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July 02, 2020
Gaby - These blogs are about maintaining a quality and quantity of life. How you can tip the balance towards extended healthy life years: more strength and energy, better looks and less drugs (from the doctor).
In our last blog we spoke about Michael’s eight-week goals, which we’re now halfway through. He wants to match some key fitness metrics to ten years ago on his last big birthday. We also expanded on a key health topic of muscle loss with ageing.
Michael - This week Gaby introduced me to the Peloton. Luckily it arrived two weeks before lockdown as all the gyms soon closed, and Gaby has used it every day. This is going to weave itself into the last half of my eight-week plan, now we’re four weeks in. Last week I gave an example of some strength exercises and this week I’ve rotated onto some different ones. But I’d like to talk about nutrition this week. There are so many complex facets to this, conflicting opinions and a million diets. I’ll give you my simple take on it, and some books that have had a lasting impact on my thinking.
Unless you are still growing into adulthood, or deliberately adding extra muscle, calories going in need to equal calories expended to stop the gradual laying down of fat stores, both visibly and invisibly. The dangers of clogged arteries are well documented but there is more understanding now about the dangers of visceral fat; that stored within the abdominal cavity as opposed to sub-cutaneous fat stored under the skin. Around the belly you can have both fat types.
But visceral fat lays around the organs and can lead to chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. This comes more from types of food than quantities of food.
I’d always been skinny underweight up to my thirties. Even as I filled out in my forties, I still saw myself as skinny underweight. A couple of medicals put my total body fat at just under 25% which is borderline overweight.
When the doctor started talking about the dangers of visceral fat, I just zoned out, thinking they must be talking to someone else. I assumed the machines were wrong, so fixed was my belief that I was still the skinny underweight from schooldays. But looking at a range of fat percentage pictures I realised that I wanted to be more like 17-18%. One of my goals in this eight-weeks is to get total body fat down from 24% to under 20% I personally don’t find any of the extremes above attractive but 18% looks good to me.
I’ve always preferred to eat foods that bear more than a passing resemblance to how they started out in nature. I’ve never really liked over processed food. Each level of process kills off a bit more nutritional value, with some foods being artificially tasty but with the nutritional value reduced to fumes. It’s ironic that the obesity crisis in the apparently advanced Western world, is generally one of malnutrition. A word more associated with famines in Africa.
If most of the diet is overly processed food it may only have 20% nutritional value. This leaves the body starving for more, but it will still tuck away the remaining 80% as storage for just in case. Yes, that’s probably a simplistic view, and easily challenged by a learned nutritionist, well-funded by the lucrative diet industry, but if you eat mainly fresh food, the body knows when to stop, and doesn’t leave you gagging for more. Sweet sugary foods leave you craving more sweet sugary foods. The sugar industry knows how addictive their product is.
Genes might be half the story. But psychology and environment can dictate how the genes express themselves leading to quite different outcomes.
The longer you’ve been in malnutrition the longer it’ll take your body to trust you, and stop squirreling away excess calories around your hips, belly etc. It’s why most diets don’t work. Starve your body and it won’t trust you next time. It goes into lockdown and stocks up. Once food intake levels resume, much more gets stored in fat in case you decide to starve again. The bodies mechanisms are about short-term survival not preferred dress sizes. Yo-yo dieting is stressful on the body and the wardrobe.
I’ve read many books on health over the years and these are some that have left a lasting imprint on me.
We are made up of billions of cells. It figures that we can’t be healthy if our cells are sick. Health at a cellular level is mainly about just two things - nutrients in and toxins out.
1. Nutrients in - getting sufficient quantities of healthy stuff, oxygen, food, water, positive body chemistry.
2. Toxins out - Eliminating and keeping out toxins. Waste matter, unhealthy food intakes, environmental toxins, negative body chemistry etc. And by toxins this is more than the obvious chemical poisoning of alcohol and cigarettes but also environmental and industrial pollutants that are all around us. Unhealthy bacteria and viruses. Then we have the body’s own creations from the waste products of the metabolism, to excess negative hormones and chemical from negative stress for instance. I say negative stress because excitement is also a stress but the emotional and psychological chemicals that come through that and laughter are positive. Other forms of psychological stresses come from fear and a generally negative outlook on life.
“Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.” – Heraclitus
This book investigates the monumental study of diet and death rates in 2400 Chinese counties during the massive demographic changes that swept through China. As China adopted Western eating habits, death rates for typical Western diseases soared. Animal protein was identified as the chief villain in causing and feeding cancers.
You’re not sick; your thirsty. This showed the long list of illnesses and diseases that start out as dehydration. I know this to be true with hair thinning and decay, and have built our 3’’’More Inches products around solving that problem. I’m not drinking as much as I’d like each day, but much better than Gaby’s father Neil, who’s old school mindset maintains, ‘water is for washing!’
You could do worse than follow some of the learnings of Mayr Therapy which puts correct eating and the gut at the centre of health. I actually experienced this for the first time at The Lanserhof in Bavaria. I’ve accommodated their no raw after 4 concepts. Adjusted slightly to no raw after 6pm, excluding sushi. Theirs is more linked to vegetables that the body doesn’t digest easily and are better steamed or boiled.
And then there is the importance of first stage digestion in the mouth. Saliva and chewing, break down food to make it much easier on the stomach. I can’t say I’ve stuck to the recommended 30 chews, but still teach my children that. They haven’t come across the word hypocrite yet. Chew your drinks and drink your food as the saying goes.
Next week we’ll give some update on the metrics we are aiming for. Has the fat gone down and the lean muscle gone up?
Michael Van Clarke
April 16, 2021
This transformation was for a Daily Mail makeover article. It was published as part of a three page spread on the Monday 12th, our first open day after lockdown.
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