Sunday, February 19, 2017

Vegetarians are Sissies.

Vegetarians are sissies. This thought occured to me after having been vegetarian for - oh a really long time (decade+) then going back to omnivore - and more recently (past year-ish) exploring what i'm calling "opportunistic veganism" That is: i optimise for not eating meat, includeing dairy especially when i’m eating away from home. It's kinda fun.

It's opportunistic because i'm looking for opportunities to practice veganism. And the biggest, easiest win consistently and especially at home is: getting rid of dairy.  Black coffee; black tea. Artisan breads.



I don't know why more folks don't start exploring heading towards a Plant eating regimine simply by first skipping out animal outputs rather than the animals themselves. Surely there's a name for this inverted vegetarianism?

Yes, any egress from an animal can be readily skipped. I haven't touched dairy since i started on this - and i haven't missed it. Milky tea - once a fave has been replaced with Black tea. Cheese as garnish has been replaced by cashews ground up with nutritional yeast (a combo known as vegan crack - and with good cause) - it's like parmesan. Yogurt? who needs it? I've got: water kefir, fermented oatmeal, saurkraut, home made red wine vinegar, sourdough.



 alternatives to yogurt abound - and are cheaper and producable at home - like this saurkraut.

beyond home made saurkraut, there's kombucha, water kefir, red wine vinegar, soaked/fermeted oats.
who needs yogurt?




Which brings us to why vegetarians are sissies. Most vegetarians -not all but most - are saying they're not ok with animal slaughter (or aesphixiation). That's nice. So why are they ok with well, how describe it? animal slavery?



Great you're not eating the hamburger - but that burger is just the end point of about 7 milk cows - or more - and that's not even healthy in terms of tracing say e-coli contamination. But i digress: point is, vegetarian sissies, after a life time behind bars - of those milking stalls - those poor tired girls are retired to macdonalds.

And those chickens you're not eating? That's limiting cruelty of factory framing is it?
What makes eggs ok? Are they all from free range hens? No? Yes? Are you sure those free range hens are really ranging freely? Does that restriction of conviction include the eggs in all the processed foods you may be having too?

THis barn apparently qualifies as "free range"

And let’s remember that for every female chick that is forced to squat in a barn to lay eggs, the male chicks are asphyxiated to go into cat food. For your pet. Way to go.


We won't even talk about all the itty bitty baby sheep that give their lives for parmesan cheese.
Hence the morality of vegetarianism - for those that claim that rationale rather than "i don't like the taste of meat" now kinda escapes me: once you look at the infrastruture that enables the animal outputs (ie dairy) to be produced/sold, it feels like vegetarianism on "moral and ethical grounds" is neither: it's hypocracy isn't it?

And speaking of that dairy infrastructure, what's easier to do? learn to skip the milk and like black coffee or give up bacon? You’ll crow about giving up steak but not cake?

Once in awhile: skip dairy

To all the non vegetarians out there who want to explore less animal in your diets, i say good for you. Why not start easy and with great health benefits:  skip dairy first - it’s more ubiquitous in your daily life but can be easier to eliminate, especially if you want to go higher nutrient for a leaner fitter you.

Worried about less calcium if you skip milk in coffee? Have some kale. Or broccoli. Get a double benefit of all the nutrients in the veg -including calcium - and fewer calories. And if you’re trying to be a little more resilient, learning how to do without what seems stupidly essential, find alternatives - means you’re just a little more versatile - a little less a slave to your tastes.

In terms of energy conservation and feeding the planet: What if all the demand for dairy dried up. First milk, then eggs then cheese. Imagine if all that acid whey poured off as waste in the making of greek yogurt - just dried up - cuz we weren't buying it anymore.



And then even baking started to change to find amazing egg and milk alternatives (they're there).

So - i'm saying this - especially to vegetarians: why not experiment with finding your opportunisitic vegan by starting with inverting the whole vegetarian thing. Start your un-animal quest by Taking a pass on the energy and un-ethics of dairy. 

Just see how that goes - you don't have to be a fascist about it. It's just, let's get real: vegetarianism is not really protecting animals. As we've seen, dairy is the pre and post process of meat practices. So if you’re skipping meat on ethical grounds, what are your ethics for dairy?

The Opportunistic Veganism Advantage: Better Wholer Food especially on the road

No one says you have to go Vegan full on all the time. A fantastic way to explore opportunistic veganism is to do it away from home. Here’s a few tips on how.

Practice on the Go

Folks who ask me (usually over dinner) about not consuming animal have heard me say if survival ever comes to a choice between me or the cow, the cow is going down. But i feel i'm put in that position less and less, or my opportunistic practice means i've learned how to dance that situation less and less.

For example: at a restaurant if there are no pre-fabricated mains on the menu that suit, i can ask if the chef will put together some ingredients that are on the menu: beans & greens make the scene.

This approach works really well at most hotels for breakfast-included buffet scenarios too: the staff can use the ingredients for omlettes to create something good. Even Brit full english buffets often have tomatoes and mushrooms, and the fruit area will have dark berries.

On the go, i also travel with a Dose Locker full of brown rice protein powder and Enerex Greens powder: nutrition anywhere anytime. Worst comes to Worst, oh gosh i can skip a full meal. I can do some hunger and be ok with that. OR i can eat the fish. Or the cow. Remember: i'm making a choice. I'm an opportunistic vegan - creating vegan opportunities all the time, as much as possible/desireable. It's fun. That's the thing: i'm taking control of my nutrition.

Optomizing Vegan Meals at Events

A quick tip: at various events when asking for dietary requirements "vegan” can quickly get translated as lots of pasta. To avoid this starch fest, you can add "gluten free” too and even add “please add lots of dark greens like spinach, broccoli” Such meals can still be epic fails, but often my special meal turns out to be tastier than the chicken or beef entree. I also usually get more whole foods when everyone else is getting a lot of white bread and mystery meat. Try it yourself: see what happens.

Optimizing Air Plane Food

On planes? If available, try the asian vegetarian option or similar before you go on your flight for your "special meal" - or bring your dose locker. Or consider fasting: which helps with jet lag (at least in mice).

Pretend to be Vegan Once in Awhile

Go ahead: pretend to be a vegan and see what license that gives you to EAT BETTER FOOD OUT - especially when restaurants don't know what to do and they ask you what would that include? Fantastic!

TO practice, why not go dairy-free? Up your veg instead. You can still get all those lucious fats that dairy offers and even more nutrients and fiber just by upping say avacados. Skipping dairy is also an easy way to start effortlessly reducing intake of excess calories if you’re trying to lean out but want to keep up your nutrition.

And heck: i am not vegan-pure; i'm opportunistic.
Sometimes i don't ask exactly what's in that oatmeal chocolate chip raisin cookie...

ANYWAY

Takeaways

  • vegetarians are sissies (or (neo)liberal humanists). most of the veggies i speak with have rationalised their double standards to say they’re ok with them. That it’s just too much to try to go all the way. To which i offer: INVERT YOUR PRACTICE FROM TIME TO TIME try switching it up from time to time - learn the skills to skip/replace the dairy nutrients from other sources and confront the animal by having it on your plate. own up. If not why not?

  • ALL OF US try exploring going animal-less by less animal outputs. Just see what your paleo or regular life would be like if you pulled back on the animal stuff by cutting out animal outputs. Start there. Get some skills. Learn what the “intead of Dairy try X for more nutrients” Use the un-dairy as a way to (a) get healthier (b) learn more about how you and food connect to feel better.
  • have fun: be an opportunistic vegan more of the time to eat better when out - and those opportunities may become more and more frequent. Start with the out of the house; see what habits trickle to the back home.

Coda: We are so Privileged - let's practice options 

if we can dance in these meat or not meat choices, we're all extremely lucky and privileged.

Why not use that privilege to gain some skills on how to be more resilient?

Learning to eat less animal and animal related products - learning how to go without from time to time intelligently - is a great way to become more resilient. When we don’t HAVE to do something is a great time to learn HOW to do something so we’re not limited by our current constrained preferences.

Cutting dairy is a great way to start such an exploration, because for most of us, that dairy is just a bonus not an essential nutrient anyway - loads of other foods offer similar advantages, from fats to vitamins.

After you get un-dairy under control (up those greens and avocados and anything dark really) - you can try being an opportunistic vegan. You’ll be smarter about food, more reslient, and have more fun no longer being held captive by the buffet, but getting better food too, guaranteed.


Stress as Illusion - Dealing with Stress Toms vs Stress Tigers

Stress - for me that’s the “i HAVE to get this DONE!!!” Everything else falls before the necessity of this sudden, total imperative. GRRR ARRRGH. You know?

On reflection, as i somehow pause in the midst of one of these exact “i have to” moments (that’s gone on for almost my entire weekend) -i begin to think, you know, a lot of my stress seems to be convenient. It reminds me of the four quadrants for assessing what’s important to do - and what is not that Steven Covey made popular.

Stress as Urgency Illusion

The four quads are important/not urgent; important/urgent; Not important/not urgent; not important/urgent

Very little, Covey says, is important and urgent: like our child is being rushed to the hospital and so we have to break an appointment.

Lots, says Covey, we let be urgent but it’s not important. Not really. Not such that it has to be attended to right now - which means other stuff - perhaps even important, but not urgent stuff - gets pushed to the side. Again. Sound familiar?

The Techno Trap - stress illusion example

Here’s an example for me: something started happening on a computer network that affects how i can access the content i use to keep parts of my life moving, and i feel i need to get it fixed right away.

Thing is, i have other stuff to do that is actually important, but feel like i can’t do those other things till i get this one sorted. My focus also becomes intense, like if i look up, it will all fall apart; the “don’t bug me” walls go way up. Someone’s nice to me: i want to growl at them. Somehow this task has become the mission critical one. Is it?

As i pause right now, to ask this question, to confront myself, i find myself having to ask: is the problem i’m dealing with really that life or death that it affects the quality of life i have with those around me? Um. ok it feels that way, but that’s not the truth.

Sometimes it’s just easier to be in this reactive place than to pull back, breath and think more about what’s actually important, needs doing, but doesn’t have the “crisis” excuse wrapped aroung it to get it done. And heh, the stupid thing that does feel like a crisis has another feature: as it becomes an absolute time sink, it can also run out the clock of the day too so that other important thing that’s less interesting on the stack but actually more necessary to do gets delayed - again.

Stress Tom vs Stress Tiger

So stress, it seems, can be a useful illusion. Useful if i am actually being fearful and want to procrastinate.

Let me step back: i’m not saying that stress isn’t real. The physiological response to something that sends up all those fight or flight responses - that makes me feel i have to respond to this “threat” right this minute - the very hormonal stress response is real. But i’m good, it seems, in allowing a wee stress trigger to dominate my action.

That is, the thing supposedly triggering the urgent “must do” stress response isn’t a tiger threatening to eat me.



It really isn’t that urgent such that if i don’t fix it, RIGHT NOW, drop everything else, i can’t get any of the important but not urgent stuff done.

Nope, i’m playing a role here in translating a kitty that’s spooked me - maybe even a nasty spraying tom kitty - into a tiger with big sharp teeth - and i’ll tell other people: there’s a tiger!! must get tiger!!  get out of my space - when really it’s the tom in the corner.


So how deal with the Stress Tom (not Stress Tiger)?

Part of the process for me - once i actually get to a pause - has been running the reality check of this supposed urgent thing to do against the Quadrants to find out if what the issue is, is truly urgent or just irritating?

To ask: what’s important today that this Stress Tom, is deflecting - and most important: has it interfered with me being loving with the folks i only get to go around life with once?

If it’s not really urgent and it’s screwing up my limited time with the folks i love or the things that are important (like a workout that can reduce all those hormal stress responses or doing some work that will add real value in an ongoing way to my life), then i need to find another solution.

For instnace, it may be to stop the stress tom activity and go make some tea for the family and re-engage there, try to talk about the rest of our day, or figure out where i can get some movement - and see if the solution to the Stress Tom doesn’t just manifest.

Three Steps to Disengage From the Stress Tom Illusion

In sum,
  1. STEP ONE: ID YOUR TOM TRIGGERS: practice recognising i’m having what for me is my stress response. For me that’s anything where i’m saying to myself or others “i have to do this." Usually, that's just not true. And even if it is, what did i do to get there?
  2. STEP TWO: STOP & REALITY CHECK - Once i hit an "i have to" - the challenge is to disengage from that " i have to"  and check it against the quads for true urgency value against true importance value.
  3. STEP THREE: RECONNECT - If i have a stress tom in front of me - when assessed against the quads, the best way to move it from Tiger to Tom is do something else asap that will re-engage with what’s important, like go be present to someone i love, or go do some push ups.
One of the biggest bits here is remembering i have to PRACTICE identifying that i'm in stress. If i try to do this when i'm in stress - without that practice - well, the likelihood of success goes down.

One way to get this practice is just to check in. If you'd like to try a practice session, for instance,  while you're reading this, you might ask first, what is my trigger to know i'm in stress? Next: Am i having one of these moments? When was the last time i had one of those moments? Checking against the quadrants was that a real Tiger  - something Urgent and Important - or was it just a stress Tom - Urgent-feeling, but not super important?

My experience, these kinds of reflections help build up the patterns our brains need to be able to (1) recognise these situations more quickly (2) fire up the options we want more quickly to deal with them - to put the cat out, as it were.

Does this process resonate?
Let me know how you identify and cope with your stress tom's
Good luck!

mc
@mcphoo

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Cream of Fake Health Foods

https://oakhurstdairy.com/img/Products_Creams_Heavy_PT_121002.jpg
getting heavy about cream
If we see something that says we can have all the flavours of something supposedly sinful like heavy (or in the EU double) cream but with an Nth of the calories - and in fact that that product will BURN fat and suppress appetite, what wouldn’t we pay for it?

How about 20bucks for 280g (about a pint)? 

Recently i saw this post on a fitness challenge site by one of the participants:
For all multiple cups a day coffee drinkers like me, I have your morning joe's new best mate!
Supresses appetite, taste delicious, and a healthier alternative to pounds of creame in your coffee!My favorite product of the week, Leaner Creamer!
"Leaner Creamer is the realization that a healthy alternative to fatty coffee creamers can exist. Leaner Creamer revolutionizes the cherished ritual of coffee drinking by adding the benefits of appetite suppression and weight-loss while you enjoy your java!"
Made with Hoodia extract, a plant native to the Kalahari Desert that tricks your brain into thinking it's full. Coconut oil easy to digest and it helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and endocrine system. Further, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning more energy and helping obese and overweight people lose the weight. Green tea extract to increase metabolism and fat oxidation, inhibit fat cell development, and increase fat excretion!I love it, use it every day, taste great, stops me from snacking! Check it out!
Wow! and i thought a pint of whole organic cream in the US at 5.60 was expensive. THis is 19.95
. For POWDER!

"Leaner Creamer is the realization that a healthy alternative to fatty coffee creamers can exist"
Healthy? Healthier? Time for the Claims Check, Please.

First troubling bit: you won’t find the nutrient breakdown on the product site, but you can find it.
Creamer ingredients (14)Coconut Oil, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Sodium Caseinate(A Milk Derivative), Mono, and, Diglycerides, Dextrose, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Silicone Dioxide.17% Proprietary Blend:Citrus Aurantium, Hoodia Gordonii Extract, Green Tea Extract.- See more at food facts:

You know, this does look remarkably like the ingredient list for flamable coffee mate or similar. IN fact about the only differences are the added supplements at the end, and the presence of some coconut oil.




Which on the health side, raises the question:

IF this is the same as regular (flammable)highly processed coffee creamer, how is it "healthier" than cream? Coconut oil (first ingredient) needs to be processed to become a powder that will dissolve like a fat when put in hot water: that's in part the role of the maltodextrin (type of sugar) and the fifth and sixth ingredients: mono and di glyserides as emulsifiers - these also make up some of the fat content. 
In other words fat from the coconut oil is extracted, and some of these other fats are put in. How much coconut oil is really left?
Note also that after the little bits of fat and sugar, there's flavourings. The third ingredient is flavouring - unnamed - who knows derived from what.


Then i looked to find the nutrient calorie info. Amazing reading

First off, the serving size is 1teaspon (5g of a 280g bottle) like a packet of "powdered creamer" for coffee. For 1 teaspoon it's listed as 10kcal. There are 17.5kcal in that amount of heavy cream. Half and half has 7.5! interesting, eh? 


Basic Real Ingredient Comparison

Of the total calories per serving (1 teaspoon or 5g) only .5g is fat. 5 fat calories. the other 5kcal are from carbs. That's the second, third and sixth ingredients: Maltodextrin (sugar) Sodium Caseinate (trace amounts of protein from milk but mostly a flavouring/texture "food additive") and more sugar.
 As said, basic coffee creamer. Free when you get a black coffee at a store.

SO, what are you paying for at 20 bucks a pop? Analysis of basics:


There is Less than half a teaspoon of "coconut oil" and less than half a teaspoon of "sugar. “ in this stuff

Looking
on amazon for non-organic sugar and coconut oil, it works out to about just under 2c for real coconut oil and just over 2c for maltodextrin - or 2.5c if using table sugar - per serving. Times 112 per container that's less than three bucks - retail.

Where's the other 17 dollars worth of retail product coming from?

The rest are little bits of stuff to give it the colour/flavour of cream and then there's the "17% proprietary blend" that includes "Citrus Aurantium, Hoodia Gordonii Extract, Green Tea Extract" 


So, LESS than 1/5 of this 5g serving (less than 1g) has these special bits in it. Let's round up and call it 1g to see what 1g of Citrus Auratium, Hoodia and Green Tea are supposed to do there. 


Hoodia extract has just about nill evidence that it "tricks the body into feeling full" and if you were going to use it, coffee may be the last place you'd pay to have it. Why? Because caffeine IS a certified, verified by a ton of studies, appetite suppresant all on its own. Also - the fat in cream cues the body towards satiety (here's a post about fat tea using some cream and some coconut oil), so no need to play around with hoodia there. But how much is needed to have any effect? well, again: no science means who knows? Guesses anecdotally go from 1500-3000mg a day. A 60 cap bottle of 250mg pills can go for 20bucks - for unknown value. Just saying. 


Green Tea extract (some more info here) - for it to have any sort of real fat burning effect, we're talking about isolating ECGC - the catachins in the green tea. And by the way, as with caffeine, some folks get heart palpatations from this stuff so approach with caution. What we do not know from this company is what the purity of the extract is. You may be paying for the sweepings of the tea house floor as 1/3 or less of that 1g of stuff in your creamer. In research studies, doses to have an effect OVER TIME included green tea with 690mg of Catechins total, of which 136mg were EGCG - but here, we don't know what makes up this extract.

One look at supplement shelves will show you how varied the amounts can be.
Fortunately there have been studies using just green tea, too, where the amounts of catechins are known - and that seems to work too - when calculating your costs). 


Then there's Bitter Orange. another debatable component for fat burning. I love how WebMD describes its use: this stuff, and caffeine and st john's wort and "low calorie diet and exercise" may help with weight loss. That's like saying an iron nail and 3.50 will get you an americano at starbucks. Mind you other studies did not even find that. 
So of all this what do we have where we really can make any claims?


Prices for the rest of the 1g for those 112 servings

If we just divided these supplements into common ways they're bottled
  • 400 mg of GTE by now is 14 bucks for 250 caps or 6.272 for 112
  • 400 mg hoodia is 18.99 for 180 caps or 11.82 for 112
  • and
  • 170 mg is 9.49 for 60 - so need to double this - say 20 for 120 18.66
wow that's 36.75 retail for these extra bits if you were to role your own - that's more than 1.5 times the price of this concoction. That's amazing. That must be quite a deal.
OF course the only way this really works is if the main ingredient of this 17% proporietary thing is green tea extract being close to a gram and then only the tiniest bits of hoodia and bitter orange.
That way the manufacturers can say they have these three ingredients, without saying amounts.
And then again, it's not likely they're using FDA approved labs (like the supplements i was quoting) to add their inredients either.

Metabolism claims??
"Further, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas,"
I have no idea what that means. Stress on the pancrease? that doesn't quite make sense.
It might be more sensible to say that coconut oil’s particular kinds of fats are used more readily for fuel almost like carbs rather than being stored (citric acid cycle and all that), but even saying that, metabolism is more complicated than that, but heck, the simple truth is, eating too much is eating too much - pretty much no matter what that source is.

BOTTOM HEALTH and Cost LINE:

From the ingredients we see that this is pretty much coffee creamer powder that costs 8 bucks for 340g or, 6.22 - less than a third of what this stuff costs. Even the dairy derivative sodium casinate is present.

You are in other words PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE - for those UNKNOWN amounts of UNKNOWN quality supplements that are but for the green tea of dubious benefit for weight loss or satiety.

Alternatives:

If the concern is to be “healthy” - decrease ingestion of chemicals and increase ingestion of whole foods. Like real cream or real coconut oil.
Or if you’re trying to get leaner quicker, try a no-cal beverage like black coffee or green tea you can enjoy at near zero kcal’s and get the benefits of these real deals.

As for better fat burning and satiety?

Well, the types of fats that lead to fat burnding from coconut oil will also be found - pending the season - in organic milk/cream - along with other types of fat burning fats like CLT. So if you like dairy, organic cream is not unhealthy. 


The fat in cream also has a satiety effect and a great mouth feel without additives. If you like dairy.

If you want the benefits of green tea extract, try exploring japanese green tea.

You can get some of the best in the world at teevana for the same amount as a pint of this stuff and you can reuse the tea leaves - from 20g of genmaicha i can get about five to seven liters (or seven big pots) - that's tea for about a week.


Or 20bucks can get two big jars of organic coconut oil - if you don't like the taste - don't get the extra virgin: it's pretty taste-neutral.


And sugar -well - if desperate you can get that for free where you buy your coffee. 


And skip the hoodia/bitter orange.

Bottom Bottom Line: we’re suckers for a quick fix,eh?

We are trusting creatures, especially when folks are selling things that sound great. If we're affluent enough, we'll buy it and try it.

I'm just testing the claims. and sadly, Coffee Creamer even with a literal pinch of hoodia added is still coffee creamer.

As per usual: whole real food is better and (unless super subsidized like sugar in the US and EU) cheaper than supplements.

Eat less; mostly plants, as Michael Pollan says. and Save your money - for more whole food?
just food for thought
mc
@mcphoo

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Loving and Leaving the Scale- managing weight by feel


How I’m leaving the Scale and Daily Weigh-In’s behind.

I am an inveterate weigher

I have a wifi enabled scale, and have been using it - near religiously - since i got it several years ago. Data, do i have data. And guilt.

Every morning. And fear to start the day.

First thing in the morning it’s been how i either feel good about myself (lost weight; didn’t gain weight) or use it as a Judgement of Failure (gained weight), and sets me on a path for how to change my food practices that day.


And that, my friends, is crazy. I’m a frickin’ certified strength and conditioning coach, nutrition coach, performance researcher. I publish research on just this stuff (eg no such thing as gaining a pound). I've participated in being coached around these principles. I KNOW that daily weigh ins cannot be used in this way. And yet, and yet.

Finally, last week when i was on the road and away from the scale for a week - and i confess, i was in france eating the best sourdough bread in the world after six months of zero bread. It was AMAZING. and i sorta finally had a break - a break through; a break down.

French pain au levain - or sourdough bread. mmm. opiods
I don’t know. But i thought: i’m eating all these processed carbs; my workouts this week are less intense; i must be putting on weight. I should be freaking out. I will freak out as soon as i go home and step on the scale. I really will. and then i’ll feel horrible. Like what i’m doing right now will fill me with shame. Bad bad person.

And so i thought: what if i don’t step on the scale?

Which thought lead to:

Why am i stepping on this scale?

I write and talk alot about how we should use any of these measurement tools to help us listen to our own body signals better.

We are WAY more sensitive systems than any trackers we can build and use, so why not use these measures to help us recover our senses?

So i thought: how do i take my own medicine here? how do i apply learning about listening to my body signals better by using the scale to support that sensitizing rather than as a rod to beat myself up with first thing in the morning?

Let’s do an experiment, me thinks. An experiment has an hypothesis, methods, presents data from these methods, then carries out analysis of the data, to see if the hypothesis has been disproven or proven.

Quick Overview of Approach. For a couple weeks or so, maybe longer, i’m thinking, how about trying to go by feel, and see what happens in terms of outcomes for which i care - getting stronger, leaner faster.

By feel, i mean, putting together feeling hungry vs too full; having a good sleep, a good workout and how this translates to adapting practices on the one hand and results like body fat% on the other at the end of the period. Can going by feel - really focussing on feel - let me learn how to do a better job of tuning my performance to feel better.

The hypothesis i’d like to test is that: by focussing on how i feel, and using measures in the background to assess how “feel” lines up with “measures”
  1. i’ll actually be able to get fat down
  2. i’ll feel better
  3. i may find an optimal way to conenct feeling with “reality” and that feeling to tuning, that will all be both more “tracker free” and better than “measure first” approach - in other words i’ll have evidence that i’ve been able to dial in “how i need to feel” against food/rest/movement etc to perform better - including being leaner, stronger, faster.
The null hypothesis would be: fat gain will only go up; i will fail in your leanness and strength progress aspirations without constant numerical monitoring.

The Method for This Experience

- every experiment needs a plan. Here’s how i’m measuring what i’m doing.

The Un-Scale: since the real push here is to get off the scale and its daily guilt trip, i’ve done this: i’ve put a hunk of gorilla tape over the number part of the scale window. I can see that a measurement is being taken, but i don’t see the measure. THis way, post experiment, i can look back on the “feeling” log and map what happens against that.

Other physical body measures: my main reality check will be a saturday tape measure up and skinfold caliper check in. By using 7 point caliper method against girth i’ll be able to see what my body seems to be doing. If lean mass goes up, and fat doesn’t move, weight will go up, girth will go up a bit - likely. If lean mass goes up as strength improves and fat burns up a bit, girth should go down a bit.

Girth measurements use weight so i won’t be doing the calculations at this point to give me a specific Body Fat Percentage measure, but i’ll have the data to put back in at the end of the study for that calculation. This is really good: data is there, but i won’t have to focus on it while going by feel.

Other Input Measures: Workout, Food, HRV, Time

Workouts: what i’m also tracking: my daily practice. I’m currently in another experiment of doing nothing but bodyweight progressions right now - building a base for things like hand stands, levers and the such like. Here’s a shout out to the german lads of CalisthenicsMovement for fantastic beginner and intermediate programs -and awesomely useful vids on youtube.

So, i’m logging my workouts using these specific protocols to measure progress. What is fascinating to me already is that in the past week that was my fifth week i think into these new protocols, it became a back off week. This week there is a BIG boost in performance. Very cool.

Food: all i’m doing with food tracking is taking pictures using my fave ap for this, diet snap: take a photo, that’s it. There’s no calorie counting - it’s here’s a record of what and how much you’re eating. Great.

HRV for Recovery: For the past few months i’ve been using the best phone based recovery measurementapp, HRV4Training by medium author Marco Altini(Great story of PhD’er and App builder.)
HRV stands for heart rate variability. It is a very reliable measure by which to assess fatigue - or really - how well have you recovered from the stress of the day before. Let’s say this again: how well you’ve recovered. That is an incredibly valuable measure against which to assess feel: how do you feel; does it align with this score. I’m making progress in terms of predicting what my waking score is feeling roughly to be. While the actual scores in my head may be a bit out, i’m rarely surprised about the direction, up or down from the day before.

How i use HRV: I already have killed my alarm clock. That is i sleep as much as i need and get up when i’m ready, so measuring sleep is not really something that is a big value add for me. All i need to know is how well recovered i am so i can rebalance as needed for the day ahead: above baseline, go go go; below base line - pending how much - either back off a bit (lighter workout for instance) or just rest (go for a walk).
This data can also be exported to a spreadsheet for review at the different periods for review in the study.

Calendar: A biggie in any experiment is also to understand what the heck was going on when. For instance, if i was on the road, does that explain shifts that may show up in weight data on a given day, but no bump in trend of weight overall? How does daily load affect recovery and progress that week, etc?
Wy do i want to know this? to connect back to feeling feel. And from this, to connect with some knowledge, skills and practice to TUNE IN better performance, reliably.

HowDoYouFeel tracking. Each day i’ll be tracking on my own how i feel on a lickert scale - better or worse than the day before in terms of body feel, energy, and anything else i can think of as relevant.
Active Engagement with Feel Checking Another part of this process is what in learning is called Active Learning: we engage with a process deliberately - reading a text, practicing a movement, whatever, with a specific intent. In this case, my specific intent is to ask at various points during the day is HowDoIFeel - in terms of energy, body, attention etc. Make a note that i’ll be able to connect back to any of the data captured.

THe goal of that connection is not just to see if i was right or wrong, but to see if i am building skills to tune in feeling better - better.

Checking In or Analysis: at different check points - the first one i’m thinking will be a month - i’ll be able to see what’s happening with the hypotheses.
I’ll be able to put all the data together - including the scale - to get the trends over time - and to coorelate these against particular food/workout/recovery practices.

Hopes: impact from outcomes

Best case scenario, after a month, if nothing else, i’ll have broken the Morning Madness of beating myself up about a number that is meaningless when trends are where it’s at.
What i am hoping of course is that i’ll have data to support the hypotheses listed above. What i may find is that the first check in may show if i’m not on target to confirm the hypotheses i may need to tune in awareness of a particular feeling better - and i may need some more data to help that. But my guess is that, at the very least, i’ll see i get better at tuning in performance - without a scale - over time.
That is - i’ll be able to use measures for a period to learn how to take care of myself - have confidence in that - without the measures.

A challenge here: i *know* about what the right things to feel and to do are. That’s the whole trainer thing - so i have the professional knowledge - and have also gone through coaching around the skills and practices to get to my happy body place. Previously, I’ve used the scale as a stick to re-inforce this knowledge even when i haven’t practiced the Things i Know Work - or worse, have demanded compliance when too stressed to work at that level. I’m hoping that this path may let me just be in my bod and find out what a real, happy place might be - to start to feel ok in the ebb and flow of seasons of our bodies.

Something potentially scary - these past few days alone of stepping on an un-scale without seeing the data - has been such a huge relief i really believe i must be on the right track: like the hitting oneself on the head - it feels so good when it stops.
Here’s to us all learning about how to tune in feeling great.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tools i Use, Episode 1: Notebooks App is Your Infinite Workout Log


Notebooks APP for logging workouts. Are you looking for an awesome app to help you log your workouts? Maybe thinking you should be able to take use your phone or tablet at the gym - since you have at least a phone with you anyway?
Great idea.
And the humbly named "Notebooks App" makes it dead easy to log your workouts your way, including adding photos (want to track your gun show progress after all) and back up your data to whatever sync service you wish. What could be easier/better. The infinite logbook has arrived.

This is the first post in a series on “tools i use” for different aspects of personal performance. This first post is about the tool i use for logging my workouts. It’s called Notebooks (notebooksapp.com) and you can download it from the iTunes store or get the mac app OR - yes the PC version TOO (isn't that cool?) -from the developer site 

There are several key attractors for me and the way i like to record workouts.

ipad with external keyboard running Notebooks- fantastic for
logging at home or in the gym - really.
Adding photos - like this screen shot from iThlete Precision Pulse HRM
is easy with yes the "add photo" button

  1. Cross iOS.The app is available on iOS and Mac so for me, that’s cross device accessibility
  2. Network Storage. The device supports all sorts of remote storage and syncing like dropbox and iCloud - none of which i use. I use webdav: my own home-rolled data service - and the cool thing is that Notebooks supports this independent syncing solution. Though outside the scope of this post, let me just say if you have an old mac hanging around, it’s pretty straight ahead to set up a “webdav server” and set up your own networked/cloud/whatever storage. The main takeaway here is that Notebooks syncs to your server of choice, meaning that no matter what device you use to log your workout, your complete log is always with you.
    There are a few more attributes for which i dig Notebooks for logging.
  3. Notebooks and sub-notebooks How i set up my workouts is a big enclosing Year notebook called “workouts YEAR” and then sub notebooks per month. They stay ordered by giving them their number, e.g. “02-February WO"
  4. Each Workout is its own Page For every workout i add a new “formatted” page.
  5. TIMESTAMPS  and Calendar Adds At the start of each workout i hit time stamp - to get the date and time in their. WIth the preference settings, these dates become links that when clicked on, put an Event into your calendar - fantastic - easy way to add workouts to “workout” calendar to see at a glance how consistent (or overdoing it) i’ve been.
  6. ADD PHOTOS At the end of each workout if i’m working with something like PP Heart Rate Monitor from iTHlete (another tool i use - and have used for years to get HRV r-r data), i can take a snap shot on the phone of the Chart from that workout, and add that to the Log page: how many times did my lifts go into the red? What is the estimated calorie load? it’s nice to have that visual. I can do likewise for scale data to see how it’s trending and interogate any possible links in fluctuations between that and say hours slept or meals (i like meal snap for MEAL not calorie tracking - another tool i use).

    Photos are also great when traveling as a hotel gym may mean different than regular tools - a photo means i can quickly log what the set up was. Can take the photo with the iPad or iPhone directly into Notebooks App as well. Nice
    taking pics at a hotel gym to remember what the set up was.
    YOu'll note some other tools i use - on the road - travel with bands
    These pics are then added to Notebooks in the Workbook log page.
  7. iPhone iOS view of monthly workout
    books inside Annual workout book
  8. SYNC i’ve mentioned this, but bares repeating: you can easily sync your data to a network service, and next time you’re at a different device, hit sync with that service and voila: your data is there.

Notebooks makes logging workouts and reviewing workouts kinda fun.

It’s fun to see the pages in a book build up. There’s a max of 31 pages in a month book. IT’s fun to
see how many of those slots get filled or reflect on what was happening in a month where there are fewer or more.
The syncing still strikes me as a kind of magic.

Additions i’d like to see in Notebooks

There’s only a few things i’d love to see in notebooks for logging workouts to make the logs even more effective.
  • It’s own calendar view to show entry dates for a given notebook. This calendaring was a terrific feature of a now-unsupported app on iOS ipad called Max Journal.

    I have a few years of logs in that one. Being able to glance a simple calendar image to see where there were entries was a great way to see consistency. I can imagine notebooks being able to set up calendars for various Notebooks - i have Clients notebooks and Workout notebooks for instance - being able to see some kind of date of entrey/calendar scrolling option perhaps like Max Journal would be grand.

    How Max Journal incorporated calendar data for views
  • A single click timestamp option Right now timestamping is a two-step process. One of the things with myJournal is that you could hit “timestamp” and it just plopped one in - which was great for checking how long a set took today vs. last week. Or even how long the last set took vs the first. In notebooks, you have a bunch of types of timestamps you can choose, so it’s hit time stamp, then pick the one you’d like - a way to set a default that single clicks in fast would be awesome.
  • Weather THis may be asking for one too many things but some logging / journaling apps are able to add location and weather. That would be just a nice option to add to an entry like timestamps. A macro or something to pop this in to be able to see oh ya it was cloudy all that week but my times on the bike went up. Wow, it seems 9C is a great place for me to work on X.
  • Smart Notebooks it would be great to be able to create a kind of “smart notebook” that could pull together all my “upper body heavy” workouts - maybe that’s a tag - for the past month/six months, whenever just to see what’s happening or not, to be able to page through such a notebook quickly would be awesome. Fantastic if things like “saturday” became a smart notebook, or whatever - to gather practice trends. Afterall i might believe i’m killing it on saturdays: may turn out to be only once every month is saturday as intense as i think it is...
Logging workouts has a long and valuable tradition. We can get so much more from these logs than just our practice performance.

Notebooks app is the first universal and cross platform app i’ve encountered that has the rich variety of features, in an easy to access fashion, that makes workout logging both highly (re)usable and just a treat to keep.

Conclusion: Notebooks App to infinity - and beyond for Rich, Useful Workout Logging

Highly recommend exploring Notebooks App for your workout log - bet you’ll be using it for more than just your workouts, too. The great thing is: you can!


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