Intermittent Fasting 1 Month

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Me, after one month of intermittent fasting. I know I have a long way to go. That’s okay. I will get there.

One month has passed since giving intermittent fasting a go. I feel good about it. I don’t know if I could ever go back to how I ate before. When I think about my past struggles with food, it is painful. I ate my stress, my anxiety, and my unhappiness. Ironically the more I ate to relieve unhappiness, the more I was miserable. It was a vicious cycle. Even when my life changed for the better and unhappiness didn’t haunt everything I did, I still had the old habits of eating. It was frustrating. I was happy with my marriage, my family, and the direction my life. Why couldn’t I control what I was eating? I am no mathematician, but shouldn’t the equation be simple? Unhappiness=abnormal eating. Happiness=normal eating. Right? Unfortunately, no.

A realization, a real moment smacked me in the face. I spent twenty years as a fat woman, varying degrees of fat, but still fat. For what? Because I couldn’t control what I put into my mouth and when? That is a sobering thought. I can always make the usual excuses blaming media, the food companies, etc… The list goes on and on. However, the fact remains I always had a choice. One of the best decisions I have made in twenty years is to start intermittent fasting. It has been a life changing month. Let me elaborate.

Intermittent fasting has helped me to be attentive of what I am eating and when I am eating. No longer can I mindlessly grab a handful of crackers or any snack nearby and quick. I have to think about what I am doing. When I am making breakfast for my young son, I can’t lick-the-spoon so to speak. In the evening around eight when my snacking bug is the greatest, I have to control the strong urge to eat. I am learning mindfulness which can be a powerful tool to utilize in all areas of life.

Intermittent fasting has curbed my cravings for sugar. I am not quite sure why this is. I understand some of the scientific benefits of intermittent fasting, but not this one. I am not complaining. Sugar is highly addicting. I have been a sugar addict for many years. This past month, one of my most apparent side effects is almost no cravings for sweet things. I don’t even secretly crave them. For example, I can walk right through a bakery and feel nothing. How badass is that?

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is I am no longer retaining water. In the past retaining water was a mild problem, especially during the hot months of summer. It never got too bad, just annoying. My skin would feel a little tight. It was uncomfortable, not debilitating. Hundred degrees weather was the worst. I would balloon up and suffer. Not this month. This month I haven’t had any problems with the heat. Recently, I was even able to take off my wedding ring. During the summer (Yes, I am shouting)! Something I haven’t been able to do in almost eight years.

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First time I took my wedding ring off in almost 8 years.

A clear mind is a commonly reported side effect of intermittent fasting. I find this to be true. My mind is much less murky. Something that goes with this is sleep. I sleep more soundly at night. In the morning I wake up with my mind buzzing. It is great. I love it. And since, you know, I am the thoughtful ninja, it helps. I can’t wait to take my new clarity for a test drive this fall at University. Didn’t I tell you? I went back to college two years ago. I obtained my AA transfer degree. This spring I was accepted into the University of Washington Seattle. I am very excited to start the next phase of my education in September. One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is improved cognitive function. Yes, there is scientific backing to this claim. It will be interesting to see how intermittent fasting affects my performance in school.

Last but not least, my clothes are fitting better. Even my underwear is loosening up. That is always exciting. I can’t complain that is for sure. Even though I am healing a fractured spine, I am building muscle. Working the core is hard, yet, it feels good. I don’t stop at my core. Squats and lunges work out my legs without aggravating my back. I use five-pound weights while laying on the floor to work out my arms and chest. Strengthening my body while recovering keeps my attitude positive while shrinking my waist line, an added outlook booster.

As you can tell by the picture above, I have a lot of work ahead of me. That’s okay. Now, that I am getting my eating habits under control and I am experiencing all the benefits detailed above, I feel very positive about obtaining my body goals. If you haven’t tried intermittent fasting, I would highly recommend doing so. Just be aware that it is hard work. Hard work as in having to curb your urge to eat, at first at least. On the bright side, it does get better with time. Remember as beneficial intermittent fasting is, it is not a cure-all. However, it is a lifestyle change in the right direction.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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Black Belt Testing

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Testing for a black belt in Taijutsu is a grueling process. At least it is in our dojo. Recently, I had the distinct honor of witnessing three black belt tests in one night. It was an evening of variety. A quiet junior student, a small kick ass lady and a gentleman who could easily fit into a Tolkien band of dwarves. All thoroughly competent in the techniques they have learned.

So what does black belt testing consist of in our dojo? Each student must demonstrate all the skills and techniques they learned over a three to four year period. They must evade a sword attack and dive roll over an upturned sword blade (yes, a real sword). They do punch and kick drills until our Sensei deems them thoroughly exhausted. Then comes their first three-minute randori. Sixty seconds later it is followed by a three-minute weapons randori.

After all of that, the student goes immediately into the knife test. A metal knife with a blunted blade is used. During the knife test, a black belt comes after the student jabbing with insane speed. It is meant to simulate a real life situation. The goal is for the student to wrestle the knife away without hurting their attacker. The contest of wills goes on until the student wins or gives up.

All three students earned their black belt that night. It was grueling for each one of them. Sitting on the sidelines, I felt a deep urge to help them through their tests. I gave my support the only way I could by cheering them on and witnessing the start of their martial arts journey. Through the sweat, exhaustion, pock-marks, and bruises they persevered. That night, not only did they earn their black belts they earned the respect of the entire dojo. Witnessing such victories turns my thoughts inward.

I have a year and a half until it is my turn to endure the black belt test. I am a red belt. It is an incredible journey so far. I have learned so much about myself, who I am and who I am becoming. Often, I think about the test and the perseverance needed to make it through. Will I have what it takes? I like to think so. However, there are many things I need to do to prepare, physically and mentally. As I contemplate these things, there is a looming question. I have a feeling I won’t fully understand the answer for a couple of years.

What does earning a black belt mean in the Bujinkan? The obvious comes to mind. You should be able to protect yourself and others from attacks out in the world. However, becoming a black belt is more than that, at least to me. Remember, I am only a red belt so, I may be off here. I believe it means you now have the skills needed to start your journey down the martial arts path. I see earning a black belt as the first milestone. The starting place. Let me give an example of what I mean. Say you are planning to hike the John Muir Trail, a long trek through the Sierra Nevada mountains. You would need to prepare physically and mentally, purchase equipment and learn survival skills to make the 218-mile journey. The same is true in Taijutsu. Earning a black belt is not the end of the journey, it is just the beginning.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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It’s All About The Core

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Recovering from a sports injury can be hard. Difficult as in all you want to do is get back out there and train. As healing progresses and the pain recedes, you think “I can do this.” That is when you find out you are wrong. You have to take it easy on your body. The reminders that healing takes time, especially when bones are involved are constant, at least for me.

Another visit to the Chiropractor highlighted the need to strengthen my core. It was pure luck, at least as far as I know, that the chiropractor I was assigned specializes in sports injuries. He started me out with four exercises designed to work the muscles without further damaging my lower back. He wants my core strengthened before letting me back onto the dojo mats. That is reasonable, I guess.

As my appointment was ending and just before I walked out the door, the Chiropractor looked me straight in the eye and said, “I want you to do these exercises hundreds of times every day. Hundreds and hundreds of reps. Endless.” He smiled at me. I believe that was a chiropractic joke. I returned his smile and walked out the door. He has no idea that I intend to take him literally.

I have learned many things while on my sabbatical from the dojo mats. The lesson most relevant at this moment are the benefits of core strength. Every martial artist, including myself, should know that a strong core = a strong body. As my chiropractor puts it, “Having strong muscles built up around your spine will protect it from further injury.” I should know this. Eleven years ago my brother, who is a body builder, fell off the third story of an unfinished building. He landed on his upper shoulder and neck area. He stood up, walked over to his truck and packed up his tools before he had a co-worker drive him to the hospital. Yes, he had broken his spine in a couple of places. The doctors were baffled as to why he wasn’t paralyzed or dead. They could only attribute his survival to the muscle mass he had built. It saved his life. There is a valuable lesson to that story, one that I need to take to heart. Moving on.

Last night at class (yes, I still go and take notes.), I was watching one of the senior students teach punching techniques to a girl who has little to no experience. My experience in punching people is about the same. I can truthfully say that I have never been in a real fight out on the streets or anywhere for that matter. I am not that kind of girl. The super-sized ego and anger needed to fuel a fight are just not in me. Don’t get me wrong, if I needed to bring it, I could.

Let’s get back to punching at the dojo. In our red belt class, we learn a combination of six strikes. As I was watching the senior student, I noticed he was punching from the core, moving his hips and pivoting on his back foot. Many of you may already know this, however, for me, it highlighted the need to strengthen my midsection. Strikes have more oomph if you punch from the torso. It would seem it is all about the core.

There is no way around it. In the past, I have shied away from core strength training. Let’s be real. Strengthening the torso is hard work. It hurts. However, the me that is embracing all the new changes in my life wants to hit it and hit it hard. Of course, I will be careful of my injuries. I have a Sensei and a Chiropractor who will yell at me if I don’t. It is nice when people care. Remember, core. It is all about the core.

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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Intermittent Fasting Week 2 Report

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This week the need to snack during fasting hours became palpable. It wasn’t all the time. The urge to eat washed over me in waves, powerful waves. Often, I had to remind myself that I am fighting a decade’s old habit tied to my emotional states. It is my job to stand firm against the waves of snacking and not let them bowl me over.

Well, I did stand firm against snacking during fasting hours. I was even able to make my son breakfast without sampling. That is a big win for me. However, this week I had one hiccup. My husband brought home a bottle of wine. We uncorked it about an hour after my window for eating was closed. It was a good wine, and yet, I had a few twinges of guilt. I am not going to beat myself up over it. Although, I do need to keep in mind what I am trying to do.

Intermittent fasting is a tool, a means to an end. It isn’t a cruel punishment I decided to put myself through. I am learning how my physical body works. Even though I am fighting bad habits, I can tell this new eating regime is working. Already my mind is more clear. I sleep better at night. I am not eating as much in one sitting. The craving for sugar is almost gone. There is vanilla ice cream in our freezer. I haven’t touched in over a week. That is unprecedented. So, I am winning.

This week was hard. My mood was serious. I did not lose weight and the cravings for salty foods were bad. As I said before, I need to keep in mind what I am doing and why. Change always comes with a few bumps. I am going to keep at it. There will be a day when intermittent fasting is just a way of life for me. I look forward to that day. I will report back in a couple of weeks.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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Benched

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I got benched. My Sensei benched me. He banned me from the mats at the dojo. If I am honest, he has a good reason to do so. A couple of weeks ago, I got dumped hard on my hip/lower back area. It jarred me hard enough to say, “Whoa.” I got up and shook it off knowing I would be sore the next morning. Three days later the pain hit. Trying to manage the growing discomfort I alternated ice and heat, tried to stretch, and took it easy. After a few days, my back wasn’t getting any better. So, I broke down and went to see a chiropractor.

As you will undoubtedly come to know, I do not like to spend money needlessly. My family lives on a tight budget. Managing extra expenses is hard. As a consequence, we try to keep our doctor visits down to once or twice a year. However, at this time, the pain is enough for me to swallow the bill, so to speak.

I have never been to a chiropractor before. The experience is new to me. After some physical tests, followed by x-rays and then more x-rays the Chiropractor believes I have a fracture in my lower right back. However, he is confused. My fracture is not acting normal so, he wants a second opinion from a more experienced Chiropractor with a Masters in Radiology. I hope to find out definitively what is going on soon. All I know for sure is my back hurts like hell.

We all have choices in life. We can let problems slow us down or we can adapt. The fracture in my back is an obstacle. No doubt. Now, I can either let this setback stop me or I can use it to my advantage. I choose the latter. Going to the dojo hurts my back. It doesn’t matter if I am sitting or standing it is painful. Of course, I am in pain at home too. My choices are I can either go to the dojo, watch, take notes and learn or I can stay at home sulking. The dojo is where my heart is. I choose to learn on the sidelines until I can obtain the magic ticket (a doctor’s note) that gets me back onto the mats.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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