Saturday, October 29, 2016

Quit Lying to Yourself

I don't know if you noticed, but I began my previous post by admitting that the headline about doing a "5-day water fast" was a slight exaggeration. The truth is that I only went 4 days and 13 hours until I broke my fast.

Why would I start a blog post in such a way?

It's not very catchy. It doesn't pull the reader in. It certainly doesn't generate more eyeballs or clicks or likes or shares.

I did it because it's the truth and because little lies can build on themselves, even if only within our own minds. Lying to ourselves changes our perception of the world, tiny little bit by tiny little bit, causing us to see and experience things differently than the people around us who we think are having the same experience.
photo from Valley News Live who has a good article on this

Last week a study came out whose results were shared by The Guardian, The Daily Mail, ABC News and FOX News (amongst many others). The study finds that:
   'When we lie for personal gain, our amygdala produces a negative feeling that limits the extent to which we are prepared to lie,' explains senior author Dr Tali Sharot from UCL's Experimental Psychology division.'However, this response fades as we continue to lie, and the more it falls the bigger our lies become. 'This may lead to a 'slippery slope' where small acts of dishonesty escalate into more significant lies.'
Read more: 
Once again science is proving what wise humans have known for generations. From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevski
The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him.
Telling small lies, whether to ourself or to other people, desensitizes us to telling bigger lies. As we are seeing right now, politicians tend to be great examples of people who can tell a lie with a straight face and totally believe it themselves. They could probably even pass a polygraph test. Why? They've been doing it all their lives. It's who they are.


  1. to stroke our ego
  2. fear of the truth
  3. anxiety
  4. to avoid responsibility
  5. to cut corners
  6. etc.

I began learning about this a few years ago when I read Practicing Radical Honesty by Dr. Brad Blanton. The book goes into far greater detail about all of this -- lying, honesty, culture, brain science, happiness, ego, etc. I'll let you explore more if you're interested.

As for me, I want to be the most authentic, caring, curious Kirk Ahlberg I can possibly be. And how can I achieve that if I'm lying to myself?


Friday, October 28, 2016

I Just Did a 5-Day Water Fast was more like 4 1/2 days. But they say that at 3 days is when you've burned through your ready reserves of glucose and that's when the fast really begins.

I'd done a few 24-hour fasts in the past 6 months after hearing a lot about the health benefits, but it was just a couple weeks ago when I was informed of this study that it can yield a dramatic improvement for high blood pressure, my Achilles heel. My bold in the abstract.


One hundred seventy-four consecutive hypertensive patients with blood pressure in excess of 140 mm Hg systolic, 90 mm Hg diastolic (140/90 mm Hg), or both were treated in an inpatient setting under medical supervision. The treatment program consisted of a short prefasting period (approximately 2 to 3 days on average) during which food consumption was limited to fruits and vegetables, followed by medically supervised water-only fasting (approximately 10 to 11 days on average) and a refeeding period (approximately 6 to 7 days on average) introducing a low-fat, low-sodium, vegan diet.


Almost 90% of the subjects achieved blood pressure less than 140/90 mm Hg by the end of the treatment program. The average reduction in blood pressure was 37/13 mm Hg, with the greatest decrease being observed for subjects with the most severe hypertension. Patients with stage 3 hypertension (those with systolic blood pressure greater than 180 mg Hg, diastolic blood pressure greater than 110 mg Hg, or both) had an average reduction of 60/17 mm Hg at the conclusion of treatment. All of the subjects who were taking antihypertensive medication at entry (6.3% of the total sample) successfully discontinued the use of medication.


Medically supervised water-only fasting appears to be a safe and effective means of normalizing blood pressure and may assist in motivating health-promoting diet and lifestyle changes.
A reduction of 37/13?! That's amazing! Everyone talks about how salt causes high blood pressure. But the truth is that reducing salt in one's diet only brings down the systolic (first) bp number by about 3-5 points. That's not nearly enough for me.

So I decided to give fasting a shot. Alas, in Medellin, Colombia (where I did this) it is not easy to find a blood pressure cuff, so I was not able to test my bp before and after.

I began by just committing to fasting for a day or two, but it was going pretty well after two days so I decided to keep going. I found a nice hotel with good wifi for $45/night and re-started my old Netflix membership. For me to resist the temptations of food and drink I need to lock myself into a comfortable place away from the demons alcohol and sugar and greasy, fried Colombian empanadas.

I ate zero food and drank only water from Saturday evening to Thursday morning. I watched a lot of Netflix and rested mostly, taking a nice long walk each day. One benefit of fasting is that the time allows your body to heal and focus on things other than digesting food.

On Day 2 I quit taking my bp pills and on Day 3 I realized that was a good idea because I was feeling a little faint when I would stand up -- a sign of low blood pressure. My doctor told me that feeling faint regularly while taking the pills would mean that I could stop taking the pills. I do not want to be taking blood pressure medication for the next 50 years.

The morning of Day 5, though, I think my blood sugar was also getting quite low. I wasn't feeling good and as I did more research I realized that everyone says a fast of more than 3 days should be accompanied by a physician or at least access to measurements of vitals like bp and blood sugar. As I walked past the free hotel breakfast I noticed it was the most extensive free hotel/hostel breakfast I had seen in months! So I dove in.

My eyes were bigger than my stomach, though, and I didn't yet realize the importance of slowly weening oneself off the fast and back onto solid food. I ate too much granola/yogurt when my body really just wanted fruits and vegetables that are high in water content. Lesson learned.

Today I'm on my second day of recovery and feeling great.

During the five days I rarely felt hungry. Once or twice each day my stomach would grumble. I'd just take a big drink of water and was fine.

Part of the benefit of a fast is mental training. I'm a stronger, more resilient person now because I realize that every time my stomach grumbles I don't have to cram something into it. Over the years I've learned that when I get hungry I really only need a banana or an apple to curb the hunger. In my youth I would eat a huge meal of mostly unhealthy food every time I was hungry. It only took me forty-some years to figure this out.


  1. Fasting definitely reduced my blood pressure. However, I'm not sure by how much or for how long it will stay at this level.
  2. Fasting is uncommon among people I know, but cutting edge science is learning more about the benefits.
  3. After this positive experience, I want to do it again in 6 months or so, but do it with at least a blood pressure cuff handy so I can gauge my actual results.
  4. Benefits of fasting include improvements in:
    1. Hypertension/high blood pressure
    2. Diabetes (type 2)
    3. Anxiety
    4. Depression
    5. Weight loss
    6. Cancer risk
    7. ...and more
Curious? Want to learn more? Here are some places to start.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bogota, Colombia

I recently spent about a week in Bogota, Colombia. It's a nice city and has come a long way from the drug cartel days of the '80s. The city has a lively bicycle culture, a beautiful historic city center and lots of terrific street art.

Here I am hanging out with the other cool cats..

..and then with Mona Lisa

Colombia's Coffee Region: Salento


After a week in Bogota I was joined by Debora (her photo above) for a few days in Colombia's famous coffee region and it was gorgeous. We could have easily stayed at our rural guest house (or finca) for a week or more just basking in the glory of the land. The above photo is sunrise as seen from the hillside of the guest house property.

Here's the charming compound in which we spent three nights with excellent food and much peaceful birdsong:


The landscape near Salento, Colombia is spectacular -- green and verdant with cloud forest and streams and these amazing wax palms, a natural symbol of Colombia. This is also coffee country. Colombia is one of the top international producers (by volume) of coffee along with Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia. I only began drinking coffee a few months ago after touring a coffee farm in Costa Rica, so the tour we took outside of Salento was very informative for me. And please excuse my horrible paragraph structure here. When I put photos on the right side or the left side of the text like this I can't figure out how to make line breaks inside this text region without shifting the entire photo down along with it. But anyways.. back to coffee. I learned that coffee grown at a higher altitude tends to be a bit more acidic than that grown at lower altitudes. I also learned that the longer coffee is roasted (i.e. dark roast vs. light roast) the less caffeine it contains. So lightly roasted coffee has more caffeine than dark roast, but the longer roasting tends to give it a stronger flavor.


We went on a beautiful 5-hour hike in Valle de Cocora which is famous for these wax palm trees that can grow up to 200' high. The cloud forest yielded some haunting photos like this one...

and this one...

We took many photos..

And enjoyed the local wildlife..


Another fun activity in the region is the Colombian national pastime called Tejo. Tejo is a game kind of like cornhole or bocce ball, but instead of tossing a round ball at another round ball, you throw a metal stone-like weight toward pockets filled with gunpowder. Yes!! 

Your game of cornhole with those bean bags? 
Bean bags are for children.

And, of course, there is also beer.

 Debora demonstrates fine form while scoring a macha..

Macha is the term when your metal stone scores a direct hit on one of the three small packets of gunpowder, causing it to explode with great noise and erupt in flames. It's awesome.

Debora scored 4 machas to my 1 (I was robbed on so many occasions I can't even begin to tell you), but I came out on top on the scoreboard due to my consistently keen eye and accurate throws. Games are played up to 27 points, and we played best 2 out of 3. I dramatically scored my only macha on the contest-winning final toss of the second game. Fun times

Citizens of The United States! 
Put away your cute bean bags and cornhole game and get with gunpowder! What could be more American than that? #votetrump2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Optimist Daily

Want more positive news in your world?

Sick and tired of news sources that focus on negativity (in order to make us fearful so we keep tuning in and they make more advertising revenue)?

Then check out The Optimist Daily.

You'll have to sign up with an email address, but they never email me. After you log in once the cookie should enable you to just view it every day.

I've made it my home page so every morning I get a dose of good news.