I know everyone isn't interested in my hormone experiments, so if you're less than enthralled by tales of T3 and TSH, skip this one. For...Read More
A Healing Experiment
Last January, I bared my soul and my body in what I hoped would be “before” photos. My plan was to live as the best version of myself to evolve to my ideal body composition without making myself nuts. I banished the idea of “goals” and “rules” and decided to just live my life.
That didn’t mean I tossed my good habits out the window. In fact, the no-pressure approach made me more committed than ever to smart nutrition and training. I stuck close to my 95% clean paleo diet. I got at least 8 hours of sleep per night. I did CrossFit workouts three times a week and lifted heavy things at least once a week. I even cut back a little bit on fruit and did a pretty good job of minimizing my nut intake.
I did everything “right.”
And my body comp hasn’t changed. And my energy levels are about the same as they were before I started that approach.
So now I’m trying another habit set, based on some solid advice from people I trust. Let’s call this one The Healing Experiment.
Here’s the thing. Like it or not (and for the record, I don’t), we are ruled by our hormones. I like to think I’m in charge, but the truth is that leptin, cortisol, thyroid hormones, and insulin make all the decisions. I influence them with my behavior – but they drive my behavior. See how tricky they are?!
Based on my Frankenneck experience, my history of big weight gains and losses, and the fact that I tend to live in a stressful pressure cooker most of the time, my hormone feedback loops might be kinda screwed up. So I’m adopting new habits for the next eight weeks or so to try to patch the potholes in my hormones highways.
Because I’m creating new habits, I’m once again following some “rules.” I can live with that in the name of science. Science! (Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You’re beautiful.)
The Rules of My Healing Experiment*
*NOTE: I’m sharing these details so you guys know what’s up with me, but this plan is personalized to my specific situation. I’m not advising you to follow suit. Frankly, I just want you to share my misery and hopes that this will work.
1. No workout stress.
The stress-release cycle that happens naturally in our body works really well – when it works. For people like me – chronically stressed, history of weight yo-yoing – high-intensity workouts may do more harm than good. For eight weeks, I’m taking a complete break from CrossFit and heavy lifting. This is the worst rule of all. I’m pouting as I type these words. But it’s temporary, and I will survive. I think. Update 11/14/11: Just got the green light to do some weight lifting if I don’t go too heavy, and I don’t mentally stress about how much weight is on the bar. My instructions are “think activity, not exercise” and “have fun.” YAY!
2. Vitamin D and morning light.
First thing in the a.m., I’m taking a Vitamin D supplement, putting on some squishy clothes, and going for a 30-minute walk in the natural light of the morning to help re-set my cortisol feedback loop. I know that sounds lovely, and eventually, I will agree. But for now, it feels totally weird to be walking when I should be WODing. But my internal clock needs a re-set, so I’m charging it up with natural light just after waking up.
There’s plenty of evidence to support the idea that meditation makes us happier and healthier. I’ve said far too many times, I should really start meditating. It’s time to apply my natural relentlessness – usually reserved for being hardcore – to being blissful. I am now a person who meditates every day. It takes 10-20 minutes and seriously you guys, it does make me feel more centered. I can’t really express how much that bugs me.
Ditto for yoga. I flirted with yoga a few months ago, but the commitment didn’t stick. I can no longer screw around with this idea because it’s hitting me where it really hurts: my vanity. The key to my dream body composition may very well be slowing down, and I don’t want to get flabby during this experiment. Yoga is a low-intensity activity that will also prevent mushiness. Done. First class tomorrow morning at 9:00.
5. A 12-hour eating window.
Oh, leptin and cortisol… f*ck you! To manage those bossy hormones, I’m not snacking, particularly after dinner. I’m eating breakfast around 7:30 a.m. and eating dinner, like a snowbird in a Florida retirement community, before 7:00 p.m. so I have at least three hours between my last meal and bedtime. I feel sorrow when I realize I’m eating my last bite of dinner because the kitchen is officially closed, but I’m trying to get over it.
6. More vegetables.
For someone like me, a low carbohydrate diet might not be the right approach. To make sure I’m getting enough quality carbs, I’m eating more vegetables. This is the one piece of happy news because I happen to love vegetables. I do have to admit, however, that I’m slightly intimidated by the giant piles of spaghetti squash, broccoli, cabbage, and kale on my plate.
Prior to 2011, I’d never tried a combination of paleo eating, heavy lifting, CrossFit, and appropriate thyroid meds. Eleven months of that combo has left me in practically the same situation.
Now I’m trying a new approach: paleo eating, gentle exercise, meditation, and appropriate thyroid meds. Will I see body comp changes? I don’t know. But I can’t argue with the value of managing stress, doing meditation, giving my body a healing break, and eating clean.
I’m a few days into this new plan, and honestly, some of it is hard. Not snacking after dinner is annoying the hell out of me. And I got tears in my eyes when I saw the CrossFit Austin WOD I was missing yesterday: renegade rows and step ups with a weight overhead. Oh, how I wanted to do that workout!
But meditation is nice, as is starting the day with a walk while the sun comes up.
“Nice” is not really the way I like things, and I complained bitterly during our first morning walk: WALKING! I can’t believe I’m walking. I’m not even going to get sweaty! I like excitement, challenge, triumph. I want a workout that gives me a reason to brag.
But for a few weeks, I will clean food in quantities that are just enough to support my new chilled-out activity level, and I will walk, and I will meditate, and I will heal. And that is very nice.