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Thursday, April 26, 2012

On track

After much procrastination and gearing up (otherwise known too as procrastination), I managed to give up the tea and chocolate and start sticking to my menu plan. 

Actually, the motivation came from reading Jack is a neurosugeon, who was massively overweight at 160kg.  He stood up one day and tore the minuscus in his knee.  Being a doctor, he thought this doesn't make sense and started researching being healthy.  His website sets out what he has found.  It can get quite heavy on the medical jargon, but is work reading, just keep wikipedia handy for the medical definitions.

Dr Kruse talks about doing a "leptin reset", which is basically just following a strict, low-carb (ie, along with usual Paleo restrictions add no potatoes or fruit), Paleo diet for 6 - 8 weeks.  Leptin is a hormone that "regulates all aspects of energy metabolism, hormonal status, fecundity, and eventual cellular generation."  When I saw the words "hormonal status" I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do an experiment on myself to see whether this leptin reset could sort out my thyroid.

I'm onto Day 10 and so far the worse thing I've eaten is about half a cup of rice when having a banquet at a chinese restaurant and finding that most of the courses were off limits.  I was thinking I would go 8 weeks, but there's another two weeks after that until my next blood test, so I'm thinking I'll go six weeks and then introduce fruit and stick to the diet for another four weeks to the blood test.

Setting this up as an experiment to see what will happen certainly makes it easier to stick to:
1. I want to see whether it works
2. Knowing it has an end date means you can tell yourself that you can eat that creme brulee on 22 June 2012.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Clearly my memory needs improvement

Discipline may be remembering what you want, but clearly I need some reminding given it's nearly five months since my last post (where does the time go).

Anyway, I said I would develop a meal plan and now I have.  I used the ideas in The Primal Blueprint to come up with the following, which is provides 1,300 calories, 73 grams of carbs, 62 grams of fat, and 85 grams of protein.

2 boiled eggs

1 apple
40g cashews

1 cup spinach
1 cup lettuce
half a carrot
half a cup celery
half a cup cucumber slices
100g chicken

45g fruit & nut mix

200g steak
1/5 cup onions
half cup broccoli
half cup cauliflower
tablespoon rice bran oil

tablespoon cashew butter

*This post does not constitute a recommendation on how you should eat.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Discipline in remembering what you want"*

 I'm still pondering the teachings in The Places That Scare You (TPTSY).  Although I have been avoiding it for a few weeks now because it has become apparent to me that at some point the rubber has to hit the road.  You can navel gaze all you want but at some point you have to put the Tim Tams down and make a salad, in short, you need to exert some discipline.

TPTSY has an interesting thing to say about the discipline of following Buddist principles - "[it] is not that they are commandments but that they challenge our habitual reactions."  It also talks about the need for patience, to let things evolve at their own speed, and the need for enthusiasm which emerges when we let go of goals. 

So what I'm planning to do, is to finalise a meal plan and stick to it. But rather than stick to it in an obsessive I've-got-to-do-this-or-the-world-will-come-to-an-end sort of way, stick to it in an lets-just-see-what-happens-if-I-do-this sort of way. At lest until my next blood test which is about five weeks away.

Will post my meal plan when ready.

*The internet tells me that the above quote is by David Campbell, the founder of Saks Fifth Avenue. Whoever he was, he has an extraordinary ability to get to the point.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear

I have always taken the above statement to mean something along the lines of - if you do enough meditating, at some point, a small, bald-headed and wrinkled Tibetan monk (think Yoda without the pointy ears, oh and not green) will appear in your life and let you in on all the secrets of the universe. Or, at the very least, you would find a decent yoga teacher (still have not found someone to replace you Heather).

In the past few days, I've been thinking maybe it isn't even as obvious as a decent yoga teacher, perhaps, the teacher may be technology and the lessons delivered in sound bites.

Despite the optimisim of my last post, I found another hurdle that had to be jumped.  While the logic of "keep your eyes on the prize" is undeniable, I found myself thinking "so what?".  I had lost faith in the outcome.  I didn't really believe that eating right would improve my life in any meaningful way.

Then I watched a Louis Theroux documentary on Crystal Meth.  I found myself wondering why people would throw their lives away to take a drug and then I realised I was doing the same thing, I was just more fortunate in that eating Tim Tams doesn't lead to a life of crime.

The thing that really struck me though, was one simple sentence.  Louis was talking to a couple who had been using Crystal Meth for 25 years.  They primarily financed their use by being dealers themselves.  The woman said she would like to stop using it, the man wasn't concerned either way.  He told Louis that no-one could guarantee that his life would be better if he didn't use Crystal Meth.  Louis gave him a very intelligent response, he simply asked "was your life better during times when you weren't using?"  The guy thought about it for a second or so and said "Well yes, yes it was better".

So I asked myself whether I felt better when I ate better, when I cut out caffeine, wheat and sugar and I had to admit "Well yes, yes I did feel better".  In fact, when I did my Paleo challenge back in March, I not only felt better, people commented on how well I looked and assumed I had started working out (I hadn't, other than a few token push-ups and sit-ups every morning, I did no exercise at all).

So, on 25th Sep 2011, after waking up the second day in a row with a hangover, I decided to have a healthy day, and I made it through without reaching for a cup of tea or any bread (not that I didn't spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it).  And I made it through the next day, and the next day and going to bed on the Tuesday night I felt better than I had in weeks.  Since then, I've buckled a few times on the bread and the chocolate, but, other than for a sip of coke, have stayed off the caffeine in spite of having a cold and knowing it would give me a temporary boost - the key word being temporary, followed by not being able to sleep, followed by feeling worse the next day (know your enemy).

Having had a few slips, the temptation is to throw your hands in the air and say "well that proves it, I will never be able to do this", but I know that is just a cop out. Not even elite athletes eat perfectly all the time.  The problem of what to do with imperfection is a thorny one, but I will try to address it in my next post.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Know your enemy

The main hurdle for me in trying to eat healthily is the feeling that I am always missing out.  Intellectually, we all know the benefits of eating well, but this is not enough, particularly if, rather than making you feel worse, sugary and fatty foods actually (temporarily) boost your mood.

Again, The Places That Scare You ('TPTSY') explains that this is normal - it is human nature to mistake dissatisfaction for happiness.  I was struggling with how to overcome this when I read Chapter 4 of TPTSY, which covers the benefits of meditation.  One of the benefits is "clear seeing" (or dare I suggest - "seeing clearly") - we begin to see bad habits as restrictions.

When I read this I realised that I shouldn't regard Tim Tams as standard benefits that everyone else in the world gets to enjoy (because of course when you are thinking this way you conveniently ignore diabetics, the third world, kidnapped children in the Ivory Coast forced to harvest cacao from sunrise to setset, etc), instead they are barriers to my true enjoyment of life. Since then I have found it far easier to say no.  For example, I said no to a Tim Tam just three hours ago and didn't feel deprived.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Out of control

Several months ago, I was talking to one of the fit people at work, you know the type - get up at 5:00am to go on a lazy 50km bike ride before work.  I asked him how he maintained his discipline when it came to eating. His answer "suck it up, princess".

I knew he was right, so it has been somewhat disconcerting to me to find myself wholly unable to apply this principle to my Get Fit and Healthy Project (GFH Project).  At first I would tell myself "Tomorrow I will eat right", but it just seems beyond me.  I don't think I have eaten so badly, ingested as much sugar and caffeine nor exercised or slept as little as I have in the past six weeks. It seems that immediately I started my official GFH Project, I started acting in the completely opposite way.

Given this behaviour, I have been heartened by a chapter called "Heightened Neurosis" in The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron.  This chapter explains that this behavour is NORMAL.  It even sets out the categories of neurosis, all of which I related to:

  1. Feelings of not measuring up - for example, feeling that you will never be able to stick to a diet and exercise program, which is how I have been feeling for six weeks.
  2. Feeling superior - this is how I felt back in March when I was a caveman for a month (only eating animal protein, fruit and vegetables).  I felt like I was on the right path and it was only a matter of time before I would be glowing with effortless good health.  Of course, after the month was over, despite assurances from numerous websites and even though I felt great, I just went back to my old habits.
  3. Avoiding another issue - by making the problem about what I am eating, I am avoiding acknowledging that the real issue is my Graves Disease, that nobody knows why it occurs, that even if I eat perfectly and exercise every day, I still might not recover.

To overcome heightened neurosis, the book advises "ongoing patience and kindness toward this inevitable process", accepting yourself and thinking of it "as a sign that old habits are being liberated". By practicing "compassionate inquiry into out moods, our emotions and our thoughts", we develop understanding (the Sun - refer last post) and over time we stop acting against ourselves.

It seems to be working, albeit slowly.  So far I have stopped drinking beer because while I like beer, it most definitely doesn't like me.  I've also only had one cup of tea with breakfast, instead of two.  It's not exactly "suck it up, princess", but at least I seem to be heading in the right direction again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

He who fails to plan, is planning to fail . . .

and, I would argue, that same applies to she's. By the way, aparently that title of this post is a quote by Churchill.

So I've been on this official Get Fit and Healthy Project for a month now, and it occurs to me that I have achieved very little.  In fact, I can't quite pin point my last chocolate or caffeine free day, if anything I'm beginning to feel that I'm firmly on a downward spiral.

However, I have been reading a couple of books lately, that are making me think that, rather than my standard Dr Phil "sometimes you've just got to white-knuckled it" strategy, a radical change of approach is in order. Which brings me to another quote by Churchill "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their plan". I think its because if you take the time to make a plan, you become more committed to the goal and you can measure your progress and refine your plan until it works. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Back to the books, the first one was lent to me by a friend who thought it might do me some good.  It's called The Creative Life: 7 Keys to your inner genius by Eric Butterworth.  Overall, I found the book a bit over the top in that new agey sort of way.  But there was one idea I quite liked.

The book is structured around the 7 days of creation (dare I say) myth from the Bible.  Day Four is "Let There Be Two Great Lights" refering to the creation of the sun and the moon.  Butterworth suggests that we think of the sun as representing Understanding (knowledge, ideas and the like), while the moon represents Will - not the "will of gritted teeth" (doesn't that expression just capture the concept perfectly) but a willingness to go with the flow.

The two concepts compliment and reflect each other. If you throughly understand something, but don't actually do anything, you get no where.  Conversely, if you set your mind to something and say "this time I will lose weight", you become emotional and stubborn and also get no where.

After reading this I realised that when I started this project it was all Will based - I will eat right, I will exercise everyday, etc, but there was no understanding of what was motivating my current eating and lack of exercise. In my defence, I think everyone does this.  Something triggers the motivation, (in my case the threat of losing a body part) and we say with anger and determination "I will do it this time!".  But we don't understand how we got to where we are, so how can we hope to get to where we want to go?

The second book is a not-so-old favourite The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron, but I'll discuss that next time.