Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday Weigh -- a day late again

Down 5 pounds in all, 2 last week. This is slow progress, but unlike former days I'm really trying to avoid counting calories. ... instead get into some better habits. Those better habits would be..... thinking before I eat, sticking to three meals plus 1-2 snacks per day, trying to balance out every meal with a protein, a carb, a vegetable and a good fat. When I've overdone it on carbs, maybe eaten a couple of cookies, I sometimes cut back on the carb element of the next meal.

Still exercising from 4 to 6 miles on the stationary bike per day. Last week I went 35 miles in total, bringing the cumulative total up to 175 miles. I've experimented with scaling up the difficulty level on the exercise bike but so far remain about on Level 7 -- I managed Level 10 one day but could only keep it up for 20 minutes.

I'm reading two books about health -- one is The Schwarzbein Principle II -- The Transition, a dime library rack bring-home. It is not a "diet book" precisely but a book about the relationship between healthy living and healthy metabolism. The author is an endocrinologist and sees things through the perspective of unbalanced hormones. There are two articles online by the author: The Transition and Timing is Everything that sum up her view on this. Here's her website. Her thesis is that poor nutrition and lifestyle habits can damage hormone production and that it takes time to restore normal function. So for a while after making healthier lifestyle changes you can actually feel worse than you did before and even gain weight for a while as your body repairs. Basically you are detoxing.

But in the long run, this can result in real changes that help you slow down the accelerated aging that results from insulin, adrenaline, cortisol, and serotonin balances that are out of whack (to name a few of the elements she mentioned, though insulin and adrenaline appear to be the biggies -- adrenaline releases cortisol and serotonin? I'm out of my depth there). And once you have made the lifestyle changes permanent, and your hormonal production has repaired, you will naturally lose the extra weight without a big push to control calories.

Her actual recommendations are solid, and quite standard:
  • A whole foods diet balanced between PVCF -- protein, veggie, whole-carb and essential fats -- and moderate exercise and adequate sleep.
  • birth control pills mess up your system horribly -- she recommends you avoid them altogether if you can. (I've never used them, but have read much research about the effects on a female body).
  • Extreme exercise also stresses your system and can lead to exercise addiction and chronic adrenal overload.
  • So does "crisis addiction" (running from one high adrenaline activity to the next) and so does chronic stress.
  • meditation and rest time are recommended to balance out the inevitable stressors of life.
  • Most people do better, she says, by eating 3 moderate meals and 2 light snacks rather than filling their stomachs at breakfast lunch and dinner and fasting in between.
  • NO DIETING, ever. She dislikes dieting a lot and thinks people who cut calories drastically only make their health worse. They go from eating and living unhealthily and gaining weight, to trying to lose weight which puts even more stress on their bodies, especially if they are trying to go low-fat (usually means high carb and does bad things to your insulin). Usually you end up with the rebounding effect, where the person ends up gaining back the weight plus more, but even the ones who "succeed" on this sort of regimen end up with issues like intense carb cravings, blood sugar swings, muscle weakness, irritability,hair loss, etc. Basically they are just as unhealthy except "thin", so the world doesn't give them as hard a time.
  • No shortcuts. She says that sometimes continuing your artificial stimulants (like your habitual cup of coffee or sugary snack) and anti-depressants can help with the transition so you don't get hit with too much turmoil at once. But the goal is to wean away when you can.
  • Sometimes, not always, hormone replacement therapy can be necessary (under the close supervision of a qualified medical specialist, etc).
So the main recommendations are thoroughly conservative. The focus is not on the emotional conditions of bad eating and living, but rather, on the medical aspects of reducing these things to rebuild health. So I feel safe following the principles even while not knowing personally if the medical aspect of it is altogether sound or not.

What I'm getting out of the book is mostly side insights. Like, for instance, something I rarely see in this kind of book -- that you can be "thin" and eating all natural food and exercising a lot and be very unhealthy, tired and depressed. She says that depriving yourself of food, and over-exercising, can rev up your adrenaline, but at a cost when it happens in the long term. I don't know anything about the science of this, but it would explain how I "escalate" too much and feel a kind of energy which I sense is unhealthy, too hectic, and then I pay later on.

It makes me more resolved to do this the right way. For example, I've really been resisting my natural tendency to keep increasing the exercise and start cutting back on my calories. It's difficult for me to focus instead on habits, but it seems to be doing some good that way.

The other book is called "Put Your Life On a Diet" but it isn't really a diet book. It's about a man who lives in a 140 square foot house. He chose to give up space in order to simplify his life. He rides his bike to work, lives off the electricity and water grid, etc. , except that he has a gym membership and visits the laundromat -- he pays for community resources rather than private ones. In the process he lost 100 pounds and he draws parallels between his own weight loss, the weight loss of having less "stuff" to burden him, and the ecological footprint he is making which is much less than it was. He composts almost all his trash because he never buys packaged food, etc. Interesting. I think it's true that "stuff" and all the work and thought that it takes to manage it often makes your mind feel weighed down and bloated just like eating too much of the wrong sorts of foods weighs down your body.

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