anxiety about losing the job or the money and depressive moods become more frequent.
Therefore the greatest obstacle to early retirement does not lie in our own capabilities or in the financial market. It is purely driven by unconscious decisions that are influenced and reinforced by the actions of other people around us. Stepping out of this cycle of lifestyle inflation requires conscious thought and action against what is cultural and social norm.

This one mental thought (how you think others will think of you) might actually be the reason you have a hard time quitting your job when you could from a financial point of view. Spending the money you earn will become more appealing, because it justifies your decision to stay at work for longer. But I argue that one should not fall into that trap and actually quit full-time work.

You can only become a well-rounded and mentally developed human being by quitting the dependency on work to hold up your image of self-worth. Giving meaning to your life outside of work and being fully confident in doing so will develop your personality in ways conventional employment never can. Employment keeps you comfortably enslaved and acts as an easy escape from confronting necessary personal and spiritual growth. Being told by others what to do with you most precious resource (your life-time) will hold you back from searching and discovering your own purpose. Realizing your highest personal potential is possible with the free time after quitting full time work. When financial independence is realized one can actually pursue personal development or enlightenment to a degree necessary to reach high states of consciousness.  This is possible because the security needed to pursue such a non-financial goal is already achieved.

Coming back to the reasons why this path is so uncommon and hard to step on in the beginning, let us dive into the aspects of personal connections. Spending years and most of your active waking hours in a social construct called companies, held together by projects, salaries and social connections, it is hard to imagine a better alternative. From personal experience I can say that this situation is likely to lead to a neglected social life outside of work. Even though people are socializing(mostly on the weekends) outside of work, social connections do not develop to the level as they would when human beings spend a lot of time together working on the same projects, having the same goals and ideals. The profound difference to the work environment here is, to choose those people yourself, according to your personal preferences and character. If you are able to develop deep and meaningful friendships with the people at work, you can call yourself lucky and is likely to be an exception rather than the rule.

But many people stay at their jobs because they have largely lost or never had such meaningful relationships to other people. And staying connected to anyone through the means of a job is better than being totally isolated. Because we do not have much to fall back on when we are outside of work, we cannot see a better alternative to work. 
To prepare for quitting your job, it is good advice to start building a reliable community of people, which you value, like to be with for extended periods, can trust and ask for advice.  To make this possible, a shared goal, which serves as a basis for common actions, is highly helpful.
(As a side note: That is exactly the reason, why I think that freely chosen living-communities can be a good place to look for such kind of human connection. They are becoming increasingly popular in alternative circles. Their intend is to replace the big circle of families of the past, where at least three generations where living together in one place, sharing their work and common goals.)

Next obstacle to early retirement and a work free life is that we lack sufficient social structures outside of work. Or to be more precise, deliberate social structures need to be consciously established to replace work related relationships. 

My advice is to prepare oneself with the following points leading up to the planned retirement date:


  1. If you are not sure that you will have enough social relationships after quitting work, start to look into alternative ways of living. WWOOFing or volunteering in communities or shared living projects can be a great way to look into such lifestyles without additional cost. You can already plan this during your regular holidays. If you are open minded to meet people who are living an alternative lifestyle and are prepared to have your beliefs challenged this can be a great opportunity to test a life not centered around consumption and the distraction of the city.
  2. Have a clear idea about the sum of money you need and calculate the date of retirement based on current income and savings rate. Stick to this goal and do not come up with excuses why you might need additional money in retirement, or any just in case ideas. It is more likely that you will end up earning money after retirement. You might find it interesting after a while to look into several part time jobs and earn money on the side. And earning a small sum of money per year is ultimately more efficient than building up the capital to earn that extra income. This is different from building up the foundation of financial independence through savings. Only with that safety are you really free to choose your own time.
  3. Avoid lifestyle inflation. Really evaluate every purchase. Will it increase your long-term happiness or is just a short term fix. Try to put every item on a wish-list for 30 days before buying. During that time, recognize how often you need or miss it. The habits, skills and character traits you build through this action are more important than the money you save along the way. You need to live the lifestyle and on the budget you later intend to spend. Otherwise you will struggle to stick it.
  4. Do not tell anyone around work about your goals. Not many will understand why you choose not to live the typical earning-spending lifestyle. Therefore think about with whom you share your goals. This will make it much easier.
  5. Increase your range of basic life skills. You do not want to stop working and still be completely reliant on money to cover your needs. The more skills you learn and the more you can provide for yourself, the less money you will need. As basic skills I count gardening and growing your own food. Start with the most expensive ingredients like herbs and then vegetables. Do not start with potatoes. Manually they are a lot more work compared to what they cost at the store. But squashes and berries are easy to grow. Then learn how to repair the items you use and how to maintain your home. With the free time you have there is no excuse not to do most of the work yourself. Learn a skill once and then you can even help out in your community and might even get paid for it. Transportation can also be covered by your own means. Stay in shape and ride your bicycle almost everywhere, adventure into hitch-hiking, etc.
  6. Gather a list of things which you would like to do after you stop working. This will keep you motivated and also serve as a replacement for the time formerly spend working. It will take some time to mentally adjust to the lower pace of life. When you have all the time of the day to yourself, you will probably not always have something to do. Plan for more idle time and prepare your mind with a regular meditation habit. There is nothing more intimidating than being confronted with the task to find a life purpose totally unprepared. This might even lead to depression because you have been thinking, quitting work will make you happier.
  7. Accustom yourself with the thought that you can never plan for all insecurities. As you cannot plan and erase all threads during your working life, likewise you cannot for retirement. The market might develop differently than in the past and this could turn out negatively. You can find comfort in the thought that, if something really big happens, you will not be the only one who is affected. And with the basic and broad range of skills, which you will have acquired until then, you will be much better prepared than the average office worker. Finding work again should be easy and come naturally if you are living amongst and in exchange with other people.
  8. Start developing a greater goal for your life outside of work. The easier task is to keep busy, but it is a greater challenge to find an overall life-goal which is meaningful. A goal that puts the all other activities in context. This is what makes for a successful life. Following a proper life goal will make you grow personally as well.

Can cheese be healthy?

After experimenting with many different diets and eating patterns, I have found my most favorite diet. I feel best, when I eat one meal in the evening, consisting of a raw salad, followed by steamed vegetables and most of my calories coming from nuts. I make the salad-dressing out of blended nuts and use nut-butter as a dip for the steamed veggies. Every day I also sprinkle about 20-30grams of ground flaxseed over my food. That way, I end up with about 50-80gr of carbs which are very slow digesting and therefore my insulin levels should be very low for most of the time.


But in the past I have also encountered one problem with this diet. I lose too much weight. Insulin levels might be so low all of the time, that it just does not allow for major muscle growth. In general intermittent fasting, caloric restriction and a plant-based diet all reduce circulating IGF-1 levels. In general this is good if you want to increase longevity. But on the other-hand too low levels of IGF-1 might cause slowed tissue-repair and reduces muscle-mass. This goes hand in hand with my experience: Sometimes I have sour muscles after a workout for up to a week. This is definitely not what good recovery looks like.

Why dairy and no other animal products?

So my idea is to include dairy (I will start with goat and sheep milk) into my diet. Dairy is well known to cause an insulin spike even without carbohydrates. The proteins in milk are the cause for this and also have an impact on IGF-1 levels as they are high in leucine. I choose to include dairy over eggs because milk is comparatively low in carnitine and choline. Those two amino-acids are problematic because the gut microbiome and then the liver will convert them into a carcinogen called TMAO. Recent research has shown that this substance might in fact be the reason why animal products can cause cancer and heart disease and not the saturated fat or cholesterol content. Therefore eggs and meat are problematic. Dairy on the other hand does contain very low levels of both amino-acids. Cheese contains 15mg of choline per 100grams, whereas 100grams of fresh egg already has 251mg of choline. The level of choline in eggs is 30 times higher than in cheese when compared on a caloric basis.

For the purpose of including a calorically dense food that increases insulin and IGF-1 without carbohydrates, I will choose goat-milk in the form of well-fermented cheese for the beginning. In my opinion this is the least likely to cause allergic or otherwise negative reactions for two reasons. Firstly goat milk is less allergenic than milk from cows containing a certain type of casein.


Goat-milk from grass-fed free-range sources is the most ethical animal product?

For many years I have spent my summer-holidays hiking in the mountains of Switzerland. There you will see large areas of forest-free pasture where many goats, sheep and cows are grazing. The areas are oftentimes too high or too steep for any other agriculture to be possible. The only way to produce any form of food from these areas is to use them as pasture-land for animals and use their products. I have seen the cows and goats go to the milking stations on their own without any stress or resistance at all. Many newborns are among the animals and you can observe that only the additional milk is taken for human consumption. This resembles the ideal of animal treatment and how to obtain milk. So by buying free-range milk from that area I am sure it is produced in that way.

Efficient metabolism of cheese when on a high fat low carb diet

The high fat content and absence of carbohydrates in cheese fits well into my dietary regiment. On a high carbohydrate diet the inclusion of animal fats might be problematic. So the common combination of bread and cheese is likely to be suboptimal for health. A high fat intake is known to suppress insulin sensitivity. That means the same amount of carbohydrates requires a larger amount of insulin to enter the cells. With a (very) low carbohydrate intake this is not a problem, as there is little glucose which needs to enter the cells. Secondly the high saturated fat content of milk is good addition to the mono- and poly-unsaturated fat I am mainly getting from nuts and seeds. This keeps the overall level of omega-6 fats lower and in a desirable range.

First benefit of cheese consumption

After the first two days of incorporating cheese into my diet, I observed the first benefit of doing so. On a low carb diet, I am still struggling with muscle twitches. I have them whenever I eat less than about 70-100gr. of carbohydrates per day. But after the meals that included some goat-cheese, I observed a decrease in this phenomenon. I usually have the twitches all over my body. My theory is that it is caused by low insulin levels. Without insulin some nutrients cannot enter the cell so readily and maybe my muscles lack magnesium. Dairy-protein is known to cause an insulin-release, which might just be what I need, when I eat my one meal a day after fasting for about 23 hours. I guess there must be a balance in hormones over the course of the day. It is good to have low insulin most of the time, but while eating there should also be a spike in insulin so that the nutrients can enter the cells. And with a plant-based low carb diet, the insulin-release might just not be sufficient to absorb all the nutrients in only one meal. Therefore I will continue to observe the effects of dairy on this regimen. Should the muscle twitches not get better over time (after inner-cellular magnesium levels had the chance to increase) I will switch to a higher carb content of the one meal coming from fast acting sources like white rice.
But so far I want to stick with the high fat diet, because it seems like starches aggravate my scalp psoriasis.

Results: Two weeks of including cheese in my diet

I can certainly say that my body has adjusted to eating certain kind of cheeses and also the aged cows milk cheeses. I could observe that it caused me no problem at all. But an experiment with eating yogurt did result in some digestive issues. I would guess that store-bought yogurts are not thoroughly fermented.  Sudden changes in my carbohydrate level will still results in those mysterious muscle twitches. Whenever I have days where I eat only nuts, seeds, a little cheese and vegetables, they will come back. I have found that I need at least 70-100 grams of net carbs per day to prevent those twitches. In the beginning the cheese seemed to stop the twitching, but I would guess that this came from the higher protein content which my body converted partially into glucose. With a low protein intake of around 50-70gr per day, I need more carbohydrates to compensate. If I add up those numbers, I am still eating a high fat diet. Compared to other low carbohydrate dieters, who consume a lot more protein, my combined protein and carb intake is on a similar level. It is common for ketogenic or low-carb dieters to consume more than 100gr of protein per day and up to 50gr of carbohydrates. So total calories coming from non fat sources are similar in both diets. But I choose to limit protein consumption because it has been shown to increase longevity in a number of animal studies.

Conclusion:


By choosing the cheeses which are aged, high in fat and lower in protein, milk can be a healthy addition to a low carbohydrate diet. To limit methionine intake, protein derived from milk must be limited. Total protein intake must also be limited to about 1g/kg bodyweight per day. I personally did not observe any negative health outcomes after almost a month of including cheeses into my diet. By including a generous amount of vegetables and fiber in the diet, any concerns regarding rising cholesterol should be countered. Certain types of mold-cheeses have also been shown to have positive health effects. I even feel that cheese can be particularly healthy for individuals consuming a low protein, low calorie vegan diet. Because this might cause very low IGF-levels long term and leads so slower regeneration after workouts and injuries. Dairy protein is known to raise IGF-levels. And this is the reason why it should be limited and not combined with a high protein, high carbohydrate and high calorie diet. 

OMAD As A Strategy For Personal Development

There are many health reasons for eating one meal a day, but the greatest benefit is indeed on a mental level. By eating one meal a day for extended periods and even making it a life-long practice is like putting up a fence against once desires. It teaches you to control impulses and derive joy and benefits from doing so.
Mountains are a challenge too
Eating one meal a day is a habit that increase self-awareness


This teaches you the incredibly valuable lesson of how to be in the driver seat of you mind and body. It increases the degree of control you have over your life. If you follow this practice for some time you will recognize how the effects can be felt well beyond the area of food and eating. In my experience this diet alters the way you think and your motivation-pathways. You will develop a state of mind in which you are more likely to resist immediate gratifications and instead look for long-term benefits. It is well knows that this will lead to a happier, healthier and probably richer life. In fact when it comes down to the financial aspect of delayed-gratification, the effects become measurable. Only by saving money (delaying consumption) are you able to benefit from interest, compound interest and future capital gains of investments.

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The inner state of mind is an area where the outcomes of delayed gratification cannot be measured as easily. This is a very personal and individual development that takes place gradually. Being able to stay in a mental place of peace and general well-being without having to search for the next “high” or stimulation from the outside world makes you resilient to circumstances you cannot control. Whole philosophies developed around the idea that the main way to attain a state of lasting happiness is based around working on and molding ones inner mental space.

Stoicism developed in ancient Greece. More recently the movement of minimalism has picked up some ideas of stoicism. But minimalism is mainly focused on external influences. The core idea of minimalism is to attain freedom and happiness through the reduction of possessions. But it fails to deliver the mental concept and attitude required to detach happiness from outer circumstances in general. Many minimalist end up chasing outer experiences, which do not require the possession of physical objects. Excessive travelling and adventuring are common activities that minimalists engage. In that state they are attached to a system that enables them to engage in such a (environmentally) destructive activity. The activity is needed to get the next “high” in the form of new places, cultures and experiences. On a mental level this is the same motivational pathway than people who live the “consumer-lifestyle”, acquiring and changing possessions on a regular basis.

With the OMAD diet, one can take a first step into the direction of detaching from outer satisfaction. The next step could be to learn about the original ideas of stoicism and following such path. With a stoic mind, possessions and outer experience actually become enjoyable. The mind is not attached to them and does not need them to be happy. But they can be used and enjoyed from a standpoint where you are free to actually choose to partake in them or not. Similar to someone who does not regularly drinks coffee. He can choose take it occasionally for a boost in energy, but does not need it to function on a daily basis. He enjoys a boost in energy from coffee and the stoic enjoys a boost in happiness. The addict on the other hand does not experience such feelings and in turn needs the substance to feel normal.

For most people, switching to one meal per day is a difficult change. The adaptation process will reveal certain challenging aspects of ones psyche. But for a person interested in personal development, this is a good thing. It presents an opportunity of mental growth which we usually suppress by keeping busy and cover up by overindulgence in food and other highly pleasurable but also addictive behaviors. We tend to keep busy for long periods of time (work) and then fill the rest of our time with as much pleasure as possible (consumption). So OMAD actually presents the opportunity for much needed idle time. Such times allow us to reflect and develop a broader perspective of life. Introspection falls way short in today’s environment where distraction and entertainment is available for every little bit of free time. Smartphones, TV, Gaming, Food, Sex, Cinemas, Travel, … There is an activity for every length of free time. We do not even have to think for a minute anymore for ourselves and come up with our own purpose.

A certain degree of boredom and true idle time is necessary for creative thoughts. We can never really tap into that anymore. The free time gained from only eating once per day is a powerful tool for transformation in several ways. By facing ones desire for food without giving in to them, one can see into the nature of desires. Observing how it behaves and where it arises. These are interesting insights that can only be gained through careful introspection. As these are individual insights, reading or hearing them might not necessarily teach you much which you can apply for your own life. But spending a few weeks or month eating only one meal a day will bring you some insights if combined with careful introspection into the difficulties you will face.

So let the transformation be a spiritual one as much as it will be a physical transformation for the body.

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