Day 9 – fitness goals and benchmarking thoughts

Posted in fitness with tags , , , , on February 8, 2012 by healthordeath

I have done a lot of different fitness routines over the years, and most of them were, ultimately, bad. I wasn’t necessarily stupid, but rather I was ignorant of what to do. The second problem I ran into was tracking progress; I didn’t know how to tell if my routines were working. I have stumbled my way into a better idea of what works.

I’ll start with benchmarking. If your goals include trimming some fat, get off the scale! The scale is an ineffective measure of success, since weight changes with gains and losses in both fat and muscle and fluctuates based on eating, drinking, and bowel movements. If you must use the scale limit yourself to measuring at the same time of day each time and don’t measure more than once a week. No one gains or loses a pound or more of body fat overnight without surgery. So what to measure instead? A mirror is a good start since you know what you want to look like. Another good tool is a measuring tape. Finally, you can spring for a body fat calculation (most home tools are inaccurate).

If your goals are to get stronger, then my advice is to track both body weight exercises and weight exercises. Log your exercises in the same place on the same equipment, and make sure that you havent done other workouts beforehand. I do a lot of different body weight exercises, but I only track standard push-ups, pull-ups, and squats and I only do so in my exercise room. Also, I will track a couple rounds of this to help track muscle recovery. For weight tracking, I pick one exercise per workout and do that one first after my warm-up, otherwise you may be mistaking a lack of progress with muscle fatigue. Finally, don’t stretch, it decreases performance.

Today I logged a new PR on my deadlift: 275

Day 8

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2012 by healthordeath

Just a check in post today. I have not been able to get a lot of quality sleep yet so I am feeling pretty sluggish and tired.

Day 7 – food as more than fuel part 2

Posted in food with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2012 by healthordeath

I asserted earlier one reason to care about food beyond just being something to abate hunger and keep moving is that we are built out of what we eat. This is pretty obvious, but I feel it is often forgotten when people gravitate towards convenience foods – I know I didn’t think about it back in the day. Today I want to talk about something else that food can be beyond something to keep you going: food as therapy.

Not This

While I’m sure that this conjured up images of downing tubs of ice cream while watching bad romance movies or perhaps the force feeding of nasty canned chicken noodle soup to feverish kids, that isn’t quite what I mean. I mean that since diet can directly affect how we feel, perhaps we should be looking at diet when diagnosing the source of our day-to-day problems. Maybe the solution to your mid afternoon crashing is to eat more for lunch or to eat more nutrient dense foods – snacking on those 100 calorie faux-foods doesn’t help anyone. Maybe you feel bloated every night because dinner is one of those aforementioned nasty canned soups and the salt content is causing water retention.

It’s not a far stretch from things that happen everyday. Diabetics do best eating low carbohydrate diets, and people with high blood pressure are told to manage sodium intake. Gout sufferers are guided away from organ meats and, more recently, sugary drinks. People with bad cholesterol can take any number of measures to improve their HDL/LDL levels, though it usually doesn’t involve limiting dietary cholesterol.

Is it really a stretch to imagine that this also applies to small, daily ailments as well , then? If you resign yourself to a breakfast wrap to go, boxed mac and cheese, or a sandwich in a can, you may never know.

This makes me die a little inside. The one on the right is a canned BBQ CHICKEN SANDWICH. These are marketed on the website as healthy.

Day 6 – healthy, fit, strong, and in-shape: not the same thing

Posted in about, fitness with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2012 by healthordeath

I wrote on my day 1 post that I am a fitness nut, and I meant the nut part quite literally. Who else would willingly sign up to run the Tough Mudder 10 mile obstacle course – with water events – in late Fall? (proof coming)

Fitness became one of my passions around the time I entered the third decade of my life, when I saw – much as I do now – two roads: die slowly from poor health and weakness, or take control of my life and get better. I took to watching what I ate and started exercising, though at first I had no real idea what I was doing. I more of ate what everyone tells you is healthy food, I started running 2 miles a day, and I went to the gym and used every machine I saw. It worked, for the most part, and I lost around 60 pounds while building muscle. I wasn’t trim, though, because I was limited in my healthy eating by being stuck on a college campus. I was strong.

The problem came when my “progress” slowed. A lot of people get to their target weight and still end up unhappy in part, I think, because us scale junkies get addicted to seeing that number go down. I know I was, and in my case I went off the deep end. I progressively increased my exercise volume and decreased my food intake. When that didn’t work, I figured it must be what I’m eating (which was partly true) and started obsessing over food. I checked labels neurotically, I put stuff into and out of my cart more than once, and took forever to shop. I have taken an hour to buy peanut butter.

I hit a wall when I was trying to bike 30 miles every couple of days and lift weights daily and attend intense martial arts classes 2-3 times a week. I tried to fuel this with a couple of pieces of bread with peanut butter, a banana, and a homemade protein bar. I felt like death every night but, surprisingly, I also had trouble sleeping. I knew I needed to eat more, but I could not make myself do it. I did, however, lean out to single digit body fat. I was in-shape.

My solution to this was an accidental revelation. One night, out of a strong desire to not feel like death I cracked open the liquor drawer and poured myself a strong beverage. Within minutes, the strangest thing happened: I wanted to eat! With my inhibitions suppressed, I could slam down all the calories I needed, then sleep off the buzz. And this is how I fueled my fad workouts for a while. I did P90X; I did Insanity; I did them together (with weight-training too); I bought into kettlebells; I practiced yoga. I was fit.

Unsurprisingly, that lifestyle was unsustainable, and I have crashed hard. What gives me hope is that I no longer have the problem that caused me to start drinking regularly. As it turns out, when you cut out processed junk, eat when you are hungry, focus on nutrient dense foods, and learn not to fear fat, the body does a pretty good job of aligning how much you want to eat with how much you need to eat. I’m also over being a scale junky and a calorie counter (I am convinced that calories in/calories out is bunk, but more on that later). My only obstacle between me and health is my addiction.

Day 5 – the little things

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 4, 2012 by healthordeath

Another mostly check-in post. Next one, though, is gonna be a big one on how I got here and the crazy, stupid things I did.

For now, I want to go ahead and list some of the small stuff that should have set off alarms that something was going wrong.

  1. I lost my cold tolerance. I have always had an incredible tolerance to the cold. As a kid, I could walk around in the snow with shorts and a T-shirt. When I started feeling the cold like a normal person, I convinced myself that it was fat loss… five pounds isn’t that dramatic.
  2. My veins became more visible (probably contributed to #1), which I blamed on the exercise.
  3. My blood pressure dropped. Again I blamed exercise.
  4. While not bloodshot, my eyes became more sensitive to irritation.
  5. My ability to fight infection got worse.
  6. I had to exercise in the morning or I put on stomach fat. I think this is probably because I had full liver glycogen and breakfast was always carb heavy (a bad idea anyway).
  7. In line with #6, when I did put on fat it was always in the stomach – this is called visceral fat and is deposited by the liver when you have excess glycogen.
  8. Cuts and bruises took longer to heal.
  9. My nails became more brittle.
  10. My normal booze snobbery disappeared. I moved progressively from top shelf to middle shelf to bottom shelf, and I started doing less cocktails at home and more plain old drinks.

So if you are an habitual or heavy drinker and start to notice these things, take some advice and cut back (or even just take a break).

Day 4 – food as more than fuel

Posted in food with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by healthordeath

Mostly a check-in post here. This is a topic I will likely be revisiting several times.

The physical withdrawal symptoms are setting in. The scariest was during my workout when my legs decided to start shaking mid-set of a clean and press. Unfortunately, this is likely just the first of many such incidences, and I expect it to get worse before it gets better. Luckily for me, the great thing about a big workout is the post-workout meal. Tonight, it was two of my favorite foods: bacon-wrapped shrimp and sweet potato (with a cocoa cinnamon sauce). It got me thinking about food.

Far too often these days I see people who don’t care about food. While I certainly don’t expect everyone to be a foodie or amateur chef, we are, quite literally, what we shovel down our gullets. With the relatively recent rise in a large number of diseases (obesity, diabetes, celiac, autoimmune, etc.), I can’t help but wonder if this is correlated at all with the availability of convenience foods. When I say convenience foods, I am not just talking about the obvious donuts-from-a-gas-station or fast food items that everyone agrees are bad for you, I am also talking about the lean cuisines, canned soups, deli meats, super market breads, and any “healthy” substitution food.

Ingredients: BLANCHED ENRICHED PASTA (WATER, ENRICHED SEMOLINA (SEMOLINA, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID)), COOKED CHICKEN TENDERLOIN (CHICKEN TENDERLOINS, WATER, SEASONING (MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SUGAR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, YEAST EXTRACT, DEXTROSE, SPICE, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, PAPRIKA), SOYBEAN OIL, ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, SALT, SODIUM PHOSPHATES), SKIM MILK, GREEN BEANS, TOMATOES, WATER, ROASTED SWEET CORN, CHILE PEPPERS, BLACK BEANS ((WATER, BLACK BEANS), SALT), CHEDDAR CHEESE (MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES, ANNATTO COLOR), 2% OR LESS OF CHEDDAR CLUB CHEESE (CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), WATER, SALT, ANNATTO COLOR), MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SOYBEAN OIL, SALT, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, RICE STARCH, SPICES, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, DEHYDRATED GARLIC, LACTIC ACID, BLUE CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), CHEDDAR CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), GRANULAR CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), SEMISOFT CHEESE (PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), YEAST EXTRACT, CALCIUM LACTATE, CULTURED WHEY, XANTHAN GUM, WHEY, ANNATTO COLOR, BUTTER, CITRIC ACID, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, NATURAL FLAVOR, SODIUM PHOSPHATE

A couple decades ago this stuff didn’t exist. Families had to cook their meals, and sitting down to dinner meant eating food that someone took time and care to prepare. This is, as I said above, a topic I’ll delve into more later, but for now I encourage everyone to take a step back from their prepackaged whatever and cook something real.

Day 3 – AKA Day 1 part 2 and learning to laugh

Posted in musings with tags , , , , , on February 2, 2012 by healthordeath

First, an aside: last nights dinner was a chili I had made and frozen a while back. It wasn’t until this morning that I remembered the secret ingredient: bourban added in the last 20 minutes.  While some alcohol does burn out when cooking, it’s not nearly as much as most people think. Since I’m 100% serious about the 60 days commitment, I will be posting daily to 62 days.

When I first realized that I had a problem, any discussion of alcohol made me uncomfortable. What I learned over time was that I had to get over this feeling if I wanted to beat my condition. How can I be recovered if I feel awkward when someone asks for a middle shelf rum recommendation (Cruzan Black Strap)? If I can’t relate funny drunken stories (coming eventually)? If I can’t enjoy over the top comedy like Epic Meal Time? It’s not possible.

Yao Ming Laughing Internet Meme

the best medicine

In truth, the ultimate victory would be to laugh. In addition to being good for you, laughter indicates that the subject matter is odd, out of place, or untrue. Just look at Dave Chapelle, who makes something as serious as racism look silly by laughing at it. For the other side of the picture, imagine really laying into right hook and having the other guy laugh at you. Intimidating, no? I suppose treating a condition like this is similar to the good “bad story”, you know those times that sucked a lot when they happened but make really great stories afterwords.

So to get over this, I will try to respond to any questions any of you have in the comments and sign off today with an (albeit poor) attempt at humor:

The worst part about blacking out and waking up to find two pounds of bacon missing from the fridge isn’t the hangover or the bloating, its not having the memory of eating two pounds of bacon.

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