🥑 Food ❤️‍🩹 Health 🌎 Climate

🥑 Food ❤️‍🩹 Health 🌎 Climate

Since I work in climate tech and work out a lot, people have asked what I eat and how that impacts my energy levels, how much protein I’m getting, and what the effects of my food choices have on the planet. I am mostly plant-based, but I do eat fish, chicken, and on the very rare occasion, red meat. I made these choices because that’s what makes my body feel good. I’m not a dietician so don’t take this as medical advice–consult a registered dietician for your nutritional needs.

This post isn’t about trying to convert anyone to being plant based, but rather, to provide a first-hand, data-driven approach so you can make the right decisions for your body. Everyone’s body is different, how we process food is different, and how you choose to fuel it is up to you. Or, if you prefer to eat just for pleasure most of the time, and you aren’t trying to optimize for health, that’s totally up to you and I’m not here to judge. Also, I’m not paid for anything I link to in this post, so this is truly how I live my life–I’m not influential enough for that. 😂

🥗 Why I’m mostly plant based

For me, eating mostly plant based means better health: Plant-based diets have more fiber, lower inflammation, and tend to also be lower in calories. I love the taste of cheese, butter, and ice cream, and I am not lactose intolerant, but it tends to make me break out in acne, so I dramatically reduce how much of it I eat. Depending on where I am in my monthly cycle, sometimes I crave meat, so I eat chicken or fish, which tastes delicious when I’m eating it, but I dislike how it tends to leaves me with bad breath the next day (and smellier 💩, is this 🚽 TMI?) If you are mostly plant based for a while, various smells will disappear and you will start to notice when you do smell after eating meat, because you are what you eat. Red meat, especially beef in large quantities, gives me a stomach ache, probably due to my lack of stomach enzymes to digest it since I eat it so rarely.

I generally follow Tom Brady’s low inflammation diet and lifestyle (low alcohol consumption, lots of hydration and sleep), which obviously has worked for him because of his longevity and 23 seasons in the NFL, but I’m not as strict as he is (I like my tomatoes and nightshades.)

For those who switch to a plant based diet, you need to go slowly–if you switch everything you eat right away, you are going to get diarrhea, bloating, and stomach aches. Your stomach’s digestive enzymes need time to adapt, and similar to my other post on rapid changes, really quick changes just don’t work for your body or your habits. For example, I don’t eat bread anymore because it has low nutritional value (low in vitamins, fiber, and protein), but I slowly phased it out by eating fewer wheat products and eating bread less frequently before stopping it entirely. Now, after a couple of years of not eating bread, if I do eat wheat bread, I’ll feel really tired, bloated, and in the worst case scenarios if I eat too much, I also get a stomach ache. This is because my body has adjusted to not being able to digest it.

People have asked me “How do you get your abs so defined?” You can have a very strong core, but to have visible abs, it’s 2 things: A lot of crunches and a low-inflammation diet. Many people don’t have visible abs, even though they have strong abs, simply because they are too bloated from the dairy, meat, sugar, fake sugar, and carbs in a typical American diet.

Picture taken at around 6pm after winning the Equinox planking challenge (10 minutes and 7 seconds,) so my core has been engaged (this makes them more visible) but I’m also more hydrated and have eaten (makes them less visible). When you see Instagram influencers with their very visible abs, they are often times taking the picture in the morning (before eating food or drinking water) and using oils or lighting to help make them more visible. Nobody looks like this all the time.

🥜 Protein

Usually, the first thing anyone asks me when they find out I’m mostly plant-based is: “How do you get your protein?” You can calculate how much protein you need. Since we are so bad at estimating how much protein and calories are in the food we eat anyways, a quick way to guesstimate is to take your weight in pounds and divide it by two. If you weigh 120 pounds, divide that by two, you get 60. Aim for 60 grams of protein every day. Meats are considered high-quality, complete proteins, but you can find high-quality proteins in plants as well. My favorite ones are: Peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa (although peanut butter causes inflammation, so I have to control myself because I could literally eat it by the spoonfuls). You do have to eat more plant-based foods (measured in volume and calories) to get the same amount of protein as meat-based foods though. About twice or three meals a week, I eat plain non-fat yogurt, chicken, and fish, and I eat eggs pretty much every day. I did a series of blood tests on May 1, 2023, and my hemoglobin levels came out to be 12.8 g/dL (the standard range from Stanford Health was 11.7 to 15.7; hemoglobin (Hb) is the protein contained in red blood cells that is responsible for delivery of oxygen to the tissues, and if it’s too low, you can feel tired and become anemic.) While my range is normal, and my doctors at both Sutter Health and Stanford Health said I am not anemic (I have done blood tests twice at different times, and at different clinics,) my hemoglobin levels are a bit on the lower end, so eating clean protein is something that I pay attention to.

Watercolor is courtesy of the very talented Nicole Kelner (Instagram: @mindfulnicole)

🥛 Environmental Impact of Dairy vs. Plant-based Milks

There are benefits of cow’s milk that you can’t get from plant-based milks (e.g. protein in cow’s milk tends to be higher) and vice versa; one type of milk might be more appropriate for someone at different points of their lives (e.g. children versus adults.) My favorite brand of plant-based milk is Three Trees Almond milk because it doesn’t contain any binders (like gums), fillers, or sugar, which critics of plant-based milks often say is the reason why its less healthy than cow’s milk. If you live near high-quality farmer’s markets, you can often get freshly pressed almond milk, which is my ultimate favorite, but it’s very expensive. Oat milk has emerged as a top leader in plant-based milks because it foams easily and is sweeter (here is an article that compares nutritional value). For example, Blue Bottle switched to oat milk as their default, instead of requiring patrons to ask for oat milk as a substitute for cow’s milk. However, many oat milks have added sugar, and even when they don’t, small amounts of sugar is a byproduct of oat milk production, such as in the 3-ingredient Califia Farms brand (but I’m not concerned about this byproduct sugar).

From a purely environmental impact standpoint:

“Cow’s milk has significantly higher impacts than the plant-based alternatives across all metrics. It causes around three times as much greenhouse gas emissions; uses around ten times as much land; two to twenty times as much freshwater; and creates much higher levels of eutrophication”

(Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, January 19, 2022)

Almond milk is often times criticized as being a poor dairy milk substitute due to its high water use requirements in drought-stricken California, but still consumes less freshwater than cow’s milk.

🥩 Environmental Impact of Meat

It doesn’t matter where it is produced, the range of greenhouse gas emissions related to meat and dairy production (per 100 grams of food) is always higher than that of plant-based food.

“Plant-based protein sources – tofu, beans, peas and nuts – have the lowest carbon footprint. This is certainly true when you compare average emissions. But it’s still true when you compare the extremes: there’s not much overlap in emissions between the worst producers of plant proteins, and the best producers of meat and dairy” (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, February 4, 2020)
You may have heard a lot about methane (a type of greenhouse gas) in beef production, and the reason why it’s talked about so much is because it is 25 times stronger at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. It has a strong impact on warming in the short-term but it also decays fast. This is in contrast to carbon dioxide, which can persist in the atmosphere for many centuries. Methane therefore has a high impact on warming in the short term, but a low impact in the long run. (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, March 10, 2020)

🚛 Eating Local?

Eating local doesn’t have as much of an environmental impact because transportation isn’t as big of a part of the food’s emissions. However, food that hasn’t traveled very far and is picked when it’s as ripe as possible simply tastes better, so you might as well eat local, especially if you live in an area that produces a lot of great food (here is a tool to help you find what’s in season locally). Many brands that tout sustainable packaging or shipping offsets also shouldn’t be trusted (they do it for marketing to get you to feel good about buying more, when the best impact on emissions is to not purchase the item.)

“Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.” (Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, January 24, 2020)

🥣 Getting enough vitamin B12 and iron

This blog post isn’t specifically about how to eat a well-balanced vegan or vegetarian diet, but I did want to mention that those who choose to eat mostly plants should consider checking nutrition labels for foods that are fortified with B12 or take a B12 supplement. B12 is an essential vitamin that can only be found naturally in animal products and without enough of it, you can become anemic. Non-heme iron can be found in vegetables and legumes but heme iron, which is more easily absorbed, can only be found in meat products. It’s for these reasons that I am not a strict vegan or vegetarian: I listen to my body, and I eat more plants than animal products, most of the time, but I get my vitamin B12, iron, and protein from meat and dairy I eat on occasion.

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Visiting Peloton New York and London for In Studio Classes

If you are lucky enough to visit an in-person cycling class at Peloton New York, you are in for a treat! It is truly a magical experience. But it is very hard to get one of those classes, so here are some tips and tricks and a write-up of my experience. [March 2023 update: I was also able to visit Peloton London and the booking tips and tricks are the same so I’m combining it into one below.]

Key things to know to successfully book a ride:

  • Classes become available to book 6 weeks in advance at 9am PT / 12noon ET on Mondays; you are added to a virtual queue (this applies for both New York and London studio bookings–see screenshot below)
  • You must have at least one class pass ($35/class for New York) purchased (or £25.00/class for London) already in your account to complete the booking–I suggest you do this in advance (like the day before) because the classes sell out very fast
  • You must also have at least one class pass purchased already in your account to sign up for the waitlist, which can be risky if you don’t live in the area because the class credit expires in 12 months and you don’t get a refund if you don’t get off the waitlist

If you log in to book right at 9am PT / 12noon ET, you will most likely be able to get a spot on the day you are in town, except if you are trying to book a class with Cody Rigsby. I tried to get a Cody Rigsby 5:30pm Friday evening class when I logged on to the website at 9:20am PT (I had the time wrong, and thought the classes were released at 9:30am PT,) and his class was full immediately and the waitlist was also full immediately. The Peloton website’s frontend couldn’t even update quickly enough to change the “Waitlist” button to a grayed out “Sold Out” button, so every time I tried to waitlist myself, it would show a backend server error. When I called in to customer service, they said “I think half the country is trying to book Cody’s class…” and when you watch his live classes, you do realize that people have flown in from all over the U.S. when he does his live shoutouts of the in-studio participants. People wear “xoxo, Cody” shirts that they purchased for that ride. So you need to be very lucky and fast to get a class with Cody and I’m going to have to try again the next time I’m going to New York. I was able to get into Alex Toussaint’s cycling class though which was full by about 11am PT (2 hours after they became available for purchase.)

🗽 New York Studio Review

The Peloton NYC headquarters at 370 10th Ave, New York, NY 10001 is massive. You’ll want to enter on the 10th Ave side for classes, not the plaza side, which is only for retail shoppers. The Peloton studio is probably the cleanest and most beautiful fitness studio I have ever been to, and might be even nicer than Equinox. When you show up, you are greeted at the check-in desk and then a concierge is assigned to you and walks you around to give you the tour of the studio. Here is a video of that experience.

After Class Meet & Greet and Photo Opportunity

They are really efficient about the photo opportunity and have a designated photographer who takes your pictures and emails it out to you the same day. For yoga, your photos are taken inside the yoga studio and for cycling, it’s taken near the big Peloton “P” logo. The instructors are all extremely friendly and try to get to know you (to the extent they can), by asking you questions in the short duration that you interact with them.

Amenities Review

You have everything you could possibly need provided inside the studio: Lockers, MALIN + GOETZ, shampoo, body wash, lotion, sweat towels for practice and big towels for showering, really nice sweaty clothes bags, cleaned yoga mats, and they even let you borrow the cycling shoes for free. They are clearly not trying to make money off of the in-studio experience, and make their money off of the streaming experience.

Kristin McGee’s 30-minute In Studio Yoga EDM Flow

The playlist is quite fun and high energy in this yoga flow and it has a good combination of stretching and strength. Compared to other “normal” yoga classes I have been to, this definitely felt more “tense” in that it was very clear exactly how much time was left in class and you didn’t want to do something that might make a commotion. If I was a local, I would do the in studio yoga flows to experience it and see what it’s like to be on the other side, because it doesn’t “feel” as much like a yoga class as it feels like a film production where you are an extra. Also, my favorite part about yoga in person are the hands on adjustments, which of course, you will not get in a Peloton in studio class. But I’m really glad I did try it out and it was fun to hear from my friends back home who did the class and saw me in the video, and Kristin was so sweet to give me two shoutouts: “Flew all the way from San Francisco to nail flying pigeon”. If you want a spot in the front where you are more likely to show up on camera, you should get in line about 25 minutes before the class starts, and be the first one to enter the room.

Alex Toussaint’s 45-minute In Studio Club Bangers Ride

The in studio Peloton cycling experience is absolutely incredible. I have been to SoulCycle Classes and even with the best teachers, (like when I went in West Hollywood, the class also sold out in seconds, and celebrities were in class with me,) SoulCycle just does not compare to the level of energy in a Peloton in studio class. 90% of people have flown in from somewhere else to attend this class, and they are all rabid fans of the instructor (see this video). In addition, the handful of Peloton instructors are putting on a show first and foremost, so they are just in another league altogether; there is no comparison to SoulCycle instructors–they are just so much better. And I’m not hating on SoulCycle, I enjoy SoulCycle and biked with SoulCycle for years before I touched a Peloton, but this is my honest opinion. The space itself is gorgeous, they use the basic Peloton bikes with a smaller screen so you can still high five people in the class and those taking the class live (although the in studio stats are 30 seconds ahead of the live stream stats, so you can’t compare your stats to the live stream.) I was curious how they were going to do the music in studio since the sound quality on the live stream is so high. Unlike SoulCycle, where they blast the music and I have to wear earplugs so my ears aren’t ringing after class, they put the volume of the music at an energizing level, but it’s kept low enough that the video production can still mix the sound appropriately for the livestream. If I was local, I would definitely come in person to the in studio cycling classes as much as I can. It’s the same cost as SoulCycle, but shoes are free to use, and the studio space is spacious (unlikely a lot of SoulCycles, which have cramped changing rooms.) If you want to show up on camera, you should line up 45 minutes before class in front of studio 1 so that you can be in the front row or near the mirror in the second row. They assign you a bike number when you book your class, but that bike number is ignored and your bike assignment is based on “first-come, first-served” when you are in line. You do have to check into class 45-minutes before hand, so it’s more of a time commitment than a SoulCycle class, where you can show up a few minutes before the class starts.

Here are the number of spots for each class in the New York studios (courtesy of PeloBuddy):

  • Cycling studio: 38 Bikes
  • Tread studio: 16 Treads
  • Strength studio: 8 mats
  • Yoga studio: 6 mats (not 7 as it says on PeloBuddy, but maybe they are counting the instructor’s mat?)

🇬🇧 London Studio Review

Peloton London is located on the most adorable street in Covent Garden: 11 Floral St, London WC2E 9DH, United Kingdom. This is the cleanest, nicest fitness studio you will visit in London. Similar to Peloton New York, they don’t make money off of their in studio classes, so it’s very reasonably priced at £25.00/class and they take care to make sure you have a fantastic experience, because it’s all about making sure members feel great so they spread the word. If you are a Peloton addict, this studio is also cool because you can see how the production is made (this isn’t visible in the New York studio.)

Amenities Review

Peloton has the nicest and cleanest studios of any fitness studio I have ever been to (it’s even nicer than the Equinox.) At this location, they have gender neutral areas and private showers and changing stalls, instead of a “Mens” and a “Womens” area. They have Malin+Goetz shower products, unlimited towels, and free cycling shoe rentals.

After Class Meet & Greet and Photo Opportunity

I did a cycling class with Mila Lazar who teaches in German and in English (all the German classes are filmed out of the London studios.) Her class wasn’t full, as she isn’t one of the more famous instructors, but she is SO nice because she isn’t constantly mobbed by fans. For example, she offered me a hug, and because I was right in front of her in the studio, she noticed me and complimented me on the amount of energy I had in the class. In Peloton New York, for example, the more famous instructors are accompanied by security and you aren’t supposed to hug them.

I would definitely visit Peloton London again, although it only offers cycling and treadmill classes (there aren’t any live yoga or strength classes filmed at this location.) But if I just wanted a good workout, this is the nicest studio and being live with the high energy crowd pushes me to go harder than I would in a regular cycling class.


For more information, you can read Peloton’s official FAQ’s.

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𝝮 Lululemon🪞Mirror Review

I have been working out with the Lululemon Mirror (a.k.a. Lululemon Studio after their rebrand) for the last few weeks after getting it for free (you still have to pay the $39/month subscription, but you can use the code PERKSATWORKZERO to get the hardware completely free, including free delivery and no taxes.) As of January 1, 2023, this promo code no longer works and you can’t get The Mirror for free.

The Mirror itself is a quality piece of hardware (with the exception of the on and off button, which sometimes doesn’t work.) They deliver it with a delivery service (it’s not a UPS-like delivery, it’s more like furniture delivery) and you schedule a delivery window with the company. They bring it to to your door but they don’t do any installation unless you pay an extra $250, which I didn’t do. Installation for the Mirror leaning against the wall option was easy (just use a screwdriver to attach the bottom rectangular metal stand and lean it against the wall after drilling a hole into the wall to anchor the Mirror in case it slips.) However, I think it was 70 pounds or something and it’s very long so moving it around by myself was a workout itself; I kind of just shimmied it around to the right spot.

The user experience is nice but not game changing

It’s nice to be able to see yourself in the reflection but I found myself not paying attention to it that much, unless I was queued by the instructor to “make sure my hips were even” or something like that. I mostly used it as a giant television screen. You control the content through the Mirror app on your phone. You can see videos of what the Mirror classes experience is like on my Instagram post.

Compared to Peloton, I would say the Lululemon Studio / Mirror subscription has fewer classes. I quickly burned through the small handful of 5-minute core classes, and most of the shorter core classes as well. It’s hard to say whether the instructors are better or worse on Peloton versus Mirror because it all comes down to personal taste but the video production quality and the streaming is higher quality on Peloton (multiple camera angles, etc.) Peloton also has several times more classes.

Some people like that you can control the music independently of the instruction, which you can do on the Mirror (they recommend a station, but you can change it.) However, I like that on the Peloton, the music is just as important as the moves themselves and the music is chosen specifically for the story the instructor wants to tell that day.

The calories you burned count seems to be wildly inflated on The Mirror, with a 30-minute non-sweaty yoga session logging some 100 calories, whereas on Peloton, that requires at least a 20-minute cycling class where your heart rate is above baseline and you sweat at least a little bit. I don’t pay attention to this number much on either platform.

Unlike several other sites that do a “Mirror vs. Peloton” comparison, I’m completely independent. I am not compensated by either Lululemon or Peloton and I maintain this blog to help out my friends and because it’s fun for me to do. So my recommendations aren’t swayed by compensation by any company. A lot of the things I see online are clearly paid for by Lululemon, like this set of reviews from Top Dust that compares the Mirror to Peloton and Tonal.

I’ll compare the Mirror to the Peloton in the table below but I’ve also tried Future Fit ($149 per month) and Apple Fitness+ ($9.99/month or $79.99 annually) and I would say that both Mirror and Peloton are better than Future and Apple Fitness+ so I’m not even going to bother making a table to compare them. I haven’t tried Tonal beyond a few brief minutes when I’ve seen it at the gym.

Lululemon Mirror vs. Peloton

FeatureLululemon Studio a.k.a. MirrorPeloton
Subscription cost$39/month for subscription (but you get 10% off everything at Lululemon)$12.99/month + tax for streaming only

$44.99/month + tax if you are using it with the bike, tread, or other hardware
Hardware cost$795 for the basic Mirror (but I always see promotions on various credit cards or referral sites so I think you should be able to get it for less); you can use my referral code lingyPnU (it can be stacked with existing promotions, discount amount varies)$1,245 (for the basic bike, and I don’t think you need the bike+. The Bike Starter also comes with the accessories you’ll need, such as cycling shoes)
PlatformsiOS / Android and Mirror hardware (no browser-based streaming)iOS / Android / Peloton hardware / web browser
Number of ClassesHundredsThousands
Quality of InstructorsExcellent (they are really good at mirroring you so you can follow along from what you see in the Mirror)Excellent, a bit more entertaining, and have a large “cult following”
Front-facing camera“Community Camera” front-facing camera can be turned on so the instructor can see you and give real-time feedback in live classes; you can also do 1:1 virtual classes (like Zoom) with an instructorCan be used to be in a class together with a Peloton friend (doesn’t have to be a live class); instructors can’t see you, even in live classes
SensorsCan connect to Apple Watch; apparently there are sensors to measure your body movements in the hardware but they don’t actually do anything right nowCan connect to Apple Watch and they recently launched “Peloton Guide” which uses AI to track your body movements, compare your form, and log your activity (I don’t have the Guide myself, so this is based on what I read online)
If I had to choose just one, I would choose the Peloton because you have more classes and can de-couple the hardware from the software easily

In case you are curious, the summary on Future and Apple Fitness+ are that:

  • Future is too expensive and the workouts are so boring; it’s not that useful to me to have someone make a workout schedule for me that’s just some random configurations of what they typically create for anyone, when you can’t bear to do it because you are bored out of your mind.
  • Apple Fitness+’s content is mediocre but if you have all of the hardware (Apple Watch, Apple TV) and can project it onto a big screen, it may be a good economical option, although the content is worse than Peloton’s content in my opinion, and the streaming app version of Peloton (without Peloton hardware) is only a few dollars more at $12.99/month.

Live Classes on the Mirror are pretty cool

They give new users who haven’t tried the live class a free pass ($40 off) so I signed up for a barre class with Mila Toribio (her Instagram). I wanted to make sure I am doing the barre moves correctly so I can get more out of each movement and it was a cool experience to have someone appear out of the “metaverse” into your home, but I don’t think I would pay for it regularly unless I really liked barre. It’s a little bit more expensive than a barre drop-in class, and you don’t get the hands on adjustments, although the instructor can see you and correct your form, but sometimes you just need someone to poke you into the right position. Similar to many new technologies, the streaming quality was lower than that of a normal Zoom call (I have gigabit internet at home that usually on Wi-Fi, gets parallel upload and download speeds of 100 Mbps+; I wasn’t plugged in to the ethernet so that may have been why the picture was a bit fuzzy and felt like the video lagged a bit compared to the non-live classes.)

The final verdict: Peloton wins

At the end of the day, I have tried enough digital fitness classes to know that it’s not about the hardware or the exact price of the subscription: It’s about the content and the instructors. The reason Peloton has been so successful compared to knockoffs like Echelon or even SoulCycle, is that their content is really unique and a lot of people relate to the instructors. People use the Peloton as therapy, not just for exercise. The instructors have wide artistic liberty for how they want to run their classes, and when you are playing in the digital fitness space, that’s the true differentiator. I hope that doesn’t change with the change in senior leadership at the company.

The one niche area where I think the Mirror is superior are the abs classes with XTina (and I am an expert at abs–not really an expert at anything else, so perhaps I don’t understand the nuances of other exercises as well.) XTina’s classes are the most targeted towards building visible abs and follow the basic rule of time under tension (which Jermaine Johnson from Peloton is also quite good at) but most of the other Peloton instructors tend to do numerous fast transitions, so it’s a bit scattered and all over the place and you don’t have time under tension.

SoulCycle is really successful in person because of the ambience and energy you get from that physical space, which is awesome–I have been several times myself. But if the instructor is just a good cyclist who is energetic and motivates you by saying standard gym teacher motivation things, it’s not enough for succeeding in the digital fitness space. You have to basically be Netflix on a bike to succeed, and that’s why Cody Rigsby has 1.3M Instagram followers and millions of fans globally.

If you want a 60-day free trial to Peloton’s app subscription, you can use my referral link here (I’m not sure if I get something, I might get a discount on accessories.)

Daily Harvest Meal Delivery Review

Daily Harvest Meal Delivery Review

I’m a huge fan of TrueFood Kitchen and healthy eating, but it’s usually expensive and difficult to cook this way and still make the food taste good, so I decided to give Daily Harvest a try and got 6 flatbreads, 7 bowls, and a smoothie cup from their 14 item bundle. When I stacked a new user promotion along with an American Express promotion, it came out to be about $60 for all 14 items, after taxes and fees, which was not a bad deal at ~$4.30/item.

Compared to the other meal delivery plans I have tried, Daily Harvest is definitely my favorite because you don’t have to do much preparation other than heating things up. The ingredients are clean and impressed me and I wish I had added the ice cream to my first order to try since I found out later that they are vegan, made of coconut cream and they use maple syrup as a sweetener, and they don’t use any binders like guar gum, but I was trying to be super healthy when I was placing the order.

While the bowls are very convenient (you just pop them into the microwave or on a stove top), I didn’t think they tasted that much better than a frozen Amy’s meal from Whole Foods, so in my next order, I plan to decrease the number of bowls and substitute for flatbread and ice cream.

Ingredients are all quite clean and healthy but the sweet potato + wild rice hash was too salty and I didn’t like the flavor that much; we had to add brown rice to it to dilute the saltiness. This was the case with a few of the bowls.
The beet + wild rice was much tastier and I liked this bowl a lot without modifications

I thought the gluten-free flatbreads were delicious, but the centers were soggy the first time I made it, so I decided to solve that problem by breaking them apart into halves or thirds and putting them on a small baking rack like this one when I put it into the oven, which fixed the soggy center problem (make sure you check the size of the baking rack so you know if it’s the right size for your oven or toaster.) Breaking it apart when it’s frozen and then baking them can get a little bit messy but it created more “edges” than when it was one piece. Even if you don’t break them apart, the baking rack helps a lot towards bringing more crispiness to the crust. Previously, I was putting them on a pizza pan, which didn’t have airflow on the bottom of the flatbread, resulting in the soggy center. They satisfied my “bread” desire quite well and I liked most of the flavors.

Flatbread ingredients are also quite healthy and each flatbread is only ~330 to 370 calories
I put the baking rack on top of a baking pan so removal of it from the oven was easy

I only got one smoothie cup because it’s just frozen fruit that you blend it up–it’s easy enough to make from frozen fruit you get at the supermarket or even fresh fruit, but I wanted to give it a try to see what it was like.

Again, very clean ingredients; the fruit sticks to each other right out of the freezer so you may want to defrost it a tiny bit to make blending easier as I had to open my NutriBullet blender at least five times to move the fruit pieces that were stuck so the blades could break them down.
I didn’t think the fruits tasted sweet enough so I ended up adding 2 dates to it (don’t forget to remove pits) and that tasted really good. I was also running out of almond milk so I only used a little bit of it and the end result was I had more of a slushy than a smoothie, but it was still delicious.

Overall, I think Daily Harvest is definitely worth giving a try if you are health-conscious and don’t like to cook or don’t have time to (I am not a brand affiliate or anything,) but if you order through my link, we do both get $35 off the shipment. My next shipment will comprise of only flatbreads and the ice cream (I don’t drink caffeine so I’m not trying their lattes.) However, my main issue with it is that I wish the flatbreads weren’t wrapped in so much plastic which feels wasteful (maybe there is a more biodegradable option?) and I think I would get tired of eating the same thing week after week if this was the primary meal I ate, so it may work better for people as a once a month delivery, if you like a lot of variety in your food.

Rapid Changes Don’t Work

Right around the time I got my new indoor spinning bike, my toes started to get red, swollen, and itchy. My reaction was to put ice on them because they were getting too hot and needed to be cooled down. Little did I know that I was self-inducing 50 days of pain to myself physically and mentally. This is the story of how I figured out what was wrong and what I learned from the negative experience.

When my toes first started to get swollen and itchy, I thought it was an allergy, or my toes rubbing against the shoes of the new bike shoes. When the toes continued to be inflamed even after icing them and buying bigger and different bike shoes, I thought perhaps I had “covid toes” so I got a covid test. It came back negative, but that wasn’t conclusive for me either, since some “covid toes” symptoms were known to occur after someone has the virus and was no longer carrying covid.

I did a virtual care appointment with my primary care provider, who is based in California (at the moment, I have relocated to Washington State.) He thought that I was exhibiting symptoms of cholinergic urticaria, also known colloquially as “heat bumps”, caused by sweat and heat. This was entirely plausible to me since I did get really hot and sweaty after biking. He didn’t think it was chilblains because it doesn’t snow where I live now and I’m not spending time outside hiking in the cold, wet rain. In addition, I grew up in Boston and lived there for 20 years. Compared to freezing Boston, the mild winters of Seattle are not cold, which is why I also wrote off “being cold” as a cause. Therefore, I proceeded to try to do everything to keep my feet and toes cold because cold was the opposite of inflamed and hot, from icing them, to not wearing socks and going barefoot while I was indoors, to keeping my feet outside of the bed covers while sleeping so they would remain cold, to getting onto the spinning bike when my feet were really cold so that they “wouldn’t get too hot”. However, the swelling continued, the toes got itchier and the angry redness kept moving down my toes, towards my feet. I was taking twice the dosage of over the counter antihistamines (at the guidance of my doctor) and nothing was improving. I was afraid I would lose my toes and woke up in the middle of the night and grabbed my flashlight to examine my toes and make sure they were okay. I would also wake up in the middle of the night to put on more steroid cream because they were so itchy. It was difficult for me to think about work or anything else other than “What is wrong with my toes?” At some point, I thought I had arthritis, diabetes, covid toes, eczema, fungal infections, inflammation reaction to food, or heat-induced inflammation. I was starting to get desperate for a solution.

About a month into the swollen toes, I started noticing that my right pinky finger was also getting swollen and itchy. “On no! It’s spreading,” I thought. I didn’t know what “it” was, and was trying everything from steroid creams to reduce the swelling from the outside, turmeric pills and antihistamines to reduce the inflammation from the inside, and avoided all meats and dairy to try to reduce inflammation. I even stopped cycling and stopped running or walking outside for fear of irritating the skin on my toes, since the few times I did do that, I ended up itchier and in more pain. I was dumbfounded as to what was happening when my fingers started to exhibit the same painful characteristics as my toes. So I went in for a dermatology appointment with Ame Phitwong at Puget Sound Dermatology. I was willing to see anyone who had an open slot, even though I went in with low hopes given their 2.5 stars review and because I wasn’t able to see an MD on such short notice, and had to see a DNP/ARNP instead. A few important things I learned from that visit:

  1. Just because someone doesn’t have the fancy academic credentials (e.g. an MD), doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their jobs. Ame was incredibly attentive and noticed immediately that my fingers and toes were really cold. She followed up with a phone call after checking the photos with others in the department and told me she thinks that I have chilblains, but wanted to wait until the lab results came back before prescribing me anything.
  2. The one key thing I had not described to any of my doctors or doctor friends in the past month of my misery was that my fingers and toes were cold to the touch. I didn’t know to tell them that. I just knew that my fingers and toes were inflamed and felt itchy, as if they were on fire. Sometimes, you literally need a “human touch” or an in-person interaction for someone to properly understand where you are coming from. You can’t get that from a video call.

Sure enough, after Ame said I had chilblains, I started to treat my symptoms as if they were chilblains, and not an internal allergic inflammation or topic dermatitis. Instead of freezing my fingers and toes to alleviate the itchiness, I kept them consistently warm (in socks and in gloves.) This was difficult at first because putting ice on them made them feel better in the short term (but they would always go back to throbbing and itchy after the ice came off.) However, within 24 hours, I started to notice that if I kept my fingers consistently warm and then did a pilates workout that would get my blood moving, my fingers and toes wouldn’t get crazily itchy like they did when I was cold and then did a light workout. This was the most progress I had made in over a month, so I kept at it. Within 5 days of the diagnosis and the change in behavior to keep my fingers and toes consistently warm before working out, the wrinkles on my toes and fingers had returned and the swelling and itchiness had subsided.

So what illness did I have?

Well it turns out that chilblains occur when your blood vessels rapidly expand, or rather, when you warm up too quickly. The convenience of having an exercise bike at home exacerbated this issue by causing the blood vessels in my toes to rapidly expand when I hopped onto the bike. Compared to when I would go to the gym to workout after work, I had a 3-foot commute to my exercise bike (it’s literally right next to my desk). At least when you are going to the gym, you are walking or moving to the gym, getting your blood moving and “warming up.” Of course a proper warm-up is still necessary, but of all the times that I didn’t properly warm up and just started to run or cycle at a gym, I had never had this issue. The difference now was that I was consistently going from being sedentary at my desk directly to the bike, because it was too convenient to do so. As for my fingers, well my left hand never exhibited any inflammation or swelling. I’m a righty, so I was using my right hand to place the ice on my toes. My right hand was getting frozen and then warming up too quickly as well! The blood vessels in my right fingers were also rapidly expanding and leaking fluid out of them, causing the inflammation.

The heat was not the problem,
nor was the cold.

The rapid change
from cold to hot was the culprit.

As with our physical bodies, I’ve learned that our minds can accept very different ideas, but the only way to be successful at convincing yourself or someone else of that drastically different idea, is to do so gradually. We mentally cannot process a rapid change, just like our blood vessels physically cannot process such a rapid change in temperature without rupturing. When I was younger and more naive, I wanted change in the workplace and change from others rapidly. I wanted others to adopt different ideas, my ideas, immediately. Not only did I get a biology lesson from this experience, but I also drew inspiration from this for my workplace and for how I plan to interact with my friends and family in this new year.

Ingredient Toxicity in Bliss Body Butter

Ingredient Toxicity in Bliss Body Butter

Update August 2018: Since this posting was written in September 2017, Bliss has updated their body butter formula to contain less toxic chemicals. I haven’t gone back to Bliss body butter yet (I’m still loving L’Occitane’s Organic Shea Butter) but I wanted to acknowledge this change.

I love Bliss Body Butter–especially the lemon + sage maximum moisture cream. I purchase it in the super-sized 14 fl oz bottles and grab as many samples as I can from the W. Unlike the other household products I use though, Bliss had ingredients I could not pronounce. Recently, I decided to look up every ingredient. My findings:

  1. Bliss uses different ingredients for the lemon + sage body butter they supply at W Hotels than they do for the bottles you can purchase
  2. The lemon + sag body butter that they supply at W Hotels is more toxic than the bottles you can purchase, although both contain allergens and trace carcinogens

I used the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database toxicity classifications (1 = least toxic and 10 = most toxic) to standardize these classifications.

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (W Hotel version) ingredients rundown:
There are actually two formulas for W Hotel’s lemon + sage body butter; I have noted when the ingredients vary.

  • water
  • cocos nucifera (coconut) oil: 1
  • ethylhexyl palmitate: 1
  • vegetable oil: 1
  • cyclopentasiloxane: 3
  • cetearyl alcohol: 1
  • dimethicone: 3
  • polysorbate 60: 3
  • steareth-2: 3
  • phenoxyethanol (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • dimethiconol: 1
  • propylene glycol: 3
  • hydroxyethylcellulose: 1
  • carbomer: 1
  • diazolidinyl urea (missing in one of the formulas): 6 (moderate hazard)
  • butylene glycol: 1
  • tocopherol: 1
  • limonene: 6 (moderate hazard)
  • sodium hydroxide: 3
  • methylparaben (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • disodium EDTA: 1
  • sodium hyaluronate: 1
  • BHT (missing in one of the formulas): 4
  • citral: 7 (known allergen)
  • parfum: 8 (“parfum” can contain anything but it is likely to cause irritation)
  • propylparaben (missing in one of the formulas): 7 (developmental and reproductive toxicity)
  • chondrus crispus carrageenan extract: 1
  • retinyl palmitate: 9 (developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer)
  • linalool: 5 (moderate allergen)
  • citric acid: 2
  • geraniol: 7 (known allergen)
  • calluna vulgaris extract: 1

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (retail version) ingredients rundown:

  • water
  • cocos nucifera (coconut) oil: 1
  • ethylhexyl palmitate: 1
  • glycine soja (soybean) oil: 1
  • butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter: 1
  • glyceryl stearate: 1
  • dimethicone: 3
  • stearic acid: 1
  • isopropyl myristate: 1
  • cetyl alcohol: 1
  • PEG-40 stearate: 3
  • trimethylolpropane triisostearate: 1
  • sorbitan tristearate: 1
  • phenoxyethanol: 4
  • retinyl palmitate: 9 (developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer)
  • tocopherol: 1
  • butylene glycol: 1
  • triethanolamine: 5 (moderate allergen)
  • caprylyl glycol: 1
  • algae extract: 1
  • tetrasodium EDTA: 2
  • carbomer: 1
  • ethyl acetate: 1
  • cyclohexane: 2
  • arnica montana flower extract: 2
  • calluna vulgaris extract: 1
  • propylene glycol: 3
  • sodium hyaluronate: 1
  • citral: 7 (high allergen)
  • limonene: 6 (moderate hazard)

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (W Hotels)

Bliss lemon + sage body butter (retail)

As much as I love the smell and texture of Bliss, the toxic ingredients had to go. My go-to moisturizer is now organic shea butter. I use L’occitane’s organic shea butter enriched with vitamin E oil because there is zero fragrance and the texture is the most creamy of any shea butter I have ever used before–but the major con is that it’s really pricey at $39 for 5.2 oz).