Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eat, Stop, Eat -- Slow Weight Loss through Fasting

The Nuts & Bolts
I've been experimenting over the last two weeks with 24-hours fasts to help me control my diet. The basic idea is that once or twice a week I don't eat from dinner one night until dinner the next night. I have a healthy relationship with food and eating, so I'm not too uptight about the process. Some days I'll be part way through a fast and interrupt it (usually due to unexpected social commitments) so I simply start a fast after dinner the next night that it is convenient. Some weeks I'll fast on Sunday and Wednesday, but that's not written in stone. The fasts don't have to start after dinner, but that is my preference because I find that I have plenty of energy in the morning and through mid-day without food. I don't plan my fasts around my workouts because I almost always workout in the early morning in a fasted state anyhow. Finally, when I resume eating (break the fast) I don't do anything extra large meals or special treats that would counteract the calorie restriction that I just accomplished.

So, Why Fast?
I'm not a stranger to fasting. I've done it on occasions for religious functions or to be supportive to friends that were fasting for religious reasons, like Ramadan (to avoid tempting my high school buddy Kinan with french fries or pizza when he was sweating his way through the daylight hours until his next meal).

Every time I've committed to and completed a fast I've learned something profound about myself and my relationship to food. If you ever find yourself fasting while sitting in a room full of people eating very unhealthy food, I can guarantee you that your eyes will be opened. You will suddenly read the craving and strong desire for fulfillment and satisfaction on the faces of those around you and you'll simultaneously realize that no meal is so amazing that it will fill that void. I'm not trying to get to metaphysical on you here, I'm just saying that on a very simple level, fasting forces you to observe. You observe when you're hungry and why. You observe how that hunger passes and returns in waves of decreasing intensity. You observe the stillness, lightness and radiant energy that comes from a body that is not preoccupied with constantly digesting. (Maybe this is why the word "observe" is used in reference to most religious fasts..."observing" Ramadan..."observing" Lent, etc.)

"OK, OK," you say, "I'm not searching for enlightenment! I just want to be healthier (or look good in a swimsuit, whatever the case may be)!" Well, intermittent fasting provides a sustainable and low-stress way to reduce your weekly calorie intake without sacrificing your enjoyment of food on your non-fast days. I'm not saying you're going to lose weight if you fast twice a week and pig out on the other days. I am saying, though, that on your fast days your body automatically shifts from burning digestible food that you consume and will begin burning stored fat (and couldn't we all afford to torch a few fat cells?). I won't bore you with a bunch of biochemistry and nutrition, but if you really want to get into the nitty gritty try reading Eat, Stop, Eat by Brad Pilon. Brad has an educational background in nutrition and has worked in the sports supplement industry. More importantly, in my opinion, in Eat, Stop, Eat he has written a very well researched and heavily footnoted summary of all the prevailing science about fasting...and he's built an impressive physique by practicing what he preaches. I'm much more apt to take diet or workout advice from someone that looks like they've reached my goal physique than from some skinny science geek or unfit personal trainer at the gym (not that those folks might not know what they're talking about...I just don't trust anyone with a "do what I say not what I do" approach...which is why I will occasionally bore you with shirtless pics of my progress, to prove that I'm investing the sweat equity to gain your trust).

The Results
I immediately saw weight loss on the scale and in the way my clothes fit. You can see the reductions in my Week 3 Measurements. I attribute these changes almost entirely to fasting because I haven't really been doing tons of cardio to burn calories. I'm sure that some of the weight loss is due to water loss, but I tend to drink a TON of liquid during my fasts (water, herbal tea, black coffee, alkaline vegetable broth). So, any water loss should be offset in the long run by my efforts to remain well hydrated.

I have also found that I enjoy the extra time I gain from eliminating the need to forage. Plus, I've experienced a definite increase in energy and alertness on fast days and a deeper appreciation for the smells and tastes of my meals on non-fast days.

Any negatives? None that I have experienced so far. I do get hungry, but it's not debilitating and it passes quickly. I haven't seen any wasting away of muscle mass or evidence of lethargy or moodiness. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the emotional effects, but one thing's for certain you will burn fat if it's the only fuel in the tank.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roasted Sausage and Peppers over Soft Polenta...Where Have You Been All My Life?

Tonight's little Italian feast was scrumptious even though it was meatless. Who would have thought it was possible?! The lovely ladies that wrote Skinny Bitch in the Kitch...that's who!

To create this bowl of goodness you preheat your oven to 425 degrees while you a fill a big bowl with 12 (that's right 12!) cloves of garlic, 4 sliced bell peppers (any color), and 2 sliced onions. After you've tossed the veggies with a few splashes of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, you dump the mix onto a baking sheet and throw it in the oven for 20 minutes.

When the veggies are tender, you mix in 4 Italian vegan sausages sliced on a diagonal and throw the whole tray back in for another 15 minutes. (You might be saying to yourself -- just like I did -- "vegan sausages!!" I'm not a fan of products that are trying to be meat when they aren't, but I figure most commercially made meat sausage is trying to be meat when it really isn't...right? I mean, who really knows what's in those wiener casings anyhow? What I do know is that vegan sausages are a VERY tasty mixture of wheat gluten, veggies, and spices. I just may never go back to meat...when it comes to sausages, that is.)

While the sausages and veggies are getting their last 15-minute dose of heat, you have just enough time to boil 4 cups of low-sodium, organic vegetable broth with a pinch of salt in a small pot then add 1 Cup of polenta. Bring it back to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for 8-10 minutes...just until the polenta starts to look like moist cream of wheat.

To bring it all together, you slap a few big spoonfuls of polenta into a bowl and toss a healthy mound of the veggie-sausage mix on top. Mmm-mmm, delicioso!

Week 3 Measurements

Week 3 has come and gone. During the week, I completed all my workouts, buckled down on my diet a bit and even included a 24-hour fast. The numbers show some progress:
Weight = 196
Neck: 15 (down .5)
Upper arms: left = 14; right 14
Shoulders: 46.5 (down 1)
Chest at nipples: 39.5 (down .5)
Waist at navel: 33.5 (down .5)
Hips at widest point: 40 (down 1)
Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 22.5
Total inches: 248.5 (down 3.5)

I'm happy to see movement in the numbers! I wasn't expecting the shoulders and chest to reduce, but I'm guessing that some of that reduction may either be a variance in my measuring technique or some fat loss in my back. (I've realized from my photos that I carry more fat in my back than I do on my belly. Good for fooling folks into thinking I'm fit...unfortunately, it even fools me some times.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Skinny Bitch, Veganism and a Green Goddess

I'm man enough to admit that I'm a fan of the Skinny Bitch series of books. If you haven't read them, you've probably heard of them. Skinny Bitch is a New York Times Bestseller by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin that dumps a ton of information into your eye holes about the current appalling state of our nation's food supply. The final upshot of the book is that a vegan lifestyle is the only real way to avoid America's common killers of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes while reducing your exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and lots of other dirty stuff (both chemical and natural).

After reading Skinny Bastard (yes, its the male version...basically the same book but with humor tailored to male sensibilities) a few months back, I have really devoted myself to eating a cleaner diet. I'm not 100% vegan, but I tend to trend toward a primarily plant-based diet with the occasional foray into the world of meat and dairy. I can say that now that I'm straddling the vegan/meat-eating fence, I have observed that I just feel cleaner, lighter and more energetic when I'm eating meals that are primarily focused on a variety of fresh, organic vegetables.

If you don't believe me, I would encourage you to try a few of the incredible recipes that I post here from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (one of two cookbooks the gals have created). Earlier I posted a Veggie Burrito recipe and today I bring you Green Goddess Pasta. It's simple, healthy and oh so yummy!

First, melt 3 Tbs of coconut oil in a small sauce pan and sauté 4 cloves of garlic in it over low heat. Just as the garlic begins to brown take it off the heat and add 4-6 Tbs of vegan butter (I use Earth Balance from Whole Foods...I had actually been using before the vegan bug bit me and I didn't realize that it wasn't real butter!). Stir it all up until the butter melts and you now have a garlic butter sauce. Are you salivating yet? You will when you smell this stuff!

Now, boil some water with some salt in it and throw in a package of brown rice or whole wheat macaroni pasta. While that boils, cut 2 zucchini lengthwise then slice them into 1/4 inch half moons; cut about 2 or 3 handfuls of broccoli into bite size florets; and cut about 4 oz. of kale crosswise into 1/2 inch strips. When the pasta is almost done, add all the veggies and let the mess boil for another minute or two until the pasta is al dente and the veggies are bright and tender.

Finally, the mash up...strain the pasta/veggie mess while reserving 1/2 Cup of the liquid. Then pour it back into the pot with the liquid and the yummy garlic butter. Toss everything together with a handful of pine nuts and maybe a little pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper and serve. Be prepared to follow over saying, "I never knew health food could be this GOOOO-OO-OOD! That Jeremy is really on to something. I'll never eat crap again!"

I Survived Week 3!

I have my yoga days today and tomorrow then Week 3 will be complete. I was able to successfully complete the week without missing any workouts even though I was a "single dad" for a week while Anita was in Vegas. That meant moving my Wednesday and Thursday workouts to lunch time and making sure that my work calendar didn't encroach on them. It also meant that my diet suffered a little because I found it hard to prepare healthy meals and still keep Sonia entertained with trips to the library and the homes of friends and family in the evenings.

To make up for the sloppy diet week I decided to try my first 24-hour fast yesterday (Sunday). It went surprisingly well. I started the fast at 6 p.m. on Saturday, worked out Sunday morning like usual, then even took the family on a hike in San Francisco and ran around with Sonia at Crissy Field. Amazingly, I was never low energy nor was I ever hungry! That's right...I was never hungry! I'll post more in the future about intermittent fasting and some of the research that I've been reading. But on first blush it seems doable, let's just see whether it helps me lose any unwanted fat while maintaining my muscle growth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week 2 Measurements

I have completed the first two weeks of Phase 1! My weight has stayed the same at 199 pounds, but my muscles have grown slightly and my strength has increased too. That means that I must be trading fat for muscle.

I don't have measurements from Week 1, but I'm sure that missing one week of data won't diminish what I accomplish in the long run. Hopefully, the way my clothes fit and what I see in the mirror will be proof enough of my success (if not, the airbrushing of my final photos should take care of the rest...right Kevin?). Nevertheless, I'm curious to see how my weekly measurements change.

Here are my first batch of measurements in inches:
Neck: 15.5
Upper arms: left = 14; right 14
Shoulders: 47.5
Chest at nipples: 40
Waist at navel: 34
Hips at widest point: 41
Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 22.5
Total inches: 252

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cleansing and Nutrition

Last year, my wife, Anita, and I returned from a long trip in India feeling stuffed and lethargic. While we were traveling we were force fed in home after loving home. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the food was very nutritious and we did an awful lot of walking, but still we came home feeling beat and ready for a sea change in our eating habits.

We immediately committed to a 28-day health and wellness program created by Ti Caudron at Cambiati Wellness Programs. We had been hearing a lot of good things from friends and relatives that had tried the program and figured we were finally ready to take the plunge.

One of our big concerns was whether the program would be flexible enough to accommodate our different goals. Anita wanted to slim down to her pre-pregnancy weight from before our daughter Sonia was born. I wanted to lose some fat while gaining some lean muscle that would improve my athleticism in activities like running, soccer, and yoga. We were amazed at how well Ti's program fit both our objectives! So amazed, in fact, that we followed up our initial success with another 28 days because we felt great and were still losing weight. In the end, I lost about 20 pounds and Anita lost about 15. I also gained about eight pounds of muscle by shifting my diet a little based on the Cambiati principles.

Since then, we have done versions of the program that we have tailored to our needs for maintenance and spot-training with Cambiati's help and support. I completed another 28-day session just before the holidays and we've both done short one to three-day "mini cleanses" whenever we have felt low energy or out of balance nutritionally.

As part of my current goals, I'm sticking to a diet that is similar to the first week of the Cambiati program and I'm giving myself a little break here and there to have drinks with friends or a dessert after a nice meal out. As a result, my energy level has been high (despite exercising seven days a week: yoga - Mon., Tues., Fri.; resistance and running - Wed., Thurs., Sat., Sun.; soccer - Thurs. nights; and golf on occasion). I'm also seeing the signs of changes in body muscles in my chest, back, shoulders and arms are getting more defined while my pants are getting loser in the waist and thighs.

I'm contemplating stepping it up and adding either intermittent fasting along the lines of the Eat Stop Eat program created by Brad Pilon and heavily touted by Rusty Moore (who created my current resistance training program) or the slow carb diet demonstrated in Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Body. I'll add one of those regimens after my first two months of mass building are complete. Until then, I'm happy to maintain my current weight and watch my body composition slowly adjust.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Week 1 Complete

I know it seems silly to celebrate the completion of just ONE week of training, but I read recently that studies show a higher likelihood of maintaining a new practice after you have engaged in it five times. Today was my fifth workout and this is my fifth blog post, so I'm thinking this is going to stick.

So far, I'm noticing major strength gains in the gym and my form is starting to feel natural. I'm seeing some muscle growth, but haven't been able to do my measurements or body mass testing, so this is just a subjective measure. I haven't been doing great with the diet...not horrible, I just know I'll need to tighten it up if I want to reach my goals.

I'm planning on completing this week strong, then trying to figure out how next week will work. Next week might be tough because I'll be a single dad while my wife is traveling to Las Vegas for a conference. If I can just manage to get my Wednesday-Thursday in I'll be happy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Veggie Burritos...Yum!

Last night I made some amazing veggie burritos that topped the chart on health and taste. Basically, here's the assembly so you can make them at home:

Take an Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Grain tortilla...
put some warm black beans and brown rice on it...
a big spoonful of a sauteed veggie mix of bell pepper, anaheim chile, red onion, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato and garlic with about a teaspoon (or less for the spice-challenged) of cumin, coriander and chili powder...
a sprinkle of minced cilantro and thinly sliced scallion...
finally a dollop of guacamole and salsa.

If you want me to send you the specific recipe with cooking instructions, post a comment and I'll email it to you. Needless to say, these burritos are packed with veggie goodness and are oh so filling. The nice thing is you can experiment with whatever veggies you have in the house and as long as you add the spice mixture its going to taste delish!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 1 Pics: Ouch, This is Painful!

Part of my commitment to keeping this blog is fueled by the need to hold myself accountable. I recognize that accountability requires the baring of one's soul...or maybe just taking off your shirt at the crack of dawn to take unflattering pictures of yourself alone in your bathroom. In these pics the date is January 5, 2011, I'm 36 years old, 6'1", and 199 pounds.

You'll note that I'm barely awake and not really smiling. Well, of course! These are the "before" photos. Everyone knows your smile should slowly grow (along with your muscles) month after month until you're beaming and looking like a rock star.

Without further ado...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Visual Impact Muscle Building

After much research on the internet and years of experience in the gym, I have decided that my workout routine for 2011 with be the Visual Impact Muscle Building program created by Rusty Moore. The program's goals match up with mine pretty closely. Namely, create a lean, muscular physique that enables me to perform well athletically, is impressive on the beach (ah, summer, so far away), and still looks good in a suit (my current work uniform).

I began Phase 1 yesterday, January 5, 2011. This phase will last 2 months and will be followed by 2 more 2-month phases and a shorter "bonus" phase. In this phase my workouts are focused on producing rapid muscle growth through short workouts (30-45 minutes) with high repetitions (6-12 range) at low weights. I've decided to only work my upper body in the gym because my yoga practice, soccer, running, and cycling take care of the lower body.

I'm starting at 199 lbs. on my 6'1" frame. From past experience, I'm not expecting that number to change to dramatically. Typically, I've seen that my weight will fluctuate maybe 5 to 10 pounds while my body composition can vary drastically. I'm going to try to get on a body composition scale here in the next few days so that I can more accurately track changes in fat mass, muscle mass, and muscle hydration. I'll post those numbers when I have them and I'll follow this post with more accurate numbers from my workouts over time.

Begin at the Beginning

Already I can see that 2011 is going to be a busy year! We have a 2 year old who is changing every day and another baby on the way. Our jobs are ever-evolving. Our home keeps finding new ways to beg for repairs and upgrades. What is a guy to do?

Well, in an effort to simulate some modicum of control over my ever-changing life I have decided to throw in one more change...a transformation, if you will. The difference is that this is one that I alone can control. A body transformation.

This won't be the first time I've gone inward to effect change that will eventually radiate outward. I studied aikido while I was in a miserable, stressful job many years ago. I ran several marathons while I was in law school just to keep sane. I completed a 10-day silent mediation retreat immediately after taking the California bar exam (and have continued that meditation practice off-and-on for years). I've played team sports (soccer, basketball, softball) while I had jobs that kept me locked away in a lonely office. I've most recently rebelled against the increasingly obese suburban culture that surrounds me by devoting much time to exploring cleansing, healthy diet, and clean cooking. Oh, and I've been practicing yoga consistently for the last year. So, here I go again on my own (that should sound familiar to anyone that listened to hair bands in the 80s).

With the beginning of 2011, I have decided to embark on an exploration of complete body transformation. This will be a chance to combine many of the elements I have explored in the past few years. My goal: to see if a normal guy can create a Ryan Reynolds physique while balancing life's challenges and without a team of trainers, cooks, and personal assistants. My methods: meditation, clean cooking, healthy dieting, intermittent fasting, yoga, cardio training, and resistance training.

I'll use this blog to track my progress and to hold myself accountable. I'll post stats, photos, recipes, and lessons learned along the way. If you're reading this, you are at the beginning with me. Keep reading and we'll find out together where we end up.