Tag Archives: consistency

Don’t be an idiot

So about 5 weeks back, I came home from The Quad and brought along with me a pair of pushup handles since I had twisted my left wrist pretty bad while doing some non-training related activity. Due to the messed up wrist, I wasn’t able to do many traditional moves and hence was working within what I could do without aggravating the injury. That night was upper body day and so I decided to do a simple push-pull combo. This was the workout…

Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.

  • 5 pushups @ BW + 70lbs
  • Rest 90 seconds
  • 5 bent over barbell rows @ 135 lbs
  • Rest 90 seconds

I usually try and do more pulls than pushes to even out the chronic anterior-posterior imbalance we all suffer from, so every other round, I added in 10 pullups. So overall it works out to be 50 pushups @ BW + 70lbs, 50 pullups @ BW and 50 rows @ 135 lbs. Being 145 lbs, this is a fairly intense workout but by no means crazy. The goal was exerting optimal power within the constraints of proper technique. If at any point of time my technique was compromised in any exercise I decided to stop the step.

The loads felt light and I kept knocking each rep out of the park. Rest periods were perfect and I felt strong overall. At about the 5th set, as I continued to feel great, I very subconsciously decided that I was going to kill this workout. That is when shit hit the fan.

I reached the 8th round and as I was doing my 4th pushup, I felt some discomfort on my right shoulder (possibly from overly compensating using my right side due to subconsciously trying to reduce load on the left wrist). I consciously ignored it and went on to do my final and hardest rep. I grit my teeth through the pain and completed the set in style but after the set, I felt considerable stiffness on my right shoulder. I did some basic shoulder mobility work and expected to feel better. Since I didn’t feel too much better after the mobility work, I decided that for the 9th and 10th rounds I would not do weighted pushups but would do bodyweight pushups instead. Painful and uncomfortable as they were, the last two rounds were  already“step-downs” from my original plan and, in my head, I “needed” to do “at least” this. Not doing the last two sets was not an option (at that time).

So I did about 25 pushups in each round and successfully completed the workouts with 40 pushups @ BW + 70lbs, 50 pushups @ BW, 50 pullups @ BW and 50 rows @ 135 lbs.

I woke up the next morning with an overly stiff and painful shoulder and since then have been nursing that shoulder till date. While I’m not in pain anymore, I’ll tell you I’m well away from feeling a 100%. This messed up my training pretty badly. I’ve met 4 different physical therapists, spent over Rs 8000, taken two non-consequetive weeks completely off from training and am only now slowly getting back to training with a plan.

One rep! Just than one damn rep! If only I had stopped before that rep, I would not have had to suffer for more than a month. I’m such an idiot! Right?

I’m an idiot alright, but it wasn’t that one rep that caused the damage. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t that set or that workout or even the workouts before that. I wasn’t overtrained or fatigued. I wasn’t lacking focus or sleep. I wasn’t eating junk and was by no means weak.

So then, what caused the damage? Honestly, my attitude. My attitude towards training is what caused all this havoc. Let me explain.

Like most fitness enthusiasts, I have a tendency to get carried away when I workout. Though I have solid goals defined for each mesocycle and for each workout, I tend to forget those and get lost in the moment. I try to kill every single workout. If you have been training for a while, you’ll know that’s a recipe for disaster and if you’re brutally honest with yourself, you’ll realize you do it yourself!

In this specific case, my goal for the quarter was strength. Not max pushups or fat loss but strength. And for me to get stronger I need to train very consistently. And for me to train consistently, well, I need to stay injury free. So, though, at that time, that last rep seemed like it was taking me towards my goal of getting stronger, by doing the rep I injured myself which has set me far far away from my goals.

What do I need now? Rehab? A new training plan? Some postural alignment? Sure. I need all of these. But most importantly I need a change in attitude. I need to look at training as training. I need to focus on the big picture. I need to not be penny wise pound foolish. I need to train myself to work towards a larger goal be it strength or long term injury free living or general health.

Similarly, very very similarly, it isn’t that one week binge that made you fat. It isn’t that one cheat meal that made you “fall off the wagon”. It isn’t that diet that made you sick of health and fitness. It isn’t that trip you had to make that messed up all your efforts.

It is your attitude. It is your attitude towards transformations and fat loss and health. Let me break it down further.

  • If you think you can eat junk tonight and “burn it off” tomorrow either by doing some extra reps or extra cardio, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think you can “go on a diet” and lose in 6 weeks what you have gained in 6 years, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think eating well for 3 days gives you the leeway to stuff your face on the 4th day, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think you can just moving your arms and legs for a few minutes three times a week and saying no to cake once a week will fix all your health problems, you need a change in attitude.
  • If you think the people who look awesome or perform at a high level or live forever just put in a few weeks of work, you bloody well need a change in attitude.

To help you and I change our attitudes, I’ll present here the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard.

Understand that health or fitness or looking awesome or reversing a disease is a long term effort. You are not going to sport those sexy abs with a 6-min abs program. You’re not going to become an awesome athlete with half-assed mobility work. You are not going to lose (and keep off) those extra 20kg by going on a diet for 2 months. You are not going to live to see your great grandchildren by eating at pizza hut every other day. You are not going to reverse diabetes by replacing sugar with splenda. And we are not going to get anywhere with an attitude that undermines real work.

We are only going to achieve all this by possessing one thing – consistency. Consistent effort leads to sustainable long term results. Period. Be it aesthetics or performance or blogging or cooking or meditation or even life in general, consistency results in excellence while inconsistency results in mediocrity.

And just to be sure you and I got the message, I’ll say it again…

Don’t be an idiot. Focus on the big picture.

Adios!

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Create your own training plan

Continuing the why people fail and working out will never be the same again series, today I’m going to talk about creating your own customized training plan. Yes, I get paid to do this stuff. But there’s only so many people I can consult with and with a wait-list right now that I’m sure is never-ending, the best and, possibly, only way I can reach out and help make a difference is by teaching you how to create your own training plan. And that is exactly what I’m doing in this post.

Excuses are BS (yea yea, I know I’ve said this a million times before but if you’re getting a free training program out of me, you better sit through this). No one really puts any thought  before they come up with an excuse. Let me explain. Say you know you’re fat but you’re not doing anything about it. And one day someone asks you why you don’t workout and you instantly say…

Well, I never have the time. Work keeps me busy during the day and at night I need to blah blah.

But tell me this honestly – is this true? I mean, did you truly put any thought into this answer? Did you write down everything you do in a day from the time you wake up to the time you sleep? Did you honestly make an effort to find time to workout? Did you try to move things around a tiny bit to give yourself the time to take care of your body? Heck no! Why? ‘Cos if you did do these things, you would’ve absolutely found or made the time to workout.

Listen. 30-40 min is all you need to get a good workout and that works out to ~ 120 min per week. I refuse to believe that you’re swamped for the entire 10,080 minutes of the week that you can’t dedicate a paltry 1% of it to fitness. Sorry, you’re so full of BS if “no time” is your excuse.

That said, what can you do in 30-40 minutes that qualifies as a good workout?

Plan to create

Before we get to the specifics, here are some you-better-knows.

  1. You don’t have to go to the gym to get a good workout. In fact, you don’t have to go anywhere to get a good workout. You can get a pretty darn awesome workout at home in your living room or bedroom or your garage or the patio.
  2. You don’t need any machines or equipment to train. All you need is resistance and it doesn’t matter where this resistance comes from or how you generate it. If you have a body, you’re good to go.
  3. You don’t need to do cardio. You can get all the cardiovascular benefit and more from resistance and interval training.
  4. You don’t need to train more than 3 days a week to get and/or stay fit.

Now that you know better, here are a couple of things you need to do before actually creating a plan or working out.

1 – Find or make the time to workout! Stop kidding yourself. You can dedicate 40 mins every other day to workout. It doesn’t matter if this is in the morning, afternoon, even or night. Find that tiny window.

2 – Make training a part of your schedule. Not a ‘nice to do’, but a ‘to do’.

Create the plan

You (like most people) don’t do anything about your fitness ‘cos you don’t know what to do! Even the day you decide to workout, you walk into the gym without having the slightest idea of what to do and hence end up doing what everyone else there does or rely on a trainer to tell you what to do. And sadly for you, what everyone else is doing is nothing more than wasting time and money and what the trainer will have you do is not too different from that.

So, like how a new cook needs a good recipe to make a decent tasting dish, you need to create a training plan from a solid template to produce any kind of result. Here is how you do it.

On Monday, choose one each of a lower body move (squat, lunge, squat jump etc.), an upper body push (knee-pushups, pushups, pike presses, dips etc.), an upper body pull (pullups, inverted rows etc.) and a speed move (high knees, jumping jacks, box jumps etc). Do 50 perfect reps of the first 3 moves and 150 quick & clean reps of the last move. Do this is in as many sets as required resting as needed, but never go to completely failure. If this is too high a number, start with a number that you can complete in 30 minutes. From there, keep increasing the reps by 10% each week and try to complete in under 30 minutes each time. Keep progressing.

On Wednesday, either sprint or do wall sprints at max effort for 20 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat this for a total of 6 rounds. Next week, reduce the rest period to 25 seconds and increase total rounds by one. Keep progressing by reducing rest period and increasing number of rounds.

On Friday, do burpees! Learn to do perfect 6-step burpees and do as many of them as possible (with perfect form) in 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter how many you do. Note down your number and, next week, try to get more burpees in the same 10 minutes. Once you are able to get 100 perfect 6-step burpees in 10 minutes, move on to burpee pullups or double pushup burpees. If you can’t do 6-step burpees ‘cos you don’t have a pushup, start with 4-step burpees and work towards progressing to the 6-step version.

There you have it – a workout program that needs no equipment, no gym, no learning curve, demands less than 60 minutes per week and brutally effective!  If you are a beginner/intermediate and/or the kinds that finds excuses to get a workout in, this is your solution!

Remember – It isn’t about how complicated your program is. It is about how consistent you are at it. If you are sedentary/lazy/full of excuses right now, what harm can come from dedicating a total of 60 minutes per week for fitness? Seriously, what do you have to lose? Open your mind and try something new. Give it a shot!

Peace out.

Can’t lose fat? Come on! You’re not that stupid!

Warning: This does start off a little over the top, but it gets better. Stick with me. You’ll be happy you did.

In the last article I presented a bunch of responses that were submitted to the following question…

Sticking to a nutrition and/or training plan for a very short period of, say, 10 weeks. Assuming this will produce visible results and quite literally change your life wrt health & fitness…

Why can’t you do it? Why do you break? Why is consistency a problem?

While the nature of answers were very different, they all had one thing in common. Most people didn’t have an issue with the diet or the workout program or the complexity as much as they had issues with…

“I”

So, today, let’s forget high reps, low reps, low fat, low carb, distance running, resistance training and everything else related to nutrition and training and go to step 0. The step where one needs to realize that he/she is capable of losing fat and/or regaining health!

Are you really that stupid?

I need to get this off my chest and, more importantly, I need to get this into your head. In my opinion, anyone who is obese has to pretty stupid. Of course, this excludes the unfortunate few with genetic hormonal dysregulations/imbalances etc. But my point is that you don’t go to bed all fit n cut and wake up fat n flabby!

Becoming overweight or obese is a result of many many months of crappy eating and/or a sedentary lifestyle. It is impossible for any human to become overweight overnight. And I’ll stop here, ‘cos Calvin and I have discussed this in the past and you’re better off reading that than my ramblings today.

But this is what I don’t get – you have PLENTY of feedback about you getting fat. Your trousers feel like a noose and the buttons on your shirt get shot into thin air not being able to handle your chub! I mean, come on! You HAVE TO know this! And once your clothes don’t fit you, they don’t grow. You physically have to go to a store, choose clothes that are a size bigger, reach inside your wallet/bag and pay money for it. So don’t give me that ‘oh it sneaked up on me’ crap anymore! You knew you were getting fat and you let it happen. Period.

Gaining a few pounds, going up a size, adding a little chub – I understand. Life happens. But letting yourself go to a point of becoming obese or 40+ lbs overweight? Are you kidding me? Are you really that stupid?

Now don’t get all defensive here. I used to be fat too and I had all the excuses you do right now. I know how it feels to get fat, to live fat and to go from fat to fit. So be a sport and take a hit! Its OK to be called stupid when do do something stupid. You know… like when I asked my clients in India to eat a cartload of vegetables without having the slightest idea about the pesticide scare here. Like when I ran 50 miles a week and encouraged everyone I met to do so. Like when I tried to explain to my wife why she was wrong. Like when I write stuff that I shouldn’t on the blog. Like right now.

Actually, you’re not that stupid

But funnily enough, you are, obviously, not that stupid. I mean, your life resume is pretty impressive! Confused? This is what I mean –

  • You learnt to walk
  • You learnt one or more languages
  • You completed school and college (at least)
  • You learnt to use a computer and navigate through the internet
  • You were able to find yourself a job and at least do well enough to not get fired
  • You were able to give birth and/or raise one or more children

See my point? These are all tasks that are harder than fat loss… MUCH harder than fat loss. And guess what? These tasks also take much longer to master/compete than a fat loss program! And, clearly, you have been able to do these things pretty darn well. Any person who has done all this… can’t be stupid now can they? So what is it then?

Consistency! Commitment! Regularity!

You don’t have them! Right? Wrong! Let me explain.

You are committed. Very committed indeed. Just look at those tasks you did complete! Let’s take a couple of examples.

  • School – If you did complete school, that is ~ 2400 to 2800 days of going to a place and doing what was expected out of you. Sure, some excelled and some didnt, but all of you actually did it! You were consistent… you were committed… and even if your attendance % was 70, you were pretty darn regular.
  • Work – If you are able to afford a computer and read this article on the internet, I’ll assume you have a job… a job to which you show up to at least 4-5 times a week. Irrespective of what the job is, you somehow manage to stay consistent and committed and regular!

So you are can be consistent, committed and regular with nutrition and training too. But you just won’t be! Why? Maybe because mommy isn’t there to smack you in the ass every time you stuff your face? Maybe because you don’t run the risk of living on the street if you won’t show up for training?

But it doesn’t matter. And, No. I’m not going to give you the ‘You’re an adult now and you ought to know better!’ speech… ‘cos you are an adult now and you ought to know better!

Realize first and then you shall redeem yourself

Listen, irrespective of what the reason is, realize that you can do this. I’ve said it plenty of times before – fat loss is very simple… not easy… but simple. As a matter of fact, every single client of mine, who has done what he/she has been asked to do, has seen impressive results (Except a handful of women who started gaining weight very rapidly after starting to work with me. But thats because they got super fertile after making the dietary changes and hence got pregnant! So watch out!). And these people are exactly like you – People who live super busy lives with kids and responsibilities and demanding jobs! These are smart people like you who let themselves go since health didn’t feature in their list of priorities. After reading this blog or due to some knock-on-the-head incident in life, they realized that they have let themselves go a little too much and decided to make a change. And what happened?

Realization -> Decision -> Action -> Redemption

My point is…

Step 1 – Realize that you can do this! You completed 14 yrs of schooling… you can complete 6 months of a body/health transformation phase! You fought your way through life and landed yourself in a nice job… you can suck it up for 6 months and find yourself looking and feeling awesome!

Step 2 – Decide that your health needs to be one of your top priorities. Understand that letting go of your health will result in a short life that is filled only with guilty short-lived pleasures that die the moment they pass the lips!

Step 3 – Act! Don’t mess around too much. There are enough theories and diets and training plans around that can make you go in circles for the next 3000 years. Find someone who can help you with this and get started! You’re better off doing something properly than perennially looking for that magic bullet or that perfect diet/training plan. Again… do something about it!

Step 4 – Redeem yourself by staying patient and true to your goals. My best clients are the ones that pester me the most. They question and question until they understand every word of the plan I have designed for them. But once they understand why they are doing what, the questions cease, greed (for results overnight) flies out the window and results show up!

Remember – I and 90% of those making transformations are in no way genetically gifted or superior than today’s normal below average human and if we can do it, so can you. Life is just better when you’re fit! Give it a shot. You’ll be happy you did.

Peace out!

PS: As stated earlier, this is just the start of a large series. Stick around and you’ll be free… free from obsessive dieting, free from compulsive exercising and free from this vicious  cycle of craving, indulging and guilt!

Why you fail – Real people, real reasons

As we all know, there are a million training programs and a zillion diets out there all claiming to be effective with respect to fat loss and/or health. Honestly, if you think about it, even if half of these diet/training programs work even 1/4th as effectively as advertised, we would have very few fat people… at least very very few fat people lurking the internet. But this is definitely not the case. As the number of diets and programs and health foods increase by the day, we, as a population, are becoming fatter and fatter by the day. As nutrition & fitness experts, food manufacturers and smart business minds (ha!), continue to come up with simple and easy ways to lose fat, we, as a population, are continuing to head towards obesity and disease.

Something doesn’t add up right. Something is wrong somewhere. And to me, the concept of these two diverging lines – success of diets/health foods/gyms and failure to successfully reach fat loss/health goals – has always been interesting. Sure we can end this with simple answers like ‘People are not committed’ or ‘Most diets are BS’, but that would only qualify as an aloof answer from someone who doesn’t care enough to invest the time to study the “why” behind these physiological and psychological patterns. Being someone who cares, I decided to look into this a little deeper and starting today this is what I will be addressing for the next few weeks.

I will be talking you about why you fail to reach your goal, why diets work/don’t work, why certain programs produce transformations while certain other produce only injuries, why some people succeed in the exact same training and nutrition plan as yours, why you feel like dog poop when you try to lose fat, why you gain everything back, why you are unable to commit, why fat loss seems like a never ending battle for some people etc etc etc. And in-addition to that (possibly once all the whys have been answers), I’ll address the hows – how you can stick to eating right for life, how you can safely and sustainably accelerate during a 10-12 week fat loss period, how you can train very less and get very much, how you can not obsess about food and stay fit and healthy, how you can stay motivated, how you can motivate people around you, how you can make a change and stick to it for life… without having to sacrifice the little pleasures.

First step of any research is data collection and thats exactly what I did. I asked the fine folks in my FaceBook group (What the hell do you eat Raj?!) the following question…

Sticking to a nutrition and/or training plan for a very short period of, say, 10 weeks. Assuming this will produce visible results and quite literally change your life wrt health & fitness…

Why can’t you do it? Why do you break? Why is consistency a problem?

We are pretty tight community and people are very approachable, love to share their experiences, struggles, problems and knowledge and are at all times ready to help each other out. And not surprisingly, I ended up getting some truly awesome responses. I am publishing them here verbatim with only the member’s names removed to protect their identities. If you would like to know more about who said what or if you would like to contribute, please join the group and do so.

Because when I go to buy electronics at the so called ‘electronics mall’ the first shop that I see as I enter is the donut store that has 23 different kinds of donuts. and the whole mall smells of freshly made waffle.  Because my hotel management thinks I would love to see free chocolates / cookies on my hotel bed everynight.

ROTFL.

But its all in the mind and its about giving way to temptation. If I may give an example – its like quitting smoking – I have so i know what i am talking about. Really need to focus on the reason why you want to do it and shut everything else out. I had never crossed 7 days without a cheat meal until this month (been trying for > 3 months).I have now gone 20 days of zero sugar (+ only real food) and counting. Looking to do a 30.

I think lack of time is a big one. Take my case for example: I travel on average 3 hours everyday. Minimum time spent at work is 9 hours, sometime 12. Thats 12 hours of your day gone, just spent on work. the remaining time has to pack in – spending time with family(esp in kids r involved), cooking(sticking to the diet), meeting friends, errands like shopping and sleep. And the easiest thing to sacrifice here is sleep (I have been doing it for the past 10 weeks, I should know). And running on minimal sleep and trying to catch up on weekends becomes a nightmare.

Fitness training is fine, but nutrition/eating is a problem…sustainability is the key to this, right ?? but sustainability involves cheating; so, the more I cheat the more sustainable my plan becomes 🙂

let me explain:

instead of having a big cheat meal every <watever>, I eat a small portion of ‘acceptable junk’ (e.g. chips or some dessert but not wheat) more frequently (say few times a week). This works for me because I don’t wait for the cycle to eventually break; because when it does break, all bets are off 🙂

makes sense, no ??

Raj, how we wish there was a magic formuIa! I think people get superexcited in the beginning and try to change everything all at once -eating ,exercising sleep patterns – it can get overwhelming. Too much stress on any other front in life is a barrier for most – even if it may help to reduce the stress finally.

Also people focus too much on Results (which can only be incremental ) and feel that if they have fallen off the track -its of no use. But that is so untrue.Like bad eating patterns good eating patterns also need a fair amount of time to get ingrained. As another commenter says rightly there is no premium on virtuous eating except in forums like these . We wd be major party poopers anywhere else 🙂

In my case, it all boils down to my lack of seriousness/committment. Yes, there is lack of time, stress due to too much work in a traveling job that requires me to stay 2-3 days per week in a hotel, managing a kid etc etc. But inspite of all this, I know if I was serious enough, I would get it done. I am probably living under this huge illusion that I am healthy enough. I have not yet been jolted out of this illusion with something alarming, like say I was diagnosed with diabetes or some such thing. So as long as my “normal” life goes on without a hindrance, I am too cozy in my comfort zone to even make real serious effort to change.

But I must say I have started taking efforts like exercising/eating healthy etc thanks to following your blog. Also slowly getting into the mindset that it is better to be strong and healthy instead of discovering one fine day that things are seriously wrong and out of control.

Habits, boredom & friends for me….. Let’s say you are working from home and worked out in the morning, and the tummy is grumbling for the next something to get in to you… At that instant, I don’t make a mini-decision to reach for the fruit, salad or cottage cheese from the fridge and instead reach for the cheese crackers in the pantry(that I originally got for my toddler) …. It hardwired in the brain to reach for the option you have been trained to do since you are a kid…

Or when your friends call up to meet at the Mediterranean restaurant for dinner, and it’s winter time when your other outdoor activities have been to a minimum, it’s hard to pass up on the dinner invitation ….. And ofcourse you are so busy chatting, having a good time and distracted enough to forget about your original eat-out rules you drafted for yourself( choose the better options from menu and keep it to minimum) …. If you obsess over eating clean, you are constantly reminded that there is a long list of untouchable food options around you…. If you don’t obsess over it you sometimes go with the flow and forget to remind yourself ‘at the very instant’ the decision is made to eat or not eat something…….

No problem in terms of working out. But nutrition is a big problem for me, especially in India. I have borderline Aspergers. I need my routine and alone time. Both are impossible most days here. I get worked up very easily and rely on carbs to overcome stress. Rice is my vice.

Adjusting eating patterns, for me. If I were living alone (which I was, a year ago) it’s easier to cook the sort of food I want to eat – I like cooking, so that wasn’t much of an issue. Now, when my mum is the main cook and she is cooking for 4 people (and also rushes to work in the morning), it’s hard to demand multiple food options/ get access to the kitchen in the morning. Eating the right food is made easier when there is variety and its not always easy to come by. Also, the fact that when the hunger pangs hit, I have very limited ‘quick food’ options (given I am not a big cheese fan and am not permitted to eat fruits and nuts).

I sacrifice exercise over sleep. I prepare for diet during the weekend. The wife does help a lot. Sometimes I do exercise for a few weeks, then sleep starts to get affected. Probably something to do with the Adrenal. Then I get off exercise and sleep becomes easier. The exercise goes like a yo-yo :-(.

In my case, I am just lazy and need someone to kick my behind to get me to workout. I am not sure why that is the case with workin out ‘coz my diet was relatively easy to fix and I don’t need someone constantly reminding me to eat right! Also, another thing is that I easily get bored of workouts that I do. I never ‘want’ to workout.

I think its the number “10”. No, seriously, when you embark on a short term goal, its very easy to go astray if you don’t start to see results in week 2 or earlier. It’s a psychological thingy.

I think my problem is that I do not enjoy exercising alone. I try not to effect my sleep. Gyms are not an option because they are quite bad these days, they are full of equipments with no space for exercise. Quite a bit of my time goes into tackling my baby’s sleep issue. Only way I exercise is running on stairs carrying shopping bags in the weekends. But I take care of my nutrition quite well.

For me one the following has wreaked the consistency before. (1) Marking a workout time and if you cannot do it then skip it (2) coming from work in evening feeling tired and thinking of restaurant..(3) cheating more than once due to occasions like office get together or friends get together (4) If because of too much work and deadlines if workout missed 2 consecutive days then it goes all the way downside………This has been the case till now but now since my whole health depends on me sticking to this I am trying to workout whenever time permits it may morning 7 am or eve 9.30 pm…always try to prepare some real food and put it in fridge….but still long work day+ restaurant food and cheat meals are the worst factor that shake my discipline badly…….

In my case there is no problem working out, thanks to the quad I have a proof of this as I’ve not missed a single class. Initially accepting that I had to change my diet so very drastically was a problem, I am sure you remember my whiny mails and a BIG THANK YOU to you for setting me right and telling me I had no options, after which I started enjoying cooking the new all real meals(?body=https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150405031515700.407929.571385699&type=1&l=5322fac3a0&subject=What%27s for dinner?).

My main hurdle is one that what another commenter also mentions 1. Getting late at work and coming back and thinking of alternatives to cooking a good meal, so the alternative isn’t necessary a restaurant, it’s a combination of a restaurant, easy meal such as Varan Bhaat (http://the-cooker.blogspot.com/2007/06/varan-bhaat-amti-bhaat.html) and take aways. I really like eating real food but after 12 hours at work, I just don’t have the energy to cook.

Living in a joint family with different food likes and dislikes, it becomes difficult to follow even a doctor-recommended diet when you’re recovering from an illness. So a full-fledged 10 week over-haul becomes impossible. Plus a job and two boys to run after make time management difficult. And unless someone MAKES me exercise, it’s just so easy to say, “Nah, tomorrow!”

My biggest problem is sticking to my goals / objectives. I don’t function well left to my own devices. Food-wise, I am an all or nothing kind. As long as I don’t touch contraband, I am golden. But the minute a small slip happens, I cannot put it aside and move forward – I can only go headlong into disaster 😦

 I had the whole of today away from home. Nothing but a cup of coffee before I left in the morning. Because I was doing someth I love with like minded people I never had any craving or hunger. But that’s not the case everyday. Responsibilities, worrying about my son drive me towards carbs. That plus the weekly get-togethers with friends who junk all day spells disaster. Before having a baby I made good food choices, but now very less will power left I have impulsive bad judgement in terms of nutrition.

According to me food is ’emotional’. It has the power to make/change my mood. If I feel happy, I want to celebrate with something delicious.. if I am sad, all I want to do is eat some junk/comfort food to make myself feel better. We all have plenty of memories associated with food – so it makes you give in to temptation and eat something you’ve always thought of as delicious. I remember an ice cream ad from the 80s – ‘you make me lose, lose my self control’ 🙂

Unless one has an extremely stress free life and a good support system in place, it is difficult to eat right all the time.

For me, eating right is the easier part. I hate sugar/anything sweet, so will never get tempted seeing any sweet. Fried foods are my nemesis though. Even then, as long as I don’t cook some fried stuff, I don’t crave it. I am fine eating veggies and real food all the time. The husband however loves junk, and it is on days when I make something like bajji/vadai that I go out of control as well. I am certainly not at a stage where I can cook junk and skip eating it! Working out is another story altogether. I am yet to find something that motivates me to get over my laziness.

 I think motivation is the key. I didn’t have it badly enough earlier, and its not something I could have even talked myself into, with all my reasoning and logic. A death scare or a sudden hyper love of life is an excellent motivation!

Boredom, I think. Altho, that would have been an old excuse. Nowadays, i try and snap out of de-motivation ASAP. May I recommend Rupaul? There’s nothing like a 6’4″ legendary drag queen telling you that ‘You *better* work!’. And I’m being serious.

On the exercise front, I decided to at-least try going out for a 20min walk during the lunch break. Day 1 and Day 2 were good. Day 3: Someone in my office till 12:30PM … so skip. Day 4:Meeting went on till 12:15… so skip. That’s about it. No exercise whatsoever after that. Basically this is boiling down to the priorities in life and I know I am choising the wrong one !

 I too think it’s priorities.There was a time when I would consistently workout 5 times a week. But now, running behind a super active toddler is exercise enough. Exercising ranks way below taking care of his needs. I know the two are not mutually exclusive, I just need to figure out a way to manage my time effectively to fit in exercise.

If you got up to here, you are certainly interested in the topic. What do you think? Why do you break? Why do you fail? What are your experiences? Share it in the comments section.

Peace out.

Grains – Friend or Foe?

Note: This post is dedicated to my very own bread-loving, exercise-hating, makes-life-worth-living, astonishingly gorgeous wife-to-be!

I’ll be honest here. I’ve been working on this post on grains for a long time now and I wanted to talk about what grains really are and how they became a staple and how they wreak havoc in our bodies and how they are the most evil things in the word and you know, other such usual blabber you would expect from a no-so-much-of-a-grain-fan as me. But then, I wasn’t able to do it. I tried multiple times but with no success. I had some sort of a block. Finally I realized, this wasn’t because I didn’t have the time to write or literature to back this up, but because I just didn’t really believe that grains were evil!

Picture credit: Pinch My Salt

As you guys know, I don’t blindly follow the herd but like to question beliefs and experiment everything on myself before recommending it to others. That being the case, I just found it impossible to write a post demonizing grains when I didn’t really think it was the case. This might come as a surprise to a lot of you folks considering I am known for hating grains and recommending against their consumption, but my argument here is really not for or against grains. It is about the all or nothing approach that is being applied towards grain consumption in general! You know, like the concept of distance running. It was once touted at the panacea for everything and now its being demonized and blamed as a cause of everything from Oprah’s bellay to Osama’s death!

So, Raj, are you just going from loathing to actually recommending grains?

Well, sadly, you won’t know until you read the rest of the post! So hold onto your horses for a second and read the post to fully understand my thoughts on the subject.

The Debate:

Firstly let’s look into the arguments generally used in support of and against grains and my thoughts on each one of these.

For…

  • Whole grains are heart healthy – In a country where leading fitness trainers recommend Faker’s Oats and companies compare thier cereal to the ever awesome egg, this is not surprising, but still, this claim is a bunch of crap! Why? Because the studies done to prove this were flawed! Any and every study that proved that whole grain consumption in test subjects improved health markers, compared people’s health when they consumed the standard junk food laden diet to a diet that had whole grains along with vegetables, fruit and lean protein.
  • Whole grains are fiber rich: Ever heard of vegetables and fruit? Any idea how much fiber they contain? Check this!

Against…

  • Grains are empty calories: True dat! No arguing here.
  • Grains are high in carbs: Legit! But so are potatoes. And I think we all know carbs dont kill. The act of OD-ing on carbs (and anything else for that matter) is what kills!
  • Paleo peeps didnt eat it so we shouldn’t eat it either: Meh! Too stupid to even reason.

Ummmm…

So they’re not bad and they’re not good. Great Raj! Thank you! Now we’re back to knowing nothing!

Well, not so soon.

The Knowledge:

Considering all the scientific and anecdotal evidence we have and having read arguments for and against grains and having tried and tested grain consumption on myself, my clients and my loved ones and having looked at the Ayurvedic diet, the Vegan diet and (all forms of) the Paleo diet without bias, here is what we actually know today…

1. Though there is evidence of grains being consumed millions of years ago, grains were NOT a significant part of the paleolithic people’s diet and were, at best, nutrient sparse survival food.

2. Grains have been a part of the human diet for about 10,000 years and many (if not all) traditional cultures soaked/fermented grains and included them in their diets and lived long healthy lives.

3. There is enough scientific and anecdotal evidence to prove that chronic grain consumption is detrimental to health and prosperity.

4. Wheat consumption has been associated with various different minor and major health issues ranging from acme to asthma to IBS to celiac and has a bunch of published literature supporting it.

5. White rice, though completely devoid of nutrients, seem to be extremely benign for most people and all traditional cultures that have predominantly consumed white rice have experienced little to no negative health effects.

6. All studies showing negative effects in health due to grain consumption have looked at chronic overconsumption of grains. Anecdotal evidence shows that small amounts of grain consumption (< 10-15% of total calories) does not have any significant or measurable effects on one’s health. Note: Exceptions exist here based on health condition and type of grain consumed and they will be discussed shortly.

7. Many other factors, including but not limited to vegetable oil consumption, stress, sedentary lifestyle, pollution etc., have been proven to be much more harmful to health in comparison to grain consumption.

From this mixed bag of scientific, epidemiological and anecdotal evidence, I’m sure the following questions pop right into our heads.

  • Are all grains detrimental to health?
  • What about in small quantities?
  • Are all humans allergic to grains at some level?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers. And I don’t think anyone has the answers to these questions. Let me rephrase that. I don’t think anyone has the right answers to these questions yet! I’m sure you can point me to blog posts and articles that talk about perils of grain consumption but, as mentioned above, even those articles are related to chronic and/or excessive grain consumption.

Gary Taubes, the greatest proponent of low carb eating and the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, when on Robb Wolf’s podcast asked this question (Note: not verbatim).

I get the paleo thing. But are you telling me that my health will drastically improve if I substitute the one tiny piece of pumpernickel bread that I have everyday with, say, sweet potato?

And thats exactly my point. No one knows! We all know grain dominance is a bad news for long term health, but is the poison in the dose? Can you get away with 1 cup of corn everyday? How about a slice of bread? Or how about a cup of oatmeal? Again, no one knows! And guess what – no one is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars designing and performing a study that analyzes the effect of 1 slice of bread in an otherwise very well controlled real food diet.

So, Raj, how do we find out what works?

Let me shoot that question back at you…

Just going by common sense, how would you find out what works for you?

And you’ll say…

Self experimentation?

And I’ll say…

Attaboy!

You’ve abso-bloody-lutely got to find out what works for YOU! There is no substitute to that. But, while this is a part of the puzzle, its only a part! Some general guidelines need to kept in mind by all of us when it comes to grain consumption. So with merely common sense being the governing factor, here are some general recommendations.

General recommendations:

* Realize grains are ‘unnecessary’ in a healthy diet. You can argue all you want, but grains have nothing to offer that you cannot get from real foods. ‘Nough said.

* Move the heck away from a grain based diet! Now this is key. Like I mentioned before, all data that points towards demonizing grains are actually demonizing chronic overconsumption of grains i.e. grain dominance. So whatever you do, do not eat a diet that is dominated by grains. And yes, this applies to whole grains too. As a matter of fact, this applies especially to whole grains.

* Realize the difference between fine wine and cheap liquor! Fine wine is prepared with great care and tastes like heaven and not readily available and only consumed in limited quantities purely for enjoyment and never for the ‘buzz’. Cheap liquor is, well, cheap and crappy and inexpensive and easily available and overconsumed and results in a whole host of issues from liver problems to orphans! If you didn’t get the analogy, eat exquisite and specially made grains that are well prepared and stay the hell away from junk grains! For eg. freshly baked sprouted sourdough walnut cranberry bread? Yes please! I’ll have a slice. A dozen bread sticks? Heck no! Thank you for trying to kill me.

* Nourish your body with whole real foods and supplement your taste buds minimally with grains (and sugars) realizing they aren’t helping you and possibly slightly hurting you. Stated differently, don’t eat a pasta/bread dinner every night and end up walking to celiacville. Instead, load up on meat/tempeh/seafood with roasted vegetables and have a spoon of a decadent chocolate cake/ice cream.

* For God’s sake know your limitations! No sane person will have a sip of alcohol (even the finest wine) if he/she has liver complications. And no sane person should have even a bite of any bread or any other grain, if he/she has gut related issues (IBS, leaky gut, celiac etc.).

* Understand health and work towards it! Health is a result of a real food based diet, stress free lifestyle, good sleep and happiness that spans over a lifetime! Sustainability. is. the. key!

* Stay true to your short term goals. If you are on a leaning out phase and are eating fewer calories than is required for optimal functioning of your body, stay the crap away from grains and sugars because they add empty calories and possibly weaken an already weak immune system. If you are an endurance athlete who needs 4500 calories a day but are adamant about not eating any grains and feel that your performance is dropping, stop kidding yourself and eat some cooked white rice! Yes you can get those carbs from sweet potatoes but for how long are you going to chomp on 3 lbs of sweet potatoes everyday? Once again… sustainability! Similarly, if your short term goal is gaining bodyweight, getting calories should be your primary concern and it doesnt matter if you get those calories from rice and beans or potatoes and cheese. Do what suits your body (bloating, gas, sleep, energy etc.) and yourlife style (cost, availability etc.). Keep it simple and sustainable!

* Understand preparation and do it! You wash your hands before you eat. You wet your hair before you shampoo.  You better soak/ferment your grains before you cook ’em!

* Differentiate yourself from your ancestors. You can’t eat like your ancestors when you don’t move and cook like your ancestors did! Yes you should embrace your roots, but you should also understand that you’re not half as active as your ancestors were and the grain based meal you eat today is not prepared with even a fraction of the care and detail used to prepare grains back then.

* Be smart and understand that the success of a diet solely depends on physical nourishment and mental satisfaction. Customize your real food diet in a way that it keeps you healthy and happy! Healthy here is strong, immune, lean and disease/allergy/symptom free and happy here is giving you the leeway to eat your favorite foods.

* Listen to your body! If you eat a grain and it messes you up, stay away from it. This is not rocket science.

* When you start, create your diet with purely real food (vegetables, meats, eggs, fruit, nuts and organic dairy). Drop any and all form of unstable PUFa (vegetable oils). Throw the junk out. Remove all grains. See how you feel. Now try having a small serving of whatever grain you desire. See how you react. Bad? Dont do it again. No change? Perfect. Now, you  can eat it every once in a while. This is exactly how I work with my clients. I don’t give them any random diet/meal plan and a macronutrient split. We work together. From the bottom up. And ten out of ten times, my clients find what works for them! I just merely facilitate it.

* Always remember that food is meant to nourish the body and the mind. Why do you think repressed emotions (anger, stress, jealousy etc.) result in health issues? Because such repression can change your entire gut flora leading to digestive issues and, since health begins at the gut, this paves the way for other diseases! Consume only foods that ensure health and happiness. Both the “H”s coexist and one  cannot exist without the other. If you absolutely need to eat some rice/quinoa/oats to stay happy and consistent and if it only causes very minimal discomfort, then by all means include it in your diet. But only as much as or as frequently enough to not cause any considerable discomfort.

Remember…

Customization is a requirement for consistency and consistency is a requirement for sustainability and sustainability is a requirement for long term health and fitness!

What about my diet?

From whatever experimentation I’ve done, I’ve learnt a lot about my body and the following are what I do to keep myself healthy and happy!

1. I know oatmeal destroys me! Maybe its the whole grain or the avenalin in oats, but having a cup of cooked oats makes me run to the little boys room half a dozen times! So the health va happiness graph is pretty crappy here and so I stay away from it.

2. But I know that white rice works like magic for me! Maybe its my roots or the fact that white rice is basically benign, I feel awesome everytime I eat white rice. In this case the health vs happiness graps looks pretty darn great and so I make it a point to eat white rice multiple times a week. Since I workout pretty hard, I mostly consume post workout in an effort to put the starch to good use, but if I am caught at a social event with crappy food, white rice is always my goto grain.

3. I’m 20 something. If I really want to eat pizza, I will eat pizza. Simple enough. But the key words here are “really” and “want”. I have pretty good self control and hence wont down a pizza everytime I remotely feel like eating one and I don’t tolerate the ‘Oh have just one slice! It wont kill you’ crap one bit and hence wont have any just because someone else thinks I should.

4. I’m not a fan of couscous or corn really, but if I do go to an authentic isereli/mexican restaurant and my host tells me their couscous/tamale is to die for, I’d order it without hesitation or guilt.

The way I see it, all food is good and all food is bad… either for the body or the mind. A food that nourishes you with nutrients but makes you feel deprived and stressed is just as bad as a food that gives you happiness but destroys your body. It all depends on the dose and the your physical state. This is what works for me right now and so this is what I do. If, at some point of time, this stops working for me or my experiments show me something better, I’ll certainly be happy to change things up.

The Summary:

1. Call a spade a spade. Grain consumption is not the issue. Grain dominance and dependance is!

2. Grains have nothing nutritious to offer and so don’t try to make it a part of your diet.

3. Grains are not evil and you needn’t avoid them like the plague! Be smart and eat grains for the experience/enjoyment and call it a day.

4. Cut your losses by soaking/fermenting grains before preparation and consumption.

5. Eyes on the goal. If grains throw you off, you better be ready to throw them out.

What are your thoughts? What grains do you love? How often do you eat them? What works for you? I’m very curious to know what you guys think about this. Do share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section and please take a moment to share this post on Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites!

Stay sane. Stay happy. Stay healthy. Stay fit!

Peace out.

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