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?

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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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Want To Lose Weight? Surround The Dragon.


So you want to lose weight? You’ve probably never heard of “Surrounding The Dragon.”

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, fifteen years ago, two young women graduated from the same college. They were a lot alike, these two women.

In addition to having been better than average students, both were athletic, personable, and filled with vivid dreams of the wonderful things that lay ahead.

Recently, these two women returned to their college for their 15th reunion.

They were still very much alike.

Both were married and ridiculously busy. Both had continued their exercise habits. One had children and the other was planning on having them.

But there was a difference. One of the women had the body that she had left college with – she looked like she could walk onto a soccer field right now and star. She also had the energy to match. She was on a career path that had her excited and eager to wake up for work every day.

The other was 35 pounds over her college weight. Her right knee always hurt and her lower back carried a dull ache that lasted throughout the day. Despite all her exercise and her strict diet(s), she always felt tired and couldn’t make a dent in her excess weight. She couldn’t stand her job, particularly her supervisor.

What Made The Difference

Have you ever wondered, as I used to, what makes this kind of difference in people’s bodies and happiness? It isn’t always genetics or willpower or work ethic. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person has learned about themselves since the magical years of youth and how they make use of that knowledge.

Surrounding The Dragon

Have you ever had acupuncture? I have. Many times. For about twenty years, Tom Bisio and Marshall Wood have been my go-to Chinese medicine doctors. They did something called Tui Na, a form of massage. Sometimes they prescribed medicinal herbs. Needles were always used. Sometimes they placed the needles directly into a muscle spasm. Other times they were placed in meridians to release blockages and let energy flow.

Another technique that was used was called “Surrounding The Dragon.” They would place needles all around the problem area. This way, a number of energy pathways would be opened up. The pain would be addressed from several directions.

Look Around

The first woman had also faced some of the same trials that her friend had faced since college. But when she hit a roadblock she looked for feedback. She had also built rituals for relaxation and renewal.

She had a coach who helped her with accountability for her exercise and eating. She had also worked with him to set goals that matched her values. She came to understand that she should not be aiming for physical perfection. She stopped the body-shaming and went through a process that uncovered her power – power that had always been there but was layered over with past pain and others’ expectations. She had “Surrounded The Dragon.”

If you want to lose weight and you’re not getting the results you seek, the cause isn’t always obvious.

Call me or send an email to hans@brownstonefitness.com if you want me to help you explore ways to surround your dragon.

Workouts For Women


I was recently asked why I don’t believe in stretching. In my mind I said, “Huh?” The photo would have been a better answer. I responded that I “kind of” believe in stretching. “Kind of,” because I think of what we do as more “flexibility training” than stretching. Every now and then a new person gets confused about why we do what we do in our 45-minute workouts for the women we work with.

We are not shy about letting people know that our primary concerns are strength and movement. The recent tragic and deadly assault on a subway platform here in New York validated this emphasis. A man was pushed onto the tracks by an assailant and killed by an oncoming train. Witnesses and others talked about the missing strength that would have allowed the victim to get back on the platform or a bystander to pull him to safety.

I should probably do more direct flexibility training myself but as it is, I only allow 30 minutes for my own workouts – that includes warm-ups. The mobility I have comes from the warm up and going full-range in my exercises. I’m not a stranger to stretching. I’ve taken teacher training with one of the best teachers in the world – David Swenson. It was an incredible experience and I should do more of it. It took me until my mid 50’s to realize I can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all.

I am not interested in being hyper mobile. Ask me about super strong, though. I want to be strong enough to resist my children when they try to put me in a home. That’s one of my main goals. Being able to put my leg behind my head won’t help me with that.

What’s your goal? One of the biggest challenges we all face is trying to make sure we keep the goal the goal. We don’t want to make our training sessions a gift basket of all the latest exercise fads. That’s we’re so focused in the workouts for the women who train here. Let other people go to those big chain gyms if they don’t care about being pressured into one-on-one training or paying to “rent” to an elliptical or treadmill. We’re going to get you strong and mobile and help you rebel against your work posture

We’re working with the 80/20 Rule and the Minimum Effective Dose. That gets me a more than double-bodyweight deadlift, 15 pullups, a one-armed pushup, and the ability to walk more than 15 miles with a heavy back. It will help me to eventually regain my cartwheel, and when I upgrade my health insurance I’ll be tackling a back flip. I can skin-the-cat and put my palms to the floor without bending my knees. I do need to work on my sprinting and jumping.

So no, we don’t do a lot of stretching in our sessions nor do we put people on an exercise bike for 30 minutes while we stand there with a clipboard and a cup of Starbucks. But we’re pretty happy with the outcomes we get with the people who put in the work.

Just relax about the stretching thing, come here and get strong first.

Toned Arms and Flat Abs? Overrated

“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”
― Carl R. Rogers

Don’t talk to Sheila S. about toned arms and flat abs. Sheila S. is about 5’7″ and she weighs about 185 pounds. She’s able to do a full split and pull 300 lbs. from the floor.  Heads turn – male and female – when she’s wearing a summer dress. The looks are admiring and respectful.  She doesn’t need help with her groceries or luggage and the guys who are fixtures on her corner know not to go too far with their comments. Her 11 year-old doesn’t understand why he still can’t beat Mom in their impromptu races in the park – but he brags about it to his classmates.

 

Give ‘Em What They Want?
You won’t find women like Sheila S. in an ad for any major gym or fitness program.  That’s one of the reasons I’m getting ready to resign from the “flat abs” and “toned arms” army.  Crazy, right? Isn’t that how personal trainers and gym owners make a living?

Do we have to be a part of that twisted cultural dream machine to succeed? After all, it’s the dream that people in the fitness profession are supposed to push.  We need to give the market what they want.  What if this isn’t what the larger market wants?

One business model signs people to gym memberships they’ll never use and promises you that Photoshop look.  We can help you get that limited cultural aesthetic but it will be a byproduct of our efforts to make you strong and mobile first.

You may have already gotten a hint of our values  if you read our manifesto (we’ve been nice enough to provide a copy below).

Please understand, I’m as vain as the next person.  I understand vanity. One of the reasons I work out is to look good.  As I’ve gotten older and wiser, my reasons have evolved.  I’m betting that there are other people who, secretly or not, train for more important reasons than looking good.  Are you one of them?

 

Does Size Matter?
It’s encouraging to see the increasing number of women who come to us to improve their running, or to get out of pain, or who just want to get stronger.

You’ve been told that “plus size” is bad. They tell you that you have to be as thin as possible to be healthy and attractive.  The research and experience say otherwise.  There can be problems that go along with being obese.  These problems are trumpeted by all the major media. You might be surprised at the health and longevity difference between overweight (vs. obese) and very thin people. It’s not what most of us think.

But have you also heard about the Female Athlete Triad? It combines eating disorders, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis.  It’s a growing problem for female athletes who want to achieve extreme leanness – the same kind of leanness that’s held up as the feminine ideal in this country. You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer from these life-shortening conditions.

Do your own survey of the fashion and fitness role models held up as paragons of beauty and health.  Bigger than size 4?  Your supposed to drive a truck instead of walk a runway.

 

The Other Way
Let’s be contrarians.  We want you to help us fight back against the lords of fashion, fitness, and diet.  There’s a larger fight (no pun intended) and a more important message.  It has to do with potency and sovereignty – please don’t say “empowerment.” Let’s demand more inclusive definitions of “sexy,”shapely,” and “fit.”

We welcome women of any size.  If you know someone who wants to be like Sheila S., send her our way. If you want to get stronger and move better, you’ve come to the right place.  When toned arms and flat abs are at the top of someone’s list, we can do that. But we’re gonna do our best to get you to drink from the cup of strength and movement first.

 

Who loves ya, baby?