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My 23andme Experience

My 23andme Experience

Towards the end of last year, I bought a DNA testing kit from 23andme. I was interested in finding out more about where I come from, what genetic traits I have and if I could find any long-lost relatives.

I kept a log of the process for my amusement and wanted to share the experience here.

The 23andme Kit

23andme kitThe DNA testing kit comes in a neat little box and is easy to use. All you do is open the holder, spit into it (you need a lot of spit so this takes a while) and seal it up again. 23andme include return postage in the price, so you just pop it in the mail and wait.

The wait is long. Very long. Thankfully, 23andme do a great job of keeping you informed of where your kit is and what you can do on the website in the meantime. That said, I had lost interest by the time I got an email saying my results were ready.

The Results

Seeing the results email land did perk my interest back up. No doubt like many, I was nervous to find out about any health risks I might face.

First off, my ancestry though. As expected, I’m 99.7% European and of that 98.5% Northwestern European.

The DNA test did not find any close family. The closest match is a 3rd to 4th cousin who shares 1.10% of DNA with me.

I am 2.7% Neanderthal, which is exactly average for Europeans.

Lastly, my health results. I had no increased genetic risk factor for any of the illnesses 23andme test for. This was a relief as I was worried about Alzheimer’s. I also show no signs of inherited conditions.

The first result of interest shows that I have reduced odds of responding well to Hepatitis C treatment. I’m not in the worst group, but less than ideal. I’m also likely to have a “rapid” or “ultrarapid” metabolism, which means I may need different doses of certain drugs for them to be effective.

A traits report cover a few more health issues, the interesting ones being:

  • I’m not resistant to norovirus
  • I’m 53% likely to have blonde hair (mine is brown)
  • Coffee probably doesn’t increase my risk of heart attack (relief)
  • I have slightly higher odds of being shortsighted (I am shortsighted)
  • I have a typical chance of misophonia (I’m very sensitive to noise)

My Thoughts

The 23andme experience was slow but interesting. By the time my results came, I had lost most of my motivation for trying it out. However, it was fun to read through the health risks and traits, and good to learn nothing alarming.

The downside of learning nothing alarming is that it feels like a bit of a waste of time and money! That’s no fault of 23andme of course and I hope that they can learn more from my sample over time. I also enjoy keeping an eye on the family page to see if any closer relatives sign up.

Overall, I’d recommend 23andme if you’re interested in health or ancestry – just be prepared to be underwhelmed if you’re a bit average like me.

Seven Minute Workout Review

Seven Minute Workout Review

At the start of September I decided to try a seven minute workout once a day and tracked my progress over the month. Here’s my honest review of the routine and the apps I used to develop the exercise habit.

What is the Seven Minute Workout?

The Seven Minute Workout was popularised by a 2013 article in the New York Times written by Gretchen Reynolds. The article drew on a study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal.

Essentially it’s a short Hight Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routine for the whole body and works by pushing you incredibly hard with snappy rest breaks of a few seconds between sets. The idea is to get a gym session done in just a few minutes and, according to the research, “allows for opposing muscle groups to alternate between resting and working in subsequent exercise stations.”

It’s worth noting that, while the research states you can benefit from just 4 minutes of this workout and one full circuit takes about 7 minutes, the authors recommend at least 20 minutes of HIIT. To get myself started, I’ve just been doing a single set every day for about a month.

What Exercises Are Involved?

Although there are now many versions of the Seven Minute Workout, the original study suggests 12 complementary “stations” which cover the whole body and a specific order to complete them:

Seven Minute Workout


What Apps Can Help?

Thanks to the Seven Minute Workout’s popularity, plenty of smartphone apps exist to help you follow the routine. They vary from sought to polished, independent to corporate.

I looked at several apps and chose one called ‘7 Minute Workout’ from Johnson & Johnson for a few reasons:

  • It has the exact original routine from the study
  • It has excellent demonstration videos
  • It has an audible countdown to your next set
  • I like the trainer’s voice

There are plenty of features in the app I don’t use, including ‘smart’ routines based on your likes and fitness level, exercises beyond the 12 standards and some social media sharing.

As you use the app, it occasionally sends you articles designed to teach you a little about health, fitness and nutrition. These work well and manage to be just the right side of snappy after a tough workout.

As well as the training app, I used my favourite habit tracker Momentum to record every workout I completed over the month.

Does it Work?

The proof is in the pudding, so here are two pictures of me from before and after my 30-day experiment:

I think you can see some progress, which isn’t bad for only seven minutes per day.

My weight has hardly changed over the month, dropping from 10:5.5 to 10:4.4

Weight Chart

My fat mass also dropped slightly from 16% to 15.8%.

Body Mass Chart




The best thing about this routine is, unsurprisingly, the duration of the workouts. At just seven minutes, it’s easy to fit a session into your day. For the most part, I scheduled mine between putting the kids to bed and making dinner for the night, but where I felt too tired I just squeezed it in before bed. It’s reassuring to know that as long as you start by 11:53pm, you can still tick off another day.

The routine itself, provided you go at it hard enough, leaves you with a post-gym feeling of tight muscles and I tended to feel it in my legs the next day. After just two weeks I noticed myself feeling healthy and standing taller, walking around at work I feel stronger and sturdier than I have since I used to regularly go to the gym.

I recommend this routine to anyone who wants to get a bit healthier but doesn’t want a gym membership or massive time commitment. There’s no equipment needed, no cost and it takes less than ten minutes of your day.

Next up, I’m going to cut the weekly target to five days and not seven and I’m going to change this habit from one-off experiment into a lifestyle choice.

30 Years Old

30 Years Old

A week ago I turned thirty. I feel OK about that, it’s just the same as 29 really, probably not much different to 31 either. Despite that, it’s still a big birthday and a life marker. I thought that to celebrate, I’d write a few thoughts on where I am right now and where I want to be, whether in the next year or the next 10 years.

As I’ve been writing, the one theme I keep returning to today is the idea of becoming a role model. Vani is nearly two and a half now and can copy things I say and do, so it’s becoming increasingly important to say and do things worth saying and doing.

Of course, as ever, it’s easier said than done. I write a lot about how I work on habits and develop values to live by, but I feel like I need to start laying down some concrete achievements in the years ahead. That isn’t to say I haven’t done things I’m proud of, there’s just a new slant on them now. I want to do things worth telling stories about. That doesn’t mean skiing down Mount Everest, but setting out a plan and following it – from small habits like drinking more water to big projects like writing another novel. The future shouldn’t all be planned out, but I should at least guess my direction.

Which Way This Year?

Years are long, especially leap years like this one, so I think it’s safe to break them down into four even quarters. Three months is enough to work on something to at least know whether it’s worth pursuing, sometimes it will even be enough time to finish something.

Here’s what I’d like to work on over 2016:

  • January – March: We’re having a new baby in February so that’s all I need to care about
  • April – June : I’ll be getting used to life with two kids
  • July – September: Focus on writing regular book reviews
  • October – December: Write a long-delayed next novel

Throughout the year, I’d also like to focus on developing better habits in a few areas, such as:

  • Drinking enough water
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Daily meditation
  • Eating enough calories
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reading every day
  • Writing every day

The Next Decade

It seems both a bit daft and a touch presumptuous to try to plan 10 years of life, even in general terms. Ten years ago, I was at university trying to become a lawyer, so you never know what’s going to happen.
My main aim is to be the best father I can be, to stay calm when things get hard and bring up my kids with any opportunity they want open to them. If I can do that, I’ll be alright.

There are a few projects I’d like to see some progress on too:

  • Building a reputation for really good and personal book reviews
  • Building an online short story magazine on the back of that
  • Building some basic app myself from scratch
  • Marking off at least 10 of my 100 things each year
  • Keep writing about my beliefs and how they change
  • Do the same for my values

Finally, I want to make sure that I keep writing these articles over the next ten years as a way of mapping out the changes in my life so that I can look back with my family one day and laugh at how wide of the mark I always was. As I write today, it’s for just a few friends who read but I hope that over time more people will find the things I have to say about life, reading and writing either interesting or entertaining.

For the time being, I’ll entertain myself. What else can we do?