The Way We Eat

Well, it’s been more than a month since those New Year’s resolutions.  How’s it been going?  If you’re like most people, not so well.  My own life has been hectic with our move from the big city to a rural community.  Bernadette and the kids are making a longer commute and I’m left alone most days to plan dinner and this new phase of my life. We are happy though.

One thing that I bet we have in common is figuring out an eating plan.  Notice I didn’t say “diet”?  The longer I’m in this game, the more I hate the word.  I prefer to talk about “a healthy way of eating.”  We’re not going to be successful until we substitute routines and healthy habits for quick, faddish fixes.

Part of this search for a healthy way of eating involves a desire for freedom.  Freedom to wear the clothes we want, freedom gained from more energy, freedom from high blood pressure, freedom from high blood glucose levels (leading to Type 2 diabetes),freedom from cravings, freedom to be sexually attractive, etc.

The health benefits of eating right combined with this annoying tug of vanity that I can’t seem to shake, have gotten me back to a regimen of fasting.  The video below is long but worth watching.  The punchline is that you don’t have to do any of the ridiculous fasts that involve epic deprivation.

Have you fasted before?  What kind?  Did it involve enemas or cabbage?  The method I use is closely related to the one described in the video.  It’s called “Eat Stop Eat.” I have used it off and on with success for body composition over the last few years.  As I get older, I think I am going to make it more of a staple in my routine because that aging well “thing” is tugging at me almost as much as my vanity.

BTW, if you are interested in fasting my way, go to Eat Stop Eat. That’s my affiliate link and I get a couple of dollars to buy myself some sexy yoga shorts.  If you buy through that link and want some help getting started, let me know and I’ll give you a free implementation session over the phone or Skype.  Summer will be here sooner than you know it!

Lose The Weight For Summer

2DU Kenya 77Those 12 extra pounds I told you about didn’t just appear one day. It took me several months to gain them. I’ve had to exercise restraint in pursuing their quick release. I say “release” because the term “weight loss” is problematic. When you “lose” something, the normal reaction is to look for it and get it back. We don’t want to do that with body fat, do we?

Ironically, part of my problem is that I have been under eating. I started tracking my calories and I am regularly under 2,000. My guess is that this has slowed my metabolism. So what I’m doing is increasing my caloric intake. I want to get it to about 2,500 calories daily. The extra calories will come from good fats like avocados. I’m also going to increase my protein.

I’ve been doing a version of something called “carb cycling”(see above photo-get it? carb cycling!). For breakfast, I have two cups of coffee with heavy cream or grass fed butter and coconut oil. My next meal is fat and protein. I save my carbohydrates for the evening and the kind of carbohydrates I eat are determined by whether I have worked out that day. Carb cycling makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Most people should not eat carbs in the morning. You’re setting yourself up for cravings and energy swings if you do.

Let me know if you want more details on carb cycling. It’s one of the things I’m geeking out on – especially now that I I have yet another certification. This one is a Level I Precision Nutrition Coach certification.

We’re all n=1 experiments. For me, it’s frustrating and fun. It’s an exercise in awareness and hopefully evolution. How’s your experiment going?

P.S. On a personal, non-fitness note, it looks like I’ll be heading up an NGO that works with street children in Kenya. I’m excited and I’ll let you know more as I proceed.

P.P.S. – I ‘ll be taking on ten clients for online health coaching.  Send me an email (hans@hanshageman.com) if you’re interested.

Lose the last 10 pounds

Things that make you say.....OMGOr… “Honey, who shrunk my pants?” All of a sudden, my pants weren’t fitting so well.  I normally resist doing it for a number of reasons but I stepped on the scale. I was 12 lbs. heavier than the last time I had stepped on the scale a few months ago! I’ll admit it – i have my “fat clothes” too.  The good news and the bad news is that I have them in storage. I don’t do self-loathing too well but I went through my own brief version. I had kind of noticed the problem over the last few weeks and I had asked Bernadette if she thought I was gaining weight. What I hadn’t been paying attention to was that she hadn’t really given me an answer.  I cornered her at lunch and insisted on an answer. She looked away, held up the index finger and thumb on her left hand about two inches away from each other and mumbled, “I guess you’ve put on a tiny bit extra.” Ok.  Even more damning than the scale. It took me a few days but I gave myself a hug.  “The body is solidified mind.” The extra weight was not goingto be a source for harsh self judgment.  It was a call to awareness.  I reject the binary fat/not fat, pain/no pain. I needed to figure out what was happening (notice I didn’t say, “what was going wrong”?). My workouts haven’t changed much and I do a lot less walking since we moved upstate.  I was on my feet at the studio the majority of my waking hours.  I would walk a couple of miles to pick my son up from school.  We have a creamery here which has ice cream that is sourced from grass fed cows.  I used to never eat dessert but, hey, this stuff was grass fed!  I’ve been frustrated at the pace of a couple of work projects and that has effected my sleep.  I also haven’t made the same time available for meditation. The thing is, look and perform better than 95% of the people in my age group and better than the majority of those over 35.  I’m married, so who cares if there’s a few extra pounds? (just kidding, ’cause I’ve seen how Bernadette looks at some younger, fit guys). Is this vanity? Orthorexia? Maybe, but I’m also fascinated by body hacking.  I know that fulfilling my body potential is limited by how much I am living up to my psychological potential. The extra weight is a message.  I haven’t fully figured out what that message is but I’m going to walk the dog more, eat more slowly to gain something called “parasympathetic dominance,” cut down on the ice cream to 3x per week, the two glasses of wine down to one, and I ‘m going to undertake a carb-backloading strategy where I et most or all of my carbs at night (it’s a little more involved than that and I can discuss it in another newsletter or email if you like).  I also purchased something called  a “Five Minute Journal.”  I also bought one for Vidar and one for Bernadette.  Vidar rejected his and Bernadette rolled her eyes but took it anyway.  The gratitude thing has been HUGE for me in my life and I’ve gotten away from it. Let’s sees what happens.  If you see a sexy, Speedo-wearing, middle-aged man on the beach this summer, check twice before you start whistling. You’ll save us both a bit of embarrassment.

photo by: Simon Davison

Shoulder Pain? You Might Want To Hang Around For This

Horizontal LadderOne of my fondest memories is my time in Army officer training at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. It was more than 30 years ago but the memories are still sharply etched in my emotional storybook.

I had spent my years to that point in a schizophrenic ping-pong match between my home in East Harlem and elite institutions like Collegiate School for Boys and Princeton University.

My virgin voyage to the South showed me what America was really supposed to look and feel like. I knew as soon as I saw my barracks that some real learning was going to take place over the next few months.

My fellow officer candidates were men and women my age from Puerto Rico, the Deep South, and the Appalachians. Black, white, and Latino. Our company commander was West Point-educated and our battalion commander was a 5’5” Vietnam veteran who had never made it past high school in West Virginia.

I was the guy from New York. Strike 1. I went to Princeton University. Strike 2. Being “mixed race” was only a foul ball that created more confusion and curiosity than resentment.

No one cared how smart I was. Did I think I was better than everyone else? Was I going to whine the first time I had to sit overnight in a water-filled foxhole? Would I qualify on the shooting range? How high would I score on the PT (Physical Training) test? Could I lead?

One of the first things we did was run the obstacle course. There were a series of obstacles that tested our endurance, power, strength, and (critically for me) our fear of heights. One obstacle that tripped most people up was the horizontal ladder. There were several obstacles that were scarier (and that didn’t have the nets and padding they have today) but the forty feet of horizontal ladder rungs were a tough test of grip, arm, and core strength and endurance.

The movement that’s required is called “brachiation.” You swing hand over hand between bars or branches. Apes, orangutans, gibbons, chimpanzees, and humans are the only animals able to do this. Our shoulders and hands accommodate this motion.

Brachiation is so important that it is prescribed for children with developmental delays. Past the age of 6, you won’t find too many people brachiating. Who stole the monkey bars?! The loss of this movement corresponds to an increased incidence of shoulder pain.

I’m exploring bar hanging as an antidote to my own shoulder pain. In theory, hanging from a bar or moving along a horizontal ladder (if you can find one) will change the structure of something called the coracoacromial arch. Changing the structure will alleviate shoulder impingement.

You might want to consider bar hanging if you have shoulder pain. Try to work up to a total of two minutes of hanging five days per week to start. Let me know how it works for you or contact me with any questions.

Sure you’re sexy but how’s your insulin sensitivity?

CCI00011

Big Steve

Big Steve had huge arms – about 20 inches at the biceps. He had always been well proportioned and muscular but there was that one-year when his body seemed to explode.  This was the early-80’s.  Those of us at the gym knew that he had to have had some chemical assistance.  It didn’t matter.  He moved to the elite level in the local bodybuilding circles.  He had hopes of taking it to the national stage.

On one of the slower days at the gym, a few of us sat around and talked about the world of competitive bodybuilding.  I had competed in a few contests and did well enough to compete in Vegas in the “couples” section (that’s me with hair in the photo).  I was tiny compared to these other guys.  They saw that I worked hard and none of them ever tried to pressure me into using steroids.  I was in law school after all, and was going to make my mark in the legal field instead of on the posing dais.

It seems that Big Steve (and a couple of others at the gym) were using ridiculously high levels of oral anabolics.  These were even more dangerous than the injectable steroids.  Someone asked him why he would take such crazy chances with his health.  Wasn’t he afraid of dying in his 20’s from a heart attack, a stroke, or his muscles exploding out of his skin?  Steve gave a quick laugh and said the only thing he cared about was that they “bury me massive.”

Knowing What You Want

You had to respect a guy who was clear about what he wanted.

I’m not sure what happened to Steve.  I don’t know whether he got his wish or revisited his goals.

My health and fitness goals have evolved.  I still have one eye on aesthetics when I train.  I have to maintain a certain level of sexiness so my wife doesn’t leave me.  But I have other concerns that are even more pressing.

Staying Out Of The Home

In my mind, I’m still in my 20’s but I have too many people reminding me that I’ve been here for more than half a century.  I think I told you this before but I’m not relying on any of my children to look after me when I hit an age that most people would consider “old.” I have a pretty good idea of the strength and movement markers that will allow me to remain independent.  I’ve written about them here but let me know if you want more information on staying strong for longevity purposes.

There’s also stuff going on inside that we need to pay attention to.  I measure my heart rate variability (HRV) every morning to determine my level of activity for that day. I try to take my blood pressure regularly. I meditate and listen to binaural beats (ask me next time we talk).  My blood pressure is pretty good although I’d like to lower it down a few points to get in optimal territory.

 

Insulin Sensitivity

Another thing I pay attention to is my blood sugar levels and my insulin sensitivity. You are  insulin sensitive when your body needs only a relatively small amount of insulin to reduce elevated glucose levels.  This is a good thing.

Insulin resistance is associated with obesity and non-alcohol fatty liver disease(NAFLD).  It is also strongly connected to dementia.  You can test your insulin sensitivity by testing your blood glucose levels.  Let me remind you, I’M NOT A DOCTOR.  What I’m laying out for you is how I am bio-hacking my life.

I tested it yesterday shortly after waking up.  This is called fasting glucose. It was over 100.  Most doctors would tell you that a 100 fasting level is nothing to worry about.  A clear picture of the implications is also complicated by the fact that if you eat pretty low carb as I do, you can have paradoxically high glucose levels.

So I have a choice.  I can flex in the mirror and be happy that I have to buy new pants because my waist is a little smaller.  Or, I can pay attention to the research that shows that even if you’re blood sugar is just high normal, it can still be predictive of an up to 30% greater chance of getting Alzheimer’s.

My plan?

  • ONE glass of wine (at most) each evening.  Alcohol can have a negative impact on insulin function.
  • I’m going to slightly increase my carbs but keep them below 150 grams.
  • I’m going to add another 30-45 minutes of walking to my routine.
  • I’m going to increase my sleep by 30 minutes.
  • Take more regular glucose readings.  These will be post-prandial as this is a more accurate measure than a fasted reading or an A1c test.
  • I’m going to bring my omega-6:omega-3 ratio closer to 5:1, which means more fatty fish and paying more attention to my cooking oil which can increase the omega-6 levels.
  • I’m going to supplement with Berberine.  This supplement not only helps blood sugar control but it improves liver health. I’m excited about this one.

My guess is that these measures will also have a positive impact on my body composition and strength.  That’s not why I’m doing it.  I’m sharing this because I want you to take more responsibility for your health, too.  Don’t ever take what I say at face value.  Please understand that where you get your health and fitness information may be the biggest factor in evolutionary selection in the near future.  I can only tell you that I do my homework even if it’s just in pursuit of my n=1 experiment.

I don’t care that you’re younger than me.  After all, Bernadette and I might need you to take care of us one day.

Subscribe for updates by filling out the form on the upper right.