Unlike those times when one was happy just to have ENOUGH on the plate, today it’s not about SURVIVING as much as it is about LONGEVITY. Not the quantity, but the quality. Based on the belief of “singularity” and its scientific context, several years ago Riva-Melissa Tez decided to pursue the CRON diet.
At the age of 23 Riva had already founded two companies. Today, amongst other enterprises, she currently teaches at the Design Akademie Berlin.
An interview about immortality, the balancing result of apple cider vinegar shots, and the placebo effect.
You are 23, but have already started two businesses. You are currently working on a new start-up. Tell me a little more about this. During my years at school I was always very interested in philosophy. When I was 14, I began to debate religious pressures at school and would skip days to attend humanist lectures in London. At one point I was hosting a secret online atheist radio show from my bedroom. I was always interested in classical thinker such as Plato, but now also in science-tech writers like Ray Kurzweil and Seth Lloyd.
After school I studied Philosophy at UCL. During my studies I co-founded a toy store called R.S. Currie and Co in Notting Hill. It was originally just meant to be a pop-up store but my boyfriend and I turned it into a full business. We started hosting themed parties for children in a secret area accessed by a hidden door at the back of the shop. From cupcakes to massive decorations, we fulfilled every child’s dream. About a year and a half ago I moved to Berlin. Together with a friend we founded the forthcoming kids’ app Scrappd.
What is Scrappd about? What was the idea behind it? Back when I was running the toyshop, kids would always come to show stuff they had made and I began wondering if there was a way that kids could do this safely online. When I came to Berlin I joined a programming class and started building the website just for fun. It’s grown a lot now and obviously I am no longer the developer! It’s a sticker themed iPad app for kids. We give them stickers and they can create stories and share their creations with their friends. A lot of kids websites actively shove brands at kids. We tried to find a middle ground. I learned early on that if you push overtly educational things onto children, they often just won’t do it. So that was never my purpose. In this case, children are learning whilst also just playing and having fun. I’m also a lecturer at the Design Akademie Berlin.
Which diet are you following?
I try and mix up the Paleolithic diet, which doesn‘t allow grains, sugar, dairy, and soy, with the CRON diet – Calorie Restriction Optimum Nutrition.
What was your main motivation? I started reading biomedical research when I was in my early teens because I was convinced that there was something wrong with the food industry. I thought if I could equip myself with the right knowledge perhaps I could make my own decisions regarding nutrition and health. I got so into it that I started a blog because I was disturbed seeing people consume so much glucose and missing out on good fats. The main thing is I really think people eat too many bad carbohydrates. I haven’t eaten wheat or simple sugars for a long time.
At R.S. Currie & Co. there was a sweets counter and the kids were always shocked that I never ate any. Then I went to San Francisco and met a lot of super smart people who had read about nutrition as well, and these were figures I really admired. Reassuringly, pretty much all of them ate like I did but they also taught me about CRON, because CRON is the added “tweak” to optimize the Paleo lifestyle. CRON means you have to watch that you a) don’t eat too much (calorie restriction) and b) still optimize for nutrients. It’s tough, especially at the beginning, but some friends in San Francisco have been doing it for years and are in really good health.
On our final day of university, people roasted me in their speeches because I sat at the back of lectures drinking huge bottles of Alkaline water and ate almonds while everyone munched on sweets and energy drinks. My best friend Chester always sat next to me because he knew my Marcona almonds were super delicious!
Why is Cron diet also called the longevity diet? There is this upcoming intellectual movement, pushed by the American author, inventor, and director of engineering at Google: Ray Kurzweil. He is probably the most famous face behind the Singularity movement. It’s mainly about the progress of technology, but there is also a discussion that the advances in computational power and medicine will allow us to be become immortal – if we just live long enough to get there. I’m not sure about the whole immortality thing, but I like the idea of being healthy for as long as possible. A lot of people I met doing the CRON diet in San Francisco based their studies on medical research in longevity in animals and humans. One of the few proven things to extend lifespan is calorie restriction, or things that are calorie restriction mimetics, like Metformin, the diabetes drugs. A lot of the guys are in their 50s and want to optimize their life span and avoid grave diseases so they can see as much of forthcoming technological developments as possible. I don’t know many diets that try to ensure that you extend life. The co-founder of Aubrey De Grey's SENS research group got me into the diet. The aim is very good health, whereas the goal of most diets is just to lose weight.
Are there any supplements you take on a daily basis? Yes. I take Vit B complex, Magnesium, Zinc and Omega 3-6-9 supplements. Omegas are good for your bones and your brain. I also take extra VitaminB daily to keep my energy up so I can still train after work. I wasn‘t able to do this earlier, I used to get sluggish in the afternoons.
Which foods are your personal “deadly sins”? With CRON you’re not supposed to have alcohol because it's just a bunch of glucose impacting your blood. I drink the odd glass of Pinot Noir sometimes because it's higher in Resveratrol, an antioxidant. I saw a lot of Pinot Noir in Silicon Valley. But if and when I drink alcohol, I’ll always wake up and need a coffee in the morning. If I drink coffee, I have mine with unsweetened almond milk and sweeten it with cinnamon. If I have two in one day, I know I’m not doing very well. Caffeine is very acidic for your system.
What is your favorite meal? I am obsessed with aubergines and eggs. My boyfriend cooks me eggs every morning, which is always my favorite meal of the day. Never underestimate an egg. He pays attention to ingredients too so it’s always amazing. He’s quite famous for his eggs amongst our friends. Sometimes for me it’s seven eggs and aubergines. If I have a choice in the evening I’d like a nice steak and salad.
Honestly - Is there something you secretly miss? A lot of friends ask me if I miss bread. I really don’t. Sometimes I eat nut bread that I get from the Paleo restaurant in Neukölln, Berlin. I am envious of some people’s cocktails though. I drink “zero-dosage”champagne at events sometimes and the person next to me has this big green thing with a sparkler and it just looks so ridiculous that I am sad it is not in my hand. I’ve never really experienced cocktails. And although I really don’t mind being the freaky eater, I don’t like being known as the party pooper taking vinegar shots. That’s more a social thing.
What do you do when you travel or you’re invited to a dinner event?I travel a lot and I always carry my supplements with me.When I know there is a planned dinner I just check the restaurant or the menu out beforehand. It’s not that hard. I can always eat vegetables and meat. For example a burger without the bread and some extra salad works almost everywhere. If they’re serving pizza or pasta I’ll just have a snack beforehand.
What did the diet change for you personally in regards to physical and psychological perspectives? Studying CRON and learning about nutrition was attractive for me scientifically. I can see why it’s the techie lifestyle of choice. Perhaps it is also why I have so much energy and am able to wake up very early in the morning and bounce out of bed. I’d rather read the newspaper in bed than go to a nightclub. On a good day I can run 20km then cycle to the office and work for 6 hours before cycling back. Therefore I have to eat more than the average CRON intake would be. My personal trainer at the gym used to call me the Tezmanian devil. I like to listen to death metal and lift weights. I’m currently training for a marathon. It relaxes me to push my limits. I enjoy being extremely tired at night. Sometimes I push myself so hard that I get sick- so sometimes in wanting too much good, you cause the exact opposite of your desired effect.
When it comes to diets and health, people often discuss the placebo effect. Do you really think it’s just what you consume or also the psychological aspect that explains why you feel so good since starting the diet? If you have a positive outlook on your lifestyle you will naturally think better of yourself. Maybe someone should replace all my pills with placebos and see if I notice. But honestly I don’t really care if it’s my body or my brain. If I feel good with what I do and if I’m able to do all the things I want to do, then I’m happy.