Intermittent Fasting – 2 Months

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I don’t feel very well here. I am fighting a cold and it is that time of the month. TMI. I know.

 

Two months have passed since I started intermittent fasting. The life-change struggle is real. I have spent twenty years living my life a certain way. Changing is not easy. Old habits just don’t go away over night. It takes time and a will stronger than old urges. In other words, you have to want your goals more than a bowl of ice cream or chips. What gets me through? Logic. I spent many years feasting. I figure now a little fasting is in order.

A couple of weeks ago The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung was recommended to me by a friend. They insisted it was mind-blowing. The book changed their life forever. That is a high endorsement. I couldn’t ignore the advice. So, that evening I ordered the book off Amazon. After three days of highlighting, annotation and dog-earing, my paradigm shifted as was promised.

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The great thing about The Obesity Code is the history Dr. Fung interweaves throughout the book. He answers the question of “How did we get here?” How did America become the fattest country in the world after only fifty years? Ever since the government became involved in what we eat in 1977 obesity has skyrocketed. After finishing the book, I felt betrayed. Long story short, it all boils down to making money. I am not nieve. However, I felt let down by the government, the food industry and the medical world. My worldview became just a little more cynical. On that depressing note, what else did I take away from Dr. Fung’s book?

Near the end of the book, Dr. Fung defines weight loss as pieces of a puzzle. It is a good way to look at it. From what I gathered there are four main pieces for success: What To Eat, When To Eat, Stress Management, and Sleep. It makes sense that weight gain is not a one-dimensional problem. It is multi-faceted. As part of providing solutions to obesity, Dr. Fung outlines different intermittent fasting plans. As you all know, currently I am on an 18/6 IF schedule. It has worked well for me, and yet, I feel compelled to try one of Dr. Fung’s protocols.

Since I do not have any major health issues, other than being obese, I want to try Dr. Fung’s 24 hours IF plan with modification. You may ask, “What does this new protocol look like?” The good news (at least for me) I will eat every day. Four days a week I will only eat dinner. Three days a week I will have lunch and dinner, keeping with the same hours as my 18/6 schedule. I will do this for a month to see how it goes and how my body responds. Now, that I have the When To Eat piece of the puzzle, it is time to look at What To Eat.

Up until now, I tried to eat healthily. I cut the refined sugar down and increased salads. After reading Fung’s book, I realized I was eating wrong. My carb intake was insanely high and my fats low. I made the switch. The idea is to keep carbs low and increase fat. Being a vegetarian, this means eating eggs, full-fat dairy, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, berries, and tofu. It also requires cutting all boxed food, bread, refined sugar, root vegetables, and most fruits. Carbs spikes insulin. Protein moderately spikes insulin. Fat spikes insulin hardly at all. The reason to make the diet change is to keep insulin levels low. Over time, along with intermittent fasting, a low carb/moderate protein/ high-fat diet will correct insulin resistance. The end goal is using hormones to signal the body to use fat stores. Thereby, losing weight.

It all seems too easy. I know. I feel as if the American people have been jerked around so much with fad diets and food pyramids, we have lost touch with what our ancestors knew instinctively. How do I know intermittent fasting and a low carb/high-fat diet will work? Can I lose the fat and keep it off? Time will tell. The science is there. The history tells an interesting tale. I feel comfortable giving this life style change time.

How have I done so far? In two months I have lost 15 lbs. I am down to 259 pounds. That is good progress in my book. It will be interesting to see how a low carb/high-fat diet will affect my body. I recommend Dr. Fung’s book The Obesity Code to anyone who wants to learn more about how their body works. It was an eye opener for me. Maybe, you can benefit as well. Knowledge is power.

 

Thanks for reading.

J. R. Lowe

Dreams

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We live in the land and time of dreams. The inundation talk of dreams is significant. It is everywhere. Follow your dreams. Live the American dream. Dream big. A dream is a wish your heart makes. I have a dream. If you can dream it, you can do it. Make your dreams happen. Dreams do come true. Live your dream. I am sure there are many more inspirational one-liners out there. The list is not exhaustive. I like to beg questions. Here is one for you. How would you define a dream?

The number one definition in the dictionary is “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. We all have experience with dreaming. I have a handful of dreams that I remember. They are vivid and intense. However, the bulk of my dreaming is fleeting, barely impressions. I find this also to be true with the second definition of dreams. You know those wispy aspirations we chase after at least in minds.

Dreams change with time and maturity. I don’t have the same dreams I did as a young child. Nor should I. Although, I must confess. I do still cling to one childhood dream. Ever since I knew what it was, I knew it was for me. To this day, I dream of traveling the world. The point is, aside from one or two aspirations that may endure the test of time, dreams are fleeting at best. Why would I want to chase that? More importantly, why would I want to live that? We get so caught up in the idea of dreams. Don’t get me wrong. It is good to work hard, to grow personally, and to ultimately achieve what you set out to accomplish. It is the chasing after fleeting dreams that set us up for failure. They are notoriously hard to catch. Here is an idea to contemplate. By the very language we use, following dreams suggests the external. We all know that success does not come from outside of ourselves.

Instead of focusing on evanescent notions, turn inward. Ask yourself, “What can I do to reach my full potential?” My son, who is seven years old, likes to watch the TV show Ninjago. Parents everywhere understand the repetitive nature of children watching their favorite shows. You pick things up, whether you want to or not. As a consolation, I believe you can find bits of wisdom anywhere, even in a children’s cartoon. You just have to listen for it. In the very first episode of Ninjago Masters of Spinjutsu, within the first five minutes, Sensei Wu strongly encourages his four students, who are playing video games instead of training, to get up off their tushies and obtain their full potential. Profound, right?

Let me illustrate my meaning or rather, Senesi Wu’s meaning. Recently, I decided I was done being the mediocre version of myself. Hold on, before you jump to conclusions, I am not self-bashing. I am facing reality. Have you ever felt you could be so much more? That you could do so much more? I do. Three years ago I had to face a grim and heart-pounding realization.

My husband was less than ten years away from retiring. At which time, I would have to take over being the breadwinner of the family. The thought scared me into action. I didn’t have a degree or a way to support our maturing family. So out of cold fear, I went back to school. That’s okay, whatever motivates us. Once I hit my stride in school, a realization hit me. I was home. Home as in I felt comfortable and mentally stimulated. I know that is the nature of college and I love it.

Around the same time, I was asked to teach a genealogy seminar. For those of you that don’t know, I have twenty years of genealogy experience under my belt. I was excited by the opportunity. I put together a How-To booklet, created a power point, and provided several case studies. Approximately a hundred people showed up that evening. I lectured for three hours about the ins and outs of online research. I will clue you into a little secret about me. I was born a shy child. So shy in fact, if anyone looked at me I would burst into tears. It was that bad. So, that night it was an illuminating moment for me. I felt very comfortable.

A second realization hit me. I love to teach. The math was simple: love of history + comfortable with teaching + feeling at home in college = History Professor. That is what I am meant to do with my life. You may ask, “How can I be so sure?” When I stop to think about it, history permeates throughout even my day-to-day existence. Acknowledging what was right under my nose, it was time to make a plan.

In the past three years, everything I have pursued working towards my ultimate career goal, I have obtained. I am not bragging. It is an illustration. I wanted to improve my writing skills, so I became a writing consultant at the college. I set my sights on the University of Washington Seattle. I applied and got in. I wanted to start my journey in martial arts. So, I did. None of these things were easy. It took an insane amount of hard work, determination, and perseverance. I set small goals for myself, taking it one piece at a time. Think of a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. With each new piece put into place, I am that much closer to achieving my full potential.

Back to chasing dreams. Aren’t you tired of running after the elusive?  I am not saying don’t do what you love. Just the exact opposite. Stop. Look inward. Ask yourself, “How can I reach my full potential?” Remember, only you can answer that question. A word of caution as you move forward in life. The world is full of doubters. It is their job to test your resolve. Yours is to walk past them without blinking an eye.

As I conclude, I want to purpose a change to the cheesy one-liner quotes meant to inspire us to follow ephemerality. “Live to your full potential.” That could be catchy. Or how about, “Follow your potential.” Here is another one, “Make your full potential happen.” And last but certainly not least, “Be your potential.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

Takamatsu Kukishin Ryu Video

Nothing beats training in a dojo with a knowledgeable sensei and well seasoned black belts. However, as students of Budo Taijutsu, we should also study and practice outside of the dojo. Finding time for extra training can be hard. And I know not everyone is into research. That is a hard concept for me, who is a little bit addicted to research, to wrap my mind around. Anyway, for the students who want to understand the philosophy behind their art cracking a book open or watching educational videos is a must. Most students of the Bujinkan have a common goal, to move more like Soke. I know I do. To achieve this goal, each individual would need to invest much more than two hours a week in a dojo. Like it or not, that is the reality.

On that cheery note, below, is a video of Takamatsu showing different techniques. I am sure this video is well-known throughout the Bujinkan world. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to watch every now and again. I suggest watching this video with a dojo buddy. That way you can try out the techniques on each other. Just remember not to kill each other. Study on and remember Budo Taijutsu is not just a martial art. It is a way of life.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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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

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.