What the hell? Why not?: Keto Day 2

Okay, so it’s more like Day 1 than Day 2, but I already committed with the title of the last post, so we’re all just going to have to live with it.

I went out to see my coworkers perform in their family band last night, and they kicked ass, and I had three beers and a shot of whiskey over the course of my time there. Also, as part of their show, one of them tore open a pi√Īata and threw the candy all over the audience (rock and roll, motherfucker). So, in solidarity with the rest of the folks there, I ate some of the ground candy. It was a necessity. But today I’m totally on track, and I’ve got all my meals planned out (you can see the breakdown in the photos below). The only thing I’m not getting enough of percentage-wise is fat, which is insane because I feel like I’m eating so much fat already. I’ll have to come up with creative solutions for that.

They weren’t kidding when they said you pee a lot on this diet. I mean, I drink a lot of water and a lot of coffee, but still… this is ridiculous. I’ve been adding Himalayan salt, cayenne pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to my water in the hopes that my body is able to absorb as much of it as possible, but clearly a lot of it is still going straight through me. I don’t feel dehydrated, so I must be compensating okay, but we’ll find out after I do my exercise and go to my Jiu-Jitsu class this evening.

HUGE shout out to the MyFitnessPal app that I mentioned in a previous post. They added a feature that allows you to scan the barcode of your foodstuffs, then it pulls up all of the nutritional information for that food. Holy shit – what a game changer. I expected to be spending considerably more of my time today typing in individual values, and now I get to waste that time more enjoyably.

I know I just started, but so far I’m a fan of keto. I don’t feel any crazy urges, and I enjoy and feel sated by what I’m eating. We’ll see how well that enthusiasm holds up. ūü§ě

Pretty pie charts make it all worthwhile.

What the hell? Why not?: Keto Day 1

Many healthy eating experts recommend going through your kitchen, and getting rid of all the enticing, bad-for-you foods. Luckily, having just moved, and being a single male who doesn’t often go to the grocery store, my fridge and my cupboards were already barren. I figured that Whole Foods was the place most likely to have everything that I was looking for on my shopping list, so I headed north to Evanston this afternoon.

Pretty much everything I purchased goes in the fridge, or at least that’s where I staged it for the sake of the photo. Looks nice, right? Thanks. As you can see if you look closely, I forgot grass-fed butter, which is a staple of any keto diet. Also, I don’t have a frying pan, so there will be a second trip in the near future. I’ll probably also invest in the Bulletproof brand collagen protein powder sometime next week, but that shit’s like $50, so it’ll have to wait.

I’m reluctant to call this Day 1 for a few reasons. First, although I will be eating foods that are strictly within the bounds of the classifier “keto,” I’m not tracking any of my macronutrients today to be sure that I’m getting the percentages that I’m supposed to. Second, I totally railed on a lack of creativity in just titling something Day 1 yesterday. But, ya know… Fuck it.

If you’re at all interested, I put my shopping list (and a couple keto breakfasts I jotted down) at the bottom of this post. I didn’t get everything on it because I felt like I had gotten most of what I was looking for, plus what I did get came out to about $170, which I thought was enough. What I also did was spend a fair amount of time standing in people’s way while I read the nutrition labels of different brands looking for fat content, protein content, carbohydrate content, sugar content, and calories to a lesser extent.

I’m a pretty fit guy and I maintain fairly active lifestyle (walking my dog 3-5 times a day [includes going down and back up 8 flights of stairs], an hour of exercise 4-5 days a week, and I’m on my feet for 8-15 hours 4 days a week at work), so I could pretty reasonably consume 2,900 calories a day, but I don’t wanna, so I’m not gonna. I’ll do closer to 2,000 a day if I can manage it while still hitting all my other markers.

Alright, then! Let’s do this nonsense!

I Also Do Healthy Things: Upper Body

Honestly, a lot of my exercising is aimed at increasing upper body muscle mass. With the amount of time I’m on my feet at work and out walking my dog, my willingness to engage in cardio is nonexistent. Also, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body is burning at a standstill, so it’s easier to keep my belly fat at bay.

Granted, I do a decent amount of upper body work at work and when I’m playing with my dog. Throwing around 161.5 pound kegs (thank you Wikipedia) and an 80 pound Doberman on a daily basis can get your whole body moving in ways I never even considered, and my many pulled muscles will attest to that. But, like I said in my last Healthy Things entry, there’s no way I could keep that up without dedicating a fair amount of my free time to increasing my strength (maybe three or four times a week).

Here’s what I do three times over about 30 minutes:
8 to 12 rotating bicep curls (fists start flush with body and wrap up as I curl) holding the shoulder strap of my weight vest (hand not in use at the small of my back to ensure that I’m isolating my biceps and not using my back muscles to hoist the shit up to my chest)
15 to 20 overhead tricep extensions holding the vest with both hands (hold over head while standing, clench abs to maintain posture, keep elbows tucked in close to your ears)
30 to 40 push-ups with the Perfect Push-up rotatey things

Here’s the why:
I start with 8 repetitions at whatever my new weight is (right now it’s at 35lbs), then once that gets easy enough where it doesn’t burn, I’ll up it to 10, then again to 12 before I move myself up 5lbs. This allows my body to adjust to the weight, and ensures continuous improvement without sacrificing form, which is important to maintain so that I don’t screw my body up too badly. The weight I’ve chosen is representative of the weight I feel comfortable with while still pushing myself – I want to barely be able to eek out those last few reps, but I also want them done right.

I feel like this is common knowledge at this point, but just for the sake of saying it:
Lower Reps + Heavier Weight = bulkier muscles (better at lifting heavy shit)
Higher Reps + Lighter Weight = leaner muscles (better at increasing endurance)
Both are important, and both build muscle, but I tend to prefer the lower reps version because I’m going for bulk. So why do I have my tricep reps so high? Because I’m lazy and don’t want to add weights to my vest in between sets, so I just increase the reps. Improvise and adapt or whatever.

I’m using a weight vest for a few reasons. 1) It’s what I have and weights are fucking expensive. 2) It’s adjustable. I can keep adding 2.5lb weights to it up to a total of 60lbs. 3) It’s flexible. That’s important because its shapelessness forces me to engage more of my stabilizer muscles. Also, if it’s flopping all over the place because my form sucks, I have pretty immediate feedback. Similarly, I use the rotating Perfect Push-ups things because it engages a more comprehensive set of my muscles.

This is the most recent iteration of an ever-evolving set of upper body activities I do. What’s important is that I can do it, I can do it quickly, and I feel like I’m pushing myself every time. Kinesiology is finding out new and exciting ways to get jacked all the time, and it’s fun to change it up, but if you’re bogged down by life like I am, it’s nice to have something you can do quickly that engages as many muscles as possible.

This is also worth saying again: the only reason I can do this and work and play with my dog with any consistency is because I stretch. In all exercises, you’re tensing your muscles to perform whatever motion, and if you don’t stretch, they’ll just stay tensed, which can lead to injury and/or looking like an idiot. As jacked as you might be, I’ll be the first to point and laugh at anybody who can’t scratch the small of their back because they don’t stretch enough.

So. Don’t be an idiot. Push yourself. Have fun with it. Stretch. Cheers.

I Also Do Healthy Things: Stretching and Abs

Given how many of my posts are centered around times where I did unhealthy shit, I figured it was time to come clean, and let you all know that I often do healthy things to balance out all those choices. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that my lifestyle is largely healthy, but that’s just not as entertaining to read or write about. I’m gonna give it a shot, anyway. Maybe some of this will be useful to you other heathens who need a way to counteract all the bad you’re doing to your bodies.

Stretch

This is an important one. I’ve recently taken to stretching for about 15-20 minutes every day, and it’s paid off in terms of my ability to do my job well and continue with my exercise routines. Grab your yoga mat and throw Moving Art on Netflix, and you’re ready to reset your body.

Start with warm ups: exercises that get your body moving, warming up your muscles so that when you do start stretching, you don’t hurt yourself. I start at the top and work my way down: neck rotations, circular shoulder shrugs, arm rotations, toe touches, and leg raises (tuck into chest then kicking your own ass).

Then I run through about 20 different stretches I’ve learned over the past ten years from military training, way-too-thorough online research, and yoga practices. Again, I start at the neck, work down to the arms, then I skip straight to legs, and circle back to my back. When you’re spending hours lifting kegs and crates, stretching your lower back can make a huge difference, and has allowed me to pick up extra shifts when my coworkers peter out. At some point I’ll create a video running through this whole routine (and the other ones), so you can see the whole lineup. Until then, wing it to your heart’s content.

Exercise

I had a bartender say to me once, “You could basically use this job as your workout!” I think that was incredibly misguided. If I didn’t exercise in my off time, I wouldn’t be ready for game time (during service hours at the bar). I wouldn’t be strong enough to lift that last bag of glass-laden garbage into the dumpster at the end of the night. I’d pull muscles straining against kegs. I wouldn’t be able to confidently escort that drunk idiot out of the bar because I’d be too focused on my aching lower back. So, even when I’m sore from the night before, I push myself to get at least a little bit of exercise in aside from the dog walking and wrestling I do on the daily.

What I’ve found most helpful in terms of sticking to a workout schedule is short bursts of heavy activity. Basically, I need to cram a lot in to a short time window, as my schedule is hectic and I’m often tired. So I’ve come up with ab routines and upper body routines that I can do in 15-30 minutes if I’m pushing myself, and I do those 3-4 times a week most weeks.

Abs: I have a routine that I found a couple years ago that I find to be really effective (based largely on what I know about how the body works and how much pain my midsection is in during and after the routine). I’ve modified it to be a little more taxing than the original version, but I’d recommend adjusting the numbers to fit your level of fitness (don’t adjust them too low – push yourself into discomfort for the best results).

30 Crunches > 30 Straight Leg Lifts > 30 Cross-Body Sit-Ups (both sides) > 30 Bicycle Crunches > 1 Minute Side Plank (both sides) > 1 Minute Plank > 30 Super Man Crunches (lay on your stomach and contract your lower back to lift your trunk and legs off the ground).

I allow myself about 30 seconds of rest between each of those exercises. In the beginning (and for the rest of time), focus on your form. Do less repetitions, but do them perfectly, then work your way up in numbers. And of course, remember to breathe – inhale as you release, exhale as you flex. Your lungs take up space in your abdominal cavity, the less air you have in them when you contract your abs, the harder you can contract them.

There you have it. Entry one in the “I Do Healthy Things” category. More to come. Also, I’m considering doing a 30 day keto thing because why the fuck not? Plus 30 day challenges seem to be the most effective way to get me to actually do anything/write about it. Remember that meditation thing? That went well. I should maybe start doing that again, also…

Alone in Chicago

On Thursday evening I made my way to an event called The Anatomy of Connection at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The focus of the discussion was on the lack of connection and the epidemic that is loneliness as we become ever more connected via the devices in our hands (or pockets or purses or on the table… whatever – stop nitpicking).

Loneliness has been linked to higher rates of mortality than air pollution, drinking, and obesity. In one of the longest longitudinal studies of health and wellness, loneliness at age 50 had a higher predictive power of death than high cholesterol. It can suppress our immune systems, lead to depression and anxiety, and in severe cases, suicide. It’s such a problem that the United Kingdom appointed a Minister of Loneliness.

Here in Chicago, a researcher had morning commuters do one of three things: engage the people around them in conversation, specifically avoid conversation with the people around them, and just go about their business as they would normally. At the beginning of the study, everybody who was tasked with talking to people thought, “Ugh, I’m gonna hate this!” By the end, those folks reported the highest amounts of happiness as compared to their counterparts.

The problem is that we all assume nobody wants to talk to us, so we don’t engage. We isolate ourselves in order to self preserve, then our empathy decreases as our defensiveness increases, and we start interpreting ambiguous social cues as negative. Moreover, it can be contagious as we all collectively avoid each other out of fear that we’ll get a weird look for saying hello or asking how someone’s doing today.

I know I’m guilty of this. I am a commuter in Chicago, and I certainly wouldn’t say I go out of my way to strike up conversations with people. I wouldn’t even say I go in¬†my¬†way to¬†converse, given that folks are often pressed right up against me on crowded buses or trains. So, then what? Are we all just doomed to a life of self-perpetuating loneliness? Not if we put in the fucking effort!

M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and author of A Road Less Traveled, said that “mental health is dedication to reality at all costs.” The therapist giving the presentation noted that we have to practice what he called, “radical acceptance.” We don’t have to approve of our state of loneliness, but we have to accept¬†that¬†things just aren’t right in order to go about fixing any of them.

I lost my phone a couple weeks ago, and I just haven’t replaced it. There are financial reasons involved, sure, but honestly I just don’t want a phone. I find my quality of life to be higher right now. Sure, there are parts of my day where I wish I could call an Uber or text a friend right when a thought comes up, but do you know what I do? I write that shit down, I take that note home via public transit, and I reach out when I get there.

As a result of my phonelessness, I’m more connected to the situations I’m in. I’m not constantly wondering how many Instagram followers I’ve gained in the last ten minutes since my post, I’m not wondering about any event updates for that thing coming up this weekend, I’m not fretting over an unexpected phone call (most of which I just let go to voicemail even when I do have the phone). It’s relaxing. As evidence of how fucked up I was as a result of having my phone in my pocket all the time, I occasionally think I feel my notepad buzzing in my pocket. Guess what? It is not.

On Thursday night, I walked away by myself, but in my heart, I knew that I wasn’t alone in my loneliness. I think more of us are lonely than we’re willing to acknowledge (or accept to stick with the vernacular). So do me a favor, if you see me on a train or on a bus or in an airport, say hi (and buy me a drink if we’re at the airport, as I’m likely at the bar). Talk to me about your day, and I’ll talk to you about mine. Wake me up from the dream state proliferated by the screen in front of my face or by the endless stream of what-if’s I’ve got running in my head. We can do this. Together.

We’re all gonna die someday, but if we chat about it with a little more frequency, we lower our chances that that day is tomorrow. Sl√°inte!