This is two part article about why your mind lets you down on your trading goals, and all your other goals.
It is long-winded, but it needed to be. If you want to change your life, turn it around, be the success you know you can be, then read Part 1 and Part 2, and you will understand WHY your mind has let you down in the past.
I recently completed a 30-day fast/raw food. I fasted for 13 days and ate nothing but raw vegetables and some fruit for the next 17 days.
I learned a lot about myself and about 21st century man in that month. I learned we are absolutely addicted to food, and quite often we are not 100% at fault ourselves. However, the most important lesson I learned was why 99.9% of people fail at reaching their goals in life. We are addicted to pleasure and will avoid pain like the plague.
Before I reveal my insight, let me share with you how I came to that profound insight.
The day after Boxing Day, I went on the scale to weigh myself. I am 6”3’ and my weight should be around 14 stones, or about 88kg. The scale showed 15.6 or 99kg exactly. I know for a fact that it had been as high as 105kg.
I knew I was overweight. I knew I had drunk too much in December, and since I had sustained a knee injury, it had been completely impossible for me to exercise. The only thing I had done was to walk up and down the swimming pool, trying to strengthen the knee muscles.
I am not your average kind of guy when it is comes to health. I have studied alternative health for 19 years on and off. When I was at university I was a heavy smoker, and I didn’t look after myself very well. I contracted glandular fever, and my immune system was in a dire straight. I nursed myself back to health back then, and it was there my interest for natural health really started.
My first health book was by Harvey Diamond. It was called Fit for Life. It was a great book about food combining. I also studied natural therapies, and I discovered many great authors, past and present, who wrote about many diverse topics, but I won’t bore you with that.
In 1998 I had started working for an Investment bank and my career was taking off. One day my mum called me to tell me she was in great pain. She had been diagnosed with Myalgia Fibrosis. She could hardly walk, lie down, or sit up or do anything without having intense muscle pain.
At that point my interest in health had not diminished. On the contrary, I spent every Saturday and Sunday bicycling around to all the local 2nd hand bookstores to search for old health books. I had learnt about macrobiotic diets, the Natural Hygiene movements, and probably most importantly, I had discovered the works of Edgar Cayce, “the sleeping prophet” from Virginia USA.
Inspired by his readings and his work I had started fasting from time to time. It was somewhat counter-productive, I admit, that I was still a heavy smoker. Nevertheless I suggested to my mum to go on a fasting retreat. It would act as a relaxing holiday while being in the care of two professional therapists, who had specialised in scientific juice fasting.
My mum had some doubts, but I persuaded her to go by promising that I would go too and support her. Two months later we were sitting by the pool at a private farmstead health community in Portugal, surrounded by spectacular apple and avocado trees.
The retreat lasted 10 days. The first 7 days were dedicated to pure fasting. There are many ways one can fast, and I have heard all sorts of definitions. This particular fast had a fairly rigid structure. We would meet in the apple grove in the morning for yoga, and once we were done, we would pick apples off the tree and go to the farm kitchen and juice the fruit we had collected. We would then proceed to mix psyllium husk into the juice and drink it very quickly, before husk swelled up in the juice.
The psyllium husk acted a broom in the intestinal tract, while the freshly squeezed apples provided some sustenance and acted as a detoxifier in our acidic bodies. It worked well.
During the day you would hang out by the pool with the fellow fasters, of which there were 10 in total. When you felt tired, you could rest, retreat to your own cabin and mind your own business. Basically you just relaxed for 10 days.
My mum emerged from the retreat a lot stronger and a lot wiser. She had stopped taking pain medication during the fast, and after the retreat she embarked on a much different approach to eating. She also sold up and moved to a warmer climate. All in all the retreat cured her of her ails.
The experience of the retreat never left me. Even during the height of my career as a TV analyst for a City brokerage, I was still quite a fanatic when it came to my food. I have to be honest though and say that it was quite a yo-yo approach to healthy eating and living. My days would often start at 5am and finish at 10pm, and there were times when I would eat whatever I could get my hands on, including McD and BK etc.
Then there were times when I would be overtly healthy, making my own raw food and bring it to work. Whatever pre-conceptions you have of people on a trading floor, let me tell you this: There were many on that trading floor, which obsessed over what they were eating. My boss for example never touched carbs, and he had completed the Hawaiian Iron Man challenge. Another guy was training to swim across the channel for charity. His diet reflected the calorie need for such a spectacular feat.
During 2013 I had a conversation with a fellow trader, and we got talking about addictions to food and alcohol. He asked me if I had ever fasted, and I explained about my interest in health and longevity. He told about the movie “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead”.
Fat Sick and Nearly Dead is essentially a movie about being lost and being desperate for change. The idea of people putting themselves through a huge challenge with a film crew following their every step is an incredibly powerful form of entertainment. It is entertaining to follow their trials and tribulations, and it is intoxicatingly inspiring as well.
Before we move on, I had to tell you about a little known documentary called “Fat and Back”. It is about a fitness coach/personal trainer in Australia, who grows disillusioned with some of his clients.
The clients blame him for their lack of progress. The also accuse him of not understanding what it is like to be fat. So he decides to set himself a challenge. He will over the course of 12 months increase his body weight by 50% and then proceed to lose it all again. He binges for 6 months, and his weight goes from 80kg to 120kg. Over the next 6 months he proceeds to go back from 120kg to 80kg. All the while the film crew is following his every movement.
Fat Sick and Nearly Dead is a slightly different documentary. Here we follow another Australian, as he embarks on a journey across the heartland of USA for 60 days, whilst fasting!
Joe Cross is a former futures trader, whose weight has ballooned to 140kg and he is “one cheeseburger away from a heart attack”. His mission is to fast for 60 days. The film crew follows his every step and the movie is incredibly well made. You can watch it on YouTube.
I promise you that we will get to the point I set out to prove at the outset of this article. Just bear with me a little longer.
The paradox of Fat Sick and nearly Dead is that the hero is not our main character, Joe Cross. The real hero is the guy Joe bumps into at a truck stop in Arizona. His name is Phil. He is a truck driver and he is over 200 pounds overweight. The two men strike a friendship bound by their suffering of the same disease, Uticaria.
I was very inspired by these movies and I decided that it was time to use all the knowledge I had acquired in the last two decades and put it to good use. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do was to start on New Year’s Day. I wanted to start when I was truly ready.
I am not a role model for change, but I do know from experience that your chance of success is much better, when you are 100% at peace with what you are trying to do, and you feel good about it, and you can’t wait to get started.
Sunday the 5th January was my starting day. My goal was simple. Fast for at least 7 days and then move on to raw food for the rest of the month.
The first few days flew by. My energy levels were generally good, and if I felt tired, I would simply lie down and rest. The third day was tough. I had expected that. I have done a number of short fasts so I was familiar with the” third day” syndrome. Some call it the “hump day”, the day where you begin feel very hungry, and very tired. It passed by day 4.
By day 7 I was well on my way, and I decided to continue the fast. The second healing crisis I had was on day 10. It was very tough going, and I was struggling immensely to hold it together in my professional job as a trader. My energy was at rock bottom and I considered my options.
One option was to start eating again. I had gone past 7 days, but I felt there was more fight in me. I just needed to get past day 10. I decided to cheat a little.
I realised that my body was detoxing at a rate which caused me to have severe headaches and my energy was rock bottom. My body was working overtime on getting toxins out of my system, but when you don’t eat anything, you rule out one major source of elimination: toilet visits.
So I cheated. I “ate” large quantities of psyllium husk with ample of water. The next 24 hours were interesting but it had the desired effect.
When the relief came, it was absolutely amazing. It was as if my body had gotten rid of years of toxins in one “sitting”. I felt very strong afterwards, and my headaches disappeared instantly.
My sleep patterns up until day 10 had been very irregular. I was not able to get meaningful rest, and I often took to sleep during the day. However, after 10 and the experiences of day 10 and 11, I slept so well, and from then onwards I had no need to sleep during the day.
By day 13 I had lost nearly 17 pounds, or about 8kg. I had gone from 99kg to just below 91kg. I realised that if I continued with this rate of weight loss, I would go from overweight to underweight in just 30 days.
To compound the challenge and the dilemma of whether to start eating again or continue the fast was the fact that I had been summoned to an important business meeting, which I need would almost inevitably result in a social aftermath, such as a dinner or drinks.
I had no desire to drink, and I really didn’t want to break the fast either, but I accepted that my weight loss was much more rapid than I had anticipated, and I could really use some grounding ahead of the business meeting.
So on the day 13 I broke my fast.
My first meal in 13 days was a whole cucumber. I know what you must think. A cucumber is not exactly a culinary delight, but to me the cucumber is crunchy and watery, and that was what my body wanted. I wanted to chew something so badly. I didn’t have anything else that day but the cucumber. I felt strangely full on eating one cucumber.
On day 14 I had a raw salad for lunch, which was an amazing experience. From the onwards, for the next 17 days I had nothing but raw vegetable juice and salads. I did cheat once, on day 22, when I had some warm rice. The sensation of eating something warm again was out of this world.
Fruit vs. Vegetables
In the past I have always favoured carrots and oranges when it comes to juicing. This combination is simply so delicious, but it is unfortunately also very high in sugar. Yes, I know it is “natural” sugars, but the factual reality is that it is not natural. When you are juicing, you are separating the juice from the fibre. It means that you instantly metabolise the sugar, causing the body to produce insulin. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I don’t doubt that carrots and oranges are healthy in their natural state, but juicing isn’t exactly natural. So there is no point in making it worse by flooding your body with sugars at a time when you are trying to give your body a rest.
After I started eating again, I have lost another 4 pounds. This fast has been the best I have ever done, and I believe the reason is because I fasted only on very dark vegetable juices. Let me give you an idea of what I would juice in the morning:
3 large packs of Kale
2 whole bags of Celery
2 whole cucumbers
1 big lump of ginger root
5 whole lemons with only the yellow skin removed but the white skin intact
2 apples for sweetness
This is a powerhouse of a juice, and I would drink about 3 litre of this a day during the fast. I would always attempt to buy organic where possible. It was only the Kale that wasn’t always organic. I would always put plenty of ice cubes into the juice container, to stop the oxidation. I added the two apples for sweetness after experimenting with taste. Without the apples the juice would have been too dark green for me.
On day 6 I allowed myself a treat. I juiced a bag of carrots and two oranges with a lump of ginger. I then ran the juice through the Vita-Mix blender to mix the juices and the ice cubes. The result was a silky smooth juice, which had an amazing taste. Unfortunately this was way too much sugar for my body, and about 30min later I felt so tired I had to snooze on the couch. This was a clear indication to me that I should stick to the very dark raw green juices for optimal energy.
When I started eating again, I found a recipe online for raw chocolate brownies. Ah, the pictures looked so delicious that my mouth was salivating. I acquired all the necessary ingredients in the local health food store and set about making the brownies.
The result was nothing short of a food miracle. It tasted so good and obviously it must be good for me since it is raw. WRONG. It took about 30minutes before my body reacted, but it reacted with the same response as it did when I drank carrot and orange juice. You see, chocolate in its raw state is actually not great tasting at all. It is the sugar that brings out the taste. On its own it has a very bitter taste, and for the raw brownies to have an appeal it is loaded with raw honey.
I have two friends who are far more evolved on the raw food scene than I am. Both are in their 60’s and both have moved away from raw food. Their decision to come off raw food, despite the knowledge that raw food nutritionally is far superior to cooked food, was based on their experience with digesting raw matters. They found that their bodies functioned much better with an element of cooked foods in their diet.
I find the above paragraph incredibly life confirming. You embrace or reject or compromise but you do so on the basis of your own experiences. You listen to yourself, to your own body and mind, and you decide what works for you, what resonates with you.
Being a raw food enthusiast is not easy, even in an enlightened 21st century. My family is happy I have lost weight, but otherwise they don’t care to listen to me. Some of my friends think I am absolutely off my rocker, and that I should get my head examined. Some are curious, but generally will only enquire if they are sure no one is listening.
Then there are relationships. As you can imagine, there aren’t many raw-food guys or girls around. So if you are looking for a compatible mate, then you might find yourself alone on many a Saturday nights. During my fast I was invited to a birthday party. I solved that particular problem by knocking down 4 pints of Kale juice mixed with lemons before the party. It was a buffet, so no one really noticed I wasn’t eating.
My intention is not to be 100% raw. I know it would suit me to be, and I know my body would love it. I have seen what this way of eating has done to me in the short 3 weeks I have eaten raw: lost a lot of weight, gotten rid of a persistent mucous cough, toned up my body, gained a lot more physical energy, gained much greater mental clarity, eyes much clearer, skin glowing (I would say hair was shiny, but since I am follicle challenged, I would not know), and overall a much greater sense of well-being. Incidentally the live trading room that I run with David Paul and Larry Pesavento registered its best month ever while I was on my fast.
Has it been worth it? I could write another 2000 words about this question alone. I learned something incredibly valuable during my fast. I haven’t verbalised it before, so bear with me, if it seems a little long winded. I know I keep saying this, and I promise I will get to the point now, and how it relates to trading and to life goals in general.
To be continued in Part 2