Monday, April 6, 2015

Official First Day on Shred It!

I am starting my new challenge today. Goal: to lose ten pounds in ten weeks. Means: whole foods plant-based diet, no added fats, reduced sugars, exercise six days a week, varying. I have been doing cardio on an empty stomach to accelerate fat-burning. In the last couple of weeks I have been working up to this day and I'm ready. I have already lost 4.5 pounds, but those don't count for this new challenge. They just prove to me that I'm on the right track.

Still curious about what happens to those carbs we eat after doing cardio on an empty stomach. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another Beginning: Shred It!

I knew when I started this blog that I needed a real plan. I didn't have a good one. I am now thinking I will be able to sneak up on one.

That's because I purchased Robert Cheeke's new book, Shred It!, and have been reading it. Cheeke is a bodybuilder, a vegan bodybuilder. He has taken many titles over the years. But that isn't enough of a reason to follow his advice. The reason is that he has just recently - in 2012 - become aware of a different nutritional approach. He now follows the work of Colin Campbell, John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn and others, has completed courses in plant-based nutrition, and has therefore stopped consuming huge amounts of protein. No need for protein shakes or concentrated protein in general. I have long felt that bodybuilder's emphasis on high protein consumption was wrongheaded, and now he confirms it in spades.

In addition to changing his recommendations for nutrition, Cheeke offers different approaches to workouts as well, based on what he has learned about the science of nutrition.

Among other things, he mentions a good way to shed fat. It is a way many bodybuilders use, but I didn't understand its basis before. I did know that carbohydrates are the body's quick fuel, but I didn't put this together before. If you do cardio work on an empty stomach your body will not have the carbs it wants for fuel. It will then turn to fat. So it's good to do workouts early in the day, before eating breakfast, or a couple of hours after eating.

I have been doing this lately, for the past few days. I have found that because I am thinking about my next workout I pay attention to when I eat. I don't keep gulping down food, however healthy it may be. I am thus not eating as much as I was before. A side effect is that I am doing more. Not a lot more, but more. Instead of heading for the fridge I might work on my taxes, for example, or even clean the bathroom.

My daughter Mary and I have started a new group on Facebook, called Shred It!, just for people following this book. We hope to encourage others and get encouragement from others, and to share our experiences. We welcome new members - but you do have to request membership. The facebook url is . Have a look!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Some Pumping

Will I ever get started? Well and truly started? I can only say I'm taking baby steps.

A week ago I went to my physical therapist's office again. I did about an hour and twenty minutes of knee, hip, and aerobic exercise. I do get sweaty when I do these things. All legs, though. The primary goal for me at this time is to get my knees straight. They still have a bend in them, just a matter of a few degrees, but it is enough to keep me from going on long walks. My knees don't get any relief from tension, which they would if they got to straighten out with every step.

The dog bites had kept me from the PT work for several weeks, and even now I have to pad the areas of the larger bites because they rub against the equipment and it hurts.

Tuesday, referral in hand, I started work on my right arm. Turns out I have rotator cuff damage, along with elbow joint damage. Chuck, the physical therapist, said that rotator cuff tendon tears are the most common tendon tears. He said if there are 1000 people with tendon tears, 950 of them would be rotator cuff. This because the tendons get squished between two bones. Easy to tear, especially if one is an athlete or is just getting old.

Thus I am now lifting weights, working on the "arm bike", doing rows on a machine, in addition to the work on my legs. I'm actually pumping iron. The weights are low because these are small muscles, easily damaged. Chuck says this is not a time to "push through the pain". That just makes things worse.  I am working in the neighborhood of two to four pounds for these exercises, three sets of 12 for almost everything. As I get more used to everything I will be able to explain what I am doing better. For now, suffice to show a picture of one of the machines I use:
This baby is called a "functional trainer". You can see that there are a lot of options available. There is a similar machine at the gym I attend, so I may be translating some of this pumping to the gym eventually. On this machine I do four exercises, including the familiar curls. In addition, I use a row machine (seated, chest pressed against a padded block) and free weights. To warm up I sit with a moist heat pad, then use an "arm bike", aka hand bike. This beauty looks like this:
I think this will be nice for more than the rotator cuff. It will make my arms stronger.

As for the food...I am still making Vegan Menu dishes for dinner, half of each recipe. But I'm eating way too much the rest of the day. I'm thinking about how to deal with this. I may just list every little thing I eat right here. That might hold me back a wee bit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Week Goes By

I have made little if any progress. I did stick with the Vegan Menu meals for dinner, but each recipe makes enough for at least four people and I had a tendency to overindulge. I do not like the portion-control method, which is one advantage of no-oil, whole-foods plant-based meals, but nobody can eat as much as they like and expect to lose any weight. That is, if the meal has the full range of ingredients needed for your body. If I just ate broccoli I could eat as much as I could hold and I would indeed lose weight.

I saw a dramatic representation of this concept when we had a rabbit many years ago. I don't recall how we acquired this rabbit. Some kind of adoption, rescue, something like that. When we first got it I fed it lots of carrots and other vegetables. But it lost weight. To the point where I was worried and brought it to the vet. Poor thing needed grains, needed that hay or whatever it is, grasses. Once it was getting "rabbit food" it was fine. Similarly with humans. We would lose weight if we just ate carrots. But that would not be good for our bodies. I need to be more cautious about my intake of the necessary starchy foods. On the other hand, of course, the starchy foods make us feel full. So they are an advantage in weight loss, if we don't ignore our stomach signals. I think I have ignored mine for so long that my stomach has no clue whether I am hungry or not.

Back to the plan from here on. I am clearly starting off shakily. I did enjoy five delicious meals and I recommend the Vegan Menu to those who can benefit from a meal plan. The plan does not include breakfast or lunch, only offers five dinners per week, but in a way that makes it easier. I can commit to making five meals a week from a meal plan, but might not do so well if I were to follow a meal plan with 21 meals in it. Here is what my meals looked like:

All of the meals were good, but the Creamy Italian Kale Soup (last photo) was phenomenal. SO delicious. I ate way too much of that right off the bat. A good choice for converting an omnivore to veganism, though.

This week I decided to make half-recipes. Perhaps this will help me fight that tendency to eat it all in one or two sittings. Of course I am using a different week's worth of recipes, too. More exploration. 

In the exercise department, I have made a tiny tiny bit of progress. You may remember that I have been dealing with a persistent wound, an infected dog bite. It has thrown me off my usual routine. But I am now determined, wound or not, too get back into it. I am getting a referral to a wound care specialist so that wound should get to healing soon, for good.  

Yesterday I joined a docent walk. It was the Oso Flaco boardwalk, two miles total. Nearly flat. A nice way to ease on in. Today I went back to physical therapy, at last! I feel good about that. I am, here and now, committing to at least a half-hour of exercise daily for at least five days a week. This will help convert a few of those fat calories into energy, I trust.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Official First Day

I'm calling today the official first day of my quest. We're talking about a year here. An arbitrary length of time but enough to show a difference if I persevere.

I'll need a photo of myself. I will take one and insert it later.

My weight: 246 lbs.

I'll also find a tape measure and measure a few key areas and insert them here.

This is, however, the third day of my Vegan Menu challenge. Last night I made Chinese Lettuce Wraps:

I didn't find Bibb lettuce at the store, so I went with this red-tinged type instead. It is soft, like Bibb, but the leaves are larger. So I filled them more. This recipe involved a fair amount of prep - that is, dirty dishes - nothing hard to do. It took me about an hour to get it on the table. Generous servings, as usual, and I ate two nevertheless. It was filling.

No pumping yet. I need to set myself some goals.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Slow Beginning

I figured I'd begin when I got home from my last trip. The day after. Yesterday was Monday, the day after I got home. I sort of got started. Most of the day I lay around and ate rather recklessly. Later in the day I went off to Whole Foods and bought the stuff on the list for one week's meals from Vegan Menu. I added a few things not on the list, for breakfast and lunch, but not much. I figure I'll have oatmeal for breakfast most of the time and lunch can be leftover dinner, because the recipes are usually for four servings. I am now committed to doing this one week. My plan is to do four weeks of Vegan Menu meals, supplemented by reasonably healthy lunches and breakfasts, as noted above.

My grocery cart
 You can see my grocery cart at left. It was a small cart, the two-layer smaller ones now available in some stores, so it looks like there is more stuff in there than there is. You also can't see how many vegetables and fruits are in there, because I covered them with some frozen, canned, and refrigerated foods. The fresh food constituted the majority of the basket. That is one characteristic of the Vegan Menu recipes: they rely a lot on whole, fresh foods.

Last night I was determined to make the first meal on the menu: Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Kale. It took a lot of chopping but was otherwise easy to put together, and the chopping did not need to be fine.  It was delicious. I ate, I think, two servings, generous servings. Because the recipes do not include added oil or other calorie-dense foods, I believe I can eat plenty and not worry about it.

Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Kale
The picture shows a bit of Naan that I ate with the curry. It took a bit of hunting but I did find vegan naan at Whole Foods. It is items like this that send me to Whole Foods. Most of the other items are easily available at any grocery.

I forgot to weigh myself today, as an official beginning. I will, however, go back to MyFitnessPal to record what I eat. Might as well get used to it.  Again.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We begin the research

Years ago I enjoyed Bodypump classes at the gym. However, I injured something and when I went to my favorite chiropractor she said she had worked on a number of older adults who were injured in these classes. She said that our muscles don't respond the same way when we are over fifty as they do when we are younger. We need to make our moves slower to allow the muscles to react appropriately.

I have arthritis. I have had both knees and one hip replaced. My hands sometimes act up, and even my feet hurt occasionally. Right now my right arm feels like I lifted something really heavy and tore something, yet I can not recall doing anything out of the ordinary. Arthritis is a joint disease, and many trainers do not understand it. Thus I am wary of working with just any trainer. We need to work with people who understand our whole systems, and preferably people who specialise in working with older adults.

I have no special expertise myself. I can read and absorb, however.  That's my goal right now: read and absorb. Understand what I am about to get into.

My first stop: On this site I found a few different articles about bodybuilding for older adults. A general overview can be found here.  The advice on this page is to get a physical, take it slowly,  exercise at least three days a week, make better food choices, do it for yourself. There is a video showing some workouts and a list of beginning workouts. With some modifications I think this is a good place to start.

Getting a physical: I know my body. I have no heart problems, no lung problems, no life-threatening conditions (other than just being fat). I also know that most doctors really do not know that much about diet or fitness. They don't get much training in these areas. So why rely on them for advice? I am not going to do that.  Further, I have been exercising regularly for some time now. I usually work out six days a week, at least an hour at a time, doing Aqua aerobics, bike or treadmill, weight training for my legs. That is, I am usually in Aqua classes three days a week and in physical therapy three days a week, working my legs.

Food choices: The advice on is not what I am going to follow for food. I am vegan.  Robert Cheeke, on Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, sets out some general rules for vegan athletes.  He says a good rule of thumb for a bodybuilder is to eat 1- 2 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight daily. I expect that I would instead use my goal weight for this calculation. So if my goal is to weight 160 pounds that would mean eating 160 to 320 grams of protein a day.

I know this is standard bodybuilding math, but I'm a bit of a skeptic. For one, I have read a great deal about whole-foods plant-based diets, written by doctors who have worked with thousands of people over a period of 30 years or more. These doctors say we do not need as much protein as is normally assumed.  Dr. John McDougall offers great advice in this article on athletes. His advice on protein is simply: don't eat more protein; eat more FOOD. As training increases, you burn more calories and therefore need to eat more food. The increase, if you are eating a healthy whole-foods plant-based diet (with no added oils), adequately provides the protein you need. You don't have to calculate it. So that's how it will be for me.

Work out at least three days a week. I had been doing this for quite a while. However, I was attacked by two dogs in June (2014) and the resulting wounds have seriously affected my workouts. Because they are on my legs, near my ankles, I have had to be careful about how much walking and other types of exercise I do and I can't take a bath or go swimming. When all wounds are sufficiently closed I can get back to work. I'll set goals for weight training and track my progress.

Until that happens I can still work on getting my food planned. My plan right now is to use the recipes from Vegan Menu for one month.

Vegan Menu offers five meals a week, all of which are whole-foods, plant-based, no-added-oil. They rely on fresh food, are easy to make, and use ingredients that are usually easy to find. These are all dinner menus. No breakfast or lunch. They work admirably for lunches, of course, and breakfast can be simple.

My last goal for this post is to set my first goal. And here it is:

Starting August 1, I will begin. I will follow the vegan menu for one month, supplementing with breakfast and snack ideas. I will develop a specific cardio and weight training plan before then.