Or… “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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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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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).
Preventing Early Death
This one seems a little more complicated than not getting enough skunk meat.
MISS BREAKFAST AND HAVE A HEART ATTACK!
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.
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 there a time in your life when you were a model of healthful eating?
A Healthy Childhood
I never realized it until I got older but my mother was not only a good cook, she was a very responsible and health conscious one, too. When Swanson Frozen TV Dinners came out, us kids looked at it as a real treat. My favorite was “Salisbury Steak.” It was quite an advance that freed up Mom from the kitchen. It is also the kind of thing I wouldn’t touch now unless I was starving.
She indulged me in my own food experiments like drinking Malta Dukesa (a non-alcoholic beer that is popular in Puerto Rico) with a raw egg. She and my father introduced me to escargot (yup, snails), frog legs (tasted like chicken), kumquats, and brussel sprouts. They helped me expand my tastes. This has served me well in places like Sudan where I ate freshly butchered lamb intestines that were given to me as the honored guest. I pleased my nomadic hosts with the gusto with which I threw the lamb bits down my throat. I still wonder sometimes if someone set me up.
Into the Sewer
College and law school saw a dramatic decline in my ability and willingness to eat well. At first, freedom led me off the gastronomic garden path. Pizzas, 48oz. sodas, Philly cheese steaks, and hoagies (the last two because I was in college in New Jersey) made up a large part of my meals.
My finances in law school determined my menu choices. I lived in an abandoned building without heat or hot water and worked twenty hours a week as a personal trainer. This was how I was able to supplement my law school scholarship. I continue to use it as an excuse for my disappointing (to say the least) class ranking. I ate one meal per day and it was usually pasta. When I had extra money, the pasta had sauce. I was also a competitive bodybuilder.
That’s a summary of my nutrition history between the ages of 18 and 25.
I had the stresses of little sleep, law school, a job, workouts, making up for lost time in my dating life, and terrible nutrition. Guess what? It didn’t make any difference to my energy and I looked “maaahvelous!” I was also starving.
Now older and somewhat wiser, I sometimes wonder how eating like that affected my long-term health. But as you and I know, the past is just an illusion that punishes us with regret. Staying in the NOW, I obviously make much better choices. Ironically, current healthy eating for me resembles my mother’s balanced meals (didn’t eat much grain back then either) that consisted of real food. There’s a problem now that I didn’t have 35 years ago.
Our food supply has been so compromised and soil so depleted that it’s virtually impossible to get all the nutrients we need from our everyday food. That’s one of the reasons we use our Prograde supplements. It doesn’t matter how conscientious we are. The absence of some of these nutrients can be crippling and in some cases deadly.
What are the most common missing nutrients in our food? This has gone on pretty long so I’ll tell you about those next time.
What are your healthy eating habits?
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P.S. Every now and then we will recommend books and products-like Prograde-that we use and that we think might be helpful for you. If you buy through our links, we make a couple of dollars and you get items that have the Brownstone Fitness seal of approval