August 04, 2020 7 min read
I’ve always struggled through life to find a place that truly suits me. A lot of people think it's strange that I prefer to do things myself. I don’t take my car to a mechanic, rely strongly on primary care doctors to give me health advice, or expect others to manage my personal safety. I like to laugh and I’m rarely a stranger to people I meet, even for the first time.
I always find a stasis wherever I’m at, but I don’t tend to hang onto friends long after boredom sets in. I’m not sure where this kind of wayward mentality came from, but I can tell you how I learned to manage it. Today I'll be discussing the surprising mental and physical health benefits I've noticed from hot sauce, cold showers and intermittent fasting.
First, the hot sauce idea didn’t come from this new reaper challenge we’ve been littering our news feeds with. This whole “pleb-eats-hottest-pepper” challenge is childish and seems to be having some negative side effects for the uninitiated. Pro Tip: Don’t do that. I’ve been loading up my food with pepper so long that I’ve overcome the frustration of having to make two of every dish to please both my wife/friends and myself with regards to spice.
There are two questions I'm asked frequently by people in public places when it comes to spicy food. First, “can you even taste your food when it’s that hot?” Yes, I can and it's usually delicious. The other would be, “why are you doing that to yourself?” Well, why do you come home, sit on the couch and watch TV? How I choose to step outside of my comfort zone is up to me.
That’s what the hot sauce is about, stepping out of your comfort zone. Every time you do something that’s uncomfortable, you grow a little bit. It’s this sort of emotional response to the turmoil that helps you stay calm under pressure. I’m not saying that there’s going to be some kind of dramatic change in your life for taking on something like hot sauce, but it’s a great first step if you notice your world stagnating.
Just the handling of some of these spicy things can be violent if you forget to wear latex gloves while preparing them. The peppers can’t actually “burn” you, contrary to popular belief, but there’s a reason they use the stuff in OC Spray. Get it in your eyes or forget to wash your hands before you go to the bathroom and you’ll see what a Trinidad Scorpion pepper is capable of. While capsaicin (the oil that brings the hate) has tremendous health benefits, it can also kill you.
According to current research, eating several pounds of ghost pepper contains enough neurotoxin to take you out of the game. Keep in mind that's several pounds though. I can’t technically recommend that anyone try the hot sauce route, as it can have adverse reactions to those with cardiovascular or respiratory problems. I would refer you to your Primary Care Provider in that case.
I and a small group of friends engage in these spicy endeavors several times per week. We started off slowly and pushed the heat with manageable peppers like habanero and then eventually began hitting the hard stuff until we cried. We do cook with these peppers, but we typically add jalapeno for good measure.
In our group, we call jalapenos a “compound heat.” This means that while a jalapeno may only register about 7000 Scoville units, it packs a larger volume of capsaicin due to the size of the pepper. This overloads your taste buds and dramatically prolongs and intensifies the heat. We typically add jalapenos to all of our tacos and then juice them with a variety of sauces while filling up tortillas. My friend and I "workout" most nights of the week together and quite often we sprinkle brutally hot spices onto chicken, burgers and more.
I recommend eating a banana or two before you begin your feeding event. There's an old wive’s tale that claims a banana can help prevent the “ring of fire” later on. I don’t have any official research to substantiate this, but my own experience is that days I forget the banana don't go so well.
There's considerable research available to suggest that cold showers can actually improve your health substantially. I was never a hot shower kind of guy anyway, but since the cold showers started, I’ve noticed an impact in several areas of my life. I usually shower at night, as I can’t seem to stay out of the salt water or mud, especially if work was more difficult than normal. I’ve noticed that a cold shower typically helps during the summer when I’ve been sunburned or when the days have been brutally hot. I tend to fall asleep much faster as I’m not waiting for my body to cool off. In the mornings, I can jump into a cold shower without having to wait for the water heater to catch up. The jolt immediately wakes me up and I’m ready for the day even before I’ve had coffee.
I don’t want to go into the suggested health benefits too much here, as we aren’t sure that there’s even a meaningful difference in warm showers. We know that hot showers are definitely bad for your skin if exposed for too long or too often. They can dry out the skin and cause itching or rashes, which isn't good for anyone. Cooler showers help maintain the oils in your skin and help preserve its condition as you age. While that’s a hypothesis, it sounds logical enough to me.
Cold showers are definitely another exercise in stepping outside of your comfort zone, which is hopefully an obvious theme at this point. While it’s easy to write this off as a silly motivational speech, I’ve noticed a profound difference in my involvement with outdoor activities. The temperature of rivers, lakes or oceans doesn’t seem to play a major role in my decision to participate in any variation of water sports. The rain doesn’t keep me inside anymore, as the cold water doesn’t seem to make a huge difference. I’ve also learned to step outside of my comfort zone to the degree that my life seems to hold considerably more meaning. I’m an explorer by nature, but this exercise has been one of the best things for me.
If this is something you choose to pursue, eventually you’ll just jump right into the cold shower without thinking. You’ll never get over that little dance you have to do when the cold water hits your back though, unfortunately you’re stuck with that.
The previous items were suggestions for stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning to fight through emotional and physical pain to reach a positive outcome. While they’re great exercises, they lack a major component in building character. What good is the educated, confident, courageous adult that remains in total disarray? It doesn’t mean anything to be open-minded and adventurous if you can’t actually make anything from it. I fixed my disciplinary problems with Intermittent Fasting.
There's a massive amount of controversy surrounding this stuff. Traditional medicine says, “don’t even think about it, you need 3-5 meals per day.” On the other hand, newer research suggests it’s better for our bodies to eat once or twice per day. My wife and I primarily eat a Paleo style diet and we give ourselves a 7-8 hour window for feeding. Usually, our first meal is around 1 p.m. and our last is around 8 or 9 p.m., depending on how things go in the gym. Lately, I’ve been satisfied with eating one big meal at 1 p.m. and then a light snack instead of a second meal. I’ve lost 28 pounds so far and I feel better than I have in years.
I've noticed on several occasions that I didn’t drink coffee for the entire day and had no negative side-effects. I’ve been drinking coffee from a french press for about 8 years without missing a single cup. My wife and I have noticed how quickly we can be ready and out the door for planned events or meetings without any real effort. We don’t eat breakfast and I can live without coffee most days. We’ve also been able to stretch our meal times to a considerably later part of the day. When food options aren’t ideal, we simply decide to wait until we're home or around better options.
There are no stomach pains, dizziness or overwhelming desires to eat the first thing you can find. This didn’t happen overnight though, we worked at this for a couple of weeks and I’m not sure we'll ever really go back to a three-meals-a-day schedule. The benefits of fasting are too liberating.
Aside from these interesting changes in how we respond to food, we've also noticed another subtle facet as well; discipline. I used to do small things like leave a dirty dish in the sink or skip brushing my teeth some nights. These days, I recognize those same trends only to find myself addressing those items like they’re on a checklist of things that need to happen before I move onto the next phase of the day. The house and the cars stay cleaner and our lives are generally more organized. We’ve developed an ability to say “no” to a ton of foods and alcohols that have persisted for years. It’s been one of the most profound experiences that my wife and I have shared together. Several months into this way of life we're still noticing new and interesting trends that weren’t present before.
If you’re considering fasting as part of your lifestyle change, please consult with your healthcare provider. There are some situations and conditions that may worsen as a result of this kind of activity. There's a ton of information available on the web and a lot of the peer-reviewed research shows great promise for changing how and what we eat. Look around online for some of the plans available and carefully consider the side-effects. Men and women fast differently, so you’ll need to educate yourself on this. There are a couple of things that can happen when fasting for too long and they’ll require you to break a fast and try again the following day. This should be used as a tool for maximizing your health and quality of life.
Stretching outside of your comfort zone is a difficult, but rewarding experience. While eating hot sauce, taking cold showers and fasting aren't the only three methods to do this, they're ones I've found to be particularly rewarding.
Derek Gill has an extensive background in healthcare, pharmaceutical research and technical diving. He’s been certified in SCUBA since 2000 and diving technical/CCR since 2010. He speaks several languages including Russian and Spanish as well as several computer languages.