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This is the 2nd part of a three part series.  Part 1 was “Baby Steps To Being A Lean, Mean, Optimum Nutrition Machine (Part 1 of 3)”  (It’s no coincidence that I repeat “baby steps” over and over again…)

I still drink hot chocolate every day (you’ll see this come up in my post!), work out just twice a week, am almost 40 years old, but am leaner than I was in college or at any time other than when I was doing Ironman training (at about 10% body fat now)…what’s the deal?  Better and better nutrition habits, made over the years step by step.

For 20 years, I’ve been committed to slowly and surely improving my nutrition & health habits in baby steps.   When I hear about things I’ve mentioned in the past here, like Optimum Health Institute (raw food, wheatgrass ‘n’ enemas, oh my) or the “15-Day Reboot Fruit & Veggie Cleanse”, I’ll often try ‘em out to see what works for me, and what doesn’t.

Why Am I Committed?

What’s interesting too is my motivation for better nutrition.  Originally (in my teens) the purpose was looking good.  In my 30’s, it shifted and it is primarily about feeling good.

You improve your health (or make any lasting changes in any area of your life) not by bouncing from diet to diet, system to system, or making sudden huge changes in eating: you do it baby step by baby step, over time, improving and improving.  And after your setbacks – whether it’s for a moment, week or year – you don’t give up, but come back to what works for you.

Hey, it’s exactly like discovering and living your Unique Genius!

Lifetime Nutrition Changes

Here are the most notable highlights of how I’ve practiced this in life, so that you can see I make changes step by step, over time, that accumulate:

  • High school:  Having few friends and zero dates, this became the original reason I started caring about nutrition – looks.  I started lifting weights and reducing the fat in my diet (back then, “low fat” was the health craze, even though now we know “low fat” doesn’t mean jack in improving your health).
  • College: I stopped drinking soft drinks – one of the most destructive substances you can drink. For example, it’s a leading cause of osteoporosis – which even kids are getting now!
  • End of college: I stopped eating cereal (I learned all commercial cereal is treated like the body as almost pure sugar)
  • Through my mid & late 20’s:  Beyond developing a taste and habit for spinach salads, I don’t remember which changes I made, but I remember I often had coffee (with a bunch of artificial sweetener) and a pastry for breakfast.  Yuck!  I worked a lot during this time, which was a higher priority to me than health.
  • I start drinking 8-10 glasses of water most days. Soda, coffee or alcoholic drinks do not count as water.
  • Early 30’s: I got married and divorced.  This was a lesson in “As your partner goes, so you go: if your partner eats like crap, you’re going to eat like crap.”  In other words, I ate like crap quite a bit during this time.

A Big Shift at 35 Years Old

  • A doctor did some allergy tests, and told me I was allergic to wheat, soy, dairy, eggs.  My first reaction at first what??!  Those are in EVERYTHING!  My second reaction was gratitude: now I have to give up more junk food.
  • The doctor advised I give up alcohol  & coffee (I substituted coffee for hot tea).   Alcohol is a poison in your body.  I realized as a drank less, how – at least at age 35 – the next day, even after one drink, I felt ‘mushy’.  If you’re wondering more about how and why I gave up alcohol, leave a question in the comments.
  • Around that time, in giving up coffee, I also stopped all artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Nutraseet and Sweet N Low (all toxic) and went back to normal sugar, honey or stevia.  Ironically, as unhealthy sugar is, it’s better than that stuff.
  • I also began meditating irregularly.  It took a couple of years to get to a regular daily practice.

Age 36:

  • I started eating regularly at vegan restaurants (like Real Food Daily & Planet Raw)
  • I started making “The Ultimate Meal” for breakfast almost every day, which is some green powder, almond butter and water, mixed up in a Magic Bullet blender.
  • Because I was off the wheat and dairy, I ate very few desserts.  After a few weeks, I lost any cravings for them.

Age 37:

  • I switched from “The Ultimate Meal” to making my own “green smoothie” almost every day for breakfast, which means mixing up some fruit, superfoods and greens (like spinach or kale) into it.  They can be gross or very yummy depending on what you do.
  • I started eating eggs & drinking milk again, in moderation (this year, I picked up a new hot chocolate addiction, and had one almost every day).  I find that I can drink milk fine, but eggs just don’t sit well in my stomach, so I’ve backed off of them.
  • I’m staying away forever from wheat and soy.  Every 3-6 months I would break down and have a piece of bread or a donut, and it doesn’t kill me 🙂  But my face does turn a bit red.

Age 38:

  • My main sweetener now: “Truvia” (a mix of birch sugar and stevia) or raw honey
  • My partner Jessica’s a vegetarian, so I naturally began eating less meat (and didn’t miss it).
  • I started eating regularly at raw restaurants, like Leaf Organics near Venice and Planet Raw in Santa Monica.
  • I attend some raw “uncooking” classes and learned more about the benefit of raw food, and the hazards of meat and animal-based foods.
  • I’m shopping almost exclusively at Whole Foods Market and local farmers markets.
  • By the way – I still eat and plan on eating cooked foods, I’m just making sure I do eat plenty of raw & living foods.
  • November 2010: I attend Optimum Health Institute (As described in part 1 of this series, “Baby Steps To Being A Lean, Mean, Optimum Nutrition Machine”)


I Ain’t No Saint

I love hot chocolate (in fact, if you’re ever in Santa Monica, you MUST try Huckleberry’s hot chocolate – it’s like crack cocaine).  I eat junk food, I backslide, I feel guilty.  But I keep making progress, step by step, and don’t give up.  Or at least two steps forward, one step back 🙂

My Simple Take On…


The Bottom Line: Before pesticides, everything was organic – that was conventional!  Somehow we got turned around so that “conventional = sprayed with chemicals” and “organic = unconventional”.   This is simple – you are what you eat.  Chemicals can’t just be washed off, they also get absorbed by plants when they grow.  The more organic food you eat, the less pesticides you take in (which are linked to, it seems, every kind of health problem & cancer you can imagine).

Why I didn’t do it in the past:  Choices of organic food is hard to find in standard American supermarkets like Vons & Albertsons. Some organic foods (like almonds) are a lot more expensive than conventional.

Why I’m going to do more of it in the future: There are more and more choices now at all markets, and Whole Foods especially has lots of options for organic, and it’s not always more expensive.  Also, I’d rather pay more now and save on the pain, cancer and hospital bills later.  The best source: local farmers markets ( and I’ll make them my main source of food when possible.


The Bottom Line: When you cook food above 118 degrees (some say 105 degrees), it destroys a big chunk of the nutrients and enzymes in the food that makes it healthy in the first place.

Why I didn’t do it in the past: I didn’t really appreciate the benefits.  Also, some people advocate eating 100% raw, which feels extreme to me (no moderation).

Why I’m going to do more of it in the future: There are lots of cookbooks out there now on simple and easy ways to eat raw, like Rod Rotundi’s “Raw Food For Real People”.  In 2009 I’m already eating 50-80% raw most days, as I’ve been inching up the past couple of years.  I’m planning on eating 80% raw / 20% cooked food.


The Bottom Line: Too much meat & dairy is bad for your health, causing all kinds of long-term health issues.  ( “The China Project”).  [Update: Celeste below shares a link of a neutral party who questions some of The China Study’s findings: click here for it]

To me, eating meat and dairy is healthy when people are moving from eating soda to milk, or candy bars to turkey – then that is better, it is progress.  But the best is moving from meat and dairy (and all animal-based products) to plants, fruits, nuts and seeds, for at least 80-90% of your diet.  In other words, if you’re going to eat animal-based foods, eat 80% plants and 20% meat/dairy, rather than 80% meat/dairy and 20% plants!

“Bread and cheese” vegetarianism (eating no meat, just junk food) isn’t healthy either – you must eat plants.

Why I didn’t do it in the past: Like most of you, I grew up eating meat & drinking milk.  I was trained at young age that “Milk does a body good”, and that I need lots of protein which I can only get through meat.  It can also be challenging, especially when traveling, to eat mostly vegetarian when I’m also allergic to wheat.

Why I’m going to do more of it in the future:  From everything I’ve learned – both about health and the environment – I feel better and am healthier when I minimize animal-based food.  And yet, I haven’t gotten to the point where I believe that I can or will give them up entirely (yet)…I am only human and I do love my hot chocolate!  The stuff at that frickin’ Huckleberry place really is like crack.

The “Know Thyself” Exception To Everything

Everybody & every body is different, and what works for others may not work for you.  Some people physically need to eat meat.  Some people should never eat meat at all.

You gotta experiment to see what works for you – don’t just blindly follow what someone tells you to do.  (Again, another lesson you can apply to anything in life…)

Stay tuned for the last part, part 3, in which I talk about the emotional connections to food, my lessons learned & suggested next steps for YOU to take.

Think I’m Full Of It?  What Do You Believe?

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8 Responses to “A Lifetime Of Baby Step Health Improvements (Part 2 of 3)”

  1. Paul Donovan Says:

    Great stuff Aaron!

    I’ve been doing more kale, chard and collards at too lately (love the flowering purple kale!) typically added to veggie meals such as pasta sauce, black bean tacos, veggie lasagna, soups, etc..

    I’m at the front-end of planning to lose 25 lbs in 2011 so baby steps are ringing load an clear to me.

    My add-on to your current piece is a book by Don Gerrard – One Bowl: A Guide to Eating for Body and Spirit [Paperback] 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon. I’m starting to use this quantity controlled approach as well along with many of the items you recommended.

    WHAT you eat is key but HOW much you eat is also very important!

    Happy Holidays Aaron and to all of your Pebble Storm clients and stakeholders!

  2. Ronny Says:

    how and why you gave up alcohol?

  3. Kevin Venner Says:

    Aaron, you share wonderful information that everyone should take “to heart” literally and figuratively. Yes, I still have a few bad habits. I love to eat lusciously toxic Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream (never more than once each week), which is my treat for being good to myself on every other day of the week.
    People need to “pay attention” because much of the good tasting stuff is so detrimental. My father (now 85) had a quadruple bypass surgery when he was 55. That was a wake-up call for him and for ME! The apple does not fall far from the tree. I am built like my dad, and like my father, I was 50 pounds overweight – a RED flag!
    So, because I decided I would rather pass on my dad’s experience, I began reading, changing my diet and exercising as often as possible.
    Since then, I have lost the 50 pounds, and today at age 57, I feel better than when I was in my late 30’s and 40’s.
    I encourage your readers to listen closely to what you have discovered on your healthful journey. And, the following are some books I recommend, as well.
    “The Food Revolution, How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World” by John Robbins and Dean Ornish M.D. Each of these authors have tremendous credibility and a passion for making a difference in all our lives.
    John Robbins gave up his inheritance to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune because he discovered how disastrous dairy and sugar are on our systems. John has two other books I suggest, as well: “The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less” and “Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples.”
    Dr. Dean Ornish has proven with his colleagues that Heart Disease can be reversed with a proper diet. He fought the system for years and now has insurance companies recognizing the fact that PREVENTION is much more cost-effective than the cures for diseases we cause with terrible eating habits and little exercise.
    READ: “The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health” by Dr. Ornish.
    As a result of my quest for health and vitality, I am now building a business in the health and nutritional arena. I have used many wonderful products over the years and for my breakfasts, I start with a product from Garden of Life called RAW Meal. Although it does not taste quite as good as Häagen-Dazs ice cream, this Raw Meal is the best I’ve used for great nutrition. I usually throw in a banana with the Raw Meal, which you can find online and most health food stores around the country.
    Jordan Rubin, The founder of the Garden of Life wrote the book, “The Maker’s Diet.” Jordan has a remarkable story about healing himself with diet.
    Finally, I encourage you and your readers to learn about an incredible product that is changing my life and improving the health of my clients. Glutathione (GSH) is our body’s master antioxidant. Glutathione is our primary defense against free radicals and oxidative stress. So, if you want to age slower and have great energy and stamina, learn about how you can bolster your body’s immune system with this Freakn’ Free Radical Fighter at the following link:
    All the best of health to you and yours,

  4. Tia Tuenge Says:

    Yey Aaron! I love your series. As you know this past year was very challenging for me. I’m feeling really good again and have decided to detox myself for the month of January by doing the Quantum Cleanse with a group of friends.

    I’m going to check out all the links in your series and try to improve even more.

    Much love and gratitude,


  5. Celeste Says:

    I love that you’re sharing this and I agree with a lot of what you have to say. I do feel a need to point out that recently the China Study has been discredited. You can read the “short” version here: and that post contains a link to a more thorough, formal and referenced critique of the study as well. Overall, you are correct that everybody is different and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another person.

  6. Mary Riley Says:

    Aaron I’ve been on the same page forever with what you are doing, with the exception of making my morning meals with Shaklee’s soy (or whey) protein. My day begins right when I do that, and therefore the rest of the day is easier to eat healthy. I find if I start the day out wrong, then it’s a “license” to continue that day eating what isn’t optimal. When I became a vegetarian on my 21st birthday I became what you described as a “bread and cheese” eater because the choices were terribly limited then when eating out. Now the organic, fresh food choices when dining out is fabulous. Keep spreading the good word. Mary

  7. Robert Says:

    Great report Aaron. I find that Tim Ferriss’ slow carb diet works best for me. That plus green smoothies and I get pretty much everything I need.

    There have been a lot of studies recently have debunked the China Study. I personally find that while my mind is very vegetarian, I just feel better when I eat meat.

    Would love to know more about the alcohol. I don’t drink much, but thinking about experimenting with Tim’s idea of having a glass of red wine most nights.

  8. lisa rothstein Says:

    For me, having lived 12 years in Paris, life without red wine (and red meat) really is not worth living.

    Having said that, more organic vegetables, water and sleep would probably be a very good thing.


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