Middle East to Asia - Lessons from a journey

As I right this blog I'm high above Europe, budapest specifically, a perfect time to write about my holiday. This is something that I have done before, but not for a while, and you may be wondering how come? 

I find that holidays can be a great time to reflect, relax, be creative, but above all experience other parts of the world, namely food and culture. I would describe myself as well travelled, and I've always tried to travel as much as possible as I can't imagine growing to be an old man without seeing all corners of the globe. Its an incredible place, and it's something I want to experience.

So what's this blog about? Food, culture, travel, learning, reading, who knows, lets she what happens as I write it.....

Where have I been?

India and Dubai, namely the south of India, Kerala, some have asked how come I didn't travel more, but if you knew the size of India you would know why, we (me and Lizzi, the misses) travelled Kerala for 9 days, travelling at least every 2 days, and then we only go to experience some of what Kerala has location wise, it's a colossal country home to a sixth of the worlds population, 1.24 Billion. 

Thus India is overcrowded, busy, but ripe with experience. We actually went on this trip on a whim, I am so busy with projects, business, and developing things (everything you see on a daily basis via my social media really) that I haven't the time to explore holidays I want to go on, as in plan a big holiday like this. A groupon went around for a fully pre planed tour of south India, EVERYTHING planned and done for me, within 10 mins I had bought two tickets after a quick text to Lizzi 'wanna go to India'..... 'sure', job done.

It was exciting, click, buy, adventure here we come. In Asia I have travelled to china, Thailand, loas, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, so India was somewhere I knew I would love. Pus I flipping love curry. Let me take this chance to share an epic curry.....

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The tour was great, pick up from the airport, private transfers throughout the whole trip, great accommodation, day trips, 60% of the holidays food, all included in the price. I'd highly recommend it, Kerela Travel Centre is their name (http://www.keralatravelcentre.com). It's such an untouched place as a whole tourist wise which means everything is more personal, less crowded, and more enjoyable, the was never a crowd or another white person in sight, so when we did all the cool stuff, which ill list below on photo, it was just us and the locals, now THAT'S how you experience a country. 

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Us fishing the traditional way in shoreline X nets, it was like being in the filming of Waterworld, was really surreal. 

 

The fishing nets from a side angle, epic! 

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Traditional Kerela dancing, was crazy, really mental, had no idea what was going on, but the facial expressions to describe emotions was epic. 

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We spent 24 hours sailing around water ways on one of these day boys, was fun, very different. 

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One of the best experiences I've had, up at the crack of dawn to spend 1/2 hour washing the elephants in the river, then riding them to a sanctuary and feeding them, was beautiful and amazing. 

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The one rural indian gym I found, was epicly old school with just a few bits, owner wasn' there so couldn't pay, made up for the dripping roof and syphilis I might have contracted! 

Was trying to upload another pic of a sleeper train, which I have always wanted to go on, but it wouldn't upload, so imagine it.... 

So food, I'm a foodie after all, my roots are in nutrition and when I travel I like to experience that, regardless of cost. Indian food is amazing, and if done properly incredibly healthy, especially with the magnitude of spices that they use, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, etc of which many show great health properties. Now let me re-iterate the use of spices, this isn't a sprinkle, this is tea spoons and table spoons of the stuff. Many studies have shown that to get the benefits of spices and herbs you need considerable quantities, it seems Indians know this by using lashings. But it's also taste, try making an incredibly fragrant curry using a sprinkle here and a sprinkle there, doesn't happen, you need lashings of the stuff. 

So how do you apply this at home and get benefit?

Obviously spices from the supermarket are a no go, there heinously expensive for the usable quantity you get. You need to find an Asian supermarket, or when I was up north at uni they were called Indian continental stores. With such a mix of cultures in the UK you will find one closer than you think, just ask around or get on the old google machine. This is where you are going to find bags of the stuff for next to nothing. Also don't go to one of these shops with a time limit, go with time on your hands, as I bet you find loads of stuff that looks cool and you will want to buy, cause these shops are incredible to nose around and dead cheap. I ate well at uni for cheap as I bought 20-40% of my food in these shops. Plus you can find fruit and veg you have never heard of.

So what are you going to do after reading this blog... 

What's also important as well is developing these life skills. It's all well and good buying an Indian cook book and following the recipe but I never find you understand a cultures cooking this way. Whenever I go to a country where I love its cuisine I take a cooking course, and I did this while I was away. When you go on a cooking course you understand it, you see it, you feel it, and ultimately you understand why a curry is what it is and how to always make one from the basics. Now if I didn't tell you, would you know that there are certain herbs and spices that should go in the oil at the start to release flavour, and some that should wait to add later on in the process? Probably not, but cause I've been on this course, I've taken time to understand it I can now whip up a curry in no time as I know the nuts and bolts, I've invested, as I see it, in my life skills. 

It amazes me how many people are awful at cooking. Don't know recipes that they can just bosh out, and this creates really poor diet adherence long term. A few weeks or months in to coaching any client I have there is a point where I get the email that says 'Ben my diet is getting really boring and samey now, can you give me some more ideas please?' And my answer is no, my answer then details that it is now a process of life skill acquisition and development, go buy a new cook book, go try 10 different vegetables that you have never eaten, go try offal, or a weird fish, just diversify and find new ways of cooking things.

Right now if I asked you to cook chicken 10 different enjoyable ways could you? If not you need more kitchen skills, this is how you enjoy food long term and keep it fresh and healthy. 

The Indian diet as a whole is quite vegetarian, there are places where that is all you can get, and even if you do order a chicken whatever you might as well eat vegetarian as you are literally sucking meat off bones. For the 1st 3-4 days we felt pretty protein deficient and it wasn't till we got to some better hotels and restaurants that we were welcomed by what may have been a nourished animal. We struggled with satiety and energy at times and were power napping a fair bit, especially as a lot of Indian cooking can be both high carb and high fat, never decent for energy production mentally. But protein wise I was saved by this bad boy which I took when a meal lacked protein content, thank god! 

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Analysing the Indian diet was interesting, and thinking about their diet I would make the assumption that their most popular diseases would be heart disease and diabetes. The poor cook very high carb, low protein (due to the inherent quality and cost) and often high in fat, all largely saturated from ghee and coconut oil. So with better balance of daily food content, macronutrients, I don't think such problems would be quite as rife, but that's very idealist, I'm just highlighting it as a pattern from a culture as an observation. 

(I had a little google around on my return and found that these were indeed the most prevalent diseases along with mental disorders and cancer). 

When people were overweight in India it was ALWAYS on the gut. In the UK I would say that we get very even distribution of weight gain, some people on the gut, some people on more the lower body, some all over, some all over the upper body from back fat also, showing we have larger variation in genetics, diet and lifestyle. From what I saw all Indians eat the same diet, high carbs in rice, wheat and corn, low protein due to cost and quality, high fat from coconut and ghee, thus show the same body fat development. That being said it was very hard to find someone, in most areas of the population that was obese, many of the older men had a bit of a belly, some richer and more affluent men quite a big belly, not much over weight issues in poorer women, but more overweight women when affluence increased. I put this down to less activity due to less menial tasks done like hand washing, hand clothe beating, walking to the shops for food etc, the stay at home women would have been more about food prep and keeping the house in order from a more convenient, affluent way. But again, assumptions based on my 9 days, I could be wrong. 

Side note: as with any blog when talking about fat distribution please don't email me saying 'Ben I have fat here and here what does it mean, and what should I eat to get rid of this?' Fat gain in specific areas of the body can be complex and a result of many diet and lifestyle factors, so i cant just nip over a quick reply with an answer. If you are serious about dealing with your desire to lose fat, get over to the BTN blog as we write about this kind of stuff all the time, and if you want personal help I have a team of experts ready to assess you and implement a program that would help properly. Check out www.bodytypenutrition.co.uk for more info. 

Would I recommend India, yes, 100%, it's an incredibly rich place of culture, history, food, and amazing people. But then I like places that are the polar opposite of home, it excites me, it's just a different world. 

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We then hit up Dubai. India has a stop over in Dubai and I thought why spend 5 hours waiting in the airport when you could extend your stay and spend 5 days in one of the best cities ever created. So we did, I've been before but I wanted to do more and show lizzi how cool it is. Everyone should go to Dubai, not necessarily for long, but 3-5 days just to experience the coolest things in life. Huge water parks, indoor skiing, the worlds biggest malls, desert safaris, luxury hotels, food from every corner of the globe, and 'brunch'... 

Brunch is my favourite part of Dubai as a foodie, brunch is lunch or dinner at a hotel but as a buffet, the most luxury buffet you have ever been too. We had planned to go to 3 but only managed 2 due to a little food poisoning episode. Brunch number one was the biggest, craziest most luxury brunch I have ever been too, 220 different international dishes, everything you could think off, roast, lobster, curry, dim sum, cakes, oysters, Mongolian grill, salads, cheese, just everything, EVERYTHING, think of it and it was there and in incredible abundance and quality. That was the Saffron resturant at the famous Atlantis hotel, massive thanks to contacts Jack Graham and Mark Robinson from SMART fitness who got us in under cloak and dagger to what was a sold out dinner and welcomed us into the group for an awesome day and night of food and fun (might have had a few cocktails at this one.....). 

Our 2nd was on our last night at the Towers Rotana, it was Mexican and salsa night and it was insane, build our own nacho station, pan fried beef and lamb cooking station, fish starters, Mexican hot starters, salad, Mexican stews, burritos, 75 dishes, unlimited drinks included (I had one bottle of beer, crazy) all for £35, was worth every penny, amazing. 

Dubai has the best of everything, it's a weird place, I couldn't personally live there, I miss grass, the dog, local farmers markets, and the pong from the cow field opposite my house. But it has a place in my heart as you can do cool stuff, thus ill be out later in the year or in early 2014 for some seminars in both Dubai and maybe Abu Dhabi with the help of some awesome gym owners I met while I was out there. 

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Racing dune buggies, was ace but the marshalls kept telling me off for going too fast YAAWWWWN

If you ever go go on a desert surfari, awesome fun and cheap. 

I also got to hit up Dubai fitness championship while I was there, a brutal 3 day competition, which if you fancy yourself as a beast and fancy winning 200,000 AED, around £36,000 I would enter, then hit up a brunch for that recovery meal, of course ;)

Details on the comp: http://dxbfitness.com

While I was away I took some time on a personal level to compile some thoughts on NLP and mental programming reading a book at any spare moment. I would say I'm well versed in nutrition but when we start to look at the human body and what we do as a species in this modern world it's all about the brain, our mind controls everything that we do. As personal trainers and coaches people are always asking me how to help the unhelpable, the people that fail at diets, the people that relapse, the people that cannot lose weight. Yes it can be down to the diet itself, but the mind is a huge picture. How we program our brain, how we see ourselves, and the questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis. I've spent years programming my brain to help myself in life, health, business, but it's now time to start applying and quantifying all this to help others. So some of the content I will be putting out in the future will be on this and seminars in 2014 will have some time dedicated to mental programming and neural conditioning. 

All I can say now, as I feel I'm done rambling, is that I'm excited to be home. I was excited to be away and have had an awesome trip, but I love my life and am equally excited to be home with everything that is happening in my work, the soon to be unveiled TDT, the new BTN site, a tour of Australia to announce, more seminars, more coaches, new BTN Academy to start with an incredible 400 people on the email waiting list, it's all go, so...... LETS GO!

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