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 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.

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


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.

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The Secrets To Long Life And Early Death


Here’s a simple formula from a guy in rural Bolivia. He’s reputed to be the world’s oldest person at 123 years of age. Carmelo Flores Laura said his secret was avoiding sugar and pasta, long walks everyday, a local wild grain and a staple of skunk meat (with pork and mutton on rare occasions).

The world's oldest man

Simple, huh?

Preventing Early Death

This one seems a little more complicated than not getting enough skunk meat.

This was a headline from mainstream media reporting on a recent study. What they don’t tell you in the story is that most of the participants who died before their breakfast eating counterparts also smoked, drank a lot of alcohol, were overweight and were old!

We Get What We Ask For

Sensationalism sells. Fear and greed always beat curiosity. So we get the hyped health and nutrition headlines that proclaim the latest finding from poorly designed studies that were paid for by Big Pharma and Big Ag.

You’ll hear about red meat causing cancer until some study claims that it’s actually fish oil that does. There’s a new herb that will “rip the fat off your body” and another supplement that will keep your muscles hard for four hours – after which you’ll need to see a doctor. Fear and greed.

These are all distractions. They’re the kind of things we fight against every day in our business. It’s why we’ve discussed instituting “a red velvet rope policy” for new clients or taking our training completely online. I feel about the fitness industry the way I have come to feel about the mainstream education mills. Self actualization and personal responsibility are the enemies of both industries.

Fitness has become a business that plays to Fear and Greed as it eliminates symptoms without attempting to cultivate wholeness. You have to develop compassion for all the different parts of your body if you want to become something more than an emotional and physical Frankenstein.

The Diet and Exercise Wars hide the fact that adherence is probably the most critical component for positive results. It’s not sexy so it won’t sell.

If you choose to get your news from the popular media you will be on the path to disability and an early death. This is usually what happens when you rely on a combination of “experts” and Fate. I may be aging but I’m not limited and neither are you.

Our Evolution

We will continue to evolve a business model that helps people live the largest story they are capable of telling. We will help the women who want the help to embody their original wholeness. Our plan is to do this through online training, retreats, workshops, and speeches.

For the women who ask “but what can I do about this jiggly part?” You’ll see us smile and give them another exercise for the “burn.

P.S. If you haven’t already, LIKE us on Facebook.
P.P.S. Should we evolve our business or just get better at eliminating the “jiggly parts?” Let me know in the comments or in an email.

Is Your Training Missing These Two Things?

mobility vs. flexibilityStrength coach and religious studies teacher, Dan John, likes to say, “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” Read that again after we talk about why you should gain muscle and mobility.

Do you have a goal for your training?

I believe that while workouts should have a basic structure, for those of us who aren’t trying to extend a National Football League career, it is also important to have some randomness to our exercise design. Having some randomness in our training can help us deal with some of the random stressors that life likes to throw at us.

Additionally, if you’re over 35, you should probably be focusing on gaining more muscle and moving better.

Not static stretching, not running a bunch of miles – putting on muscle and improving mobility are more important for your longevity and quality of life.

Why Muscle?

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle size, strength, and function. Medical professionals say it begins during the fourth decade. But if symptoms tell the tale, I’ve seen it in people in their late 20’s and early 30’s (also Google the “Female Athlete Triad”). Unless you’re doing something to maintain and increase it, you’ll start to lose muscle in your 30’s. It’s important, and never too late, to create that “armor” now.

Muscle is so important that it’s maintenance or loss is predictive of the life span of someone with cancer, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, kidney disease, or heart disease.

Please don’t tell me you want to avoid putting on “too much muscle” – unless you’re comfortable with derisive laughter. The only people who need to worry about this are those with access to performance enhancing drugs – and they’ll have other issues to deal with down the line.

As you probably know, you put on muscle with resistance training. The body doesn’t know where the resistance is coming from so it can happen with barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, your own bodyweight, or machines (last choice). Make the resistance challenging and progressive.

Mobility or Flexibility?

People get these two confused. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that when something feels tight, stiff, or sore, stretching that part feels good. The problem is that the cause of the pain is often not at the site of the pain. In fact, releasing tension in the neck can alleviate some shoulder pain. The lower back can be made to feel better by rolling your glutes on a tennis or lacrosse ball. Heel pain can be helped with a calf massage. The knee bone’s connected to the shinbone but…

You know how your lower back can sometimes be a little stiff? Your go-to remedy to relieve the stiffness is reaching down to your toes, going into a yoga child pose, or lying on your back and pulling one or both legs to your chest. It feels good. You get some relief but the irritation never completely goes away. For too many people, the back problem slowly morphs into other things.

A couple of years ago, you would have run for the bus before it pulled away but you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Moving around first thing in the morning requires its own ritual just so you don’t hurt yourself. You stop yourself before you break into a trot up the stairs from the subway or to your apartment. You’d like to take a bath but it’s a hassle to get up and down in the tub so you stick with the shower.

You wouldn’t even dream of putting on socks or shoes while standing up without something to hold on to. In addition to your lower back, your shoulder, your knee, your hip, or your heel seem to be nagging you as well. Mobility and muscle are lacking.

If this isn’t you, you’re probably under 30 or have been coming to Brownstone Fitness 3x/week for more than a year.

Stretching lengthens the muscle that is being stretched. The muscle generally won’t maintain that length and may even cause it to shorten in a protective reflex if the stretch is too aggressive. Intelligent stretching (certain forms of yoga, PNF, etc.) can help with joint position but when time is precious, you get the biggest bang for your buck with…

…mobility work.

Instead of just the muscle, improved mobility impacts the muscles crossing the joint, the ligaments, and the nervous system. Flexibility looks at the end ranges of motion. Mobility looks at how well you can move through those ranges of motion. Mobility work looks like Martha Peterson’s Essential Somatics,Tai Chi, some Pilates movements, certain flowing forms of yoga, the animal movements we do here, or gentle bending, twisting, and rotations at the different joints.

Want a FREE video to show you how?

Zen and the Pushup

Harlem personal trainer
Harlem Personal Training

The women we work with have noticed that I’m including a lot more pushups in their routines. “Will this make us stronger?” “How come we’re doing this every session?” “Can we do women’s pushups?” I try to remain patient as I explain that they are modified pushups. There are too many men who can’t do a proper pushup for them to have another designation. This is one of my pet peeves – along with people who say that muscular women look “masculine” while men with no muscle tone just party too much. With regard to pushups, I have an answer that I haven’t shared with them yet…

When I was much younger, a pushup was just a pushup. I sensed that they were something that were important to do when I saw my father going though his Royal Canadian Air Force 5BX Routine – developed in 1962. He didn’t like to be disturbed when he was going through his calisthenics routine – particularly during pushups. He had big arms and intense focus so that exercise became pretty important to my 4 year-old mind.

As I got older I continued to do pushups but they almost disappeared completely from my routine when I discovered weightlifting in my teen years. Pushups took a back seat until my officer basic training at Fort Bragg, my time in Military Police School in Alabama, and Air Assault training at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Pushups and running were the order of the day. My youth and competitive drive helped me churn out pushups at a frantic pace. I was able to do 110 nonstop pushups in perfect form in two minutes. It was mindless but I got my respect.

After the military training, pushups again took a back seat to other, shinier objects in my training. After all, pushups weren’t going to help me in my judo or my bodybuilding competitions. I would pull them out occasionally in my work with people who were adamant in their opposition to weight training. I also used them to help rehab people including a police officer who could barely lift his arms above shoulder level after struggling with a resisting suspect. I had him do pushups against the wall until he regained most of his function. Rehab and wall pushups were for other people but not for me until…

Harlem personal training
Harlem personal trainer

I found myself taking high school students on work projects to places like Ghana, Senegal, and Nicaragua. Weights weren’t an option. I could only get my workout fix with bodyweight exercises. I had additional motivation when I found out the years of judo and weightlifting had destroyed the cartilage in both elbows. My upper and lower arms were now engaged in a bone on bone dance. I needed different music and exercises like pushups met the requirements.

I have made bodyweight exercise a major part of my routine. Pushups are central to this process and it is no longer for what they can or cannot do to make this 54 year-old body sexier. The pushup has served as a metaphor and as an exploration.

Pushups now serve as a meditation for me. Instead of the frantic activity of my military days where I was shooting for triple digit numbers, I now seek patience and stillness as I seek to achieve five good one-arm pushups. The movement allows me to distinguish between discomfort and real pain. Extra slow pushups allow me to practice movement without attachment or caring. It is now a moving meditation that makes me more aware of my thoughts and my emotional reactions to discomfort.

I sometimes do repetitions where I take for seconds to inhale on my way down and exhale for four seconds on my way back up. I like to imagine that the breath and the pauses between the movements are the same as the spaces between notes that DeBussy defined as music.

Moving my body with pushups and other bodyweight exercises allow me to examine my physical and mental limits with more clarity than any personal development program could achieve. I’ll continue to seek self-enlightmentment and freedom from anger, illusion, and desire. Can pushups accomplish all this? I’m not sure but because of our relationship, I’m going to keep doing them whether they’re clapping, one-hand, modified, or against the wall. It’s interesting… now that I’m older and wiser…a pushup is just a pushup.

P.S. – For more on bodyweight exercise, pick up The Sulaxmi Exercise Method DVD.