Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 10, Low Motivation

Today was cold and rainy. I stayed in, goofed off, and found it hard to do my weight training. But I did it anyway, it just wasn't very "fun."

That's the thing about any big project like this. There are times when it's just not fun, and those are the times when you feel most alone, and giving up doesn't seem so bad. More than any other time this is when you've got to "zen up"

If you've ever tried to keep a meditation practice, you will know that some times sitting is the last thing you want to do, and at the same time it's the best thing you could do. And you just do it. And it's usually the thinking about doing it that is hard, not the actual sitting.

Well, jumpropes, weight training, and egg-white smoothies are the same thing. You just do the thing, and try not to devote too much mental energy to how you don't want to, how it's hard, and how you could be doing something else.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 9, Figs

When's the last time you ate a fig? A date? An apricot? A prune? These foods are so delicious and healthy, but nobody eats them anymore. How could the homely dried fig, seen below......ever compete with the slick graphics and technicolor taste of our modern snacks?

Let's face it, the figs look like poo. And I'm not preaching at ya'll, I never ate dried figs before either. As of nine days ago one of my guilty pleasures was devouring an entire can of Gourmet Pringles, eating the chips three or four at a time, whilst watching Kung Fu movies.

But with this program, the technicolor has been removed. I haven't eaten anything that comes out of a package in a week. And, in just that short time, my palette has kind of reset to what is probably a much more natural level. I don't expect every single bite of my pasta to be bursting with cheesy, salty goodness, as I unknowingly did before. With my lemon and ginger dressing, it still tastes good, but it's a different kind of good than what I would have accepted just a few days ago.

And I've also had to get creative with what kinds of food I buy, because the diet can be monotonous. Which is where the dried figs came in. I was at the store, looking for some fruit, when they caught my eye. I hadn't eaten figs since I lived in Morocco, and I could barely remember what they tasted like, but I picked up a bag, and tonight, after my apple/banana smoothie, had a few. They were so GOOD! And good in a complicated, earthy kind of way. And after a few, I had enough, there wasn't an urge to just keep eating until I reached the bottom of the bag. I think that's because they were nourishing for my entire body, not just the 1 square centimeter of my tongue.

So, go chow down on some figs and dates people! Another interesting discovery from the Peak Condition Project!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 8, Abdominals

My weak point is my lower abs. I've just never been able to a) lose that bit of belly fat under the belly button and b) get those bottom four muscles of the "8 pack" developed.

So I've been doing these damn jackknife crunches. I really hate them.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 7, Over the hump

Well it's been a week, and I've done the hardest thing about this project... broken up my unskillful habitual actions that were keeping me from peak condition. Before, I would often eat things just out of boredom, and if I had an extra 10 mins here or there, I sure as hell wouldn't have busted out a few sets of crunches. (More likely I would have crunched on some chips and salsa) And I wasn't lazy or a glutton, it was just my habit to snack (healthily) when I had some free time.

I think the first week is hard not because of the new exercises or diet, but because you can't run on autopilot. You actually have to think about what before you just did... eating, drinking, watching YouTube videos for an hour.

Part of my plan for this project is to incorporate some healthy habits that, for one reason or another, I never got growing up. Some of the healthy habits I hope to integrate into my life are.

  • Eating fresh fruit daily.
  • Approaching food with less craving and more respect.
  • Eating a set amount and not "topping off" just because I have a little extra room in my stomach.
  • Seeing a mocha for what it is, a chocolate cake in a cup.
  • Sticking to something because I want to, not because anyone told me to.

With this first week down I think I've made great progress towards picking up these lifelong habits!
Thanks everyone for your support.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 6, Not Being Microcharged

One of the interesting side-effects of the PCP is that I'm saving money. I keep on opening my wallet and finding more money than I expected in it. I'm spending a lot of money on vegetables and especially fruit, but I still have some cash left at the end of the day.

When you're online or on Itunes, and you're thinking about buying a song for 99 cents, you think about it a little bit. Do you really want this song? Even though it's only 99 cents, it's still money, and at the end of the month all those 99 cent purchases add up don't they? You already have a lot of music, maybe you'll let this purchase wait and see if you still really want it in a few days. Maybe it's just me but that's the process I go through on Itunes.

But it's funny, I never think twice about buying a 99 cent coffee can from a vending machine, or even a $4 dollar coffee drink at Staabaa. Or a 150 yen string cheese stick for a snack, or a 250 egg sandwich from the 7-11. But with this plan, all extraneous calories have been cut, so it's not even an option to go by the vending machine or the convenience store.

So I'm avoiding all these little microcharges that accumulate over the week and sap your wallet of it's 1000 yen bills ($10). And the money I do spend on food and drinks is for actual product. Real vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. I was surprised the other day by how heavy my shopping bag was after I went to the supermarket, even though I'd only spent 3000 yen. It was because the money had gone into plain, basic, food matter, rather than packaging and chemicals.

So even if you're not on anything like the PCP, evaluate how you're getting microcharged for things without even noticing it. The insidious thing is that these companies have spent millions and millions of dollars figuring out exactly how to sell things so that you won't really notice how much you're hemorrhaging in these nickel and dime purchases. Let's stop giving big corporations our extra cash and start putting it into our own health!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 5, Close is not good enough

This morning I was in a hurry so I didn't take the time to weigh out my breakfast. I just threw some sprouts and tofu on top of some rice with tuna, ate a half apple and a banana with a little granola, and was out the door. I knew I was a little light on protein and nutrients, because when I actually weigh out 400 grams of vegetables it's a whole lot of f&%*ing vegetables, it's like, more vegetables than I would have ever considered eating in one sitting before this project.

With the 400 grams of vegetables at lunch and dinner I have a lot of energy throughout the day, it's much different than the strong peaks and troughs of energy I felt on my usual diet. The energy is kind of on a slow burn and it sustains me for longer periods of time.

So even though I hadn't eaten enough vegetables or protein at breakfast, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal, in fact, I'd lose a little more weight today! Great!

Boy was I wrong. All morning I was having trouble doing even easy yoga poses, much less active ones. I made it through my 1000 jumpropes but just barely. And on the way home for lunch I was finding it difficult to pedal my bicycle uphill. I made it back to my apartment and had a proper, weighed out meal, and felt much better.

So I learned something today. The diet I'm on isn't just a suggestion. It's the minimum amount of calories my body can sustain while working hard at yoga and the strength training exercises. So if I drop 100 grams here or there I'm dropping below the threshold where my body can do it's thing well. It's a good lesson and I'm glad I learned it so early!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 4, Hungry

Last night trying to fall asleep I was really hungry for the first time in this project. As usual I found a lot of help from my zen studies. Hunger, just like sadness, anger, or craving, is just a feeling. If you take a step back and realize that this one feeling doesn't encompass all of you, that you don't have to be pulled around by the nose by it, everything becomes easier.

But it still sucks to be hungry.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 3, Sandwich

Today I did my workout in my small Japanese apartment which was a little tricky, but I found a narrow place between the kitchen and living room where the jump rope can swing in a full arc. It was actually a really good way to learn to control the rope.

In day 1's entry I listed a how many grams of carbs, protein, etc, I eat for breakfast at lunch. The first few days I just ate each thing separately cause I was trying so hard to get the grams right. But I'm slowly learning how to put the different dietary needs together so that they actually resemble food.

Today's lunch was a sandwich, but I didn't just slap some stuff between two pieces of bread. Here it is.

The bread is sourdough, which took care of that meal's carbs. Inside is avacado, tomato, and leafy greens, which is half of the vegetables I needed. (The other half came from a glass of vegetable juice) And the protein comes half from tuna fish and half from cottage cheese. A little horseradish mustard added some salt-free flavor. It took a little thought, but now I have that sandwich in my healthy lunch repetoire forever, and don't have to think about how many grams of this or that there are.

And to get my fruit I simply had some strawberries, apple, and banana in skim milk with a glass of orange juice. Losing weight doesn't have to mean never eating well!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 2, Cardio Plan

Yesterday I talked about my diet for the first week, today I'll share my exercise routine. I am a firm believer that to be healthy and in shape, all you need is yoga. But to reach Peak Condition, you need more than asana. For one, yoga isn't the best thing for cardiovascular strengthening. If you're doing yoga properly you should never be "winded."

Sometimes people come to the studio looking for weight loss and I'm honest with them, and tell them if you really want to lose weight, you need to run or use a gym machine in combination with diet. Yoga isn't the fastest way to lose weight. (However, yoga will make you happy, which is a much greater treasure than a small waistline)

So, to get my cardio, this week I'm doing 1000 jump-ropes every day. I have to do the jump-rope without fail, because that's the k-calorie usage that is going to put me over that edge where I'm using more energy than I'm consuming. So no matter what, no matter how busy, the jump-rope is the cornerstone of the Project.

After the rope, 3 times a week is resistance band work for biceps, triceps, and shoulders. I'll write more about the bands later this week. 5 sets each, 25 per set.

And then sit-ups and leg-ups the other days of the week, the same as arms, 5 sets each.

And that's it for week 1. Truthfully, I won't be doing so many sets at first, because I don't want to be sore as I teach yoga. I'll write more about muscle soreness and why it happens in a future post.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Day 1, Diet Plan

Well, here we are, March 22nd, 6:30 a.m. I was in Kyoto until last night so the start of the project was slightly delayed from the first day of spring (March 20th).

Last week I met with my diet and exercise adviser for the project, Chen Zhongtao, who figured out the menu for the first week. Here he is looking like a tough guy.

The Peak Condition Project is all about math. Weight loss occurs when you expend more energy in the day than you consumed. The body, when it’s dietary needs aren’t met externally, will turn to its stored fat reserves. So it’s a numbers game.

Chen took my weight (65 kilos) and my usual daily activity levels into account, and came up with this diet schedule for my first week.

Breakfast and Lunch (total)
250 grams of carbs (bread, rice, pasta, potato). 250 grams is about a bowl of rice.
400 grams of vegetables. That’s about 3 whole vegetables.
250 grams of fruit. A large size apple is 250 grams.
150 grams fish or shrimp.

For dinner, the following ingredients are mixed in a blender to make a protein smoothie.
3 boiled eggs, whites only.
1 apple
1 banana
150 ml of low fat milk

…and that’s it. Every night, for 3 months, a boiled egg smoothie. Dinner is definitely going to be the toughest, especially with everyone else enjoying a normal dinner.

But what I’ll try to remember is that motivation is also a numbers game. If you just focus on “I can’t have pizza, I can’t drink a beer, I can’t have dessert,” you’re definitely going to lose motivation. You need to look at the whole equation. “Yes, I can’t have dessert, but I also gain a better physique and get closer to Bruce!

The Peak Condition Project Blog

The Peak Condition Project

Starting the first day of spring 2008 and ending on my birthday (July 23rd), this is a personal project to reach peak physical condition just once in my life.

What is Peak Condition? For me, it’s my childhood (and adulthood) hero… Bruce Lee. No wasted body mass. Every muscle fiber on his body has a use. It’s not cosmetic, or what I call “dumb muscle.”


This project will combine diet, asana, and very selective use of weights. Unlike most people, my problem is too much muscle mass. The second I pick up a weight I get overly muscular. This is a hindrance to my yoga practice and also just doesn’t look good for someone like me who is on the short side. So, with my Kung Fu teacher’s supervision I’m going to slim down my upper body and tone my core. We’ll see how it goes. Check the Peak Condition Project blog for daily updates about how I’m doing, what’s changing, and what’s tripping me up.