From Left to Right

Every once in a while on here, I touch on the subject of the “Red Pill”, which the vast majority of the people who visit this site will be quite familiar with, and most likely also identify as.

The Red Pill is (to me) an informed, unblinking understanding of the true nature of relationships between men and women (for better or for worse).

In the late Spring of 2014, when I frustratingly left a terrible relationship with a malevolent parasite of a woman, I was looking for answers. I had treated her like a queen, bent over backwards catering to her every need, and dumped tens of thousands of hard-earned dollars into the toilet, all for nothing. The last six months of our time together, I was treated as fucking vermin, despite my efforts to “just be a good dude”.

Truthfully, I was pissed. I was in the early stages of completely rebuilding my life from a pile of rubble, and she proved to be a huge stumbling block in this process. I wanted to know why. I wanted to know how a relationship turned into such a disaster, when I had supposedly done everything right. I was single for the first time in a long time, and I didn’t want to end up entangled with another nightmare like her.

Inevitably, I stumbled across some Red Pill literature, and started devouring it. At first, being a socially-conditioned drone, I recoiled in disgust at the ugly, inconvenient truth it presented. “This has to be wrong” I told myself. But after reading horror story after horror story on Reddit and various blogs, then seeing how plenty of men had adapted to FLOURISH in this bleak landscape, I stopped fearing the truth.

It’s an unsettling feeling, learning that you’ve been lied to and intentionally misled for your entire life. When you’ve struggled and suffered as a result of living by those lies, the feelings of unease can easily turn towards anger, misery, and a defeatist, “I give up” mindset. In my case at least, I chose to learn and apply the knowledge I was absorbing, and my life became FAR better as a result of this.

I had successfully de-programmed myself.

Around the same time, I started to notice some other changes of perspective that were surprising, to say the least.

I had, since Freshman year of college (go figure) in 2000, referred to myself as a Liberal. I protested the Iraq war. I was a huge pussy, terrified at the thought of being sent off to the desert to fight for my country. My friends and I started calling anyone who sported an American flag a “redneck” and an ignorant, racist Bush supporter. I fully supported John Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008. I loved the idea of socialism, because I wasn’t willing to work hard to get what I wanted, and believed it should be handed to me by daddy government. Despite knowing deep down that this was a warped vision of the world, driven by cowardice, failure, and laziness, it was a popular outlook with others my age, and one that aligned nicely with my almost nonexistent standards at that time.

Throughout my twenties, I made it a point to suppress any controversial viewpoints, be politically correct (all the ugly punk-rock girls I knew seemed to like it when I was, surprisingly I still wasn’t getting laid… how interesting), to never be critical of feminism, to never even MENTION race or religion (unless it was to ridicule Christians), to be a good, obedient little boy. Outwardly, I joined my peers and scoffed at the ideas of conservatives as archaic, oppressive, twentieth-century naivete. After all, it was (the current year) and PROGRESS was the name of the game.

Beneath the surface, though, things still didn’t sit right with me. If I ever saw a minority acting like an animal in public, I wasn’t allowed to acknowledge it. When I heard “straight white male” used as a derogatory term, I had to hang my head in shame, although I had done nothing wrong. After all, my ancestors were straight white men, and they had helped to build steel mills, fight the Nazis, worked with Nuclear energy, lasers, and robotics, all while being committed to their families. They were good men. Brave, hard-working, and strong. Why were they so hated by the progressives?

Consolidated B-24

My grandfather was a navigator on a B-24 in WWII, and flew on many missions with the goal of destroying Hitler’s oil refineries in Romania.

I would go to progressive political events, but looked around and saw nothing but ugliness, failure and degeneracy. Obese 40-year old virgins. Filthy, drug addicted crust-punks who would beg me for money. Surly, androgynous women with leg hair, facial piercings, and an illogical hatred for those who ate meat. Effeminate, fixie-riding man-children who spent their days in a marijuana and noisecore-fueled haze. And hippies. I made the decision that I did not belong in this environment, with these people who represented the failures of modern society. And largely, the politicians I had voted for were failures as well. Obama’s America was no different than Bush’s, so I wrote all of it off. Politics were a sham, I decided, and vowed to shut myself off from it altogether.

From 2009-2013, I was largely apolitical, avoiding cable TV or reading political rants on facebook. But in 2013, I would occasionally read Gawker (via Jalopnik, a formerly great site, now irreversibly tarnished, as it’s under the umbrella of Gawker) and curiosity would get the best of me. Here and there, I’d check out some of the political articles. At this point, I had long since walked away from the progressives themselves, but finally started to come to terms with just how ridiculous and harmful the narrative itself was. There would be glaring discrepancies and absolute refusal to confront anything that didn’t support their reality. There were huge holes and omissions in the story. Inconvenient, unpleasant, yet factual truths were immediately mobbed and shot down, using terms such as “racist” “bigot” “hate-monger” and “___-phobe”. I would occasionally have a look at Jezebel, and it got even more ludicrous. Article after article insinuated that I, as a straight, white man could be nothing other than a moronic, destructive monster, and “the real problem here” while glorifying obesity, degeneracy, sloth, and mediocrity.

And so, when in the midst of all the aforementioned Red Pill literature I was absorbing in late 2014, it became impossible for me to miss the correlation between feminism, the twisted progressive narrative, and blue-pill men. This wasn’t a case of a few isolated and independent opponents, but rather more like a Hydra, the multi-headed beast.

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I couldn’t shy away from the political side of things, or pick and choose one of the heads of the Hydra to confront. The Red Pill is an all-or-nothing proposition, you either understand the scope of the whole mess, or remain ignorant and disjointed, blind to the root causes of why our current social landscape is such a nightmare.


Being a blue-pill “man” is to stay willfully trapped in a complex, multi-layered snare. It is designed with the purpose of keeping you dumb, distracted, fat, estrogenic, miserable, subservient, tired, indebted, inebriated, scared and weak. You are a castrated pawn, willing to sacrifice your purpose, happiness, and vigor for the promise of $2000 every two weeks to spend on college football cable packages, processed food, a comfortable McMansion, and a new Hyundai loan every three years. Breaking out of this mold is to utterly reject the narrative in every sense of the word, in order to live a truly happy, fulfilling life.

Progressives, feminists, and enemies of free speech are horrified by the thought of a mass exodus from the oppressive, miserable world of mediocrity and censorship that they’ve created. The rise of the Manosphere has effectively told these shitheads that we’re onto them, and we’ve had enough.  Word-twisting, public shaming, and outright silencing (on the grounds of “offensive speech”) are their favorite weapons. If you step out of line, you get smoked. However, it’s not difficult to see how one can be exempt from these tactics: wholeheartedly reject the progressive narrative, become completely self-sufficient, and live on your own terms. When you don’t answer to anyone, their weapons become meaningless.

But for some who have come around, they’re already in too deep. For them, social pressure is a factor. Having traditional, conservative beliefs is, in 2016, to be labeled a bigot, a racist, and a hate-monger. Still having to answer to an HR department or any other controlling entity means that they can’t be as vocal as they’d probably like to be. Like the men who read Good Looking Loser or Danger and Play “on the down low”, I would have to estimate that there’s colossal amounts of men and women out there who are pulling for Donald Trump privately. The progressive narrative is utterly merciless to all who oppose it, so most will likely choose to remain in the shadows. 

In day to day life, I don’t really wear my heart on my sleeve. I think I own a grand total of two tee shirts with anything printed on them, neither political in any way. I don’t rock a MAGA hat. I don’t want to see my car vandalized, so there’s no Trump sticker on my bumper. I don’t leave my house looking for a fight, because it’s not worth it to me, and I can’t get any work done from the inside of a prison cell. If asked my viewpoint, I will enthusiastically make it known who I am supporting (which usually comes as a surprise, especially to people I’ve known for years), but I don’t go out of my way to broadcast my personal views to everyone I come into contact with (unless we’re talking about Twitter). In most cases, it simply invites arguments by dim-witted people who are consumed by the progressive narrative. Although this can be entertaining, it’s by no means a productive use of my time, and as I said, it would be difficult to get anything done if I ended up in prison. I have total respect for those who make a bold statement, but in the case of politics, that’s really not who I am. I’m voting for Trump. If you knew me, you’d probably have that figured out by the way I live my life and my viewpoints on certain issues (and the fact that I have yet to see a single Bernie or Hillary supporter who looks like they’ve ever been in a weight room).

I’m not going to list each facet of my personal belief system, but as a whole, I believe that conservative values, traditional gender roles, and a coherent National identity (as opposed to a Globalist identity) makes for a thriving society. This is not something I just “decided” upon, as the Red Pill has not so much CHANGED my viewpoints on the world, rather it has allowed me to be confident enough to no longer hide behind a mask of political correctness and progressivism to “not make any waves”. I am writing this not as an expert in realm of politics or social sciences, but as a former underachiever and “regular guy” who let himself get burned one too many times, wanted to know why, and kept digging to see how deep the rabbit hole went.

The world is changing. As more men realize how powerless and disposable they are in the context of being a blue-pill supplicant, they are opening their eyes. They’re taking control of their lives, as opposed to zoning out and going along for the ride. And with this eye-opening comes the frightening, ugly, often inconvenient and “offensive” truth. But the truth is simply the truth. It doesn’t care about your feelings, or anyone else’s. Making peace with that fact allows for a much greater understanding of life in the modern age.

Thanks for reading.

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“You’re Too Hard On Yourself”

I have heard this sentence all too many times over the past few years, and it always strikes a chord. Rather than argue something that is irrelevant to the vast majority of people, I change the subject.

I truly believe that it’s impossible to be too hard on yourself. When I fuck up, I hold myself accountable and don’t give myself excuses.

If I miss a session at the gym, I don’t tell myself “well, you needed a break” when I was really just being a lazy fuck, laying on the couch, dicking around on the internet.

I am brutally honest with myself and do not rationalize these mistakes.

If I held others to the same standard, I would be seen as “the asshole boss”, but I no longer care what most others do. If they want to slip into comfort, mediocrity and failure, good for them. It’s not my problem.


 

I am hard on myself because no one else will be, and because I am the only person who is truly in control of what my life is like.

When you are hard on yourself on your own terms, for the right reasons, great things happen.

Right now, I am motivated by two things:

  • Getting my body fat percentage where I want it to be
  • Never having to go to work for anyone else again

My focus is dead set on these two objectives. I’m working extremely hard in both cases, but just as I am the only one who can succeed, I am the only one who can cause myself to fail. 


 

  • I want to call up a Chinese restaurant and order some General Tso’s Chicken.
  • There’s a movie on Netflix that I want to see.
  • I think I’ll just relax and see what’s happening on social media.
  • I have a headache, better stay in.
  • I’m sooooore. No gym for me tonight.
  • It’s a good idea, but it would be way too much work.
  • Oh man, there’s a Sheetz. I want nachos and a doughnut.
  • I need a day to just take it easy.

All of the above statements have been things I’ve told myself, most of them many times over. To most people, none of them would seem unreasonable at all.

These rationalizations, however small each of them were, snowballed. Each time I gave myself an excuse, the invisible force of complacency tightened its noose. I remained shackled to a life that was not truly mine; one of dependence (on an employer, for a paycheck and direction), poor health, and misery.


Fighting the rationalization machine:

  • Time management. I’ve talked about using Evernote and some other tools to manage my time. Having this plan for my day is CRUCIAL.
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Yesterday’s Evernote checklist

  • Impulse control. EVEN NOW, as I write this, my mind is drifting. We live in a society of unlimited stimuli, so remaining 100% vigilant and focused is incredibly important. I like Chris at GLL’s rule; put up post-it notes saying “I must do the most productive thing at any given moment”.

 

No, I am not too hard on myself. I want to live my life my way. Fit, Free, and Abundant. To achieve that, I MUST be productive, disciplined, focused and ruthless. Fuck comfort. Being easier on myself? That’s a great way of spinning my wheels to failure.

Hunger and Intensity

It’s been three and a half years since the first time I entered the gym, vowing to once and for all get serious, to change my potato-shaped body into one I would be proud of.

It’s been a rollercoaster. I’ve gotten leaner, then fatter, then leaner again, then fatter. I’m constantly locked in battle with an inconvenient truth:

If I want to get leaner, I’m going to lose muscle mass and strength. If I want to gain muscle and strength, I’m going to put on fat.

This is, of course, an extremely frustrating proposition. When I set a new PR, the last thing I want to do is something that will ensure that I’m not going to hit that number again, for a long time. I take a lot of pride in being able to deadlift 415, bench 265, and… well, my squat is really nothing to get excited about.

Still, I love being strong. I love being “big”. It’s a great feeling. But even as strong as I am, I’m doing it with a gut, with a layer of fat over my entire body which doesn’t allow my chest, my shoulders, and my arms to show the sort of definition that makes guys like Victor Pride appear to be cut from marble.


Late 2012 was a pretty wild time for me. I had just gotten myself into the gym, as I said. I was violently pushed out of a life-defining job. I was also in the process of ending a six-year relationship, which would also cost me my home.

In less than three months, though, I managed to drop 50 pounds of fat, and gain some muscle.

2012transform

I didn’t look great, but had noticeably improved over that three-month period. I was stronger than I was at the start, but very weak compared to right now. I had harnessed the magical power of “NOOB GAINZZZ” to simultaneously burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

But what I really want to focus on is the fat loss during that period of time. It was a DRASTIC loss. What was I doing that made this possible? I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year or so really analyzing that time period, as the fat loss was so dramatic and effective.

  • Lifting “upper body” one day, and “lower body” the next. Then one day off, then back on.
  • Taking BCAA (Scivation Xtend) and Beverly International Lean Out.
  • Lifting with high intensity and relatively short rest periods. I was quite sweaty after a session was over.
  • Eating primarily eggs, pre-packaged chicken portions, cottage cheese and whey.
  • Spending the majority of the day hungry.
  • Having very few cheat days.

I fell off in early 2013, but got my shit together again by the end of the year.

From October 2013 until June of 2014, I got both leaner and stronger, but with slower results. I was lifting at work, during my daily lunch break.

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  • Lifting on a four day split (like a bitch, I always skipped leg day).
  • Taking no supplements other than very cheap whey (I was seriously broke at the time).
  • Lifting with moderately high intensity and relatively short rest periods, due to having limited time to complete my training sessions.
  • Eating primarily eggs, cheap steak, cottage cheese, spinach, apples, and chicken breast.
  • Spending the majority of my day hungry, as I was intermittent fasting.
  • Having frequent cheat days, sometimes unscheduled, but almost always during my eating window.

It took longer, but I saw fat drop even further during this period of time.


 

Shifting gears for a moment, I recently visited a friend in Florida. He’s a NSCA-CSCS trainer, and has more knowledge of strength training and fat loss than anyone I know. I did two sessions with him and his partner, and was utterly shocked.

I was fairly convinced that my workouts were relatively “high intensity” but after a morning of supersetting 315lb deadlifts with pull-ups, then collapsing to the ground in a puddle of sweat and drool after six sled pushes with 30 second rests between, I realized that I’m terrible at determining the intensity at which I’m actually working.

Afterwards, I had a few conversations with him about intensity. There’s quite a bit of evidence supporting the fact that the most efficient loss of fat comes not from steady-state cardio (which should be apparent from the body composition of the average cardio-drone), but from very high-intensity resistance training. This is how he trains his fat loss clients, and sees some pretty significant results.


So back to the comparison of those two time periods, late 2012, and late 2013-early 2014. My training intensity level (and volume) was higher than it is now, but the other key component was how hungry I was for the majority of the time.

In 2012, I had a lot on my mind. I simply didn’t have an appetite, sometimes eating under 1000 calories in any given day. When I started seeing fat melting off of me, I kept it up. Four eggs here, some chicken breast there… I would relish the sensation of my stomach growling, delighting in my ability to deny my body the food it wanted so badly. When I did eat, the portions were small, almost insignificant compared to the amount of work I was doing during my grueling, sweat-drenched sessions in the gym. My body had no other option; it had to burn fat for energy.

2013-2014 was different, though. Intermittent fasting was the name of the game. I never ate before 2:00 PM, and in a lot of cases was going until 6:00 PM or so before eating anything, waking up, completing an entire work day and a moderately high-intensity 45 minute workout. I didn’t see as drastic and instantaneous a change during this time, though. This was due to the fact that:

  • I was not eating as clean as I was in 2012. As often as 2-3 times a week, I would stop at Sheetz to order a mountain of food like breakfast burritos and pulled pork nachos (but, as I said earlier, still within my eating window).
  • I regularly had “cheat days” which slipped into “cheat weekends” filled with pizza, burgers, pancakes and sugar-laden Chinese food.

Even though this was the case, I was HUNGRY for the majority of my waking hours. Walking around with nothing in my stomach told my body that it had to burn fat to keep going, unfortunately a decent percentage of the food I was taking in wasn’t very good. This shows that (although not as drastic as eating very clean) as long as I was fasting most of the time and not going completely overboard on junk, I would still end up with a net loss.

Although this is the case, the results would not be anywhere near as significant as they would be if I was extremely disciplined.


It’s not difficult for me to see glaring differences in these two areas (hunger and intensity) between now and then. I’ve tweaked my program a bit, and the changes are aimed squarely at shredding body fat. For now I’m strong enough, I’m “big” enough, but I am unhappy with the amount of body fat that wants to keep sticking around for the long haul.

  • Timing my rest periods. 30 seconds between sets, two minutes between exercises.
  • No more isolation work. nearly everything is a compound movement now.
  • Supersets. My goal is to keep my heart rate up. Supersets (working an agonist muscle group, then it’s antagonist directly after) are a great way to do this.
  • No more one-rep maxes. For now, I’m concentrating on repping out the heaviest “working weight” I can manage.
  • Grading my workouts based on how sweaty and wiped out I am. I haven’t been breaking a sweat in the gym until I started timing rest periods and doing all compound movements. Sweat is good. Feeling “worked” is even better. I want to struggle to even make it to my car after a workout.
  • Monitoring my heart rate. I have a pretty rudimentary device for this (FitBit Charge), but in addition to making sure my heart rate is at least in the right neighborhood, I can also use the stopwatch to time my rest periods.
  • Intermittent Fasting. Staying hungry throughout the majority of the day. I’m watching calories, but as long as I’m just staying hungry, we’re good.
  • Eating the majority of my calories from protein sources. Sticking to less than 30g of carbohydrates per day, as well. Meat, eggs, and vegetables. That’s it.
  • Using Osta-Red to hang onto muscle while shredding fat. This is my favorite supplement of all time, because it actually works as advertised.
  • Being rigid and inflexible when it comes to cheat days. Once a week, no more justification of three-day burrito benders.

I’m headed off to the coast again in eight weeks. I’d like to see some serious progress by that point. Realistically, all of the pieces are in place, I just need to be disciplined enough to follow through.

Thanks for reading,

 

RHLH LOGO1

 

 

Defining Comfort Zones

Over the years, I’ve managed to do a lot of traveling, at least within the United States. Once I turned 18 and bought a car, I would load up my little Mazda and go on adventures with friends, packing up and driving 12+ hours to Florida, visiting faraway cities on a whim, just to see a band play or visit someone at school.

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The day I bought my freedom: my 1993 Mazda MX-6. RIP.

This was taken to the next level from 2003-2005. Some friends were in a touring band with a decent following, and I was able to join them on a few tours as their merch guy. This afforded me the ability to visit parts of the country that I was used to only seeing on TV. These trips would take me across the Mississippi River for the first time, across endless cornfields, mountains and deserts, south to San Diego, North to Seattle, and back across the country again. The only major American cities I haven’t been to are Las Vegas, Boston, and New Orleans, and the states of Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the only four states in the continental 48 where I haven’t set foot.

Touring isn’t an easy life. A lot of bands hate it, and it’s often a catalyst in members leaving. You’re spending weeks, sometimes months at a time with only six or seven other people, and there’s no guarantee that everyone’s going to have compatible personalities. I vividly remember wanting nothing more than to kill one or two of the other guys for weeks at a time. At home, we were good friends, but in a metal tube hurtling down the highway, we couldn’t stand each other. There’s a whole host of other factors at play, as well. Getting lost (we didn’t have a GPS, and simple flip-phones were the norm in 2003-2005), low turnouts, arguments with promoters, questionable hotels, van trouble, and venues in horrific neighborhoods (I’m going to single Detroit out here). The band I was with was a successful headlining act, but opening bands were always struggling with money for hotel rooms, food, and fuel. Often times, they were eating only once a day, and sleeping in their vans at highway rest stops or parking lots.

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The glamour of touring.

But all of these problems aside, touring was a huge adventure, especially for someone who hadn’t spent much time outside of his home city. The biggest disappointment in this chapter of my life, though… the itinerary was more or less pre-determined. Want to stop and see the Grand Canyon? Tough shit, we have to be in Phoenix in three hours to load equipment. Wake up, drive, load in, soundcheck, sell t-shirts and CDs, pack up, drive, sleep. It’s an endless cycle with barely enough time to sit down for a decent meal.

These tours got me accustomed to massive hauls on the open road. Trips to Florida became a cakewalk, and I laughed when people called eight hours a “long drive”.

I had expanded my comfort zone significantly in those two years. There’s no denying that these trips were a lot of hard work, but once I had “been there and done that”, I didn’t have any reservations about getting in my car and going wherever I wanted in my early twenties.


 

I stopped touring in 2005, the result of my making one too many errors, misplacing our cargo in Lawrence, KS. I was quietly let go by the band, and settled into a comfortable routine in suburban Pennsylvania, although the desire to travel was certainly still present.

Unfortunately, by 2010, my comfortable little bubble of a life had completely destroyed my adventurous outlook. On a vacation to a North Carolina beach with my at-the-time girlfriend and a few others, I spent the week longing for for home. I missed my couch, my bed, my TV, and my routine. Coupled with depression (brought about by low Testosterone, but that’s for another post),  I had an awful, dark, and gloomy trip, and my misery was only alleviated slightly by driving back to PA, to my familiar surroundings.

In early 2011, I had allowed my mental state to slip into absolute disrepair, and my comfort zone shrank to an unmanageable level. I was pathetic. Even driving 4o minutes away to visit my parents became an insurmountable obstacle. Anxiety and Agoraphobia ruled my existence, as I was terrified to even get out from under the blankets on my couch. I would lay there, panicked and anxious, watching episodes of Seinfeld and old movies, suffering slow meltdowns for days at a time.


 

I never saw a psychiatrist or sought treatment for this condition. However, once the acute anxiety dissipated a bit, I knew I had to find a way to fix this problem. I had no idea what I was doing, but settled on the understanding that I was in “a rut” and planned a trip to Colorado in August. I wanted to yank myself out of my comfort zone, to just crack that motherfucker wide open again.

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The Colorado trip did just that for me. I was surrounded by the incredible scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park, rode my Downhill bike at some amazing spots, and drove home with a different sort of anxiety and sadness:

Why do I live in Pennsylvania? The West is amazing, and I love exploring out here. I have wasted so much time living in a tiny sphere. What have I done with my life?

It was simply the realization of how much damage I had done by staying within my (metaphorical and physical) comfort zones.

With newly-found confidence, and a lack of anxiety, I started taking trips again, at first for the sole purpose of riding my Downhill bike. Loading up my car with bikes and gear and driving for hours upon hours upon hours became my new obsession. Nowhere was “too far” to drive. Northern New Jersey. New Hampshire. Utah. Colorado again. I wanted to build my sense of adventure, anticipation, excitement, and never let go of it like I did from 2006-2010.

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Highland. Still one of my favorite places.

I made all measures of progress in the period of exile from 2012-2014, going far out of my comfort zone in all areas of my life, even starting this blog about it.

After three years, in June of 2015 I decided enough was enough. I was going to leave my job, develop location-dependent income streams, and move to Southern California, the only place in the US where all of the following is possible:

  • Weather stays warm, sunny, and comfortable year-round.
  • There’s a beach. Lots of them, in fact. I want to learn to surf properly.
  • I can ride Downhill. SoCal has Snow Summit and a host of smaller local spots. The DH scene there is absolutely thriving, and is home to many elite-caliber athletes like Aaron Gwin and Kyle Strait (both of whom I want to train).
  • If I want winter, I can have it. Snow Summit (again) and Bear Mountain are legendary spots.
  • It’s within driving distance of some amazing places I’ve never been, like Zion, Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Baja Mexico.
  • My girlfriend will be able to get a job as a nurse.
  • If I need to work a traditional job (worst-case scenario temporary cash-infusion backup plan) there’s many options.

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This is proving to be quite an undertaking. It’s taking a lot of money, hard work, and plenty of time (my girlfriend won’t be done with school until December).

Doing this is, for me, a colossal step out of my comfort zone. No, I’m not exactly moving to Chiang Mai with just a backpack full of clothes and a laptop, but my priorities are different than anyone else’s. Pittsburgh (or within two hours of the city) has always been my home base, my jumping-off point. Moving out West will be unfamiliar, strange, stressful, difficult, and exciting. The plans are in motion, and I’m counting down the days.



 

However, once I started developing a plan for this move, I started to understand that I’d be required to confront a related issue, one that would serve to cause major problems if I couldn’t get it sorted out before I moved: I hadn’t been on a plane since I was nine years old. Part of it was because I hadn’t NEEDED to fly, as I’d always driven. The other part was that I simply felt uneasy and anxious about getting on a plane.

There’s really no way around it. If I want to live 3,000 miles away, the only way I’ll ever be able to get multiple cars across the country or come home to visit family is by getting on an airplane. I had to learn how to do it, so I booked a short trip to Florida to see my friend Dave in late February.

airliner

It truly was a trial by fire. My departing flight happened in terrible weather conditions, from a tiny airport an hour outside the city. I was in the absolute last seat, stuffed between the window and a large, flatulent woman. The engines were pushed to full throttle so quickly on the short runway that I was slammed back in my seat with G-Forces I’d expect while riding in my friend’s Nissan GT-R. Other passengers were gasping and groaning, and we hadn’t even left the ground yet.

In an attempt to clear the fog and snow, the plane pitched (what seemed to be) straight up, plowing through spine-compressing turbulence and undulating up and down, side to side movements which got no better by the time we leveled off. The fasten seatbelt sign was never off for more than 2 minutes before coming back on again. The woman next to me kept farting, crying, and moaning. The engines were powering up and powering down every few minutes. Hydraulics and compressors were whining and whooshing. I tried to drink a diet coke, but my hands were shaking so badly that I spilled it all over my tray table. It was a lot to take in, so I attempted to calm myself, cracked open my tablet and kept my mind busy instead with some music and PD Mangan’s book, Muscle Up (it’s excellent, by the way). By the time we landed, I was exhausted, but I had done it.

The trip itself was excellent. Temperatures hovered around the high sixties. My friend Dave and I lifted weights, visited some awesome beaches, lifted more weights, ate some good food, and recovered in the hot tub and the pool, under the shade of a picturesque canopy of palm trees. We discussed everything from personal training to Milo Yiannopoulos. I met some new people, got some writing done, and saw the contrast of what a warm, temperate climate did for me, opposed to the melancholy, overcast chill of Pittsburgh in late February.

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This was the trade-off. I had to say “fuck my comfort zone”, get on a plane, and deal with a bouncing, shaky ride, fart stink, and general sensory overload for two hours. I was rewarded with a great couple of days. The flight was 1/10 the travel time of driving down and half the cost.

When I was in the terminal, waiting for my flight home, I talked to some other passengers who had been on the same plane as me on the way down. “It was the scariest flight I’ve ever been on” I was told by several people. It was, in fact, unusually bad, but I had no frame of reference at the time. I thought that flight was simply what flying felt like. As it happened, my flight home was buttery smooth, no more disconcerting than riding on a bus. Knowing beforehand where my mind would go, I had already taken measures to mitigate the problem. I queued up a playlist of electronic music, turned the volume up in my noise-canceling headphones, and focused my vision on the book in my lap. It ended up being an utter cakewalk.

The next day, I stayed well out of my comfort zone, attending a fiery discussion hosted by Milo Yiannoupolos. Five years ago, the idea of flying on a plane, then heading to such a controversial event would have been utterly unfathomable to me.

The lesson in all of this is something most people have a grasp on, but don’t really do all that well at putting into practice: getting out of your comfort zone encourages growth. Ask any member of the armed forces, a professional athlete, or anyone who is constantly on the path to self-improvement, and they’ll likely give you far more effective examples than I have. One can’t even begin to analyze the huge differences of scale between flying on a commercial airliner and something truly rigorous and life threatening, such as Basic Training or actual combat.

As for me, I’ve seen what happens to me when I stay in my comfort zone. It’s a miserable, monotonous, complacent existence that only gets worse as time passes me by. On the other hand, I’ve never had any sort of actual negative circumstances arise from breaking out. My shitty flight last Thursday is about as bad as it’s ever been, really. I’ve seen some amazing places, done some exciting things, gotten myself into far better shape and met some new people, but I can honestly say it’s all just been the tip of the iceberg when it comes to breaking out of normalcy. I’d encourage everyone to do it, run with it, and reject the quiet desperation of day-in, day-out sameness. It truly is a path to misery.

 

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Arctic Zero “Ice Cream”

I wanted to do a short review on this stuff, as it’s something I’ve been looking for: an alternative to ice cream that’s viable for dieting.

I should elaborate a bit. Like any normal person, I like ice cream. After my flight back to Pittsburgh the other day, I downed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (it was a cheat day, but goddamn… over 1000 calories in that container alone). Ice cream is delicious, but it’s easily one of the worst foods a human being can put in his or her body.

Like I said, even on cheat days, the caloric impact of this stuff is no joke. There has to be a better way.

Today, on Twitter, I read an article posted by Jason at anymanfitness.com about some ways to keep calories low, and came across Arctic Zero “Ice Cream” which has only 150 calories in an entire pint. After a little back and forth, I decided to head to the store and give it a shot.

First and foremost, it’s not easy to find. Giant Eagle doesn’t carry it, and with no Wal Mart in the area, my only source for the stuff is Whole Foods. I ended up braving the traffic and terrible parking, to grab three pints of it, which are running at $4.99 each.

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As of right now I have only tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor.

I opened the lid and dug a spoon in. It’s not great. It’s not bad. It’s different. Obviously, it doesn’t taste as rich and creamy as real ice cream. It’s not unbelievably sweet. The consistency is more on par with italian ice than anything else.

I kept eating. I wanted to see how similar this would be to a true ice cream binge.

Despite my gluttonous intentions, I only made it about halfway through the pint. This is a good thing. Normally, with a pint of actual ice cream, I realize 3/4 of the way through that I’m still not satiated. This isn’t the case with Arctic Zero. It tastes good ENOUGH, but at the halfway point, I was satisfied, and didn’t really feel the insatiable urge to plow through the rest of it. I consumed about 75 calories in this sitting.

Here’s how it stacks up against a pint of Ben and Jerry’s:

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Shocking.

Based on these figures alone, Arctic Zero would still be my go-to, even if it tasted far worse than it does. But really, it’s not bad at all. Truthfully, I’m really happy that this stuff exists. It satisfies the ice cream craving, and barely puts a dent in my calories consumed during the day.

Well done, Arctic Zero.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone know that I’m working on two major articles that I haven’t had the time to finish yet. I started them on my trip to Florida, but I’ve been quite busy since I got home. I should have both of them up by this time next week.

Thanks for reading.

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