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“Should I Juice?”

This is what a friend of mine asked me recently. Since I am obsessed with fitness and nutrition, I would have thought this question had been answered and settled long ago. I forget for people who don’t think about this stuff all the time, this might be the first time they heard of juicing. I have two answers. One, you’re a grownup, do what you want, and two, no, it won’t do what people are telling you it will do.

I told my friend that if what she wanted to do is fast, sure, go ahead. She said, “No, this isn’t fasting, as least they don’t say it is”. Let me assure you,unless you are on TPN, if all you are consuming is two glasses of juice a day, you are fasting. Or even three glasses. Just drinking the juice of a plant or fruit in limited quantities is not enough calories for a day. And yes, you will lose tons of weight, since you are not eating enough. And yes, you will gain it all back, plus some, the minute you resume normal eating because while you were fasting, you weren’t establishing better eating habits and you probably weren’t exercising because you felt like a limp noodle.

So my friend said, “what if I put it all in a blender and make a smoothie?” Well, that is better, at least you are getting the fiber and bulk, and that will slow down all that sugar from hitting your bloodstream at once, but still, what have you learned? Are you planning on eating that way the rest of your life? What is your transition plan? Plus, all those foods are delicious. Why put them into a blender and end up with something you can barely tolerate?

That brings me to my next point- most people pushing juicing are doing so to sell something. Either a powder to add to the juice, or a juicer, or their book. Anytime you see a “new” diet method, follow the money. What are they selling.

So, juice or smoothie if that’s what you love. Remember it has calories, so if you are adding juice to your diet, replace something else. In fact, you want me to support your juicing, tell me it replaced doughnuts in your life, then I’ll be on board all the way! A fruit and vegetable smoothie is a GREAT replacement to 90% of what Americans eat for breakfast. Add some yogurt or protein powder and have that. I’m not against those things by themselves, I’m against people trying to lose weight with JUST those, and no plan. Remember the “sensible meal” part, and learn what that is.

It’s Never Enough

Our society jokes about being “OCD”, and obsessive compulsive disorder figures in many tv shows like Monk, so it’s a familiar concept to many people. I’m not going to talk about the psychiatric disorder, but rather its precursor that is in all of us, that need to have or do more.

I have several friends who have Christmas villages that take over their houses every Christmas. It may take them months of free time to set up and take down. Yet, there is always something else to get for the village. As far as I know, they are still collecting.

My mother had anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder where there is no stopping the desire to lose weight by not eating. Their only goal is to lose weight, and there is no reasonable end point.

No reasonable end point. That’s the problem, isn’t it? While we get aggravated by the perceived slackers in our society, even they will play video games till they lose jobs or need Redbull to go on. It’s what appalls us about capitalism, that no matter how much money a person or a company makes, it’s never enough. It’s a biological drive run amuck, or subverted in ways we don’t see anymore. It’s why athletes take drugs to do more, it’s at the root of addiction, it’s why people amass huge collections. It can make people either impressive or pitiable. It took us to the moon, and causes there to be a “1%”. It is part of our nature, for better or worse, once you look for it, you see it everywhere.

We always talk about obsessive behavior in terms of the rewards. Hoarders supposedly have a sense of loss that the stuff around them staves off. Of course, if your obsessively focused behavior gains you money or status, the payoff is obvious, but I would suggest it is a drive, like hunger, and that the payoff is in satisfying it. I know for myself, I have that driven feeling very strongly, but fortunately I can channel it any number of ways, although once something takes hold, it is hard to stop it. I “need” to make things, and I “need” to exercise. I put those in quotes, as they both have the type of urge in them. It is an emotional/mental need for me, that if I don’t do it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t make anything during the last semester, I subverted all my drive into school. I literally went on a creative bender once school ended.

I usually like to end my blog entries with a solution. But is this a problem? I picked some examples that can end in problems, but the drive itself can lead to great things. I just want to float the idea, to get it out there for others to play with. Maybe if we start thinking about the drive itself, instead of its objects, maybe we can get a better handle on it.

What are your drives? Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? That need to do the thing,  that is gets you out of bed in the morning and what you go to sleep thinking about? Is it your motivation, or your bane?

The One you Feed

Alert- this  post features Christian thought.

So our Sunday school lesson this morning is on Psalm 119:9-16. I was struck by these verses, “9  How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!”

I was thinking how hard it is for me to memorize bible verses, and what it means to hide God’s word in your heart. It made me think about the story of the Two Wolves, an old Indian legend about the war in the human heart being a war between two wolves, one good and one bad, and the one that wins is the one you feed. Reading God’s word is feeding the good wolf.

I don’t know how many of you know about neural plasticity, the idea that our brain actually reshapes as we learn, a blessing since we don’t grow new neurons, and damage does occur. When we learn things, our brain makes new physical connections between the neurons. When someone has a stroke, other parts of their brain can “rewire” to take over for the damaged parts, making connections to cover those lost areas. We can see this happening for physical tasks, like walking, talking and feeding yourself. This also true of the more nebulous things like feelings, personality and remembering phone numbers.

This time of year is difficult for me, I get sad and maudlin. All the negatives in my life, from childhood to mistakes in raising my own children rear up and assault me in the emotionally charged atmosphere of holidays. Last night I did not allow those thoughts to take over, instead, I found the things that gave me pleasure, and focused on those. I have not had an alcoholic beverage in over 20 years, and I was musing on how quickly a bad mood  of such magnitude could arise as to cause fleeting thoughts of it to pass through. Through long experience I knew other choices to make, and made those instead, reinforcing the positive pathways in my brain.

Feelings come and go, we can stoke the good ones, and tamp down the negative ones. Our decision making ability is the one thing under our control. We can’t control emotions springing up, but, like water, we can channel those emotions so they can become positive things. We can choose what thoughts we allow, and where our thoughts will go. Thoughts are what trigger emotions. If you don’t believe me, just think about whether you turned the stove off, or if a bill is overdue!  If we spend time in God’s word, or around positive people, or reframe our experiences for the positive, we can remake our thoughts. Reframing means changing the context of a thought. For example, I can think “my friend didn’t call me because she is angry with me”, causing a cascade of negative feelings, or I can think “my friend didn’t call me, because like me, she is busy and had no reason to call”, causing no feeling. In other words, don’t go borrowing trouble.  If any of you are suffering from depression, I don’t mean to make it sound easy, I have been there, I know you need help getting a foothold on that ability to reframe.

Which brings me to my last thought. Every time I read about a person changing their life, it comes down to making up their mind to do so.  But most of them had tried changing more than once. Most of the people who succeeded had failed previous attempts. I really think it is like Dumbo’s magic feather. For those that don’t know, Dumbo was an elephant whose enormous ears allowed him to fly, but he didn’t believe he could, so his friend gave him a “magic feather” and convinced him it gave him the power of flight. I think most of us just need a magic feather. You have to have faith that you aren’t in this alone, that you can do what it is you are attempting, and that it will work. Without that faith, attempts fail. I had tried to quit smoking numerous times before I succeeded. Someone said to me “don’t smoke, even if your butt falls off”, and that thought carried me through. It reframed the situation for me. Instead of thinking “can I get through stressful situations without a cigarette?”, it became “nothing is more important than quitting.”

Of course, as a Christian, I believe God is the ultimate object to have faith in. If anyone is familiar with 12 step therapy, you know that they frame it as a higher power, which can be anything outside yourself. Sometimes you need a “subcategory” of something to have faith in, like the fact that others have done what you are doing, or that the process is worth it.

I wrote all of this to pass on what it has taken me years to learn, and what benefits me on a daily basis, as someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression, who did go down the road of addiction and come back. I hope my explanation is clear, and that you might get some benefit from it.

A guy’s thoughts on the ‘Thigh Gap’

…And here’s reality from a guys perspective! Thanks JR!

Straight Talking Fitness

Apparently you ladies want to have your own thigh gap?

Apparently it represents health, happiness and even sexiness?

Apparently if you’re a chick without a thigh gap, you’re less of a woman, right?

That’s the thigh gap fad talking. Not me. 

Enjoying the company of some girls the other day, they referred to a magazine image that supposedly portrayed “feminine perfection” – or words to that effect.

I’m not sure of the exact image, but it looked a little something like this……………

Okay okay, maybe I’m stretching it a touch…………….

Yes. That’s more like it! There’s your classic, stereotypical thigh gap magazine type image.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have legs like that?!”

“Oh HELL yeah! Guys love it!”

Hang on a minute!

Being a relatively young and heterosexual guy, if there was ever a time my input could or would be relevant, it was now. And if that didn’t…

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Live Long and Prosper

In case you haven’t figured it out, my obsession with fitness is about living longer. Or, rather, living perfectly healthy to the day you croak. I don’t really care about the exact number of years. I am a bible believer, so I think I am going to a better place, so leaving here isn’t terrifying. What is terrifying, is the idea of spending my last few years unable to care for myself or know that I can’t care for myself. I am around older people all the time, and I can clearly see the last few years can vary WILDLY. If you are 79, you could be in a wheel chair or showing off in physical therapy after your knee replacement. (Both examples of what I’ve seen just this week).

Anyway, Yahoo got me, as they always do, with a link to this article encapsulating some findings of things that will extend your life. It isn’t often that I feel the need to blog after reading “7 ways to…” or “10 things that…” but it was one paragraph that got me:

Low expectations boost happiness. When researchers monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they played a game, they found the degree of happiness players experienced when they won depended on their expectations: the lower the expectations, the happier they were about winning. In the real world, scientists say, people with low expectations are likely to derive more pleasure from receiving gifts or going on vacation. “Happiness depends not on how well things are going,” says neuroscientist Robb Rutledge, “but whether things are going better or worse than expected.”

This plays into one of my strongest beliefs; that how happy we are depends on our expectations. You’ve seen the YouTube videos of the kids opening presents and saying “Is that it?”. It’s true. Nothing you get will make you happy if it doesn’t match or exceed your expectations. conversely, very little in real life can make you as miserable as anticipating negative events.

I believe one of the eastern religions teach something like this, they tell their followers to want nothing, that the end of all desires is the path to happiness. I don’t agree with that, but keeping your expectations in line with reality is definitely preferable to being wildly optimistic or pessimistic.

It has been my experience that having realistic expectations is a function of age. I don’t think I was capable of it when I was younger. I have definitely mellowed with age. I don’t get wildly excited, and I don’t get as low either.

What do you think? Is it “all in our heads”? Are we as happy as we make up our minds to be? Or are we controlled by external factors-are we “made happy” by good things happening and made miserable by the bad? Can we consciously control our happiness by changing our expectations? Or are there other factors I’m leaving out? Let me know.

Bone Broth and it’s Aftermath

I was listening to an episode of Ben Greenfield’s fitness, and he was interviewing Lance Roth, a purveyor of commercially prepared bone broth. Here’s the link if you’d like to listen. I have heard of bone broth before, and I like the idea, even though there is little or no proven benefit. Eating collagen has no proven effect on skin, your body breaks it down to individual amino acids, but hey, we need those amino acids.

Before I get all nerdy on you and debate whether this is even worth doing, it led to some unexpected results that I’d like to share.  I cooked the carcass for 24 hours in the crockpot, along with some carrots and celery that were past their prime. Lance suggests putting vinegar in to leach more of the calcium out of the bones, but I forgot to add it. In spite of that, when I took the carcass out and deboned it, the bones were so soft they crushed in between my fingers. I started squeezing all the bones with the same results. I finished separating the meat, bones and broth. Then I took what I would normally thrown out and put it in the blender.

pureed chicken bones and skin

You can make a smoothie out of anything, right?

It created a smooth slurry. I tasted it, it wouldn’t win awards, but it was definitely edible. I had already decided before starting the blender that  whatever it turned out like, at least the dogs would benefit.

So now I have cooked chicken, bone broth, and… Chicken paste? Bone and skin pâté? For those that are into “nose to tail”, this is perfect. I only had to throw out the equivalent of the humerus and femur, they didn’t soften as much. Unless I can come up with a recipe I could use this in, it’ll probably benefit the dogs alone.

So, how does this experiment measure up in food fad terms? Paleo- a yes, our ancestors wouldn’t waste a thing. Vegan and vegetarian, obviously no. Raw foodists, again nope. “Gut health”? Yes, long slow cooking makes food easier to digest. If you are looking for low fat, both the skin and marrow are fatty, so this isn’t for you. It is dairy and gluten free. The “nose to tail” movement that believes in making meat eating more sustainable by eating every bit of a creature would be all over this.

So what do you think? Would you eat it? Have you heard of anyone doing so? Is there any benefit? Do those benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Have any recipes? Have a crossed a line that shouldn’t have been crossed?

Is Your Scale Lying to You?

How do you tell if your scale is telling the truth?

scaleIt isn’t too difficult. First and foremost, dramatic gains or losses. Unless you are Michael Phelps, you are not going into a 3,500 calorie deficit in one day. Similarly, while you might have gorged yourself last night, it would take a real effort to eat that same 3,500 calories in one evening. So, if you see your scale going up and down by pounds in a day, it isn’t fat that’s the answer, it’s water.The reason they suggest 1-2 lbs. a week as a reasonable weight loss amount is that, for most people, that is all that is truly achievable of real fat loss. People love to poo-poo the “calories in/calories out” advice, but the math doesn’t change. Just how you can get there does.

Water, Water Everywhere

Now for that pesky water. It is the culprit behind those dramatic weight loss diets and why people get discouraged when they can’t keep those big numbers going. I want you to do something for me tomorrow, if you are weighing yourself. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, right after you pee. Now, drink two big glasses of water and weigh yourself again. Do I need to say anything after that? There’s your proof.

Carbs Hold Water

The reason that people on low carb diets appear to lose multiple pounds in their first week is that carbs hold water. You store extra carbs as glucose (glycogen) in your body and with it, water. Strip that out, and *bang*, “I lost 5 lbs. my first week”. Of course, once you start eating carbs again, those 5 lbs. are the first ones back. It’s also why you gained two pounds after a night on the town eating or drinking carbs.

The only other dramatic weight loss/gain factor is how much food do you have on board. In other words, what is in your digestive system? Again, much of this is water, but if you haven’t pooped in a while…. You get the idea. This is also why people appear to lose lots of weight on quick loss diets. Once you empty your digestive system and don’t refill it, that can be 3-5 lbs. right there.

Where to Find the Truth?

First, remember the scale is only a tool. Like all tools, it isn’t the only, or even the best one. It’s only as good as how it’s used. If it is controlling your life, don’t use it.

Second,if you are a frequent weigher, you’ll see a range. I don’t recommend frequent weigh ins, as they can lead to mood swings and eating disorders, but in case you are, you’ll see the numbers fluctuate daily. Your true “weight” lies somewhere in that range. If the range starts to go up, or if it never gets down to where it used to, you’re gaining weight. If the lowest number is a new one, and it pops up over and over, you are losing.

Third, weigh yourself at the same time of day, under the same conditions. I recommend naked, first thing in the morning. Your clothes can weigh anywhere from 1-5 lbs. Your water content should be relatively stable first thing as well.

Fourth, no matter what the scale says, how are your clothes fitting? It is one of those truisms that if you are strength training, you’ll see the clothes change before the scale does. Muscle weighs more than fat, and if you are eating to fuel your workouts, you are holding more carbs/water than before.

Fifth, what direction is it heading over time? Have you seen new numbers that you’ve never seen before? High or low?

I hope this helps, especially if you are panicking. Remember, when it comes to weight loss, you need to take the long view. One spike or dip means nothing. It’s like the stock market. Daily fluctuations mean nothing, it’s the overall trend that you need to look at.

 

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