Thanksgiving Dieting…or, Not So Much, but still lost weight

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I spent mine with my parents in Oklahoma. It was quaint and wonderful. I tried to make most of the food since my parents are aging. They are both diabetics and I had grand designs to make it a sugar-free Thanksgiving. But my wife doesn’t really care for alternative sweeteners and I didn’t want to impose my wishes on the whole family. I often eat food that is sugar-free and carb-free, and I also make traditional sweets but with natural sweeteners instead of sugar.

Sidenote: Instead of a full turkey this year, I just bought a package of turkey that was already deboned. I’ll be doing that from now on. It was pre-cooked and seasoned and very tasty.

So how did I "diet" during Thanksgiving?

I did not really diet very much. My saving grace was intermittent fasting. I kept to at least a 16 hour fast (except one morning when I really wanted pie and did a 13 hour). It helps keep most of my cravings away despite eating a bit of sugar, mostly in the form of pies. But for the most part, I ate along ketogenic guidelines with just meat and veggies.

For my Thanksgiving meal, I ate everything. But what I focused on was eating a regular plate and not heaping it on. I just had a good taste for everything and then stopped eating. I didn’t even eat pie until later. Then I started fasting. It was all fairly easy (except for that one aforementioned morning).

Now, taking you back to a few weeks earlier in my life. I had a goal weight that I was striving to reach by Thanksgiving, then I wanted to maintain it through the holidays. I really hit a brick wall doing that. I was intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and some calorie restriction. But I wasn’t losing. My body totally rebelled against what I was doing. I even upped my cardio a bit and all my reps for lifting weights were in the 20+ range. I still stopped losing.

Mind you, I am against doing everything by the scales. I usually don’t even check very often. I’ll go weeks without checking. I don’t believe in fretting about what the scales say. But I did during this diet and I think it was to my detriment.

So I finally checked my weight this morning. I was a few pounds UNDER where I was before Thanksgiving! Huh!!! I’ve heard Ben Greenfield and others talk about similar things before. Just like our body becomes resistant to insulin if we bombard ourselves with sugar all the time (hence the utility of intermittent fasting); we also become resistant to calorie restriction diets. Our body sends survival signals to retain water, fat, and proteins so we don’t waste away. It is a preventative mechanism against starvation.

I’m not saying the dieting I did before Thanksgiving was bad or that I needed to go hog wild for the holidays. But it makes total sense to have a day where you relax the restrictions. Scientists talk about how this can reset the system where your body exercises its other hormones to keep the plasticity in your physiology. Then it’s ready to get to work with the dieting again.

I truly believe in shocking your system now and then to make it perform more optimally. We get into ruts, even if they are good ruts. Here are some ways that we can stimulate our systems into growth:
-take a mild cheat down with food. Have some ice cream or pizza or birthday cake. Then get back to a disciplined way of eating.
-over-hydrate and/or under-hydrate now and then.
-do a CrossFit Hero WOD or some endurance goal, like walk/run for 6-8 hours.
-take a long rest if you normally workout a lot; like an entire week or weekend.
-pamper yourself to the extreme with massage or other recovery therapy.
-expose yourself to very cold or hot temperatures, or both. Contrast baths can do wonders for your body.
-try to do something barefoot, like hiking a trail or walking around the neighborhood without shoes. It reconnects you and makes you realize how shoes aren’t all that helpful to our health.
-lift something heavy with 1 to 3 rep ranges. Also lift something light, like 100 kettlebell swings with a light weight.
-binge on something, like reading for the day, taking a seminar, or squatting every day for a month.
-deprive yourself of something, like get out of the house and go camping, turn off your phone for the weekend, or don’t eat sweets for a week.

All of these things are good not only for our physical health, but also for our mental/spiritual health. David Goggins calls its the "cookie jar". Put away things in your memory (or in a diary or actual cookie jar) of achievements that you’ve made. Achievement could be finishing an ultramarathon or it could be fasting for two days. It is measured in many forms. But they are all things you can pull out of your cookie jar when times are tough. Maybe you just broke from a relationship. Pull out of the cookie jar the time you went on a week’s vacation by yourself. Think of how you did just fine during that time and actually enjoyed yourself. Or if your health is in the dumpster, think back to when you wrestled in high school and sweat it out in two-a-day practices for months. You can do that again. Just put your mind to it. I’m reading "The Spartan Way" right now and it alludes to much of this. It helps to find physical and mental toughness.

What are you going to put in your cookie jar today?

The Experts are Seriously Wrong!

I was disheartened yesterday listening to a Vlogger who I respect. She has a doctorate in a health profession so I usually value what she says. This time, not so much. She falls in line with most of the mainstream dogma of Low-Fat, High-Carb, High-Protein that we hear so much. It is such an affront to what science tells us today. Read any health magazine or popular podcast and they repeat this dogma incessantly.

I would invite people to search the research themselves and not trust anyone, even if you respect that person. Don’t even trust your doctor because they follow conventional RDA guidelines too. In everything today, we need to think for ourselves because false information inundates everything we see and hear.

And before you tell me I’m crazy, I ate whatever I wanted in my teens and 20’s and still had ripped 6-pack abs. Like a child, I was active all day long, so I burned off everything I ate and any fat on my body. I was probably always in a caloric deficit. Now that I’m a responsible adult, I have to sit on my butt in an office chair most of my day. I sit in meetings at other times. And I laze around in my chair watching TV at night (yes, my fault). I DO workout really hard and teach yoga classes, but that 1-2 hours of daily work doesn’t override my non-active time. And, my testosterone is significantly lower and my metabolism has slowed considerably as I age.

So, unless you are past your 20’s and 30’s, you don’t understand longevity. This is where diet plays an even greater role in our lives. In fact, our lives depend on it. Flip the paradigm. Low (or no) carb, high fat, and moderate protein are hallmarks to living longer. Controlling insulin should be far and above our greatest endeavor. It drives whether we lose fat or not. And for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and many autoimmune diseases, a diet focused on what insulin does charts the quality of the rest of your life.

No Bivy for Me

Feet, hands, and top of the head are thermal windows.

Dogs don’t perspire, but instead use their tongues to release excess heat. We are very different in that most of our bodies sweat. But when humans are usually clothed, that shifts mostly to feet, hands, and head. Even when we are not clothed, there are more capillaries in these body parts to allow for thermal exchange.

As a barefoot lifestylist, I can attest that I’m especially in-tuned with this idea. I get claustrophobic when I have anything on my feet. If I do wear something, I wear flip-flops, huaraches, or sandal shoes, like Keens. This allows my feet to breathe.

Truth be told, I don’t think I was meant to wear shoes. Fungi and bacteria love my feet because of the heat I put out. When I was in the Army, I was once napping on my bunk and my buddies came in and put foot powder on my feet. That is how bad it got with the smell. I was prone to Athlete’s foot and other issues. I formed blisters easily. Boots and running shoes have never been my friends.

About a month ago, I went backpacking through the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. My footwear was Xero Genesis sandals, which are like beautiful huaraches. The soles are super thin and there is 550 cord for straps. So its super lightweight and feels very bare. What it offers is some slight protection for the soles, which allows me to move just a bit faster. Speed doesn’t usually matter to me, but I was hiking with 4 buddies. So this worked better.

Now back to Bivies—when I sleep in bed at home, I prefer to have my bare feet poking out of my covers. I fall asleep this way. For me, a tucked in bedsheet is overwhelmingly mummifying. I honestly cannot do it. This goes the same for sleepy bags. I totally cannot tolerate them. So I use a sleeping quilt. I can always poke my feet out and tuck in only when they begin to cool. So, like for sleeping bags, a bivy would never work for me. In warmer conditions, I cannot possibly imagine being cooped up in a bivy.

Even for a tent, I use a hammock. It allows me to be more open-air and aware of my surroundings. I’ve been in intense storms with my hammock and have managed to stay very dry. Yes, I’ve been cool at times in cold weather, which I’ve resolved with an underquilt. But having the ability for my body, feet included, open to my environment is better for me.

I think shoe-borne folks are probably more able to use sleeping bags and bivys. But for those of us who spend more time on our bare feet, it works better to be free of having them enclosed.

#backpacking #barefoot

Workout Plan Sept 2021

Here is my new workout plan. I think it will work for me. I now teach Rocket on Tues and I’m trying to attend Rocket on Thurs. Since it takes a lot of strength and flexibility, I try not to walk into class with tight, aching muscles. Olympic lifting is mostly concentric work, so its safe to do any day (maybe even every day). It is the eccentric work that makes you sore. But I intentionally do eccentrics on my bodybuilding days. So here it is:
Fri – Chest Triceps; run/paddle/bike
Sat – Back Biceps; Tabata interval
Sun – Olympic lifts Delts Legs; Tabata interval
Mon – CrossFit WOD
Tue – Olympic lifts – teach Rocket yoga
Wed – rest or Ashtanga class
Thu – Olympic lifts – take Rocket yoga

The Lion Killed the Purple Antelope. Isn’t that Racist?

So the Lion stalked and attacked a purple antelope. Now all the purple antelopes, along with sympathetic other antelopes, are up in arms because they think purple antelopes are being singled out. Scientifically, we know that green antelopes are killed more often by these Lions. And, as it turns out, orange antelopes are killed at an equal rate to purple antelopes.

Even more, we find out that the Lions are totally color blind. They cannot even distinguish between purple, pink, yellow, green or orange antelopes. They all look the same. They just know that this particular purple antelope was easy to sneak up on and the Lion has gone 3 days without eating. So it was hungry. Color didn’t matter one bit.

This may seem like a whimsical story, but it points to the difference between scientific reasoning and emotional conjecture.

A really true story is this. Way back when, before we studied the science, people thought that bees that stung people were males. Culturally, it was the males who were most often the warriors and they carried the swords. So it was simple to reason that the bees with stingers were males. However, the truth is that it is the females who have the stingers. A cultural bias led to an improper conclusion not at all based on science.

All organisms have their own methods of smartness inherent to their beings. It just happens that there are human scientists. And human scientists use the scientific method in their reasoning:
1. Observe a phenomenon
2. Ask questions
3. Develop hypotheses
4. Test the hypotheses
5. Make conclusions based on the testing

But while we have people who use reason, we have those who improperly speculate based wholly on emotion. These people jump from #1 to #5 without any testing at all. All they see are the poor purple antelopes getting eaten by Lions. Bad Lions!! These people are sitting miles away with binoculars not at all cognizant of the complex system of life around them. Emotion followed by a social outrage prevails without any science at all.

Even in the best of worlds, you may find a kind elephant who wants to protect the poor purple antelopes. So as the emotional human gazes through the binoculars, it looks like the elephant is attacking the purple antelopes. They are surrounding them to shield them from harm and accidentally steps on one of them. The emotional human now hates the elephants because another purple antelope is getting hurt. When, in fact, the elephant is trying to protect the purple antelopes from the Lions. Stupid emotional human.

Do you know what the kind elephant should probably do? Mind their own business. If the terrible Lions are hungry and eating purple antelopes, the elephant should probably walk the other way and let it happen. Maybe make a wildlife refuge where Lions and purple antelopes exist on their own. The sad thing is that some purple antelopes even harm their own. Isn’t that terrible? But now it is an elephant-free zone. Then the elephants can guard all the other animals from harm, but they don’t bother with purple antelopes anymore. Then you have Lions hurting purple antelopes and purple antelopes hurting purple antelopes. But I guess that’s nature. Let nature be.

Stupid emotional humans!

Speak Truth and Ask Why

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube since the pandemic started. I’ll admit that it is a central source of information for me. If I’m repairing a car, all I have to do is search for my vehicle and the problem, and I can usually find a few helpful videos on the subject. That’s not to say I’m not wading through a bunch of crap to get there, because I am, but the helpful ones truly help.

I went to Mexico this Winter and found a ton of helpful information. Of course, there was a lot of fear mongering as well. And some fears were probably justified. For instance, while I felt very safe and I was careful of travel scams, there was a cartel shooting not long after I left in the town I was in. You can’t avoid real problems that exist like drug turf wars. But I avoided all of those problems and had a great time.

I saw a video yesterday of a heart doctor saying to not ingest vegetable oils. I also saw a RD (registered dietician) say how ketogenic dieting is so terrible. You really have to take things with a grain of salt. There is implicit bias in everything we do. Truth be told, I work for the government and I know how it works. You have to protect your own. The Federal government subsidizes things like food grains, electric vehicles, ethanol production, solar power, the Post Office, and AMTRAK. If they didn’t, all those endeavors would fail. So if the USDA and FDA supports grain production, then that also must be in the textbooks in college education. So then, all the dieticians that go through school base their food pyramids on grains. You rarely hear a dietician decry whole grains as a substantial part of a diet. When scientifically, carbohydrates are not an essential part of any human diet. But if you read any mainstream health magazine, like Men’s Health or otherwise, their RD’s will toe the line on grains and lowfat diets. These are people who live in upper-middle class neighborhoods devoid of people of color. I was just in Oklahoma where I attended a family gathering. A large percentage of my family passed away due to diabetes that is rampant in Native America. I had an aunt who hobbled around because she recently had two toes amputated due to diabetes. Now, go ahead and preach how carbohydrates are OK for people who just lost toes due to diabetes. Insulin drives everything where I live. Eating a bran muffin every day doesn’t make that go away.

I am getting ready to go backpacking in August. So I am gathering gear and reading up on latest recommendations. I plan to go ultralight. I am all to familiar with carrying to much gear in past trips and I want to avoid that this time. I had already gone to trail runners in previous trips, but I’d like to go with sandals this time. I’ve run ultramarathons in huarache sandals and teach yoga, so I’m barefoot most of the time anyway. I used to go to the CrossFit box and did everything barefoot. But when you watch the videos, they talk about stability, ankle support, toe protection,… {cough!!}. Boots make you clumsy. They desensitize you to proper foot placement. Its like putting casts on your hands when you are doing work. But you cover your feet with huge boots and ask them to be nimble. It doesn’t work that way. I much prefer a more natural approach. Nomadic aboriginal people in Africa, Australia, Central and South America, and Native North America survived their existence without heavy boots. Yet the more evolved among us say you need ankle and arch support. They are certainly the ones with the weakest ankles and feet. When I left 14 years in the Army where I had to wear boots everywhere, I was very prone to twisting my ankles. Years of wearing those leather casts cause everything to weaken. It wasn’t until I shunned shoes whenever I could and adopted shoeless activities like martial arts, yoga, and running that I haven’t had a twisted ankle since. Ankles and arches definitely abide by the use it or lose it mantra. They have to be strengthened regularly with your lifestyle.

I’m not saying to play opposite day with all the central dogmas people put out there. But I would highly question the functional reasoning behind everything. Always ask why? I know so many people who do things just because its what they read in a popular magazine or its what they’ve always done. Many of it makes no sense at all. We need to start thinking for ourselves. Chart your own paths. Now take those shoes off and eat some good fat.

Fight FOR Your Life or Give Up? Retirement Age

So for those already turned off by this title, hold on! When you have a faster metabolism, your testosterone is more abundant, and you haven’t already been plagued with aging health conditions, the time to start is now!

Just like Retirement Planning for your finances, you have to do the same for your health. If you only start saving for retirement when you reach 40 or 50 years old, you will have a super steep hill to climb at the end of your journey. For some, quality of life healthwise will be severely deplenished as you get old because you refused to plan.

Your health can be easier to handle than finances for most. I’ve read of someone who only started becoming active when they reached 60. It’s never too late. But I wouldn’t wait. I think there is a point of no return, especially if your bones decay to the point where not much can be done. Also, if you get something like type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, or autoimmune disorder, then your ability to change your health becomes that much more difficult.

For me, my metabolism had a major shift when I reached my early thirties. In my teens and 20’s, I could eat whatever I wanted and still have 6-pack abs. I was super active and it seems I couldn’t get enough food, whether junk or otherwise.

When I reached 40, I knew something had to change. I knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing. But I still did it all wrong. I was under the misguided impression that you could fitness your way out of a problem. So I started running ultramarathons. It was such a fun journey because long runs like that are adventures. I saw so much wildlife. I smelled amazingly wonderful fragrances. I saw many eyes reflecting back at me when I ran in the darkness. I felt pains too because sometimes it doesn’t always go well. But it all contributes to a mental toughness that we need in life.

The problem with this is after a big run, I’d often be laid out for days. The cortisol screaming through my body triggered insulin, and that triggered lots of sugar cravings. So I loaded up on pizza, pasta, and sugar. At the time, that’s what endurance athletes did. It didn’t matter because of the thousands of calories I was burning on the trail. WRONG!

I was fit, but I wasn’t really losing weight. I still had belly fat that never went away. I got skinny arms and legs from swinging both millions of times. I’d swing my arms so much that my hands would swell. My feet would swell too. Many times, I’d just lay around and eat for days. When I would start back on recovery runs, a slight incline or hop up on the curb felt like a mountain. I wasn’t healthy at all. But the worst part was my back pain worsened.

I would get so weak after a long run that anything I did could throw out my back. I would pick up my dogs (that are very small) or twist to change a fuse in my car and my back would seize. I would sometimes go an entire month not being able to walk my dogs. There were nights when I had to crawl to get from the bed to the bathroom. It was really terrible.

At this 40 awakening, I also started CrossFit. That made me feel invincible. That is, until my back would go out. CrossFit during the week and then a long run on the weekend. I should have been super fit, but I wasn’t. I still had problems.

Not long after, I felt a stabbing pain under my right shoulder blade. It was like someone stuck a knife in me. I had gotten up to go to the bathroom. When I got to my bed, I dropped to my knees in pain. It was like a heart attack, but on the wrong side. I had my wife open the hatchback on the car and I crawled into the back. She took me to the ER. They did some tests but pretty much left me lying in the hospital bed for hours without doing anything. My chart said I had a history of back pain, so they didn’t investigate any further. They just prescribed muscle relaxants and hydrocodone for the pain. I went back home not feeling any better.

So I visited my doctor and he had a blood panel ordered for me. It revealed I had fatty liver disease. I mean, ME, an ultramarathoner and CrossFit’r. Then they ordered a test for my gall bladder where they inject dye into it and quantify how much was being released. My gall bladder was down to 26% functioning ability. That’s not good. So the surgeon’s office called to schedule my appointment to have it removed. I said "wait a minute. Let me get back to you."

I’m a researcher, so I started doing my research. There’s a gastroenterologist in the 1950’s who prescribed a diet that worked for his gall bladder patients. Later, they found it also worked for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other diseases. As it turns out, it was a version of the Paleo Diet. So I jumped on it immediately. Within 2 weeks, I no longer had symptoms. I was pain free.

So in the hey day of my CrossFit days, I found a healthier way to live. I still got terrible back pain episodes, but otherwise I was feeling better. My fatty acids looked better too. Problem solved….NOT!

Meanwhile, I still had a fat belly. I could hardly breathe when I tied my shoes. I also felt like my body was getting tighter. So to improve my Olympic weightlifting, I started taking Yoga classes. I had printed out the Bikram 26 poses and kept it in my wallet. I would do that sequence every day. Eventually, I found a yoga studio that I really liked called Amara Yoga. I started there at the dawn of a New Year.

Now, being a CrossFit endurance runner, it was "go hard or go home" for me. I liked the beginner and restorative yoga classes, but I loved Ashtanga. The teacher was amazing. I also started taking Rocket Yoga. By that Fall, the teacher convinced me to take yoga teacher training. I was already a CrossFit level I trainer, so I was like, why not? I need more skills under my belt.

Yoga saved my back! I no longer had back pain. I could twist and contort into positions and never feel pain. It was a miracle. In running and CrossFit and most of exercise, you do things symmetrically. Everything is bilateral and you don’t brace your body properly. Yoga works in all planes and makes you hold them isometrically with the breath. I love yoga and teach it today.

But I still had a weight problem. I would go mostly Paleo, cheat on most weekends, and cheat badly on the holidays. I really wasn’t finding success in that area. I was riding this wave up to Christmas of last year (2020). I actually did pretty well over the holidays, but I was averaging 193 pounds bodyweight.

I can’t say that I only recently discovered Intermittent Fasting. I had been doing it off and on for a year. Some things I read say that’s why its Intermittent, you don’t have to do it all the time. Wrong! I started watching Dr. Berg and other videos on YouTube and they started talking about this insulin connection. Everything is about insulin. It drives most of the other hormonal processes, like cortisol.

So after going strong with not only Intermittent Fasting but Ketogenic dieting (Keto), the final step is being taken. I’ve lost 13 pounds without much trouble and am still going strong. My goal is to get to 176 pounds (80 kg) and hold there. Then I want to continue to lose bodyfat but gain muscle.

So this takes us back to my original premise. You too can make changes in midlife and later. But it becomes so much harder. Let’s say you think a healthy weight for you is 160 pounds, but you weigh 180. Testosterone declines in men AND women drastically from 30-50 years old. The best time to lose that weight is when you are 30, not 50. When you get to 60, some of the bone degenerations, tendon weakness, and other structural problems limit what we can do. If you were usually a runner, you can’t run anymore if your achilles tendon blows out. Or, if you fall and break a hip. Do it when you’re 30.

But, like Mark Sisson of the Primal Blueprint says, nearly all of our health is driven by diet. Diet first, then exercise is the icing on top. You cannot exercise your way out of a problem. Getting rid of sugar and carbohydrates is key. Insulin drives everything. This is something I didn’t fully embrace until now. But combining Keto with Intermittent fasting is key. It’s what makes fat-burning really work effectively.

The last point is that you have to stay aerobic to burn fat. Sisson calls working just above aerobic the black hole. You don’t even realize it, but it’s not good for fat burning. This is roughly 180 minus your age for heart rate. If you are 30, then that makes 150 beats per minute your maximum aerobic heart rate. This is the fat burning zone. When you go above, you trigger your fight or flight hormones, like cortisol. Cortisol triggers a cascade of stress hormones including insulin. Now, you are no longer burning fat, but you are burning sugar. You can run out of sugar in 15-20 minutes and then need glycogen stores to release more sugar. When you run out of that, you BONK. You hit the wall. But when you learn to use fat as your source of energy, you don’t bonk. Instead, you go for a long time without hitting the wall.

Don’t wait until you get too old to make healthy changes. You can still do it when you are 60 or 70, but don’t count on being healthy enough to make those changes. Learn about ketogenic eating and intermittent fasting. It’s the key to everything and isn’t very hard to do after about 21 days. You have to break your normal patterns that your body is hard wired to live. The biggest thing about intermittent fasting is that it eliminates night snacking and eating the worst meal of the day (breakfast!). Yeah I said it. Think of all the yummy breakfast food. There’s pancakes, muffins, scones, oatmeal, waffles, orange juice, and fruit. All of these foods are high in sugar or are easily converted to sugar. It’s all terrible for you. Its better to have a cup of coffee or tea and maximize your fat burning while in your fasting zone. When you adjust to it, you don’t even feel hungry anymore. After 18-20 hours of fasting, you may feel like you need to eat something, so you do. That’s OK. But if you can go longer, even better.

Unfortunately, there are many who just give up when they get old. They can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s over for them (so they think). But diet is paramount. Not everyone can start a running program right away, but everyone can change their diet. Do it now! Ditch the carbs, eat plenty of healthy fats, and moderate your protein.

Quality of Life Changes

I keep making subtle changes to biohack my life. I’ll start with my top 3 changes if you are short on reading time.

1. Decrease training volume and intensity to lower cortisol levels.

2. Fasting longer.
3. Moving and playing throughout the day.

Many authors espouse these ideals, but its most centrally proposed with the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I am currently reading Primal Endurance, which further codifies what I’m doing. When someone with a sub 2 hour 15 minute marathon time and has won Ironman length races, I trust what he says.

Here are some explanations:

1. Insulin is key, but cortisol is a big player in this as well. Cortisol is not a one-to-one balancer of insulin since they don’t necessarily affect each other. But, cortisol does trigger release of glycogen from the liver thereby flooding the body with glucose. When glucose is present, not a lot of fat burning happens. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It shouldn’t surprise you that running very hard, intense workouts, relationship problems, work issues, and general worrying about things all cause cortisol to be released. This in turn creates the glucose response (no fat burning), can cause heart problems, elevates heart rate, decreases ability to rest and sleep, and causes overall body achiness. Doing a majority of your exercise and play at 180 beats per minute (bpm) minus your age as a maximum heart rate is key. This keeps you aerobically burning fat. When you go over that, you trigger cortisol and glucose release and begin to find that anaerobic mode that is not fat burning. As a Fire Breather myself, this was a difficult transition. But since I’ve been training more aerobically at this lower heart rate, my body Governor is set to that heart rate. I did a CrossFit workout yesterday and was actually going pretty hard, but my heart rate didn’t exceed 120 bpm. That tells me this is working.

2. Research shows that the benefits of fasting increase with the length of time. I started out with 13 hour fasts. It wasn’t difficult at all to move to 18 hours. So I’d eat lunch at about Noon, then dinner, then start fasting again. When you eat 3-6 meals a day, your body physiologically begins to expect those feeding times. The Ghrelins (hunger hormone) will start to peak at those conditioned feeding times even if you are not really hungry. So transitioning to 13 hour, then 18, then 20 hour and longer fasts take ghrelin out of the picture. Instead, I am usually not hungry at all. I eat because I feel like I need the nutrition, but not because of hunger. Its one reason more meals and snacking are the worst possible ways to live life. I mean, you can always feel like you need a snack, right? Wrong!! You never need a snack if you eat nutritiously with low carbs. The best part of setting my fasting timer right after dinner is it eliminates night time snacking. Those are the worst hours for people who try to diet. Now, I’m not tempted in the least. If you eat nutritiously with low carb and increased fat, you are good to go throughout the night and long into the next day. And, breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day. In fact, it is generally the least nutritious of meals. People are prone to high carbs (muffins, pancakes, cereals, energy bars, oatmeal,…) and sugars (sugary toppings, syrups, jams, fruit). Yes fruit!! Fruit is good for the water and some nutrition it provides. But fruit is bad because it is full of fructose. You can read about that, but it is only processed in the liver and you have to be careful about that. Fruit should be consumed in minimal moderation. It would be better to eat eggs and animal protein for breakfast to stay in ketosis, fat-burning mode. But better yet, don’t eat breakfast at all. Just drink coffee or tea. Why not get the benefit of more fat-burning without eating breakfast?

3. People really don’t move enough in this day and age. We live comfy lives. And for those who are stuck in an office all day, going to the gym for an hour is not enough at all. Instead, we should move all day long. Having movement breaks or combining with a stand-up desk are good ideas. Make sure you move at least every 2-3 hours. It can be a quick walk, some yoga moves, or maybe play outside for a few minutes. Getting your face in sun especially at sunrise and sunset greatly affects cortisol and thereby lowering stress and increasing sleep. The more skin exposed to the sun the better. Walking or slow jogging (slogging) for 10-15 minutes at a time is a really good option. Tai-chi and yoga have the added benefits of breath practice that is known to reduce stress (cortisol). Reducing stress and getting enough sleep are the two major areas of stress reduction. Learning how to worry less is key too. Having a great night-time routine is important by eliminating blue light (screen time on TV, laptop, and phones), not eating, no alcohol, no intense exercise, and staying away from the news or activism. Don’t do anything that gets your heart racing. Don’t get into fights with people or arguments with your spouse or partner. Instead, sit by the fireplace with a nice book and a dog on your lap. Its the best thing you can do for your health and longevity.

Surprising Effects of Fasting

This all blows my mind. And as a point of reference, Agnus Barbieri of Scotland fasted for 382 days through medically supervised fasting. He was going to try a few days and see what happens; that turned into a week; then a month; then 382 days. When he reached his goal weight of 180 pounds, he stopped. And unlike Biggest Loser contestants, he found a happy weight of 191 pounds and that’s where he stayed. So for all the bunnies out there who think you have to graze all day, you’re wrong. One or two meals a day is better for you than 6 meals a day. Here are some facts:

-Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. The feeling of hunger goes away with more time away.
-If you have a surplus of body fat, you will actually not become catabolic while fasting. In fact, the opposite. Human growth hormone actually increases during fasting.
-Insulin is the key to losing weight and overall health. Packaged oatmeal, bran muffins, and other carbohydrate sources are great foods to eat to NOT lose weight. They only trigger more insulin and sugar release into your bloodstream. Insulin encourages fat storage, not fat burning.
-Cortisol is 2nd important for dieting. A person could be on the same restricted calorie diet with the same activities, but not lose weight. Stress (relationships, work, environment), lack of sleep, and not obeying circadian daytime cycles (here that night owls?)—it is short-circuiting your weight loss goals. Sleep, get your face in the sun at sunrise and sunset, walk, meditate, do tai-chi and yoga.
-Go hard or go home (NOT!!!!!). When I do a long, difficult run that wipes me out for days, cortisol is raging in my body. This triggers intense hunger and I sleep poorly. Going hard is counter to weight loss goals. Always remember, you burn sugar first, then you burn fat. If you workout hard for 25 minutes, likely only 5 minutes of that time is in fat burning.
-Low intensity activities like walking, light jogging, tai-chi, yoga, and playing will cause more fat loss than intense workouts. Why? You stay in the fat-burning aerobic zone, not the intense anaerobic zone. It is measured at a maximum heart rate of 180 minus your age. But really, if you can talk or limit exercise to breathing out of your nose is key.
-Autophagy—so if you’re not eating, where do you get your essential nutrients? This is where autophagy comes into play. It is literally eating your own dead cells and recycling them for reuse. Essential amino acids and minerals are reused. This also has a role in autoimmune and cancer health since autophagy has longevity benefits in those diseases as well. You reach autophagy after about 15-18 hours of fasting. The more days you can fast, the more autophagy. It creates efficiency in your body.

If you believe in the idea of evolution, then science only tells us that fasting works. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today. Our earliest ancestors went long periods without eating. Then they would harvest an animal and eat heartily. Our body has a mechanism that enables us to function efficiently when fasting. We wouldn’t be here today if that wasn’t true. Instead, our brains focus better and bodies have plenty of energy without food in our bellies.

New Revelations About Fitness

—at least for me.

Main points:
1. Anaerobic fitness elicits a cortisol stress response.
2. Fat burning happens almost exclusively aerobically.

In the past, I’ve actually been disgusted by a "not-going-hard" approach to fitness. I see ladies walking down the street cheerfully gabbing at each other. I see people who look like they are fitness walking while talking on the phone. I would run past people on trails with an elite attitude like "I’m getting more done than you are". Sidenote: I hate an idea of toxic masculinity. I say let men be who we were designed to be. But having said that, I know plenty of women who are go-getters just as much as men. I know some who are more competitive than men. But there is clearly a machismo attitude toward exercise. It’s either Go Hard or Go Home!

I’ve read the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson and am currently reading Primal Endurance. I’ve slowly come 180 degrees from where I was. Mark is an elite performer of triathlons and marathon events. Yet he found he could train smarter, which meant slower in an aerobic zone and for a shorter amount of time, and still keep up with elite performers. How is this possible?

When you train yourself to exercise aerobically, it means you are moving at a conversational pace. So those ladies walking down the street make sense to me now. The Maffetone formula for an aerobic maximum heart rate (MHR) is 180 minus your age. So if you are 30 years old, that’s 180 – 30 = 150. That is your maximum aerobic threshold for working out. For many, that will feel like a snail’s pace. But for others, that will feel perfect.

Mark calls an uneducated guess at our MHR the "Black Hole". You really need to use a heart rate monitor to keep your heart in check. Otherwise, you may feel comfortable just above that zone and fall into the black hole. When you get above MHR, you shift from burning fat to burning glucose. When you use up available glucose in your bloodstream, your liver releases glycogen to create more glucose. So what does this mean?

Ever hear of "skinny fat". I always wondered how it is possible to toe the line at many running races and see so many fat runners. I mean, yeah, maybe they had just started running. But there are many who I see at a lot of races who are clearly either fat or even skinny fat. The reason? Cortisol! Cortisol is a hormone that is released when you are under stress. Anaerobic activities are a form of stress. So if you are constantly redlining your heart when you run, like pushing it to where you almost have to stop, you are not aerobic, but anaerobic. And the cortisol elicits insulin to in turn shift to burning sugar. So you could end up working out every single day (Go Hard or Go Home) and burn sugar and not fat. You turn into an anti-fat-burning slob.

Yes, there are times to go hard. Short intense workouts elicit a specific response that is the subject of another blog. But Mark says to do that once every 7 to 10 days. Otherwise, spend more time in the aerobic <MHR zone. He also encourages "play". That means frisbee, biking around the block, doing some yard work, or dancing. Have fun with living an unstructured, playful life. Never be sedentary for more than 2-3 hours. Those are the keys.

Personal Revelation:
A couple weeks ago, I went on my longest run in years. It wasn’t super long compared to my days of ultramarathoning. But it felt long. I really pushed it and felt good after. I was a little sore for a few days. What amazed me was the "stressful" physiological response. Since I’ve been Intermittent Fasting (IF) and working out mostly aerobically (<MHR), I rarely feel hungry. But after this run, I was famished. I still stuck mostly to my IF, I was ravenous. The other thing? My heart was racing. Since I wear a Garmin Vivoactive 3, I can see my heart rate in real time. So for 3 days after my run, my heart rate was elevated. Yes, I was probably burning more calories. But it also meant that my body was fighting something. I wasn’t totally relaxed. I also slept very terribly for 2 nights. I monitor that too. I usually have about an 80% rating of quality sleep. I was about 35% for those two nights. Lack of sleep also ramps up cortisol. My watch also measures stress, which is related to heart rate variability (HRV). I usually am at 10-20 at rest. But I was resting at about 50 (or 50%), which means I was at moderate stress even when sitting still. So long story short, that one long run that was above my MHR upset my body for 3 days. It had a negative effect on my health and my weight loss. I was hungry, sore, and physiologically not well. I never noticed that about myself. But it made me embrace these ideas even more.

Yoga, Photography, and Fitness, oh my!