Measure Up Pt. 2

I wrote recently on my wish to reduce, what I feel, are excessive amounts of measuring and testing in my quest to stop aging and become Uncle Drew. Last time we spoke of feeding windows and measuring tapes as a simplification for things like counting calories and weighing yourself. Today I’d like to speak about the dreaded macronutrient and how you can keep track in a simple way without the smart phone food calculators and the digital scale.

In Pt. 1 I spoke of the possibility of eating absolutely ad libtum (anything and whenever you want) by just reducing the feeding window until you get the weight control benefits you require.  Some people can do it this way but there are plenty of Franken-foods out there that if you indulged in them on a regular basis your eating window would have to be relatively small and you would require very strict fasting outside of that window. One of the ways to regulate this is to care (just a little bit) about whether your chosen morsel is 1) mostly fat, 2) mostly protein, 3) mostly carbohydrate (sugar simple or complex), or 4) natural or industrial.

There is a boat-load of information about this, I’ve provided many links on this discussion on my Facebook Page but boiled down to its essence it goes something like this: Fat causes the least insulin response, protein the next highest and carbohydrates the most.  Insulin is a hormone that functions like a key to let energy into the cell and to store fat when energy is abundant.  When you are fasting your insulin is low and if you’ve fasted long enough (i.e. the body has used all its carbohydrate stores) you body will start to get energy from its reserves of fat. This process can be bumpy if you’re not accustomed to it, but, if you’re committed, take time to listen to your body and learn a few tricks most healthy people can get past it.

For me, this fasted or ketogenic state is the basic state. In the womb we ate a refined nectar-like kind of food based on our mother’s diet and as breastfed children we ate a high fat ketogenic diet. If you are fasting or trying to make it until your window opens and clear, calorie free liquids aren’t cutting it anymore try a fatty drink like Bullet Proof coffee (or cacao or tee).  Insulin will be released but not enough to send you over the edge to begin a meal. A handful of nuts is a possibility but I find this much more dangerous (you can never eat just one).  I tend to save nuts for the beginning of the feeding window when I don’t want to sit down to eat but I’m happy to have something.

I like to save protein and carbohydrates for proper meals and if I can, I save carbs for as late in the day as possible.  Protein helps to satisfy hunger and can be broken down to sugars for energy and carbohydrates can help you to sleep, especially if your fasting is very strict so if I’m not having a big meal I’ll add protein sources to the fat I’m eating and only eat carbs later. If you are trying to stop aging via a paleo approach then your carbs are limited to non-starchy vegetables, green or otherwise (honey though is a natural concentrated carb you can use before bed as sleep aid). If you are trying to maintain athletic performance you will have to play around with things like sweet potatoes, rice and resistant starches. Consensus is that more carbs are needed for speed athletes.  Pure endurance athletes can probably get away with a more ketogenic diet especially if they have the luxury of time and can use the Maffetone Method to train their fat metabolism.

Carnivore, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian; the choice is yours and it might be useful to choose different paths depending on your stage of life and fitness goals.  Even industrial foods are not an across the board evil (read the label though, some things ingredients though legal cannot be really seen as food) unless you really are intending to stop aging. If you are seeking to simulate a truly ancestral diet to stop aging you have to try to have not only a pre-industrial diet but a pre-agricultural one as well.  This is insanely strict and I’m not sure it’s really possible to eat what we ate before the introduction of grain and dairy but because more and more people are interested in grass-fed meats and organic/wild vegetables I think if you’re committed enough you can come close.

To close I think it is probably most important from a conceptual point of view to see the fasted state as the natural state.  Turn the light back on yourself.  Cultivate your own resources.  Rather than following a food culture that has you eating 8 or 9 times a day let your body tell you when it’s time to eat (at the beginning you’ll need to give it guidance). Food is not entertainment in its essence even though Madison Avenue has made it that. Slow down, breath deep, keep fasted as long as you can, dance, sing and have as massage every once in a while.

 

 

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HangUp

Inverting the body has been a part of most of our childhoods and though perhaps strenuous is very natural. Unfortunately like other very natural movements, it seems to gradually disappear from our repertoire as we age. Inverted postures are a standby of many yoga traditions and there has been a recent movement to add slings to this practice so that inversions can be more accessible to the less advanced students. Inversion therapy using “gravity boots” tables and chairs has also been around a long time and got its 15 minutes of fame back in the 1980’s when Richard Gere used one to the silver screen.

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Torio helps me open up my flank as I hang in mid-air (the yellow cord belongs to the pulley that hoisted me).

HangUp is bodywork that employs hanging freely inverted by the ankles. A delicate winch suspended from a hand crafted “Pyramid” helps the therapist do the job. I wanted to try it because I am use a small amount of inversion in the Sofa or couch shiatsu idea to encourage good venous return and I wondered what the more intense inversion experience would be like. For me it was a bit like tipping the scales or letting the sand cascade to the other side of the hour glass. It was so intense for me that I had very few thoughts beyond simply hanging there.

But this is where a guide is important. Marvin Torio Bauer provided a meditative atmosphere both within and without for the exploration and after an initial grounding in a supine position is an able pilot for the bottoms up position. He gave very precise, informative and reassuring instructions regarding the flight ahead and added a bit of humor. Though my personal focus was just on trying to relax and overcome my doubt that the “pyramid” would support my ample corpulence, Torio was able to take me through the process and add the element of therapeutic touch, an element missing from gravity boots, inversion tables and yoga classes.

Generally, it seems, people tend to gravitate (pun intended) to inversion therapy to combat low back pain. I personally did not feel any special relief by the spinal decompression but I was very intrigued by the effects of the hanging on my abdominals, my psoas and the muscles around my ribcage. The gentle twists that Torio gave my body while inverted were particularly good for me as they seemed to address the liver and gall bladder meridians in a special way. I would also have to note that since then I have become more greatly aware of the sloshing around of the fluid in the fascial sacks within my body in a way that I never was before. All-in-all HangUp with Torio Bauer was a memorable experience and one that I can definitely recommend.

Contact “Herz Uber Kopf,” Torio Bauer and Dora Moser at: hangab@gmx.ch or an SMS an +41 (0)76 238 02 29 to give it a try.

Measure Up!

Having abandoned all but the mirror for monitoring my weight, uncertainty has made me weary. The mirror is consistent but the mind is not. In the cell phone app era, keeping track can be fun but distracting so I decided several months ago to abandon Fitbit and Co for the 19th century. But I’ve put a few pounds back on. Having lost weight and seeking to maintain that loss I have to think/go deeper.  The habit energies that lead to gaining weight have only been interrupted. Moving more, counting calories, fasting are just interventions. Keeping track is still necessary but I really want it to be unobtrusive yet precise. I still need to measure up.

The tape measure is a good next step.  I have a scale but I’ll better ignore it and you should too. The only real measurement required is the waist to height ratio. The waistline should be half of your height. For me at 1 m 84 cm the magic number is 92cm. If we can keep this measure well, most of the metabolic work is done. Stronger, faster and more flexible are built on this base. If you’re not headed to Uncle Drewdom you can at least feel happy about all disease risk factors you’ve minimized with this single number.  If you want more data with attendant ease, measure hips, thighs and chest in that order of importance.

Use of the clock can also help. No longer a luxury, clocks are everywhere to be found and, unlike when I was a child, they’re accurate too. Use a feeding window. If you require tighter control decrease the size of the window. What’s a feeding window? It’s a predetermined period of time within which you’re allowed to eat. Shortening the window will make you suffer but you determine the dose. I’ve heard of studies that have determined that the ideal period of not eating is about 13 hours. But that is with is zero caloric intake, a long row to hoe. Try water and teas until midday and stop eating by 8 pm to start, an eight hour window, and go from there. This means not eating for 16 hours with the hopes that 13 of those are truly calorie free.  I’m currently struggling with the 8 hour window, winter seems to do that, my magic number is at 95, but things are not yet out of hand.

Using a feeding window is easy and interesting because you can just play with the window size while eating completely as you wish.  I don’t recommend that necessarily (eating absolutely any and everything but for some it’s possible) but you will eventually find a window size that allows you to maintain your weight. If you are past 35 and have had your last children then an ancestral diet is the best choice for what to eat during your window if you want to stop aging but more about that in another post.

The clock and the tape measure are good additions to the mirror for monitoring your weight.  The mirror and the clock can be used daily; the tape measure weekly. The feeling you should cultivate is the regularity of dental hygiene. What I meant earlier by saying that we need to go deeper means, in this case, to work directly with the basal habit energy.  You want to grow the base of a high level of physical performance hygienically. Like throwing a pitch or learning a scale on the flute you want to ingrain good habits down into your marrow. If you never reach the pinnacle of performance you at least build the base of longevity by establishing good habits at the level of your basal ganglia.

Try ingraining simple floor exercises, sofa shiatsu and the feeding window in this way (so that they feel like brushing your teeth or a morning shower) to see if you develop a level of awareness that makes it easy to guide your use of interventions like periodic fasts, saunas, strength training, plyometrics and so on. We’ve lost the bulk of the weight now so let’s build a base for performance!

Making Minor Major (less is more)

When we look back at the short talk by John Douillard featured in the last post we find that there is an alternative to the way we’ve learned to train the body as youngsters. When I begin to train with my mouth closed and began to resist efforts that necessitate mouth breathing I’ve found that much simpler exercises suffice.  Basic crunches, plank holds, quadrapedal motion and even jumping jacks taken in several small doses over the day can be seen in a profounder light.  Maybe in order to support longevity workouts like the following are not only not necessary but perhaps counterproductive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z_RwyUF6hM

I’m not saying that the kind of workout Tony Sentmanat is engaging in is bad or poorly designed for his purposes but what I am saying is that it is perhaps not optimal for function in old age.  If Tony is able to maintain such high levels of fitness into his middle fifties by continuing such workouts without interruption he would certainly prove himself to be the exception that proves the rule. To do so without significant injury would be nothing short of miraculous. For most of us the period of our life where we can sustain this kind of exercise intensity doesn’t last much past our middle to late 30’s and perhaps only then if we have already reached an elite level of fitness.

I am not an elite athlete nor do I see any elite athletes in my practice so I tend to limit my focus to what “every man or Frau” can conceivably accomplish with consistent application. Yes it’s important to train some of the population to elite levels of strength, speed and agility but I think the true measure of the health of a population is the physical and mental health of its aging population.  Is it enough to push up the statistical average lifespan of a population by maintaining a significant portion of the aged on a kind of pharmaceutical “life-support” for two decades or more?  Is there an alternative to the absolute negligence that the pharmaceutical age has engendered?

Our main goal is to maintain and optimize physical strength, flexibility, and balance for as long as possible until we reach the end of aging for our particular genetic phenotype. Our second goal is to find a way that we can really ENJOY doing this in a CONISTENT way over probably many decades. This takes a certain mentality and a willingness to be the tortoise rather than the hare. As older people we enjoy a slight advantage. We have seen our body decay, we have a tangible experience of the pain this brings but we have also had the opportunity to develop patience and farsightedness.  We should take advantage of this.  Many of the things we thought important as young persons have become relatively less or even unimportant and this is actually a help to us in staying focused on the long run.  For example, competition; while it may remain important for us to be good enough to be competitive, we may not have a win-at-any-cost attitude we had at 17.

In my personal journey to “Drewdom” I’ve begun, day by day, to reverse engineer the best kind of basketball player I can be.  This is essentially a creative process.  I then try to break these qualities down in to the simplest kinds of drills and exercises possible so that I can engage in them in a wonderfully consistent way.  We’ll look at a couple of them next time.

Taiji Ball

My experience over the years with sitting meditation, taijiquan, qigong and shiatsu has got me thinking if it would be possible to take up basketball again. However, rather than training the way I trained as a youngster could I adapt the techniques of taiji and qigong to the art of “getting buckets?”  Is there a taji of basketball? Could the secret of becoming Uncle Drew lie in such an approach?  Would this keep old fogies like me free of injury and able to enjoy the game indefinitely?

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“Gentle” exercises like hatha yoga are frequently touted as perfect exercise for the aged, whereas basketball seems to have more of a reputation as a joint killer and being at best only for the young.  That’s fine and good if you’re actually interested in yoga or taiji but what if the legends that shaped you where named Julius Erving rather than Yang Luchan?  I’ve trained taiji and qigong on and off for 13 years, sometimes very intensely, but it has never taken root in my soul in the way that it has for some of my colleagues in the complementary therapy game.  I’m not one hundred percent certain why that is but I think it has to do with the lack of masters representing unbroken lineages here in Europe and the expense of learning from them of you happen to meet one.

The mainstreaming of yoga and qigong in the West is one answer to this dilemma but why not use our own arts and our own traditions where passable? Eliminating myth, fantasy and claims of god realms or supernatural powers from those traditions may make them more palatable for Westerners but I think that something is also being stripped away that is regrettable.  I’d definitely rather be able to crossover to a scissor step and go behind my back going left for an easy layout at the age of 60 than still be fumbling to issue cold Jin with no authentic master to teach it to me in sight.

Here’s a very interesting video about approaching exercise for aging and the technique he speaks of is a very good starting point for re-building the basketball body.

Awakening the Drew in You

I’m in a rather unique position.  As an African American in central Europe I was raised with a saxophone and basketball aesthetic but now live in an accordion and soccer world.  Mostly this wouldn’t matter but with a son reaching the age of sporting life passion, I’m missing out ‘cause I don’t know a thing about Füssball. Sport was a big part of my youth and remains a big part of my culture.  Although I had abandoned basketball by the age of 19 it has deeply influenced me. I’d like to be able to share some of this with my 9 year old.

I stopped paying attention to both amateur and professional basketball in the mid 1980’s so I missed most of Magic’s career and practically all of Michael Jordan’s not to mention the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Even Lebron James had reached the back end of his career before I re-awakened my interest in the sport. So this makes looking at this new, small ball-pull-up-and- shoot-a-three, game so interesting.

Basketball is not a big deal over here. Hardly anyone plays on the few outside courts that exist. And to play inside you have to join a club because there are no school teams. But for someone like me who’s been away so long that represents a wonderful opportunity to rediscover basketball from the ground up. Rather than playing all winter you have to train for the summer black top game. Working on your handles outside all winter though possible is not a going to be a task for the faint at heart.

Starting at zero for a 55 year old is a beautiful, worthy challenge.  Personally I’m more inclined to focus on developing the strength and skill to play again rather than the actual competition itself.  Such a project aligns quite well with what many of my clients have to do in relation to their own mental and physical fitness.  They have to set goals and develop a reasonable plan for attaining them and above all they have to avoid injury if they want to progress gracefully into their old age.

How do you approach the game of basketball as an aid to longevity?  How do you awaken the Drew with? I personally will start with strengthening my core and legs in particular. Winter days inside are particularly suited to crunches and squats, since a gym is not available. Why not join me as I lay a base for the more basketball specific stuff later on.  And I’ll enjoy following my first NBA season in 30 years.

Becoming Uncle Drew

Some of you are probably familiar with Kyrie Irving’s alter ego uncle Drew, a 60ish basketballer on a mad search to “get buckets” or perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo’s antics in disguise looking to further the cognitive dissonance created by either an old man or bearded muscleman who can dribble a soccer ball with the best.  There are even videos on YouTube of parkour athletes trying to run a game on spectators with facemasks to make them look old.

These are pro athletes in their prime poking fun at the aging process.  We all hope that we might be that ONE to cheat aging and be able to die with the physical prowess of a 25 five year old.  Doubtless there ARE Uncle Drew’s out there but what does uncle Drew really look like?  Hopefully he will look like us.  How can we train to maintain that exquisite poetry in motion into our waning years and keep on “getting buckets?”

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There is no way of knowing for sure but there are interesting theories.  In most of the molecular biological theories the metabolic pathways that maximize strength, speed and explosive athletic ability seem antithetical to longevity. But Prof. Michael R, Rose, an evolutionary biologist, has a different take altogether which I spoke about in my last post.

Perhaps we can look here how we can maybe advance in the quest of becoming uncle Drew in light of evolutionary biology’s idea that “aging stops.”