Earlier to Bed, Earlier to Rise

About 6 months ago I shifted my schedule by 4 hours, literally overnight. Whatever I was up against, whether it was insomnia, sleep addiction, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, or just being a night-owl, it was getting worse. Also, the summer was coming, I had a shiny new grill, and I wanted to get home early enough that I wasn’t using it in the dark. Much to my surprise, it actually wasn’t very difficult. Here’s how I did it:

  • Consistency – Probably the most important part. Go to bed at the same time every night, no matter how tired or wired you are. Lay there for hours if need be, in a few days you’ll be asleep earlier. Get up at the same time, no matter what, even on weekends. I had a few nights where I got 3 or 4 hours of sleep and needed energy drinks to get me through the day, but that changed fairly quickly. I was able to ease up on the schedule after a while, but I try not to deviate by more than an hour or two.
  • Don’t do it alone – I’m not sure I could have pulled this off by myself. Reeny didn’t even really have to do much, other than some encouragement and being an early-riser herself.
  • Get up first – I try to get out of bed first. Some mornings this aspect is what gets me moving. If she can get up, why can’t I?
  • Measure success daily – The point of this is to get up early, not to become an early riser. Even after 6 solid months, I know that I’d slip back to my old schedule within a matter of days on my own if I allowed it. But that’s OK.

Also, I changed my schedule a month or so before I changed my work schedule. I think this helped alot, because I didn’t have that additional stress.

A Salty Moment of Silence

A moment of silence please. Not for Michael Jackson. Not for Farrah Fawcett, or Billy Mays, or Robert McNamara. No, this is far worse, a beloved piece of the American landscape has suffered a terrible blow.

The Slim Jim plant … the ONLY Slim Jim plant … has exploded.

It may take months to recover, but we’ll get through this.

Stay strong.

NB: My condolences to the families of the 3 heroes that perished in the incident.

Gordon Ramsay & The White Barn Inn

I’ve lately been fortunate enough to eat at two amazing restaurants. The first was Gordon Ramsay at the London in New York City, the second was The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, ME.

Ramsay’s was quite simply the finest meal and dining experience I’ve ever had. Reeny is a big fan of his show, and I’ve watched it here and there, so I had some confidence he knew what he was talking about and that he had very high standards (important since he is not actually the chef there). The food was astonishingly good, from the artichoke soup to the Black Cod to the Kobe short rib, everything was A+. The highlight was either the soup or the scallop, both were so good it’s impossible to pick. The service was perfect too, we never felt like we were waiting nor did we feel rushed. If you’re even in NYC, make sure you visit this place, assuming you can make reservations two months ahead…

The White Barn Inn, a recommendation of Dina, was also memorable. While not quite as good as Ramsay, it’s easily the best place I’ve been to in New England. I opted for the lamb, Reeny for the beef, and both dishes were great as well as the other courses. The atmosphere is cozy, the service was very good, highly recommended when you’re down east.

The Caffeine Dilemma

This is not news to anyone, but the American food industry has a generally brazen disregard for people’s health, from over processed grains to trans-fats to things we don’t even know about yet. Unfortunately these ingredients and techniques are so commercially advantageous that it can be near-impossible to avoid them when having a meal outside of your house. An ingredient that falls into this category but doesn’t get as much chicken-little-press is caffeine.

Now caffeine is probably not as unhealthful as other things, but I’ve been trying to eliminate it from my diet except on an as-needed basis. Some people I know take pride in their level of caffeine consumption, but no doctor has ever told me I wasn’t getting enough of it, so I figure less is better.

Most non-fancy restaurants will have most of the following: coffee, decaf, hot/iced tea, tap water, bottled water, coke, Diet Coke, sprite, root beer, and a few other sodas, and often a juice or two. I eliminated sugary sodas a while back from my standard diet, so coke, sprite, root beer, and the other sodas are out, as are any available juices since they are mostly sugar too. Coffee is usually bad, decaf is usually horrible, and tap water is rarely any good, so they are out too. I’m left with hot/iced tea, bottled water, and Diet Coke. Bottled water usually costs a lot and you don’t get refills, and even before I was exercising regularly I consumed more beverage than your average person. I really can’t justify spending $5+ per meal for water. I’m not a big fan of hot tea without cream and sugar, and the quality of (caffeinated) iced tea is highly variable, so I typically order Diet Coke. Which, of course, has caffeine. It also has artificial sweeteners which I’d like to cut out at some point, but one thing at a time. There is of course, beer, wine, and liquor, but I drink far less than I go out (once or twice a month versus several times per week, respectively) and don’t see increasing intake as a healthy alternative.

So the logical plan would seem to be to order tap water, and if its not good, order a Diet Coke as a fall back. The problem is that if you’ve eliminated caffeine from your regular diet your tolerance for it drops quickly. So I’d be taking in a pretty powerful stimulant at 7 or 8pm and I’d likely be hopped up well into the night.

One thing I have stopped doing is buying soda for the house. I’ve been sticking to things like Gatorade, Fruit2O, Vitamin Water or Propel, and I feel better, despite most of them having sugar (though it’s about half of non-diet soda). I drink a half gallon of spring water a day, but I find that those sports drinks help with the sweet tooth.

If you think I’m working towards some conclusion here, I’m sorry to disappoint, as I’m still not sure what to do about the restaurant thing. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Update: Credit to Dana for suggesting club soda w/lemon as a caffeine-free, free-refill alternative when the restaurant also has a bar. It might take a bit of getting used to, but I’ll give it a shot.