Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Simple Math

It's time for some simple math....

If you want to lose weight, take in less calories than you use.

Thus, if

A is the number of calories you eat daily
B is the number of calories you burn daily

Then as long as AA you will gain weight.

The math is simple. Like most simple things, it is all about implementation. That takes willpower. It is often the case that sudden, drastic change results in a lack of sustainability.

At the extremes are starvation diets that dramatically reduce A but do nothing about B or PX90 extreme home workouts that do lots of B, but do not really address A. Michael Phelps, winner of 16 Olympic Gold medals, packs in 12,000 calories per day during hard training, but he has very low body fat due to his enormous B. As he says "eat. sleep. swim." A typical adult has a 2,000 calorie per day guideline, but many people go over this, especially in the US. Coupled with a decreasing B, this results in obesity.

you can look like this while eating 12,000 calories per day...if you swim 12 hours a day as well.

Most of us already know that the most effective, long term way to lose and keep off unwanted weight is BALANCE between A and B. Gradually reduce A and increase B and weight will naturally come off and stay off.

This is mostly true when we ourselves have control over the change (or rate of change). We feel shock and rebound. When the change is out of our control, such as loss of job/death of loved one, natural disaster, and the like, we will suffer the stress and break, or suffer the stress and adjust. Different people react differently to stress. The best way is always to control the change through small, gradual lifestyle adjustments.

This requires patience, which is a rare commodity in a modern world of instant gratification.

For body weight, it can take several weeks of implementation before the change begins to be visible. That can be the delay that causes people to stop. This happens before they see the change, reinforcing their lack of self-esteem and belief that they are doomed to fail, no matter which fad diet they try.

In a nutshell?
  1. know a bit about what kinds of calories you eat
  2. know a bit about basic nutrition
  3. Be aware of stress in your daily life and how you respond to it
  4. Make long-term goals, but short-term plans
  5. start small. small changes can yield big long-term results
  6. reward yourself for positive changes, rather than punish yourself for small transgressions
  7. give it time - it can take several weeks before the results start to show
  8. plan your work and work your plan - stay the course, be patient
  9. balance decreases in A with gradual increases in B - make sure to plan BOTH
  10. avoid extremes. too much too soon can have drastic negative effects on your health
AVOID FAST FOOD!! lots of calories (mostly from saturated fat, salt, and sugar).
"Fast food speeds you to the grave". This is probably the biggest single change anyone can make to lose weight.

Now off of work, I am eating better, exercising more, and much happier than before.

I will update my progress in my own plan to lose weight, get fitter, and increase my happiness.

See you on the mats.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

pins and needles, needles and pins

Second session of acupuncture today...

I LOVE acupuncture. As creepy as it sounds, acupuncture does some things that massage alone cannot do. You need the needles. I am spending the next 4 months or so going once a week to get help releasing the years of pent up stress and tension in my neck, shoulders and back. We all carry stress in different places, which results in muscle tension, fatigue, pain, and general ill health. Since I am out of work for a bit, I want to use this time constructively to recover my health. Acupuncture is an essential element of this plan.

Many people have never tried it since they are afraid of the needles, don't believe it works, and so on. As a believer, I can say there is not much better at fixing general wear and tear on the body, dealing with muscle, joint, lymph, tendon troubles, and keeping energy levels high. It may or may not work for serious injuries, cancer, and the like - but in my view will be better on your body than many of the western remedies. As for the needles causing pain? Well, for me they never really "hurt". There is some discomfort when they are inserted, and sometimes when they are removed, and some strangeness when the points are stimulated, but this is far less than the benefit they provide. Especially, the following morning after your body has had a chance to adjust to the treatment - you wake up feeling great!

I am a big believer in preventative medicine. Many people only go for acupuncture when they are sick or injured. It is far better to go regularly, at least once a month, to maintain health and energy, and to develop a long-term relationship with your healer/naturopath so that he/she can get used to your body and understand your baseline optimal health. This makes it easier to spot things which are off-balance and correct them. No two people's bodies are the same, and understanding the baseline is a key part of what the healer does. Of course, this also means you should find a practitioner you like and stick with him/her.

Acupuncture is also about trust, and this is why you need to be able to have an open relationship with your healer, discuss your health, and give feedback on your treatment.

Your life as a "Human pin cushion" will be a cornerstone for good health.

Get stuck in!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

Now don't get me wrong - I LOVE TECHNOLOGY.
I am forever amazed at our human creativity and for right or wrong, our ability to innovate and drive technology further. I suspect it is our inherent human laziness that makes us want to do less and less.

When it comes to working out, however, I advocate never missing an opportunity to torch off a few calories.


I am not talking about going up 60 flights to the office, if indeed that is what you do.
However, a few flights here or there, within reason, do add up. At my gym, I find myself going up and down from the 8th floor to the 5th or 6th and back again several times a session. They designed it that way. I call it the "Stairway to Heaven". I don't run up and down them (bad for the knees), but just walking up and down is it's own little extra helper.

Try to use the stairs whenever you can - it will help you get fitter faster.

See you in Heaven!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What Martial Arts Teaches Us About Conflict

Conflict is inevitable. It is a part of all of our lives, and aspiring to live without it is unreasonable, since many times conflict is brought about by the actions of others, not ourselves.

Martial arts has as a principal benefit, the study of conflict and how to deal with it. Many people think martial arts are violent, and promote violent resolution of all conflicts, domestic or otherwise. This is simply not true.

Through our study of martial arts, we aim to better understand ourselves and our emotions, and to learn how to remain calm under stress. This helps minimize the chances that a conflict presented to us will escalate. Many conflicts arise from insecurity and weak character - that is, we fight because we feel a desperate need to prove ourselves worthy. In martial arts training we do not see fighting as a means of resolving conflict. Rather, it becomes a way of developing the confidence not to fight at all.

This has broad implications for society, and reinforces my belief that the world would be a much better place if everyone in it studied martial arts (under good teachers, of course).

1) Mutual Respect
We bow. we bow to each other, to our teachers, to our partners, to our opponents, to the kamiza. There is a lot of bowing. Respect for one another is a very important step to avoiding conflict. It is more than saying; it must be doing. I think a lot of the discord globally comes from both sides not feeling respected by the other.

2) Aikido no Ai  合
This character means "coming together", "joining", "unifying". Proper aikido is not done "to" someone, it is done "with" someone. Shared activities foster universal understanding. Corporate trainers know this, but martial arts masters have known this for far longer.

3) Winning versus Losing --- or --- different degrees of loss
It is a shallow mind that thinks of combat as winning versus losing. Ask anyone who has ever been in war about this. Even those whose army was victorious would they say they "won". War is just different degrees of loss. Friends die on both sides and the tragedy is hardly less for either side. In conflict everyone loses. Every real warrior knows this. Good martial arts training teaches us about mortality, and the frailty of this human life we have. It is very important to consider deeply that losing less than the other side hardly equates to "victory". It is still a net loss. Doshu wrote "...the main feature of aikido is that there is no victory and no defeat".
Boxing is an interesting example. Every boxer gets hit in every fight. No one comes away without injury. The fact that we declare a winner and a loser is artificial, and because boxing is combative we consider it a martial art, when it is, in fact, a sport. Sports can have winners and losers because they abide by artificial rules. It is important not to mistake this for combat.

4) Dedication and Commitment
When we see other martial artists train, we can see their commitment to what they do, even if we do differently. There is never a need to show ourselves to be more or less dedicated than they are. In conflict, this "one upsmanship" and desperate need to outdo the other is a key reason why we see so much extremism/radicalism on both sides. Being a moderate is simply not consider "cool". In martial arts, our principal commitment should always be to the training and nothing more. All true paths lead to the same enlightened place, which makes all martial artists brothers and sisters. It would be good if nations followed this example.

5) Peace Leads to Peacefulness
A lifetime of martial arts training should yield tranquility that comes with wisdom and understanding. This way is a spiritual way, practiced with our bodies and using our minds.
"only one who truly understands war can comprehend peace".

It is my great hope that we can all live respectfully in harmony with each other.
This can only come from looking within and finding our real strength as people, our compassion, and the discipline to maintain peace together for the good of us all. It is time to put away petty beliefs and the never-ending desire for revenge. It is time for everyone to be brave enough to embrace peace.

Let's train.