Intermittent Fasting Update


As of last night, I lost a total of 10 pounds bodyweight. I feel so much better even though I don’t think my looks have changed much. I haven’t measured, but I don’t feel that my proportions have changed. But I certainly feel better. The type of weightloss I’ve undergone to me affects where I deposit fat the most. And for me, unfortunately, is in my visceral organs. Since I’m a very active person who does CrossFit, teaches and participates in Yoga, and does various cardio (run, rowing, ski erg), my skeletal muscles have either increased mass or lost fat. Most of the fat is [at first] unnoticeable because its the fat around my organs. It makes me super happy because I know it will make me much more healthy overall. But I’d sure like to see my six-pack soon, which I think is not-too-far in the future.

Here are some highlights of my journey:
-I’ve cut out night eating and snacking almost completely.
-I am [almost] always never hungry when my fasting clock is up.
-I think better during the day.
-I’ve somewhat shifted my calorie load to lunch rather than just supper.
-The quality of my meals has improved because I know I have to eat healthy.
-A few cheat meals a week haven’t been crazy huge. Just enough to make me happy.

On that latter note, I was the guy who had to have the foot long coney dog with chili, mustard and onions. Now I eat a normal sized hotdog at Sonic, but with the same stuff on it. The other day, I was in a hurry. So I pulled into a Burger King and got a Whopper Jr. instead of some huge burger that I would usually get. And none of this is to punish myself or feel high and mighty about myself; its just because my mindset is changing.

The other huge turnaround is in my soda drinking. Even though I know the research and even though I only did Diet sodas, I never thought about trimming soda out of my diet. I still haven’t. But I’m not buying the 12 or 24 packs of Diet Dr. Pepper. At least not in the last two shopping occasions. And I’m not missing it. Water or tea seem like enough. Its all about the insulin. And while you are not taking in the calories with Diet sodas, the artificial sweeteners can still incite an insulin response even if you are not taking real sugar. So soda is counter to my goals. I’ll still drink something now and then, but I’m not buying it in bulk at the store anymore.

The other habit that is changing is my overall serving size at home. It seems like I always have lunch ready the next day because I’m only eating half of my normal dinner. That has been working out really well. Again, doing so doesn’t feel like I’m shortcutting myself or undergoing a metaphorical self-flagellation. Its just that I know what fills me now and I don’t need that much food. My stomach has seemingly shrunk to a size the doesn’t need a lot to feel satiated.

There really is something to decreasing ghrelin and increasing leptin to regulate hunger and appetite suppression. But don’t you worry about me. I don’t have an eating disorder because I still love the taste of food. Its just that food doesn’t rule my life. Its so easy to do without and get it when I can. The want of food can lead you around like a dog on a leash. It doesn’t have to be that way. I have no doubt I could go a day without food and not really notice it. Its a whole different chemistry in my body because of intermittent fasting.

Take control of your life today!

Act Like Everybody Carries

When you go to a college wrestling match, your emotions get stirred as you watch two combatants battling on the mat. It makes me think back to the days when I did the same. Sometimes, I think I’d like to get back out there again, whether wrestling, judo, or jiu-jitsu. It was so fun to test myself and roll with people who challenged me.

But while you’re at the college wrestling match, you look around at the crowd. There’s lots of people with cauliflower ears, thick necks, and backs as wide as a refrigerator. Even though you think you still have some fight left in you, you know you don’t want to mess with anyone at a wrestling match. You just don’t know what’s possible. I’ve never seen a fight in the stands at a wrestling match.

I went to a UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) event in Indianapolis. It was funny because I was talking with one of the vendors. He said he loved the UFC event. Everyone was so calm and polite. He said it was the opposite of what you’d expect. Its the NBA where he saw fights in the concourse and people berating his crew. You don’t dare start a fight at a UFC match because you just don’t know. You could have a former champ sitting next to you and he could do some real damage. So people don’t fight at those events.

Here’s what I’m getting to. If you are ever in Texas or Arizona where people carry firearms, either concealed or open, you better not start a fight. If you are a robber at a convenience store, you better believe your chances aren’t very good if half the population is carrying. Its just a matter of fact. And think about this, most illegal carriers on the street don’t know the first thing about handling a malfunction with a weapon. All they see is some gangster on TV holding a gun in ways a legal carrier never would. They have never practiced remedial action either in combat or in practice. They just pick up their illegal weapon, load it, and walk around without an educated clue. Its the illegal carriers who cause the problems. Illegal means that they don’t obey laws.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m more apt to be a responsible citizen when I’m carrying than when I’m not. The reason is, everything suddenly becomes life or death when I’m carrying. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I’m not prone to doing anything stupid because I know the end game. I don’t walk down a dark alley because all my bravado is erased. Carrying a weapon doesn’t make you more brave, it makes you more cautious. You are never looking for a fight. But if it comes to you, hopefully you’re ready. I would say the main reason I carry is so I’m not a sitting duck. I’m not crouched under a table hoping for the problem to go away. Instead, I have the means to protect not only myself, but people who are close to me that I care for. If I was a parent with kids, I would never want to be crying behind a bush with them. I’d protect them instead. That’s my job. To protect those you love.

We can’t have immature people without training carry weapons. Its the worst way to have a society. But to those who do have training and carry responsibly, they can be the best way to insure a civilized society. It is the best deterrent we can have. People who don’t know any better only see these crazed lunatics and think we should have gun free zones. Unfortunately, that will only cause more deaths.

We have knee jerk, emotional responses to things we see. And then the solutions are equally emotional, ineffective, and lack any bit of common sense. Instead, leave it to people in the know to find reasonable solutions.

"When seconds count, the police are only minutes away" [a minute too late]

Changing Culture of the Military

For many who have never been in the military or on a military installation, its hard to fathom what it is like. As an aficionado of anthropology and all its nuances, I really notice differences in common culture. With my work, I have the opportunity to visit military bases on occasion. Every time I do it, it feels like home to me. Its the safest place on earth. People obey laws. They obey the speed limits. When I am walking around, people call me sir, open the doors for each other, and are generally much more polite. But not only that, soldiers are aware. What does that mean?

When I used to take training for weeks or even a weekend drill with the National Guard, your mind completely shifts when you become predator and prey. When you don’t know what’s around the next bend, whats in a tree above you, or that an enemy bunker is within a hand grenade’s throw but you only just noticed it. You notice if there are clouds in the puddles, grass that is tamped down by footsteps. You see a candy wrapper and mentally age if its a month old or was dropped just minutes ago. You are watching the weather to think of how it affects your concealment. Leaves rustling in the wind that masks the sounds of your own footsteps, or those of someone else. Birds suddenly are spooked to flight in the distance; but by what or whom? You become hyper aware of your surroundings when in combat or training. You become very aware of every detail of life.

Then you consider walking around hundreds of people who think the same way you do. They are thinking about the next step they take. They are backwards planning in their minds the priority of work that needs to take place. They are conserving energy so they can spring load themselves into action at any time.

It is interesting to think of the iterations of cultural shifts and how they affect the military. When I joined the Army, it was just past the Vietnam Era and the draft. A lot of vocabulary that was used was "volunteer Army". It was a paradigm shift from men who were "forced" into service because of the draft. All of us standing in a mud pit after a grueling PT session volunteered to be there. And the Drill Sergeants let us know that. Recruiting also became a big issue because now you needed to attract people to the Army. And, the Army had to be a bit nicer to its people. They began to restrict what DI’s could say and do to us. Even when I became a DI myself a few years later, changes were still taking place. And when a colleague of mine left the Army as a First Sergeant, he said the rule was to get them trained for battle. That was the foremost priority. With brown boots that don’t need shining, uniforms that are no longer pressed, and other general GI tasks that were of prime importance for soldier development going by the wayside, you wonder its effect on discipline. I thought of seeing soldiers coming out of basic training after me and thinking they weren’t as respectful as the people I graduated with. The changes are always palpable. Most of life changes with time.

So when Chief Eddie Gallagher was acquitted of crimes as a Navy Seal, he was emphatic about how "millenials" were affecting the teams. Old school traditions were no longer being kept. The ideas of honor and duty had changed. And just a few days ago, that Seal team was returned from overseas duty to evaluate their ability to operate effectively. Yesterday, I read that more than a dozen Marines were arrested for human and drug trafficking. These are not things I think about when I think of the military. It is the complete opposite.

Yet I watched a TV show last night that made me confident that we are going to be OK. The civilian who was given a tour of Grafenwohr training area in Germany was treated with ultimate respect. Everyone called him "sir". I saw all the little things. The Army is in good hands. Its proven every time I visit an installation. The elements of respect and honor are still in tact.

In any honorable profession, law enforcement, fire fighters, soldiers, seaman, doctors, and the clergy, human nature is still human nature. If 3% of the human population is prone to violence, rape, or other crimes, then 3% is usually reflected in the honorable professions too. You can never bias against a group for a few bad apples. And that’s exactly what they are. Bad apples. They will always exist in even the most cherished duties. Its hard to defy mother nature.

Our military is so respected by me and all of the people "in the know". For those who served, we know what it takes to be there. Maybe many of us when we return to civilian lives don’t appear to be very veteran like. We let our bodies go and grow long hair. But there is still a part of us that has a heart for all we did. We’ve been through the fire together. As much as we possibly can, we should always hold on to the ideals of our training. We should always be the respected person in the room. We are always at the service of others and are willing to lay our lives down for the common good. That’s how it should be. And that’s what is expected.

Supplements, Diet, Exercise: Rendered Ineffective If…

I was listening to an awesome podcast this morning with Mike Bledsoe from Barbell Shrugged Collective. He had a geneticist on who focuses on mitochondrial science. Check out the episode because I don’t recall his name. Apparently, many supplements we take are not carte blanche recommendations for most people. In fact, some supplements may have a reverse or negative effect. As a trained geneticist myself, I found this guy could get lost in the weeds really fast. But hold on because he comes around.

I’m not all way the through the podcast, but the bottom line is this. If you don’t satisfy basic requirements associated with your circadian rhythms, much of what you do for your health can be for naught. The truth of our lives is that the sun rises and the sun sets. Our bodies are completely governed by that cycle. If we disobey any aspect of it, all the diet, supplements, and exercise in the world won’t allow us to reach our full potentials.

Hopefully I can remember the key characteristics of circadian cycles that have to be obeyed:
– sleep is key
– proper hydration
– restricting your eating window
– eating only during daylight hours
– having adequate levels of minerals

He gave such a great analogy. Say I have an old Camaro that isn’t running well. I can put a super charger, high performance headers, and inject nitrous oxide into the engine; but without providing the basics of good spark plugs, proper timing, and other essential elements, the Camaro isn’t going to run better. You have to satisfy the base requirements first before adding anything else on.

Sleep and hydration are probably the first and more necessary components to start with. My big add on lately has been intermittent fasting. But apparently, that isn’t an add-on. It may be a necessity that we’ve forgotten about. It has changed my life. I no longer want to snack at night. And I am never really hungry anymore. I love to eat and I savor my feeding window. But because my stomach has seemingly shrunk, I get full so much faster. So instead of gorging myself in my feeding window, my food intake has largely moderated. Its so amazing how that works.

With anything in life, you have to satisfy the basics before you add the extras. Its Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in manyfold ways. Its like trying to learn differential calculus before you even know how to add and subtract. There are no magic pills in life. Obey your Circadian Rhythms.

Thai Yoga: Trapezius

I wasn’t able to find a picture of how Thai yoga therapists work the trapezius muscles in Thailand. I suppose I need to make my own demo. The method I learned in school just never worked for me. It felt uncomfortable for me and I’m sure that was sensed by my clients. Also, I suppose I never felt much effect from how my fellow students were practicing on me. It was always wobbly and unstable.

But when I went to Thailand, they all used the same method, whether in Northern Thailand or in Bangkok proper. It was always with knees against the back for the client to rest against. They wrapped and interlace hands around the forehead and leaned the head forward. Then applied double pressure with the forearms into the traps. It felt so amazing. Then, for instance, they would hold the forehead with the left hand and tilt the head left. Then they would roll their right forearm along the traps. I could feel a bump as the forearm would roll over tight muscles.Then they would switch sides. It was super amazing. I became a big believer after that.

Now, the picture that I did find above is something I definitely want to try. I think it would be stable, comfortable, and super effective for traps. I have sessions scheduled this week where I will certainly try this.

If you want to see how this feels for yourself, you can schedule with me anytime. Click the "Book Now" on my Andy Yoga Facebook page.

What are you trying to stretch?

For every yoga pose, there is a primary muscle you are trying to strengthen and a separate muscle you focused on stretching. They are often antagonistic, whether strongly or mildly. Regardless, you as a practitioner or you as a teacher are asking "why"? Why am I doing a stretch this way? What cues do I give students so they can get the most out of a pose?

Pictured above is a high or crescent lunge (Anjaneyasana). No, this is certainly not warrior I (virabhadrasana A). I was trying to find a version with bent back leg, but nobody posts it that way. But some yoga teachers will offer you to bend the back leg. I think that is OK but it changes the intention of the stretch, and to me, the intention of the pose. I think the primary intention is with the straight leg. So, to answer your question, the primary muscles that are strengthened are the quadriceps of the front leg. The primary muscle being stretched is the psoas of the back leg. "Why" do you ask?

The psoas (pictured below) is a muscle that starts from T12 to L4 of the spine mostly on the transverse processes. It attaches to the lesser trochanter of the femur. They say its the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body. That can be debated, but its mostly true. It connects the back to the leg. So since it does, when you bend the back leg, it takes most of the stretch off the psoas and puts it on the rectus femoris. Because of its emphasis on the psoas, I try to make that my focal point. So I insist on a straight back leg. Adding a slight backbend to the pose will stretch the psoas even greater.

Now if you decide to switch the primary focus to the rectus femoris. That’s OK. I think there are better poses for a rectus stretch since the more you bend the knee the better. And if you bend the knee too much in a high lunge, then its no longer a high lunge since your knee will be on the ground. The last two pictures I present will show variations that focuses more on the rectus femoris. The rectus femoris inserts in the front of the hip and attaches to the upper patellar tendon. The patella then connects to the tibia (lower leg). This makes it a two-joint muscle. To stretch the other 3 quadriceps, you just have to bend the knee. But to stretch rectus femoris, you have to also extend the hip forward. Its all biomechanics.

My favorite rectus femoris stretch is supta virasana (reclined hero pose; pictured below). The hip is neutral but in some extension and the knee is heavily bent. I cue students to make sure the baby toe touches the ground. The old school hurdlers stretch with the foot rotated outward is very dangerous to the knee. So I encourage the toes down method. A modification is to do this sitting on the heels and not heel against the hip. But that becomes a different pose; more like a leaning vajrasana (thunderbolt pose).

Another good rectus femoris stretch is couch stretch or King Arthur’s pose. I feel that it is much more uncomfortable because of the pressure on the knee. But it is more modifiable for beginners and can be a very deep stretch for advanced students. In addition, you can place your hip in even more extension with couch stretch (pictured below).

So the bottom line to this story for any pose is, ask yourself what are you trying to stretch and what are you trying to strengthen? Sometimes a practitioner or teacher will modify a pose not really considering these focal points. Anytime you do a modification, does it still meet the intention of the pose? A good knowledge of anatomy goes a long way with yoga. Every yoga teacher who is certified to teach knows these things. But we can all use a refresher now and then.

Update: Intermittent Fasting

Now that I’ve been Intermittent Fasting (IF) consistently for the past month, I am amazed by it. I have done it off and on for a couple years. The addition of the Zero app makes it so much easier. I’m a Type-A, analytical kind of guy, so I love tracking progress with the App. Here are a few insights to how its working.

There are several Fasts that you can choose with the app. The lowest is the Circadian Rhythm fast that roughly runs with the nighttime hours and lasts 13 hours. The other fasts graduate to 16:8, 20:4, and multi-day fasts. I was bouncing between the 13 and 16 hour fasts based on my life schedule. But I found that if I was going to fail (early on in this process) a 16 hour fast, then I didn’t want that blemish on my history report. So I would switch to a 13 hour fast mid-stream. Now, I always do a 13 hour. Then if I go longer, I just go longer. I don’t call it anything else. Regardless, I reach my goal and often have more hours than the minimum.

I haven’t read the research lately that speaks to how a stomach stretches when you eat. I watched Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest on the July 4th. I often wonder when they eat so much food, their stomach and other organs must stretch to some crazy volume. But do they feel hungry the next day after all that stretching. For me, I feel on IF, I get full very easily after my fast. So a big dinner for me is usually very moderate in size. I think that’s an added bonus with IF.

When I come off my fast, I almost never eat something significant unless its the weekend. If I have my druthers, I would much rather break my fast with a Ketogenic option. Then, I am not triggering insulin production, which makes you more hungry and shifts away from fat burning. Part of my goal with IF is to also DE-hypersensitize my insulin response. I only want to use it when I really need it. So if I can eat fat instead, like medium chain triglycerides, then I can keep in the fat-burning zone. But honestly, have something like a normal breakfast food like a pasty or something sounds much more delicious. I’d rather not crave something like that and I usually don’t. So that happens rarely. Actually, if I can go the full day being totally ketogenic, then all the better. For instance, last night I ate dinner at 530pm consisting of a grilled (half) butterfly pork chop and a big helping of broccoli. No starches or sugars at all. So I’ve been fat-burning for two days now and it feels fabulous. I can visualize fat melting off of my organs. That’s a good feeling.

The other benefits of IF are amazing. For one thing, each day I do IF, I am becoming less hungry and cravings are at their lowest. Most times, when it comes time to break my fast, I forget and just keep working. I don’t have peaks and plateaus of energy. Everything is Even Steven. When I ate a normal 3 squares a day, that lunch time feast would always cause me to find a Circadian trough where I needed a Siesta after lunch. I don’t feel that way anymore. Usually, I just work through lunch "time" and feel motivated all day.

The difficulties were weekends. The first few weeks, I would break my IF or not even attempt it. Then I’d eat like a normal person. When Monday rolled around, I was back on IF. But this past weekend, I didn’t have a desire to break my fast. So I just kept to it and it wasn’t a big deal. Also, I would make myself some eggs and sausage links for breakfast when it was time. That is a hearty meal that fuels a busy, physical day while still being ketogenic. Its a much better option than bagels, waffles, pancakes, donuts, or any other flour based treat. I even cook the eggs with some bacon fat to make it more tasty and giving more energy units.

Another good option I’ve used during the work week is to have oatmeal in my office. Despite my disdain for grains in general (I love the taste, hate the effect on us), I will eat oatmeal on occasion. Research studies show that oatmeal is one single food that can assist with reduction of type 2 diabetes and other conditions. So that is my one slack food that I’ll eat now and then.

Experiment with IF even if for only one or two days a week. It is instrumental in breaking food dependence and hormonal hypersensitivities. If Caveman did it and lived through very tough times, then its probably good for us too. Do it for your kids too. Then they know what its like to do without and can make them more resilient mentally and physically. Take out the silver spoon and throw it away. Its a lesson for us adults as well. You definitely are not going to die if you miss a meal or two. Its good to learn that in life.

Thai Yoga Poses That I Don’t Do

Several of my instructors from Thai Yoga Massage school came to it from a place of pain. Back pain is so crippling for many in our population. If you’ve had it, you know what I mean. It totally undermines your quality of life. When I was giving Thai massage to my instructors or when colleagues were talking about do’s and don’ts when giving to them, they told me to NOT do certain poses. Most of it stemmed from back pain problems.

The pose pictured above is cobra. If you did a vector analysis, from my friends who took kinesiology or body mechanics, you’d see the greatest force in this pose is directly in the lower lumbar spine. Yes, its great for opening shoulders, chest, and anterior chain too, but the crux of the problem is with the back. So we were told not to do this to our instructors. And, in essence, I don’t do it to clients anymore for this very reason. There is a twisted lift that I don’t do anymore for similar reasons. Its just too much on the back.

Instead of cobra, I would use the variation seen above. Its much easier on the back and the client can feel the goodness of the heart opening. Its a much safer and more effective pose. You have the added advantage of walking the back making it very luxurious. A good therapist can find the best poses that are most effective for you. The sexy, picture-worthy poses that you see are not always the best poses for our bodies.

Another pose is full locust pose. It is also somewhat dangerous to perform on someone with a bad back. For those who CAN do it, its a very deep and soulful stretch. I think there is a lot of value in it. But there are too many precautions to do it safely. Instead, I do a half locust (pictured below).

However, I couldn’t find a good picture of how I exactly do it. To me, the target muscles for this pose are the hip flexors including rectus femoris, and deep into the psoas and illiacus. So to guard from dumping pressure into the lower back, I keep the hip firmly planted with my hand directly on the glutes and I don’t let the hip rise. Any hip rise can result in back pain. But its a really good stretch and super effective as a resolving stretch following treatment.

Whether you are a Thai Yoga Massage therapist, a yoga teacher, or personal trainer, you need to think hard about what is most effective for your clients. Is what you are doing just fluff? Or is there a strategy for embracing a complex situation? Hopefully, you find someone who is keenly aware of the human body and knows how to treat it properly. We really have to think for ourselves when we work with clients.

TRUE STORY: In one of my first excruciating lower back episodes, I was sent to a physical therapist. Without touching me or resolving my issues, he had me sit in a chair folded forward over a couple pillows. He told me to rest, no exercise or anything, for 2 weeks and do this forward fold 3 times a day for 10 minutes each. I walked out of his office and across the street to a different physical therapist. This therapist did Manual Release Therapy and my pain started to subside right away. Then, she had me do a few exercises of cross-body, antagonistic muscle engagements. Again, more opening. And she told me to keep moving with walking, yoga, and other exercises she prescribed. It was a tale of two treatments. One that was totally ineffective. Another that was completely miraculous. Don’t go for window dressing. Go for results!

Side position: Thai Yoga Massage

In Thai yoga massage, side position is the place where most of my therapy happens. Its no more important than other positions, but I find it crucial to accessing muscles and moving a body through range of motion. The Thai yoga massage school I attended embraces this idea too. There are so many possibilities in side position.

However, when I went to Thailand and received from traditional therapists, we didn’t go into side position even once. It was all supine, prone, and seated. My school often said that people in different parts of the globe need different things. If a culture is seated on the floor a lot, or in a squatted position, and has different kinds of activities for work and play, then they will have different needs. Whereas, in the West, we sit in office chairs, cars, and recliners for a majority of our days. Our hips flexors become tight along with psoas and TFL. Back muscles become very deconditioned. So for those of us in the West, side position becomes even more important for those specific muscles.

Besides back and hip flexors, shoulders are a real problem for Westerners. Much of it comes down to scapular mobility. Once our shoulder blades becomes immobile, a host of other symptoms arise. And yes, side position is the best place to work on shoulders. So I end up doing it a lot.

In Thai Yoga Massage, no session is ever the same. We have a sequence that we follow, but its just the blueprint for what we need to do. Many variations depending on the needs of the client arise in a session. Its good to communicate not only pains that are felt, but also the lifestyle. Much can be found by our daily habits in life and family history. Its all about coaching the body to become more open and ready to live a happy life.