Tag Archives: health

Healthcare and Personal Responsibility

Nobody else is responsible for your choices but you. This applies to your health, your finances, your relationships and any other area you’d like to include. Most people want freedom, but fewer want to take responsibility for irresponsible choices.

Let’s look at the health question as an example. If you smoke (tobacco or marijuana) there are associated health risks. If you eat SAD (Standard American Diet), and don’t take time daily to exercise (walk, jog, swim, bike, train with weights, etc.), then you are a candidate for Type II diabetes and may be dealing with some degree of obesity. The newest term for this dangerous combination is diabesity. If you are dealing with health challenges related to your choices, you are responsible to make changes. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Sadly many of us are unwilling to see it this way. I want to eat whatever I please. Don’t want to exercise. And when I have a health problem I want to take a pill to solve it, but I’d rather not pay for that. I need free medical care. In reality, nothing is free. In countries with socialized medicine the average tax rate is around 55%. That’s about double what a working adult is paying in the United States right now. Your health insurance may seem expensive, but will a system like this be cheaper for you? For me the answer is no. Since I never go to the hospital and rarely to the doctor, it is grossly unfair for the government take half my salary to pay for others who haven’t taken care of their health.

In addition to this a government run health system would be like, the VA (Veteran’s Administration). Ask a veteran how happy they are with the quality of care they receive. The government would decide whether you deserve treatment. The government would decide whether or not to pay for the birth of a child that they deem unworthy (those with physical challenges like down syndrome). The government would decide whether to provide expensive care to someone a medical board determined not worth the expense. A recent well publicized incident in Great Britain comes to mind, wherein the British government refused to prolong a baby’s life, and then prohibited the parents from taking their own sick child to another country willing to treat it. They went as far as posting armed officers at the doors of the hospital! Why? Because the British government determined the baby would, and therefore should, die. I am not willing to give life and death decisions about my health to any government. Then there is the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions, which I (and others like me) oppose.

In the event all of this talk about personal responsibility would cause you to think I don’t care about those who are sick. You would be wrong. I believe affordable healthcare should be available to everyone. I believe those who cannot afford to go to the doctor should receive help when they are genuinely in need of it. I would give money to make this possible. That doesn’t equate to me going to the ER because I have a head cold, or seasonal allergies. When I was a child my parents took me to the hospital to get my tonsils out, and to the ER because I accidentally stuck a knife through my hand. Now, there is an increasing tendency to run to the emergency room for most anything. If you can afford it, then that’s your choice, but don’t expect others to subsidize such an expensive trip when you could have gone to a primary care doctor.

Some of us have medical problems we didn’t do anything to cause or even contribute to. I am nearly deaf in my right ear. It happened in one day and has nothing to do with my choices. I’d like to be able to afford hearing aids. Currently I cannot. They run between $3,000-5,000 I don’t expect the government to provide them. I would like a more affordable option, however. Currently I don’t have medical insurance, and even when I did hearing aids were not covered. I know others who have serious health problems that they did not cause. I believe these folks should have access to medical care for whatever they can honestly afford. If that resulted in a modest increase in my tax rate, that is acceptable. However, it will also mean necessary reform to our medical industrial complex, especially in the prescription drug sector.

The question each of us needs to answer is, what can I do to improve my health situation? I can change my diet. I can exercise. I can rest. I can be healthy. I am responsible.

Road to a Lean Body

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Translation: It’s not what you think or assume, but what you actually do that matters.

Today I return to the topic of health and fitness. Previously I reported a seven step plan to get lean again in 2020. So far, my progress has been limited because discipline has been sporadic in several areas. I lose some body fat, then fall prey to boredom, indifference, and/or entitlement and cheat on my diet. This has not been terrible, but any cheating inhibits progress, and enough cheating initiates regression.

I have remained rock solid on workouts, however. This has been my saving discipline. I continue to do strength training three days per week, and I’ve continued to run the other three days. The latter is a significant accomplishment for me due to my contempt for running.

I burned up 20 days and am currently behind my weight goal. I have lost some body fat, which is good, just not enough for this much effort. So, what must I do? Return to a stricter diet and more consistent intermittent fasting. My body doesn’t want to lose the weight, so I become voraciously hungry at night. I excuse eating after sundown by telling myself, “Well, it is intermittent fasting, so I can eat at night occasionally.” Or, “I’m working out with weights, my body needs the additional protein.” Most excuses contain a sprinkling of fact. The truth is, I cannot eat like that if I’m going to hit my goal.

I’m 40 days out and motivated to hit a goal weight of 149 by my birthday. When I’m there I’ll measure body fat and determine how much further down to go. Truth be told, I like being lean and skinny. When I’m fatter I become more lethargic. I also hate looking at my gut and love handles, especially when this can be seen through a tucked shirt. Here’s where vanity works in my favor. I WILL LOSE THIS FLAB.

Until next time, I hope you are busy achieving your fitness goals for the new year!

Physical Training Anniversary and New Challenge

One year ago today I embarked on a project to renew my body. I’d gained flab and lost fitness. I made a meme of Frosty the Snowman with my face superimposed because I looked like a snowman. I don’t look like that today!

I won’t go into all of the details of my diet and exercise program here. If you want to look back at earlier entries in this blog you can discover what I did. Suffice it to say, what I’ve done worked. I’m maintaining less than 10 percent body fat and have gained muscle mass. My waist is at 29 inches. My goal is to gain about 10 more pounds of lean body mass and keep the fat percentage where it is currently. However, I’ve encountered an obstacle: injury.

Over the years, I’ve seen a repeat of the same issue. I’ve gotten myself back in shape and then sustained an injury to my shoulder(s), which results in my not being able to train my upper body. I get disappointed, don’t do other exercise, let my diet go, gain weight, and remain out of shape until long after the injury heals. I re-injured my right shoulder while doing benchpress last week. This is sad because I had gained strength even though I still have a mis-located (broken) collarbone sustained while doing incline benchpress. I’m afraid I’ll have to find other chest exercises. Bench has proven destructive. Yes, I warm up. Yes, my form is correct. 

I’m not giving up, but I am learning. First, I’m not afraid of gaining too much fat, even if my workouts are curtailed while this shoulder heals. Why? I’ve found the golden ticket to fat loss and maintaining lean body mass. It’s called intermittent fasting. You could also call this scheduled eating. I’m not the expert here. You can look it up. Read books by Jason Fung. Watch YouTube videos by Thomas DeLauer and Dr. Eric Berg. What I will tell you is, it works.

Intermittent fasting means I fast periodically for at least 13 hours, up to 24. Typically I stop eating between 3pm and 6pm and don’t eat again until the next day until noon. On the 13 hour fasting days I drink Bulletproof coffee and/or eat eggs, no carbs in the morning. Secondly, I limit my carbohydrate and sugar intake. I eat almost no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, and limit the amount of fruit. Of course, I avoid all sweets, and don’t put sugar in my coffee or tea. Intermittent fasting is easier on a low carb diet. When I eat carbs I’m hungry all the time. When I eat healthy fats, I’m not. The simple reason for this is, when you eat carbs, your body uses that as fuel immediately; therefore, it wants you to keep supplying those carbs throughout the day. When your body doesn’t have carbs/sugar for a longer period of time, it learns to burn fat. This is what happens when someone follows the now famous keto diet.

A keto diet is a good place to start before entering into longer periods of fasting (ie. longer than over night). Once your body is in ketosis, it isn’t craving carbs for fuel. Fasting becomes easier in this state because your body is used to burning fat, and will easily burn body fat in the absence of food. That’s what you’re looking for, at least if you need to lose some flab.

So, I’m injured. I’m disappointed. However, I’m not giving up, and I’m not going to get fat again. Fasting is a discipline often associated with religion. In fact, every major religion practices fasting to one degree or another. Sadly, many Protestants or Evangelical groups do not practice it. We should. It’s healthy, both spiritually and physically. I’ve written about this as well. The reason I bring in the spiritual aspect at the end of this entry is, I believe God’s providential reason for allowing my current injury is to move me away from focus on self and toward increased spiritual discipline, or what the Bible calls training in godliness. The essence of this kind of training is focus on God instead of self. Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines I want to pursue. There are others.

I’ve just purchased the Kindle version of Richard Foster’s classic A Celebration of Discipline, along with Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. One year after my physical transformation, I will now focus on training in godliness/a holy life. Basic to this is becoming more like Jesus. I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m impatient. I’m easily frustrated. I complain often. I’m lustful. Just saying no to these things will not stop them. I know because I’ve tried that approach my entire life. What I need is to learn to say yes to a good and loving God, and that includes saying yes to spiritual training and discipline.

for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8, NRSV)

You Can Be Less Fat & More Fit

Fitness is more than how thin you are, but I believe a good start (probably the best place to begin) is with a change in your diet, which results in a leaner body. A lean body is better for many reasons: less prone to heart disease, increased longevity, avoidance of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, joint problems and a host of other complications which result from hauling around too much body fat every day.

It’s not popular to say this, but neither is it a secret: many people are simply carrying too much body fat. Perhaps you are one of them. Notice, I didn’t say “too heavy.” It’s not about weight; it’s about body fat percentage. The average American carries between 28-40% body fat (and it may be worse today, since that stat is from a study done 15-20 years ago!). That is not healthy. Not at all.

One year ago my body fat was around 23% at a weight of just over 170 lbs. I’m around 71 inches tall. I wasn’t terribly unhealthy, but I was getting there gradually. You see, everything accumulates over time, whether fitness or fatness. In 2012 I had gotten down to 7% body fat, was lifting weights and running regularly. I felt great! Then I broke my clavicle doing incline presses and that slowed the weights down considerably. I was discouraged. I stopped running. My diet gradually got less healthy. I still went to the gym a couple of times per week, but my workouts weren’t enough to burn off the additional calories.

The difference over a five year span was a gain of 16% body fat, which translates to around 20 lbs on my frame. That’s an annual gain of a little over three percent fat, or a mere four pounds each year. Consider, if I had gone another decade I could have been carrying around the high average of 40% body fat. NO THANKS!

I took a look at myself in the mirror at 23% and didn’t like what I saw. I looked like a round, slightly lumpy snowman. I knew what I could look like when healthy and fit. I knew it was going to take some work to get back. It did! I’ve journaled about that process here, so you can look back at those blogs if you’d like. The picture I’ve included in this entry is a screenshot I took this morning from a body fat calculator on my mobile device. To use the app you still need body fat calipers, and, yes, you need to weigh yourself. Currently I weight around 145 and am carrying about 5.5% body fat. Did I mention I’m 56 years old…

If your sex is male, and you’re not an elite athlete, then you should aim for 10-15% body fat. If your sex is female and not competing in some sport, aim for 20-25%. If you need to be leaner for a sport (I am a martial arts instructor), then you may seek to go lower. However, men shouldn’t get below 4% or women below about 9%. You do need some body fat. I am keeping mine between 5-7% because I want to stay at that level of fitness to teach my karate’ class. That, and I like how I look and feel when I’m this lean.

So, what’s the secret? Did I do Keto? Count calories? Fasting? Run an hour a day? Overall friends, although it’s hard at first to apply the self-control, the concept is really very simple: you get fatter when you eat more, and you get thinner when you eat less. You also get fatter when you’re less active, while still eating the same, and you get leaner when you’re more active without increasing the amount you eat. Everything accumulates over time, fitness or fatness.

Duh? Well, why do we read so much disinformation when it comes to this? People want to believe, “You can eat whatever you want and lose the weight!” No, you can’t. Don’t buy it (metaphorically or literally). There are many paths to the goal of losing fat, and there are variables, but the truth is your body carries more fat when it doesn’t burn the excess (yes, I’m going to use a bad word here) CALORIES you’re consuming.

So, do you want to get fit? Start with your diet. You need to establish a healthy diet. If you want less fat, then you need to eat fewer calories. You need to cut out the sugar and starch. You need to schedule your eating.

Next, you need to move more. Find a form of exercise you will do regularly: walk, swim, bike, lift weights, get into an aerobics class, learn and practice a sport like basketball or an art like karate’ or yoga. Aim for 30-40 minutes of vigorous activity five or six days per week.

Do you want help? Coaching? I’m considering doing that for people in the near future, so stay tuned…

From Fatness to Fitness, a Journey

It started on November 8th, and today is February 26th. I was sick and tired of my gut and my “snowman body,” which had accumulated over four years. In early November I weighed around 170 with 19% body fat (according to my smart scale, which may not measure body fat with great accuracy but was my gauge all along). My last weigh-in showed 147.4 pounds. I used calipers and found between 8.38% to 10.12% body fat, depending on the method of calculating. I dropped from a 33” to a 30” waist.

Previous to this I had worked hard and effectively to arrive at the same point. However, everything accumulates over time: fatness or fitness. It all depends on what you’re doing, or not doing in the case of decreasing levels of discipline and activity. I didn’t decide to start being unhealthy one day; in fact, I never stopped going to the gym. Everything happened gradually.

I think I did make a decision to gain some weight, but I wanted it to be muscle. However, I broke my clavicle and was unable to perform any bench presses. This is demoralizing for a guy. I continued to work out, but not very hard, and finally averaged only once or twice a week. I continued to eat a fairly healthy diet, and I didn’t overeat. In spite of this, I gained fat and lost muscle mass. Four years ago I weighed 149, so I gained 21 pounds, or five pounds per year. Had I continued on this gradual increase I would have eventually become obese, and likely struggled with type-two diabetes, which runs on my father’s side of the family.

My vanity kicked in when I stared at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Coinciding with this was my decision to return to teaching karate’. I have been an instructor for over 30 years, but had quit teaching or even practicing. I didn’t realize how out of condition I had become. We deceive ourselves when we get older, thinking that everything is pretty much the same this year as it was last, or five or ten years ago. Unlike young people, who naturally grow, when we hit about the mid-twenties we begin to decline, slowly at first, but everything accumulates over time. If you’ve not chosen a disciplined lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating you may be in your late twenties (even younger) and already show significant signs of decreasing fitness.

The last time I started, it was a more difficult journey out of the slough of fitness despondency in which I had found myself. I am happy I didn’t wait any longer to get back into shape. It could have been significantly more difficult to do at this point if I had not already built a fitness foundation. As we get older we have decreased physical capabilities and increased liabilities. In spite of this, we may not realize how far removed we are from the halcyon days of our youth. The result? I go to the gym and attempt to do what I used to 10 or 20 years ago, and discover I cannot. Disappointment may stop me there, or soreness and injury may slow me to a stop later. Then I quit, become depressed, eat more, care less, and put myself at risk for serious physical problems. I learned to meet myself where I am (as opposed to expecting I will be where I used to), and keep moving forward. This motivational strategy has worked to keep me going each time.

I really like being skinny! I have more energy. I look better in my clothes. Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’m stronger. Since I’ve been running my cardio-vascular system is healthier and I have more energy. I have more self-discipline in other areas of my life too. Temptation is tough. I was at a birthday celebration at an Asian buffet two days ago and our room was right next to the dessert section. All those beautiful little cakes, cookies and tiramisus were calling to me. I resisted! Why? I’d just purchased new jeans and pants a few hours earlier with waist sizes between 29 and 30. I’m not going to keep myself from fitting into those new clothes! I want to be lean, look good, feel good, have energy and have no self-consciousness about a pooching belly. Half of that is vain, but it’s honest.

In the end, I’m a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus. I’m called to offer my body to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable and spiritual offering in worship. God is worth more than a feeble sacrifice. I want to present a clean, healthy body for him to use. If I am going to serve the Lord by teaching karate’, then I need to be in top condition. If I’m going to keep away from sickness, and disease like Alzheimer’s, then I have to discipline myself to exercise, eat healthy, as well as reading and writing regularly. If I’m going to defend myself or my congregation against the attack of some violent individual, then I want to be as trained and fit as possible to do so. My body belongs to God; it is his temple. I want him to be pleased. That’s worship. That’s the best motive of all.

Don’t Give Up

When your expectations aren’t met it’s tempting to give up. When on a fitness program–or most any other plan you make in life–you need to see progress. Or what’s the point, right?

I’ve seen progress, but it hasn’t gone according to my original plan, which was to lose 2lbs per week until January 1, then lose 1lb per week until around Valentine’s Day when I reach my goal. I wrote my target weights on a calendar and met about half of them at the right time. I did the 10 day modified juice fast and hit my goal for January 1 on December 24. Then I proceeded to gain SIX POUNDS. The next week I dropped back down a couple of pounds then fasted for three days and got back to where I had been. That’s where I am currently, and it’s about three pounds off of my original goal.

Still I look at myself in the mirror and it has been a remarkable physical transformation in a two month period. My scale measures body fat, but I’ve determined that it is grossly inaccurate. At my current weight, based on the original body fat calculation, I should be at 10-12%. The scale says 15.6. I’ll need to get calipers and pinch the fat in various places and plug those numbers into a formula that calculates more accurately than my $100 scale from Amazon.

So, although I’ve not met my original numeric goal YET, I have made significant progress. I’m not giving up. In fact, I’m more determined than ever to make my body do what I believe it can and will do: reach 9% body fat with 40% muscle mass by my birthday, which is in 52 days. At middle age this is not as easy as it used to be, but I’m up for the challenge! And I’m looking and feeling great–except for the constant muscle soreness!

Body Fat comp

Addendum: I used calpers. The various formulas for determining body fat lead me to believe my scale is closer than I’d assumed. I’m probably between 14-15% now. So, I adjusted by goal to be at 9% by my birthday, which is 49 days from this addendum.

Push through the Disappointments

It’s been nearly a month since I determined to lose 16 lbs by the end of 2017. I’m happy to say that I am on track. There have been some disappointments along the way, however. On two occasions I was on target mid-week and magically picked up a pound the next day. My body doesn’t want to lose fat. It is not easy to make the transition from burning carbs to burning fat. I’ve cut both calories and carbs. I’ve increased my activity level. I’ve been working out more often. In spite of all that, there were those two disappointments.

If I see progress, it is much easier to stay motivated. When it appears that what I am doing is not helping, I am tempted to go to one of two extremes: quit or eat nothing. Either extreme is unhealthy. Fasting for a short period, even fasting a day or two per week may be healthy. However, fasting slows the metabolism and inhibits muscle growth. Yes, I did try it, and yes I will continue to include it in my regimen. There are spiritual reasons for this as well, which are contained in another article I posted here.

Whatever I do it must be sustainable. If I lose this fat, then go back to old habits, I’ll gain it right back. I know I can do this because I’ve done it before. In 2012 I got down to 7.5% body fat and stayed there for over a year. Even after that I stayed under 10% for two more years. What caused the weight gain? Disappointment. I inujured myself and couldn’t do the intense weight training I was accustomed to, so I gradually gave up. Not completely, but enough to gain 20lbs over 4 years.

I will face disappointments. I will miss a workout. I will have a day where I eat more than my allotted 1750 calories. My body will, inexplicably, gain a pound. I’ll injure myself, or be so sore that I cannot work out. What I have to do–what I have done, and will keep doing–is to persevere. Tenacity is important. I must keep moving forward, even if it appears (or feels) as though I’m not going as fast or as far as I expected or planned.

So, I pressed on toward my goal, and I’m over halfway there. My determination remains strong. I don’t want the things I did before because I have a higher prize in front of me. Saturday was a big temptation. The micro-brewery down the street from me had its anniversary with special beers. I considered taking a cheat day and going in there. However, I was 1.4 lbs away from my weekly goal as of Thursday, so I couldn’t afford to cheat. I resisted temptation. I met my goal this morning.

This all has spiritual application as well. There are many things I’m tempted to do that I resist, not because I’m afraid, but because I am pressing on toward a higher prize: becoming like Jesus in his resurrection. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Keeping my eyes on the ultimate prize keeps me from doing many foolish, worthless and destructive things. It keeps me from believing lies like, “Oh, that’s not so bad.” Or, “Everybody does it.” And the most damaging, “This isn’t really wrong.” Christ’s character and commandments determine what is right and wrong. If I am going to be like him in my character, and follow him in his resurrection, I must have faith first. Then I have to follow that faith with obedience. That will make me different than many people in my culture. That’s ok. A 55 year old man with less than 10% body fat is rare too. I don’t want to be obese, and I don’t want to be un-Christlike or immoral either.

So, I press on…