Be a Fitbit Boss

I only recently got on the Fitbit bandwagon… Actually a week ago. But, I’m not new to wearable fitness technology. I’ve been a huge Garmin GPS watch fan since my first one, the Forerunner 405; which I bought back in circa 2007. Actually, if you count heart rate monitor straps, I’ve been on-board for twenty(ish) years. Our treadmill and my VersaClimber both came with wireless monitors back in the 90s.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was missing. My company that I work for, Mythics, gave me and my coworkers a Fitbit as a Christmas present. Upon receiving it I instantly saw the potential. Not only is this watch considerably smaller and lighter than any of my Garmin watches, it is also sharp enough looking to wear every day of the week. Needless to say, I still absolutely LOVE my Garmin 920XT triathlete watch and I will continue using it for my training and events. However, the Fitbit has become my daily health device, and my new way to challenge and strengthen myself.

Dear Fitbit, If you are listening (reading as it were), I do have two requests:
1. Make the battery last longer;
2. Make it waterproof enough to swim with, and shower with.

 

Now… Before we dabble into being a Fitbit Boss, let’s get the painful disclaimer out of the way…
WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

My initial stab at making the Fitbit work for you is a straight forward approach. Wear it. Always! Not only does it do a great job of tracking your physical activity, but it also monitors your sleep and gives you some great feedback, so you should always wear it (except for swimming, showers, or baths). That may sound over simplified, but it really is the key to utilizing this robust fitness monitoring tool. If you always have it on, it’s a constant reminder to get moving. And, it is leverage to push yourself just a little harder to accomplish set goals.

The second thing I would recommend is make sure you familiarize yourself with the software and then connect with lots of your friends. Along the lines of wearing it, having friends chime in on your successes really helps boost your confidence and motivates you to try harder.

The third and final thing to push you down the path to using the Fitbit like a boss is to create and accept challenges with friends. Caveat: if you are new to fitness, or online workout challenges, you might want to wait a few days or weeks to really familiarize yourself with the watch and application. Make sure you are comfortable and confident keeping up with your fitness and hitting your daily goals. Once you get into challenges you will find friends who will literally climb out of bed in the middle of the night just to walk around their bedroom for ten minutes to get past your daily score… I’m one of those people. hehe.

Instead of going into further detail, I thought I would let you guys and gals hear from two of my friends who are dusting the competition. These two have a combined mileage of more than 14,000 Fitbit miles! And, they each average over 21,000 steps EVERY DAY! They are both inspirational in many aspects, and they’re also Fitbit Bosses!

I asked Josh and Christine the same questions, and also to give all of you words of encouragement and additional advice. This is what they said:

JOSH

weighed 329 pounds in November of 2013. It was his wake-up call… Ten months after working to lose weight, Josh had lost more than 130 pounds, and weighed 198 pounds. At the start of 2014, he was not happy with his life. Health issues included high blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of diabetes/stroke/heart attack, and many other things. After a heart attack scare (turned out to just be gas) in January 2014 Josh decided it was time to make a change.

After changing his diet and adding activity to his daily life, he began losing the fat and started feeling better. In the words of Josh, “Everything bad went down and everything good went up!” Josh was officially was hooked on 5/10/15K’s, Krav Maga, and the simple joy of going for an active walk/run. Bad foods were replaced with good ones! Life was anew!

Josh plateaued around Halloween of 2014 and now works daily on maintaining the weight and enjoying the new life that he worked his butt off for!

Josh before and after

CHRISTINE

has a son who is a bleeder. He is one of the reasons that their family started using the Fitbit. They knew that it would help make sure he is as active as possible to keep his joints healthy! Christine’s husband lost almost 30 pounds with his Fitbit. And although she is a runner, and thought she was in great shape, she realized with Fitbit that she was barely moving outside of her workouts!

Christine

Now that we’ve been introduced to these Fitbit stars, let’s do some Q&A…

Josh’s Answers

Do you think that the Fitbit contributes to your current level and state of healthy lifestyle?
Josh: Absolutely! Using my Flex has made me more aware of my activity and also helps me be more accountable to myself when it comes to meeting those daily and weekly goals.

How do you leverage the Fitbit to give you extra motivation and keep you going down a healthy lifestyle path?
Josh: I use my Flex in conjunction with a fitness app (RunKeeper). I use the Flex as a way to track my passive movements throughout the day and RunKeeper as a way to track my active activities (running, Krav Maga, etc.). The daily Flex goal is to hit those 5 lights with my morning run before I head to work so I can build upon that and see how more active I was after the initial active activity.

Would you recommend the Fitbit to someone who struggles with their fitness?
Josh: I already have! I have a friend who wants to get started on doing what I did in terms of weight loss and improving my lifestyle (for the record, in 2014 I lost 131 pounds and have maintained it ever since). They started out with small goals and are currently building up on them and adding more steps/miles every other week to keep themselves motivated and active.

What piece of advice would you give budding Fitbit enthusiasts on how to maximize the benefits?
Josh: Start off small, do not go for the ‘gusto’ initially or you will just burn yourself out. Start off with a 10K step goal and slowly add more to it as you find you have more energy as you build yourself and your endurance up.

Throw out your own ideas, thoughts, inspiring tidbits to help our readers get spun up and motivated!
Josh: Being active is very easy it turns out. A simple 1 mile walk starts you off on a journey where you amaze yourself by going further and further every single day. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from wanting to improve yourself and when you start seeing the results, you just want to go further and further!

The one thing about being a FitBit user is that your mindset changes over time. You want to hit those daily goals and sometimes you find yourself doing silly things to meet them. For example, I once roamed the isles of a supermarket just to add to my daily steps so I can go over my previous day’s total. Just be careful not to go too OCD on it – that is when you have nightmares your FitBit might sprout blades and impale you if you don’t hit those goals (it doesn’t – I’ve tried).

Do you have any final words of encouragement or thoughts to share?
Josh: When you attach your Fitbit to your wrist, you are making a pact with yourself. That pact is to improve on yourself and only you can do that. If you need motivation from others you’ll find that you want to rebel against them (like a teenager with their parents). When you do it for yourself, by yourself, and only for yourself, that motivation becomes your sole driving force and coach.

I don’t see myself as a inspirational figure but I know if I can do this (and maintain it) – anyone can!


Well… Josh may not see himself as inspirational, but I for one certainly think he is!

Christine’s Answers

Do you think that the Fitbit contributes to your current level and state of healthy lifestyle?
Christine: YES. Fitbit holds me accountable. Maybe to an extreme degree, because I am terrible about taking needed rest days! My overall health is MUCH better with it. I can honestly assess my movement. As a runner, I can run 10 miles in the morning and think I am so active, but not be in the greatest shape. With Fitbit, I might still get 10,000 steps in addition to my workout, and that has helped me stay fit and healthy outside of the gym.

My husband had to lose about 30 pounds a few years ago. He thought his four mile run in the morning was the ticket to weight loss. Using Fitbit he had a huge epiphany about his lack of movement throughout the day. He also got into the app, tracking his sleep and logging his food in the My Fitness Pal (which cooperates with Fitbit).

How do you leverage the Fitbit to give you extra motivation and keep you going down a healthy lifestyle path?
Christine: The key with Fitbit is making the goal HARD. I know so many people who whine that they are not losing weight even though they get 10,000 steps a day. The key is to push yourself so that you can get frequent success and still be challenged.

Would you recommend the Fitbit to someone who struggles with their fitness?
Christine: YES. I would recommend it. But the challenge is many people I know who need to get healthy hate seeing that they are a failure. So it is a good idea not to friend people for a few months, or they get discouraged and stop trying, if they constantly see others ahead of them. I also like to get the Aria scale for people who really need this to work. Most people get really accountable when they see the numbers every day.

What piece of advice would you give budding Fitbit enthusiasts on how to maximize the benefits?
Christine: Sometimes, the number of ACTIVE minutes per day is more crucial than steps. So I might not run and do a 2 hour spin workout, and my Fitbit steps look crappy. But my active minutes rock. Learning to adjust expectations and make a commitment to ACTIVE minute is important. I think 10,000 steps a day is doable for anyone. Active minutes is more crucial for weight loss.

Throw out your own ideas, thoughts, inspiring tidbits to help our readers get spun up and motivated!
Christine: My husband, sons, and I all wear fir bits. We compete often, creating challenges and contests. We walk to the park and play outside so much more when we know we will get credit! Ultimately, we live in a sedentary society and the Fitbit will get you off the chair. To get the Fitbit to work, honesty is the trigger. Being honest about food, water, sleep and workouts is huge. My husband still cannot believe that eating a handful of gummy bears means he needs to run 6 miles.

Do you have any final words of encouragement or thoughts to share?
Christine: Ultimately, the Fitbit got us all honest. I was a marathoner with pounds to lose. Now I am in the best shape of my life. I stopped hiding behind the thought that I was incredible. Fitbit got me real!


There you have it… You heard it from the mouths of Fitbit pros! I hope this was informational and inspirational! Thanks for reading, and please chime in with comments. We would all love to hear about your Fitbit experience and leveraging ideas!

Feel free to track me down and friend request me, if you want a competitive training partner! www.fitbit.com/user/3WKFRM
Posted with love from your virtual fitness and life coach,
-Vaughn

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World AIDS Day 2014

Today is World AIDS Day. Look for folks wearing a red ribbon! Speaking of which… Do you know where the red ribbon for AIDS awareness comes from? Way back in good ole 1991, a creative group (made up of photographers, painters, film makers, and costume designers) of twelve people gathered to discuss a new project; a New York arts organization that raises awareness for HIV. After a short brainstorming session, they came up with an idea that later became one of the most recognized symbols of the time – the red ribbon. It is worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Since the red ribbon was popularized for AIDS awareness, literally dozens of other colors have appeared, including: pink for breast cancer, yellow for deployed U.S. military forces, white for lung cancer, and so on and so forth. Technically, the yellow ribbon came out more than a century ago and has appeared in several songs and poems. But, the official ribbon stipulation started with the red AIDS ribbon.

Please take 90 (or more) seconds out of your day today to reflect and remember the millions and millions of people affected and infected by this horrible virus, disease, and/or syndrome.

As usual, I like to put things into perspective… So, let’s tackle some numbers first. Did you know?

  • It’s estimated that around 40 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Almost 40 million people have died of AIDS worldwide.
  • Each year, around 2 million people die due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.5+ million are newly infected.
  • Although HIV/AIDS affects all regions of the world, almost 97% of those living with it reside in low to middle-income countries (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa).
  • There are more than 16 million orphans due to losing their parents from AIDS!
  • Last, but not least, around 10,000 of those who lost their lives in this horrendous battle were hemophiliacs.
  •  

    I have been living with HIV for around 30 years. Over the years I have asked myself countless times, Why did I survive and others like me didn’t? I believe that I was spared because I am a strong and comfortable speaker. Seriously! I truly believe that I am still here to be an advocate and activist. It is my duty to stand tall and let the world know what is going on. And, potentially to help inspire those living with and dealing with HIV/AIDS. My message is a simple one… “This is not a death sentence, and you can thrive despite having it!”

    You guys might remember a post from last year called, Dum Spiro Somnium. That is my life motto and it essentially means, While I breathe, I dream. In other words, as long as I breathe I will continue to believe in my dream of a world without AIDS. Join my dream, and together we can defeat AIDS!

    My Dream is a World Without AIDS

    If you want to read my story and the journey that I have struggled through, pick up my book Survivor.

    It is our duty to NEVER FORGET and strive to beat this horrific disease!

    As part of my advocacy and message spreading, I started blogging around six years ago. Back on February 13, 2009, I created HIV Longevity, and tried to send inspirational and thought provoking messages, posts, and articles. Since then, I have posted more than 200 articles. Many of these blog articles have been based around HIV, AIDS, and dealing with the horrible problems associated with them. More recently I hibernated the HIV Longevity blog and switched to the Healthy Wealthy Tribe. Primarily I did this because I wanted to reach a broader audience and talk about things outside of HIV and AIDS.

    Since 1 in 100 people are HIV+, almost all of us are affected by this terrible virus. How are you affected by HIV/AIDS?

    This message of hope was sent with love, from my still beating heart (despite the odds).

    Signed,
    the survivor, the advocate, and the inspirational dreamer.

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    HeartRate Zones

    You’ve probably (hopefully) heard about heart rate training zones. And, if you’re into fitness you already know a bit about it. Today’s article will cover this (a little bit) for those of us who are a bit confused or wanting a little more information.

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    Ahhh… Got that disclaimer out of the way, now we can talk about blowing your heart up! hehe.

    For simplicity, many people use the Haskell and Fox Formula for determining their maximum predicted heart rate (MPHR). This method is commonly believed to be the most accurate. There is also the Karvonen Method; which includes the resting heart rate in the formula.

    The Haskell and Fox Formula is simply: MPHR=220-your_age

    That said, I don’t like to use any formula. Everybody has a different sized heart. And, different sized hearts pump blood at different rates. Everybody is at different levels of fitness. And, everyone is.. um.. different! For this reason, in my humble opinion, there is no “real” standard formula to know your true maximum heart rate (hence throwing “predicted” into the title. According to Haskell and Fox my MPHR is 173 beats per minute (BPM). But I know for a fact that my MPHR is at least 182 BPM, because I’ve hit that several times! If you must know your maximum heart rate, check with a cardiologist doctor who specializes in VO2Max (maximal oxygen uptake/intake) stress testing, or a fitness professional who has the proper equipment to measure this for you. Never try to do it on your own, because you could (and probably will) kill yourself!

    Sidenote: One of my pet peeves is when people think that you can push yourself extra hard and momentarily boost your heart rate over your maximum BPM. Let’s dispel that shit right now… It is called maximum because it is the maximum. There is no going over (even for a second) the maximum rate your heart can pump. Otherwise it would be called close to maximum or something along those lines. If you go over your max heart rate, you have now discovered that your previous number was too low and you can replace it with the new value. PERIOD

    Another note: Your MPHR will go down by approximately one beat per year (similar to Haskell and Fox’s guess). So, if you are 184 BPM this year, you will probably be 183 next year… And so on, and so forth.

    Let’s discuss the “zones” for a minute. This is a common heart rate training zone list:
    Zone 1 – 50-60% – Recovery (aerobic)
    Zone 2 – 60-70% – Endurance (aerobic)
    Zone 3 – 70-80% – Stamina (aerobic)
    Zone 4 – 80-90% – Economy (anaerobic)
    Zone 5 – 90-100% – Speed (anaerobic)

    It is scientifically proven that training in certain zones is more beneficial depending on what you’re trying to achieve. I’m not going into deep detail here, because there are tons of books that contain way more information than I could hope to include in a blog article. This is merely an introduction to get your interest piqued.

    Now let’s draw a quick chart that shows a sample of how those zones are associated with heart rates. Since I know my estimated max, we’ll use my values to create our chart:

    HR Zone
    1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    % of Max
    50-60%
    60-70%
    70-80%
    80-90%
    90-100%
    Heart Rate (BPM)
    91-109
    110-127
    128-146
    146-164
    165-182

    Now that we have laid this handy-dandy chart out, we need to factor one more important piece in to the equations… Everybody has a muscular failure point in exercise commonly called lactic acid threshold or lactate threshold. Essentially this means that your muscles (and ATP) cannot clear the lactic acid that is building up in your muscles. When this threshold is hit, you have a very short amount of time (sometimes seconds) left before you can no longer continue your activity. I’m sure we’ve all felt this threshold at some point in our life. I feel it at least a few times each week! Suffice it to say (without getting to obfuscated) if you go over this limit, you will not be able to continue working at that level for more than a few seconds.

    This threshold appears to be somewhere right around 91.5% of your MPHR. Mine is at 166 BPM. During cardio, you do not want to go over this threshold (unless you are doing advanced high intensity interval training), because you won’t be able to maintain your state of exercise for more than a few seconds before you fall over and lay panting until your heart rate gets down and your muscles clear themselves of the painful acid. However, we often try to get to this point while doing weight lifting and other forms of anaerobic exercise (as opposed to aerobic exercise).

    For more information on heart rate zones you can look for books by Sally Edwards and Joe Friel (among literally hundreds of other great authorities). My absolute favorite is found in The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel. He breaks it down in much more detail and even breaks the fifth zone into three sections (5a, 5b, and 5c).

    I know this was only a cursory glance at this material, but I sincerely hope you found the article informative!

    Now, figure out your zones, design a plan that includes being in one or more of them, and get out there and hit that zone!!!

    -Rip

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    The Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search

    A sudden and powerful change happened to me on (or about) March 11, 2014. I was flipping through the pages of Men’s Health magazine and saw an ad titled “Are you fit? Healthy? Driven? Giving? Enter to win the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search.” The ad went on to say that one lucky winner would be featured on the cover of Men’s Health magazine.

    I smiled and thought… I’m extremely fit. I’m very healthy. I’m over-the-top driven. And… I absolutely love giving. My smile eased a little and the gears started grinding in my head. I chuckled… But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized… I was cut out precisely for this competition.

    Then the doubt started creeping in. You know the doubt… The realist inside each of us. It was saying things like, “Dude, you’re 46 years OLD.” “You’re medication over the years has stripped fat from your cheeks and butt and stuck it in funky places!” “Life has put battle scars on you.” “There will be two dozen or more seriously good looking model-ish men competing in this among a field of hundreds of others.” Finally my inner demon said, “What possible chance do you think you have?”

    For a few minutes I nodded my head in agreement with the dark side of my mind. Then, a tipping point happened. I thought of John Belushi saying, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” I laughed again. And something neat happened… A glimmer entered my eye. And, I realized that this was doable. I knew it would be an uphill battle, but honestly what great outcome isn’t tough? I decided then and there that I would enter. The contest started on March 15, 2014 – so I stored this thought in the back of my brain, tore the page out, and got on with life.

    Jump to 3/15/14 – Some of the original negative thoughts started pouring in. I was nervous. Am I being silly? Before these bad feelings could bring me down, I suddenly had another thought… Has a hemophiliac EVER been on the cover of Men’s Health? I don’t know… Maybe..? Has an HIV+ person ever graced the cover of Men’s Health magazine? Again, I didn’t know, but figured probably… (I should know this stuff). Then it hit me – I know… That there has NEVER been an HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, because I know them all! It was settled then and there… I opened the website and started my entry process.

    March is Hemophilia Awareness Month. For goodness sakes, Ronald Wilson Reagan made it so back in 1986!!! And, more than 90% of ALL hemophiliacs born before the mid-1980’s got HIV from a bad blood transfusion. And, almost ALL of them died from AIDS or complications around this horrible disease! It was destiny that I would stumble on this opportunity in March, during Hemophilia Awareness Month!!! I was in head first!

    Honestly, I was simply hoping to be in the top ten, so I could raise awareness for hemophiliacs and HIV+ people. When I entered I sincerely did not think that I would win. The competition would be far too strong and who the heck am I?

    Guess what… On day one, I skyrocketed to first place. And, I’m not talking about a little jump, I was ten times ahead of the second place person! It was incredible.

    By day two, many more men had joined and they were gaining, but I was still at least four times as many votes ahead of everyone else.

    By day three I realized, I could actually win the voting portion of this competition. That was when it happened. You see, in life, nothing (I mean NOTHING) worthwhile is easy. And, there is no reason that this would be different. Realizing that I could win this voting section of the contest, I re-read the rules carefully. There it was glaring at me…

    Upload at least one (1) but up to three (3) digital photographs … taken within thirty (30) days prior to the date of your Entry into the Contest…

    Holy crap! In my rush to enter… With the mindset of “I can’t possibly win this thing…” I had made a vital mistake. I had uploaded older photos of me… You see, I am 46 years old (47 next month) and because of how fit and healthy I stay, my physique really hasn’t changed very much in over a decade. So, I assumed any photo would do, because quite honestly I am in the best shape of my life NOW and even look better than those photos from a year or two ago…

    The sinking feeling of dread overcame me as I realized that I could potentially be disqualified. And, on top of that, I was essentially cheating by not following the rules. My head pounded and my stomach was upset… This couldn’t be happening to me. Moments later, I wrote the editor of Men’s Health and explained my situation looking for a resolution. Well, fortunately for me, the editor was very cool and said simply “you are also permitted to enter once per day per email address throughout the entry period. So, you are welcome to submit another entry with current photos…”

    Well… That settled it… I had to ditch my first place entry that had more than 2,200 votes already and start a new entry with current photos. So, I worked with my Aunt, Patty Abrams, to quickly take a few “today” photos of me. These photos were nowhere near as cool as my previous entry (me posing in a triathlon suit looking all heroic, me on Mount Rainier in -40 degree temperatures, and me on a 185 mile bicycle ride on the C&O canal towpath), but they are legit and follow the rules.

    My new entry, was sitting there with zero votes in 113th place… Wow! Talk about a buzz kill. To add insult to injury, my original entry is still sitting there on top of the pack all pretty and perfectly happy. DANG!

    Time to eat some humble pie… I spent a few minutes typing up a quick status update for my social media friends that had all helped escalate me to the top of the heap. I had to explain that our 2,200+ votes weren’t going to count toward this newest entry. I laughed at myself. Cheered them for their support. And then asked for their continued support. I wasn’t sure how folks would respond. I mean, I’ve already been SPAMing them with numerous requests to vote for me as a cover model… yada. I thought they might rebel. *insert upbeat music here* Something very special happened. They all stood behind me, and picked me up. From the nadir of this event, my friends and their friends all wiped the dirt off my face, picked me up, brushed the tears from my eyes, and gathered as a community to support me… Their brother.

    After adding my second entry, folks got behind me and stormed the contest pouring in massive votes. Within one day I had gone from 113th place to 3rd place and had a solid 600 votes! Just when I thought all was cool, Men’s Health reached out again and said that they need to remove my second entry. So, they offered to put one of my new photos in the original entry and delete my second entry into the contest. Unfortunately they were not able to migrate my votes over. However, I still had the healthy amount of votes and a solid lead. Stuff happens, and I’m usually one that rolls with the punches. Besides, I can’t really complain considering my sizable lead.

    You guys have all given me so much support during this entire process, and I am eternally grateful!

    This is what it’s all about. I now know why I’ve entered this competition. It’s not some vain attempt to plaster myself on a magazine… It’s not about me. It is about us. It is about hemophiliacs. It is about HIV+ people, it is about average Joes who are beaten down ever day of their lives and continue picking themselves up and reporting for duty despite the odds stacked against them.

    I have survived for more than 28 years as an HIV+ human being. I believe there is a reason why God spared me. I honestly believe that it is my duty to spread awareness and advocate for people who struggle to have their voices heard. Well… I am here. And, I felt you help pick me up. I feel your love. I feel your support and caring. I feel you. And, I love you. I will fight for this and every other opportunity that we have to scream at the world.

    Together, you and I can and will put the first ever HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of one of the most popular men’s magazines on the planet.

    Please help support this cause by sharing my link, voting (you can vote daily), and spreading the word.
    www.mhguysearch.com/entry/37/

    I’m currently standing with a strong lead in first place…

    Love to you all,
    Vaughn Ripley

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    Twenty Seven Years of Survival

    Fasten your seat belts, folks. This article may have a “me-me-me” bend to it. And, that’s because it does. Most of my articles are focused on “us” (you and me). But, this one is my celebration of life. More specifically… A celebration of MY life.

    Yay me!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

    This post is about My Surviving Anniversary – On January 3, 1987 I was diagnosed as being HIV+. Somewhere between mid 1985 and late 1987, I was transfused with a bad batch of blood. To quote Huey Lewis, “Sometimes, bad is bad.”

    Officially, I have been diagnosed with HIV for 27 years. Unofficially, we don’t know when I got it, because I’m a mild hemophiliac and don’t have to get factor VIII or cryoprecipitate (clotting factor) on a regular basis. I have a letter from my doctor, which arrived days after Rock Hudson’s death, dated October 9, 1985, stating that I tested HTLV-III negative. The old test they used couldn’t detect the virus unless it had been in your body for more than three months… This means that I was infected somewhere between (circa) July, 1985 and October, 1987.

    Semantics aside, suffice it to say that it’s been more than 27 and fewer than 30 years. Regardless, I have lived more than a quarter of a century past where my doctor predicted. Hoo-Rah!

    Circa 1989 I got shingles and then a pneumonia. My CD4 levels were brutally low and when they dipped below 200 I was considered to have ARC (AIDS-related complex). Later, doctors said that if your levels dropped below 200 you had “full-blown” AIDS. I think they did this for medical insurance reasons, yada. Again I was told that my life would end in a very short time. By now, I was used to being told, “You ain’t got much time left, kid.”

    Well… I didn’t die. Now I’m one of the longest surviving HIV+ people on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, there are others who have survived and lived as long as me (or even longer). However, when you think about the numbers… More than 25,000,000 have died and only a handful have survived this long… You get the picture.

    My wife, Kristine, and I found out about a new and “safe” way for us to have children in circa 2002. It is called ICSI (you can read more about this in my in vitro article) in vitro fertilization. We made several attempts before finally being successful and having our little girl in early 2005. This was a milestone of epic proporations, because we always assumed we’d never have children.

    Back in 2007 I celebrated my 40th birthday. The theme was, Forty Years of Life and Twenty Years of Survival. Kristine and I invited 105 of my closest friends and we rented out two adjoining hotel ballrooms. We hired a live band ( The Reagan Years are a 80’s throwback cover band, and they are AWESOME!) We had a catered dinner. And, we had an open bar. This was my knockdown, drag-out, bash! And, it was quite the celebration!

    Then in 2010 I published my memoirs, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C. This book details my battle and struggle to thrive.

    I feel pretty good, considering I was told I had fewer than two years to live when I was 19 years old… My plan is to live another 30 years. I figure 77 years old is a cool number, so that’s the one I’m going with. However, if death comes knocking on my door sooner, it better have an army with it, because I’m a warrior. Death does not scare me. Not in the least. However, I won’t simply lie down. Count on that!

    (:

    In the meantime, I have some lofty goals. Here are a few of them (in no particular order):

  • Travel to Italy, Japan, Alaska, Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia with my family;
  • Compete in 100 triathlons;
  • Publish a dozen or more books;
  • Finish a full Ironman distance triathlon;
  • Travel the world inspiring diverse people;
  • Make a difference in the hemophilia community;
  • Teach my children wrong from right;
  • Figure out my spirituality and what I believe in;
  • Climb Mount Rainier (and maybe a few others);
  • Love my darling wife until my dying day.
  •  
    Thank you for all of the support, friendship, and downright caring that each and every one of you gives me. Hopefully this “me-me-me” article was fun for you guys too. Now let’s get back to the “us” articles!

    Love you all,
    Vaughn Foster Ripley

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    Why I Quit Drinking

    Today is Saturday, December 7, 2013. It is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is also my Uncle Dano’s birthday. Happy birthday, Uncle Dano! Today is also the day that I quit drinking alcohol. And, this post is more for me than you. This post is a reminder, this post is a marker. Most of all, this post will help keep me to my word.

    Enough today crap… Let’s talk about why I quit drinking. I’ve actually thought about this long-and-hard for quite some time. I rarely leap into such a serious life changing event without careful calculation and planning. This is no different. It’s just time for me to make another identity shift (I’ve done dozens of them in my adventure that I affectionately call “life”). Most of you know that I’m extremely fond of the Japanese philosophy, kaizen. And, I work hard to improve myself on a daily basis. This is one of those steps.

    Instead of chatting about my reasons, I thought I would simply hit some bullet points. Suffice it to say that I did pros and cons and the cons FAR outweighed the pros… Some of these reasons for quitting drinking might ring true for you. Then again, some may not. You might also have additional ones that I didn’t even list… However, these are the main concerns that I’ve thought of for me (in no particular order):

  • Creativity I dunno about you, but drinking really puts a dent in my creativity. Because I consider myself a creative thinker I feel like alcohol kind of dummies me down and takes away one of my talents.
  • Waste of Usable Time While I’m under the influence of alcohol I feel I’m wasting my time. I’m constantly looking for ways to add time to my days… Well, stopping drinking is a perfectly suitable way to add time to my day (IMHO).
  • Sleeping In One of my pet peeves is sleeping too long and letting the day waste away. When I drink I often have turbulent nights where I do not get the proper sleep. My drunken sleep is interrupted and rough at best. Also, I tend to sleep in after a night of drinking, and this KILLS me! Time (as you know) is tough to come by. By eliminating drinking, I will add time by getting better (healthier) sleep and by waking earlier ready to leap out of bed!
  • Workouts Suffer Some of my lifting is extremely intense. I am unable to do my HIT (high intensity training) workout after a night of drinking. Not only am I weaker, but I get sick (even if I’m not hungover).
  • Hangovers SUCK Speaking of hangovers… They suck!
  • Depressant Alcohol is a depressant. I’m an overly positive person and I work hard at knocking depressing things out of my life. Removing alcohol from my intake is an easy improvement!
  • Saving Money As a social drinker who doesn’t drink every night, I figure a low-end guess is that I drink around $60 worth of alcoholic drinks each week. This number may well be conservative, and I’ve been known to spend more than that in one night (especially on a nice bottle of wine). That is (at a minimum) $3,120 per year. Considering that I could easily get over this figure, you can see just how much it could potentially cost on an annual basis!
  • My Behavior Quite often I imagine my behavior is fine while drinking… However, there is that once in a while where I’m a complete asshole or asshat. If I had my druthers, I’d avoid being an asshat whenever possible. ‘Nuff said.
  • Weight There are 154 calories in an average can of beer. If I drink four beers that is 600 or more calories. Think about that one for a moment. No nutritional value at all, yet I could easily fatten myself up with it. Why would I?
  • Driving Drunk I’m not a fan of this, but I am guilty. Well, I have children, family, and friends. I do not like to think about the horrible emotions I would put folks through if I died driving (or riding) drunk. Even worse: What if I killed someone else? I can’t think of anything worse!
  • Injuries This one might not affect everyone, but I can tell you as a hemophiliac that I am much more prone to injuries when inebriated. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably agree on this one.
  • Bleeding Episodes Another one that doesn’t create a problem for most clotters (non-hemophiliacs), but it does affect us easy bleeders. Alcohol is actually an anticoagulant… In other words, it has been proven to thin the blood. YIKES!
  • Immune System This probably doesn’t need to be said, but alcohol can hurt your immune system. In my case (dealing with HIV) that can be very bad for me. However, it really is bad for everyone if you’d prefer to stay healthy and fit!
  •  

    I will not knock people for drinking or not drinking (and I never have). I’m still the same old wild and crazy guy. And, I’m still the inspirational life fighter. This will not change. I’m simply entering a new stage of my life, and I have put plenty of thought into it.

    Feel free to pick on me if you see me drinking a soda water with a lime in it, but don’t bother with peer pressure, because I don’t fold.

    I have a question for all of you: Assuming I can handle it (which I can), is it acceptable for me to keep alcohol in my house for guests? What’s your opinion about this?

    If you drink (or did drink), have you ever considered stopping? Please feel free to share your story here!

    My final question: Do/will you all support me with this latest life choice?

    Love you all,
    Vaughn

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    World AIDS Day 2013

    Today is World AIDS Day. Please take 90 (or more) seconds out of your day today to reflect and remember the millions and millions of people affected and infected by this horrible virus, disease, and/or syndrome.

    I like to put things into perspective… So, let’s tackle some numbers first. Did you know?

  • That as of 2008, there are 33.4 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS.
  • More than 25 million people have died of AIDS worldwide.
  • Each year, around 2 million people die due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.5+ million are newly infected.
  • Although HIV/AIDS affects all regions of the world, almost 97% of those living with it reside in low to middle-income countries (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa).
  • There are more than 16,000,000 orphans due to losing their parents from AIDS!
  • Last, but not least, around 10,000 of those who lost their lives in this horrendous battle were hemophiliacs and are my blood brothers.
  •  

    I have been living with HIV for 28+ years. Over the years I have asked myself more than a thousand times, Why did I survive and others like me didn’t? Now that I’ve survived for nearly three decades, I think I can finally (and honestly) answer that question. I think I was spared because I am a strong and comfortable speaker. Seriously! I truly believe that I am still here to be an advocate and activist. It is my duty to stand tall and let the world know what is going on. And, potentially to help inspire those living with and dealing with HIV/AIDS. My message is a simple one… “This is not a death sentence, and you can thrive despite having it!”

    You guys might remember a post from a few months back called, Dum Spiro Somnium. That is my life motto and it essentially means, While I breathe, I dream. In other words, as long as I breathe I will continue to believe in my dream of a world without AIDS. Join my dream, and together we can defeat AIDS!

    My Dream is a World Without AIDS

    If you want to read my story and the journey that I have struggled through, pick up my book Survivor.

    It is our duty to NEVER FORGET and strive to beat this horrific disease!

    As part of my advocacy and message spreading, I started blogging nearly five years ago. Back on February 13, 2009, I created HIV Longevity, and tried to send inspirational and thought provoking messages, posts, and articles. Since then, I have posted nearly 200 articles. Many of these blog articles have been based around HIV, AIDS, and dealing with the horrible problems associated with them. More recently I hibernated the HIV Longevity blog and switched to the Healthy Wealthy Tribe. Primarily I did this because I wanted to reach a broader audience and talk about things outside of HIV and AIDS.

    Since 1 in 100 people are HIV+, almost all of us are affected by this terrible virus. How are you affected by HIV/AIDS?

    This message of hope was sent with love, from my still beating heart (despite the odds).

    Signed,
    the survivor, the advocate, and the inspirational dreamer

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    Fish Oil Might Help

    Let’s discuss Omega-3 fatty acids and their potential benefits!

    Back a few articles ago (as you know) I started talking about different foods, drinks, and vitamin supplements that I ingest on a daily basis to increase the strength of my immune system and add to my overall health and longevity. This whole thing was originally kicked off with my post about oranges. Today is really no different, except the topic shifted slightly… Let’s dig in!

    As most of you know, there are lots of health benefits that come from taking a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) has been proven to help lower triglycerides and blood pressure. Studies also show that omega-3 may help with other conditions like: asthma, Alzheimer disease, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, inflammation, among others.

    Hemophilia Alert: Omega-3 may cause the blood to thin and cause excess bleeding. This is not necessarily bad, but should be considered if you have a bleeding disorder, or are taking anticoagulant drugs.

     

    There are three main types of omega-3s: EPA, DHA, and ALA. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids in our diets. ALA, DHA, and EPA are not made in our bodies; therefore, we must get them from our diet. Two of the most important fatty acids that come from omega-3 are EPA and DHA; which are found in certain fish. The third one, ALA, can be found in plants, oils, and walnuts.

    Whenever possible, the best possible way to get your omega-3 fatty acids is from fresh foods. You can find good natural sources of DHA and EPA omega-3s in the following fish:

  • trout
  • tuna
  • anchovies
  • bluefish
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • sturgeon
  •  

    If you cannot eat these fish three times per week, then you should consider supplementing with an omega-3 capsule.

    You can find ALA in:

  • walnuts
  • flax and flaxseed oil
  • canola oil
  • olive oil
  • soybean oil
  •  

    I’d love to get my daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids directly from fresh food sources, but I rarely do… So, I pop an omega-3 pill twice a day. Essentially, I do this to ensure that I get the proper amount of DHA and EPA.

    Do you make sure to get a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids?

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    Cinnamon and Longevity

    Back a few articles ago (as you know) I started talking about different foods, drinks, and vitamin supplements that I ingest on a daily basis to increase the strength of my immune system and add to my overall health and longevity. This whole thing was originally kicked off with my post about oranges. Today is really no different, except the topic shifted slightly… Let’s dig in!

    Cinnamon is loaded with fiber, calcium, and iron. It also lowers blood sugar levels! And, has been shown to help with diabetes! So, why wouldn’t you take a daily dose??

    You can add it to fruit juice, milk, tea, or other liquids. I simply stir a tablespoon (just over 6 grams) into water at the same time with my fiber and put it down like some freaky concoction from Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory… But, I’m kind of weird. Make sure you pick something that will taste good to you, so that you’ll do it each and every day! Start Today!

    Before we talk about the benefits, let’s discuss what it is, and where it comes from… Cinnamon is a spice that comes from wild trees native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia. And, there’s two main types of cinnamon: Ceylon and Cassia (Chinese cinnamon). Mankind has been consuming the spice for at least 4,000 years! For more than 1,000 years, cinnamon has been used for it’s medicinal value and doctors have given it to cure many ailments.

    Editor’s Note (added after article was published): My friend, Jeanie Zak, pointed out that Ceylon is the “true cinnamon” that gives the most benefits. I did a little research and found that my McCormick Cinnamon; which says, “Canela Molida” (means “ground cinnamon”) is actually the cassia type. My research unveiled that cassia is cheaper and more common. Further searching and reading revealed an even scarier thing… Cassia has a much higher dosage of coumarin, which is an anticoagulant… This is particularly bad for hemophiliacs!!! Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, Jeanie. I will switch immediately!

     

    These days, research has shown that cinnamon can help with diarrhea, muscle spasms, vomiting, infections, common cold, loss of appetite, and even erectile dysfunction (sign me up!)

    Cinnamon might also lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or 2 diabetes. It has been shown to help improve glucose and lipids levels. Supposedly, cinnamon will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. That alone is more than enough reason to take it!

    Research is also pointing to cinnamon helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and stopping the destructiveness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

    In addition, recent investigations are pointing to cinnamon helping fight HIV. I’m not sure where it will lead, but I love the idea of trying!

    Some of my friends like to mix cinnamon with honey (especially local honey) to help prevent allergies, but studies show there’s not any proof that this works.

    Do you take a daily dose of cinnamon? If so, how do you take it?

    Enjoy staying healthy,
    Vaughn

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    Fiber Glass

    No, no, no… Not fiberglass as in the itchy stuff in your attic… I’m talking about a “glass of fiber” or psyllium. Today we will talk about how to help your digestive system and hopefully making you a more regular person. HA!

    Back a few articles ago (as you know) I started talking about different foods, drinks, and vitamin supplements that I ingest on a daily basis to increase the strength of my immune system and add to my overall health and longevity. This whole thing was originally kicked off with my post about oranges. Today is really no different, except the topic shifted slightly… Let’s dig in!

    I take a tablespoon of Konsyl psyllium fiber each and every night. This amounts to approximately 15+ grams of fiber. Considering the daily recommended does is around 30 grams, I’m halfway there with a single 8 ounce glass of water. I try to obtain the remainder of my daily fiber from good sources like breads, nuts and seeds, spaghetti, vegetables, rice, cereal, and legumes. Dr. Oz does a great job of listing many of the fiber filled foods here: www.doctoroz.com/videos/50-fiber-rich-foods.

    Natural fiber has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. Along with that, it also relieves occasional constipation and induces “regularity.” You might be surprised to hear that it also helps with diarrhea. This is actually why I take my daily dose! And, it’s used to help relieve a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, such as diverticulosis and Crohn’s disease. Suffice it to say, fiber has many great benefits with little to no adverse side effects. Why not go for it?

    Fiber is also believed to help prevent cancer. Isn’t that enough of a reason to eat it??

    I’d love to write a much longer article that goes into crazy detail, but the truth is… This ain’t rocket science, folks. Fiber is a necessary carbohydrate that helps ease our bowel movements and slows down sugar absorption. It is a great addition to a healthy diet and also easy to include. This one is simple… As the people at Nike like to say, “Just do it.” No matter whether you choose Benefiber, Konsyl, or some other brand… Make sure you add a fiber supplement to your daily plan.

    Thoughts?

    Talk to you soon,
    Vaughn

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    Wiggle Yourself Awake

    Most of you know that I’m a fan of literally leaping out of bed the moment that you wake up. As a matter of fact I recently wrote an article about that very thing: Jump Start Your Day. However, as we all know, some mornings are tougher than others. The day (or two) after a really tough strength training, long ride/run, or race I am pretty tore up and not only feel weaker but also am rarely in the mood to leap out of bed. This post is for those mornings.

    Workouts aren’t the only reason for getting out of bed slowly… Sometimes you might be experiencing injuries or facing an illness. Also, as we get older, our bodies simply don’t respond the way they did when we were younger. On top of that, there will also just be days that you don’t feel like jumping out of bed. Regardless of the reason, I have a few tips on what you can do to help cheer you up and get you feeling great before you even lay a foot on the floor.

    You might find that this is a fantastic way to wake every morning and start adapting your morning ritual to include this. Before we tackle this subject, let’s get the fitness disclaimer out of the way:

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    I really do hate having to pop that disclaimer into each healthy post, but you know that it’s necessary for a rare few bozos out there that would blame me and others for their stupid decisions. There… I said it.

    Let us begin! When I wake and feel sore or overly tired I almost always start my morning with a wiggle… Thar is to say, I do some calisthenics and stretching in bed, under the covers, before I even attempt to stand up. Here are the types of things that I do:

    1. I stretch my ankles, toes, and feet. Because of peripheral neuropathy and a target joint, my feet and ankles give me some extra troubles first thing in the morning. So, when I first wake, I often stretch them carefully. After a minute of stretches, I do some deeper stretches, circles, and wiggles. This helps to get the blood flowing into your legs.

    2. Flex my butt. Next, I like to tighten and loosen my gluteus maximus. At the same time I tighten and loosen my hamstrings and quadriceps as well. This is a focus on the big muscles of my body.

    3. Calf raises. Finishing off the legs I do some simple moves for my calves. Note that we already hit them some during step one (ankles). Remember to hit all three primary calf muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, and tibialis anterior). We hit the gastroc when our legs are straight, and we pull our toes toward our knees. The soleus is hit with the same flex of the foot and ankle, but while the knee is bent. Finally the tib (the front of our shin) is stretched when you push the toes down and away from the knee.

    4. Repeat one through three on your arms, hands and wrists. Simply think of your arms, hands, chest, and shoulders in the same way you did your legs and repeat the routine.

    5. Jiggle. That’s right… As I finish up my routine, I like to jiggle my body. Make sure to incorporate the core (abs and lower back) and get a good jiggle on. Vibrate throughout your body and make this a fun experience. This will really complete the blood flow sequence and get you ready to jump up.

    6. Flip off the covers and leap! That’s it in a nutshell… Once I’ve woken my body, I leap out of bed feeling like a million bucks!

    That’s how I do it. Now, I’d like to share some tips and pointers from my mom, Yahna Christensen, who does a more in-depth version as her body ages and struggles (especially during the morning hours). She calls her morning exercise “Rollercise” and this is what she had to say:

    A little over 10 years ago I started recognizing when I stretched in bed immediately after waking the better I felt when I stood up, how I was able to think more clearly, and how I just really was smiling about the day ahead. So I started a regular routine. Over this last 10 years I have made some discoveries and have fine-tuned this wake up routine. Some of my discoveries and lessons learned are:

  • since there are different types of beds some soft some hard etc. I realize that some exercises are not well suited as they may be difficult or even cause more damage than good
  • if it involves lifting the head up, one must be sure that the lift doesn’t come from the head rather from the stomach
  • the First Alert the body needs is to do some deep breathing which I do with my hands above my head … half of the breath into the diaphragm and then pull that diaphragm breath along with the rest of the inhale up into your shoulders… I repeat this 10 times and then start my routine
  • most of my exercises involve a gentle rolling motion… as soon as I finish breathing I put my hands behind my knees and just roll from side to side not very far just a slight roll I started with 10 and now I do 50 of these each morning…which really wakes up the spine. then I proceed with a dozen or so other exercises.
  • my biggest discovery was that if I skipped a day my body quickly went back to unstable, blurred mind, and a so-so attitude for that day, so not having that really great feeling is a tremendous incentive helping me to look forward to my body wake up routine
  • I am currently in the process of capturing this routine as I have had so many ask me to write a book so that they too can get the daily benefits. My goal for the book is to have it done by March 11th, 2014.

    -Yahna

     

    Just like the engine of an automobile, your body needs to warm up before getting out into the day. Think of this as some pointers on how to warm up your body’s engine prior to tackling the day.

    Let me know what you do to get yourself warmed up, stretched, and ready to do the day’s tasks. Please comment and give me some additional pointers that might help me!

    Thank you very much for reading,
    Vaughn

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    Orange is the New Apple

    The old adage, “an apple a day” is, oddly enough, still a very valuable saying. Fresh fruit have been proven to be so incredibly awesome for natural dietary doses of certain vitamins and minerals. Eat fruit! Every day!

    I’m no doctor. I’m no nutritionist. Heck, I’m not even a health food fanatic… However, I do study food, nutrition, and healthy supplements. I can’t guarantee that my daily concoction actually works, but my studying and investigating has helped me to create a healthy daily panacea of stuff that is good for me. I recommend that you do your own investigating and research before following any of these ideas.

    That said, I have discussed my nutritional choices and needs with doctors and nutritionists. Together, we have narrowed down my daily intake to include some very important foods and supplements. Over the next several weeks I will have an occasional post that discusses one of the many things I ingest on a daily basis.

    Today’s discussion is about oranges. Actually, it’s about good sources of vitamin C, so we will discuss several vitamin C rich foods and ways to get the best bang for your buck. Even though I take daily vitamins and minerals in pill form, I am not a fan of processed vitamins. I’m a firm believer that the absolute best way to get nutritional needs is through fresh food. Vitamin C is no different. Even though there are tons of pills, capsules, and other forms of vitamin C, I prefer to get my C via fresh fruit. In particular, I am a fan of naval oranges. I eat two fresh oranges each and every day.

    Vitamin C can reduce the severity of cold symptoms, by acting as a natural antihistamine. It may also reduce histamine levels. Vitamin C can often shorten the duration of the cold as well. Along with cold prevention, vitamin C is useful in wound healing of all types. Cuts, broken bones, burns, and recovery from surgical wounds all heal faster and better when you’re taking good high quality vitamin C. Its antioxidant properties protect cells from damage and mutation. It also supports the immune system; which is the first line of defense against cancer. This in turn prevents many cancer-causing compounds from appearing. What does that mean? You ask… Essentially, vitamin C reduces the risk of getting almost all types of cancer.

    As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps to prevent cataracts and possibly improve vision. As with many other antioxidants, vitamin C helps to prevent heart disease, keeps cholesterol in the bloodstream from oxidizing, and improves high blood pressure. In other words, vitamin C is a cheap and simple solution to lower one’s risk of heart disease and strokes!

    Finally, asthmatics and diabetics can benefit from extra vitamin C in their diets as well.

    These are not the only things that vitamin C helps with, but it is a good list that certainly makes it very enticing… Wouldn’t you say?

    As I alluded to, oranges are not the only natural food sources of vitamin C. As a matter of fact, there are tons! Among many healthy vitamin C options are: red and green hot chili peppers, guavas, bell peppers, fresh herbs (thyme and parsley), dark leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, garden cress), broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruits, papayas, tangerines, and strawberries. So do not limit yourself to just oranges, or even citrus fruit… Make sure you do some research and play around with some additional food options.

    Oranges and their zest (zest is the shavings of the orange peel) are all high in vitamin C. Eat the zest along with the juicy meat of the citrus fruit and you’ll be in business.

    Today’s motto is, “Two oranges a day will keep colds at bay!”

    I hope this was helpful. And, please chime in and tell me what you eat to get your daily dosage of vitamin C.

    -Rip

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    The Fountain of Youth

    Don’t laugh; the Fountain of Youth really does exist. Living longer does not only apply to HIV+ folks, this information will work for everyone. Following some simple guidelines and principals can have you on the path to increasing your life expectancy.

    Many people from different walks of life told me precisely what I needed to do to prolong my life while dealing with HIV. What I found along the way, and with my experience is that these ideals also apply to everyday human beings.

    I have spent (and continue to spend) countless hours meeting with gurus, coaches, doctors, and experts in different fields to figure out how to improve my chances for living longer. I’ve also read countless books, articles, and blog posts. Along the way, I have compiled information from friends, family members, authors, scientists, and a plethora of other sources. Here is a little bit of what each of them had to say:

  • Doctors told me that the only way to prolong my life was to take a daily regimen of medication and never miss a dose. They explained that I must work hard at always taking my prescriptions at specific times.
  • Fitness Fanatics said that the only way to live past my doctor’s timeline was to lift weights, do cardio, and maintain a fit body. They encouraged me to join a gym and make sure that I worked out at least five or six times per week for an allotment of 45 minutes or longer.
  • Religious Zealots told me that the only way to survive was to give myself up to God, pray for his support, and leave everything in God’s hands. They explained that there was no man-made solution to my problems and that only through God would I last on this earthly domicile.
  • Health Nuts encouraged me to refrain from smoking, drinking, and indulging in recreational drugs. They also explained that I needed to eat only organic foods and stay away from processed “shelf food.”
  • Positive Thinkers revealed that I had to think only positive thoughts and breathe out the negative thoughts. They went on to show me how a positive attitude and outlook would go a long way in helping me survive on this pale blue dot we affectionately call Earth.
  • Nutritional Nuts explained that eating a healthy diet and banning junk food was the only way to live longer. They explained that I must carefully calculate my calorie intake and distribute the macronutrients properly.
  • Yoga Enthusiasts relayed that in order to make it, I must meditate, stretch, and find my inner self. These gurus and yogis laid out a plan of daily relaxation and a stress-free living style that would allow me to accomplish my goal of prolonged life.
  •  

    While I see the power in each person’s viewpoint, I also saw that they were strong in individual ways. So, I found myself asking the question, Who is right?

    After ~28 years of survival with HIV… After studying literally hundreds of books… I can tell you that I believe that I am here, one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe, because…

    …Drum roll please…

    It is my honest opinion that I am here today, typing away, because I have combined the advice and knowledge from everyone on those lists and created my own plan based on my lifestyle and needs. The short answer to my question is, They are ALL right!

    It’s also my guarantee (or you can get your money back, no questions asked), that if you apply these same principals in your life, that you will live longer.

    I hope you have a great day!

    -Vaughn

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    How To Properly Fight Yourself

    Today’s topic is something I’ve practiced and improved upon for years. It’s something that I believe very strongly in… The power of the mind. It is my honest belief the brain holds more answers and power than we can imagine. Not the least of which is the ability to cure ailments in the body. Today we’ll talk about how I have tapped this power and managed to survive for 28+ years with a virus that was supposed to have killed me 25+ years ago!

    Most of you know that I run another blog called HIVLongevity.com. In many of my previous posts on that blog I’ve talked about “the war of the body.” I’ve even posted some information about it. Today’s article is based on some of those previous posts and I’m going to breakdown my idea and how it has helped me. You can determine if it would benefit you in your life. That said, if you decide to try it out, I guarantee that you will be amazed at the results!!!

    It has been my motto to stay away (for the most part) from discussion about my HIV. This posts sort of relies on it as proof and as an extreme example of how this type of meditation works. Let me step out on a limb and discuss how I turned my low T-cell count into a climbing number, and potentially saved my own life. Many moons ago, my HIV was winning the battle of stealing my life. I was taking 22 pills each day. And, I was taking them five or six times per day. Each time I took the pills I was thinking (literally) to myself, I’m taking this medicine because I’m dying. It may not sound like much, but that single incantation was bombarding my body with negative thoughts and powerfully dangerous chants five or more times per day. No wonder I was dying!!!

    One day I literally woke up and discovered an answer to changing this and prolonging my life… This type of negative thinking was truly a devious and deadly mistake and I figured out a way to not only improve myself, but turn my death spiral into a form of survival. I realized that I could just as easily chant something motivational and positive instead of my typical doom and gloom. I came up with a better statement to say with each ingestion, and decided to give it a try. From that day forward, instead of thinking about dying, I altered my internal message to, This medicine is healing me, making me stronger, and giving me longevity. You might (or might not) be surprised to hear that this immediately turned around my emotions and even my health!

    This solution was so simple that I kicked myself. Of course I could teach myself to use positive brainpower to redundantly think of optimistic things instead of pessimistic.

    Shortly after adapting this solution, I took it several steps further and incorporated my meditation into an event. I started envisioning a battle going on in my body. And, as I took the medicine and chanted positive things I also imagined my meds being field generals in a war in my body. Each of these generals was given regiments of T-cells and I saw them rolling through my body and kicking virus ass. I still use this technique today, and I am healthier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

    Recently, a friend, mentor, and two-time cancer survivor, Alan Hobson (cancer survivor and bestselling author of Climb Back From Cancer), showed me a powerful way to do what I was doing and make it more peaceful. He said, instead of viewing a war in my body, why not imagine a flowing river of holy water (or something similar). In this way, you can imagine magical water flowing into your body and cleansing it from the inside out. This was a powerful alternative to war that I had never even considered. To this day, I sometimes switch my war meditation and turn it into a pristine river of clear, healing water.

    The positive thoughts, war, and holy water turned out to be more powerful than I ever imagined, and my T-cell count has climbed through the ceiling!

    Later on, I discovered that I could use a similar positive incantation session for other health issues. Over the years, I have become obsessed with mental healing. I use images of my favorite American generals to command troops of cells to combat illness and ails of all sorts. I spend time imagining General William Tecumseh Sherman (one of my favorite wartime generals) crashing through my body tearing viruses and other bad elements to shreds like he did the South. My General Sherman shows no mercy for the enemies that have entrenched themselves in my flesh. Whenever I pull him out of the thin air to use in battles against my sicknesses, he offers no quarter and cuts a swath from shoulder-to-shoulder and head-to-toe. No mercy!

    This violent engagement is an important weapon in my overall war against the disease that plagues my corporeal self. As a matter-of-fact, I consider it as powerful a tool as the medicine that is prescribed to me by extremely competent physicians.

    I’ve recently included attacking hemophilia episodes (bleeds) with a similar technique. I have tried many meditations and one of my favorites is having a team of engineers who move in under the command of a head engineer. They are building a damn of sorts. Essentially, I get into a peaceful resting position with my offending joint (usually my ankle or knee) elevated and cooling under an ice pack. Then, I calm myself and move into a meditative state by flushing my thoughts and centering myself. Once I am focused, I have the head engineer move into my body, and lead a team of engineers and builders to the local area of the bleed (this is all in my imagination… I can literally see a team of workers marching through my arteries and arriving at the bleed location). Once there, my team surrounds the bleed and curbs it using tools, supplies, and ingenuity. I spend ten to thirty minutes focusing on this response while the ice and elevation do their parts. It’s my belief that my bleeds are less severe and often heal quicker/easier because of this mental process.

    Lately I’ve broken down different parts of my meditation and improved upon it by imagining the separate areas of my body (mostly organs) and what there roles are. Here is a breakdown of my process:

    Brain is the general (commander)

    Heart is the special forces (think Navy SEALs or Army Delta Force)

    Blood is the foot soldiers.

    Liver is the defensive units and artillery.

    Stomach is the supply units.

    Lymph Node is the hospital corpsman (medical and doctors).

    Arterial Infrastructure is the explorers and spies.

    Skin is the radar and sonar.

    Nervous System is the communication channel.

    You get the idea? Basically I focus on each of these areas individually during my meditation and utilize them accordingly. I know this may sound like science fiction or the rantings of a lunatic, but I truly believe that I’m here today, alive and kicking, (at least in part) because of this powerful tool… My brain!

    Imagine if cancer patients successfully used this technique (along with medicine and a healthy lifestyle) to cure themselves?? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Remember that this technique can be applied to almost anything corporal. The next time you have a headache, why not try something along these lines? What do you have to lose by spending a little bit of time relaxing and meditating?

    I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion and experiences, please leave me a comment and let me know if you believe in this type of medicating and also if you’ve ever experienced anything along these lines.

    Sent from the field,
    General Vaughn Ripley

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