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.




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!

Spring, Summer, Fall…


It’s very nice to return here with the feeling that I can write again about things related to Movement, Music, Meditation and Massage. Since my last entry I’ve concentrated on really just one thing. Losing weight! Spring and summer morphed into this fat n=1 process of comparing the methods of Calories In, Calories Out (CICO) and Jason Fung’s idea of obesity as a hormonal phenomena rather than one of energy balance.

I wanted to experience this on my own body and it represented the end of a very long process that began in 2006.  Essentially the CICO concept was the only one I had ever known and I had tried and failed to lose weight trying to increase energy expenditure while decreasing energy input several times over the last decade.  Success if any was always fleeting and marginal.

Over time I upped the ante trying to count calories more precisely.  I began to weigh everything I ate. When that proved ineffective I began to use an application called CRON-O-METER with the hopes of greater precision. The CRON-O-METER made it also possible to monitor my macronutrients and as I had heard that this is wildly important I also began to obsess about my ‘macros.’  Eventually I heard that High fat Low Carb (HFLC) could be the key to the treasure chest I was seeking to open and I played with this.  I played throughout the entire range of possibilities that I could.

In time my lack of success convinced me that I wasn’t being precise enough on the output end of things and so I added a Fitbit to my technical arsenal. Eventually I also added monitoring of my blood glucose and blood ketones in order to add another layer of checks to understanding my ‘macros.’ My weight remained stable of even increased no matter what I tried it seemed.

By late spring my day to day experience of the process of trying to lose fat and maintain muscle was a very trying routine of weighing every morsel of food, wearing a device that monitored every step I took and the quality of my sleep as well as trying to hit on the right balance of calorie restriction with optimum nutrition.  The CICO approach in the end didn’t work very effectively.

I did however eventually loose about 13kg (27lbs) but the counting calories and tracking macros wasn’t what finally got the needle to move, it was fasting, it was just not eating.  I’ll speak later about these things in scattered bits and bites here and there.  I’ve shared many posts however on FB related to these topics throughout the summer (which you can scroll along my timeline to find) that make writing about it exhaustively here superfluous.

Throughout this process, though fasting, I continued to follow CICO (at least keeping track on all of my devices). I’ve lost a nice bit of weight but how can I sustain it now without obsessive number crunching and quantification for the rest of my life?  It’s this next stage that I feel is worth talking about here.  I’ve abandoned the scale, I’ve abandoned the Fitbit and I rarely measure my blood sugar or ketones.  Can I continue to improve my body composition, physical function and my blood work purely through the experience I have from this experiment without the “quantified self.”  Is there a more natural path? And what about you? We’ll see.

By the way follow me now on Twitter for the blow by blow exploration of my personal approach to coming into harmony with evolutionary biology.  Maybe it’s simpler than you think.