Friday, July 25, 2014

Update on My Brother

The past 48 hours have been quite stressful.

Back in April I wrote briefly about my brother and how he had suffered from sudden paralysis of his legs.

When he was taken to Bangladesh, he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. He was given an aggressive treatment of steroids, and he started physiotherapy. His recovery was slow, but he was recovering.

Suddenly last week, he lost sensation in his left leg. He said it was dead weight and he just couldn't move it at all. Having exhausted all the treatment options in Bangladesh, my parents and brother flew to Bangkok for further investigations.

The arrived on Tuesday and my brother was immediately admitted to the hospital. On Wednesday they did an MRI and discovered a mass growing around his spine (from T5-T10 so it was quite a big mass). On Thursday the doctors said that the only option at this point was to remove it. So this morning, he underwent surgery.

The surgeon managed to remove the entire mass. It will be a week before the lab results from the biopsy are back; however, they are confident that it is not a malignant tumor.

We still don't know what caused it, whether it will return, or any of those details. We'll know more over the next few days.

My brother is doing alright. He's in the ICU and will be for a day or two. As you can imagine, it was quite a procedure that took several hours. I'm just happy he got through that part -- hopefully he'll be able to focus on a full recovery soon.

I've been feeling so restless here. I feel so distant and far from my family. I'm thankful that I can speak to them regularly, but still. Thinking of my parents and brother in a foreign country where they don't know anyone or the language makes me feel anxious. I may fly over there -- but I have to get a visa before I can do that, so nothing has been confirmed yet.

I'm just thankful that the surgery is over. Definitely missing my family a lot these past couple of days.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Planning vs. Obsessing

Ok. My planning has taken over my life. Even I have started to look at it as obsessing. I'm sitting down planning my meals with calculators and charts.

I know what this is. This is my old OCD coming back in a different form. Before it was clean/organize to the minute details whenever I felt like I was not in control of my life. Seeing things that I could control take shape made me feel better (except for the side effects of the emotional eating that went alongside the OCD).

As I mentioned yesterday, my lack of structure is really throwing me off. Even when I've got a schedule, there are no real repercussions for me not doing something. I could sleep all day really -- but I'm not the type to sleep all day. If I'm tired, I'll sleep or take a nap, but you'll never find me lazing in bed unless I'm not feeling well.

So, I'm giving myself until Monday to finish this obsessing and then I will actually start implementing my plan. This doesn't mean that I'm off track now. I'm not sitting at home eating fried chicken and guzzling beer. I'm just a bit disorganized at the moment. I'm doing unhealthy things with healthy foods e.g. having a date or two instead of a meal or eating while standing or adding honey to my tea to satisfy my sweet tooth when I've never done that before!

I need to stop this. Just because something is a healthier option, in a natural state, or 'allowed' on some list doesn't mean that I should just mindlessly munch. No - I need to get back to being more mindful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gathering my Tools

On Tuesday evening I attended my first ever Weight Watchers meeting. I never really thought that I would join Weight Watchers (too much use of the word points for me), but I just feel a bit off track and off balance in my new surroundings. I have friends around England, but nobody close by. I know that I can be disciplined and follow a good routine, but a bit of extra accountability - plus support from a community who is also focusing on similar goals - would definitely be helpful right now. Plus the lack of structure to my day (given that I'm not working at the moment) makes it easy for me to mindlessly graze on food.

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, I've been doing a lot of reading about different type of diets. Again, I'm not looking to follow a particular diet (temporary phase). I'm just looking for information that will help me put together a sustainable healthy eating and living plan.

During the Weight Watchers meeting, I met the group leader and we chatted for a bit. He then led the group talk - no surprises about what he had to say there: If you're stuck, change up your routine; it's not the fruit that makes you gain weight, it's the other stuff -- and a few wise words about staying on track while on holiday, with my favorite line of the night "You're not on holiday from your health."

I think given my background (things I've tried before and what I've studied through my nutritionist certification) I had a few reservations. I mean, looking at the ingredients on a box of WW bars made me want to faint … however, I told myself that if I was going to join this group then I was going to give it a go. I didn't to eat those bars if I didn't want to. There were foods on the list of 'allowed' foods that I knew I wouldn't eat (e.g. sandwich thins and artificial sweetener) but that's true for so many of the other diets that I've been reading about to.

I like that the first week has nothing to do with points or calculating. It's just about making healthy choices. It's the right way to start - look at foods differently and look at all the things you CAN eat vs. what you can't.

Although I am being open-minded about the experience, the one main reservation I have is about the weigh-ins measuring pure body weight vs. distinguishing between lean muscle mass and fat. I lift weights and I lift heavy. Since I want to go to these meetings for both support and accountability (make sure that my weight DOES go down), I don't want to feel like I'm not making progress because I'm building muscle.

That being said, I still have weight to lose regardless of whether I'm putting on muscle or not -- so for now, I'm going to focus on that.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Knowledge is Power

I've been reading a lot lately about different types of diets. I think the way the word diet is used nowadays can be quite misleading.

According to Oxford Dictionary, diet refers to "the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats." In this sense, diet has to do with a person's regular choices and habits -- not a temporary phase or fad.

If you do a Google search on the word diet, many results come up such as the Intermittent Fasting Diet, the Atkins Diet, the 2-Day Diet and so on.

My research has not been related to these types of fad diets. Instead, I've been curious about details of those diets that claim to be more of a lifestyle change.

I definitely experienced a change in lifestyle after I did the Whole Life Challenge. I learned so many things from that experience and I have been to still apply what I learned to my everyday life. I truly experienced a change in lifestyle.

Although I know the Whole Life Challenge way of eating really suited me, I do not abide by it 100% of the time. I have incorporated other foods into my regular diet -- some of them work well and others not so much.

It is in the interest of finding out the most suitable way of eating for my lifestyle - my body chemistry, my physical activity, my general habits - that I have been researching different types of diets.

Although the phrase, 'move more, eat less' is often spouted throughout the fitness community, I have found that it isn't as simple as that. I went through phases where I was exercising a lot and hardly eating -- but that didn't work for me. I was ruining my metabolism and starving myself; my workouts were inefficient, and the foods that I was eating were unhealthy.

I found that even though lentils and legumes were allowed on the Whole Life Challenge, they didn't suit me very well.

I know that eating quinoa is 'allowed' as part of generally 'Eating Clean' - but it doesn't suit me very well.

... you get the picture.

So, I'm continuing my exploration into the world of healthy foods. I've got quite a few notes going on -- about clean eating in general, about living a Paleo lifestyle, about the Dolce Diet, the Gracie Diet, the Atkins Diet, etc.

I'll be updating my blog every once in a while about what I discover.

The 2 things that have been consistent so far:

1) Stay away from refined and processed foods as well as sugar
2) You've got to modify your eating to suit your lifestyle and your body chemistry - one diet does not fit all!

Friday, July 18, 2014

I Am Fat

I've read a lot of posts over the past couple of years about body image -- in particular about loving your body no matter what size it is. I respect their opinion, but I don't have that same perspective about myself.

I don't like the way I look. I'm not happy with my body shape. I know that I have improved over the past 3 years, but I still have a long way to go.

When I used to look in the mirror and see my fat reflection staring back at me, the following narrative would go through my mind:

Look at you. You're fat. You're ugly. You look disgusting. 
You should be ashamed of yourself for looking this way. 
Nobody will love you. Nobody wants to be around someone who is this fat. 
You're such a bad person to let yourself get so out of shape. What kind of terrible person does this? 
You are so lazy and lack discipline - you don't deserve to be thin or happy. 

As you can see, my body image was extremely negative and my self-hate levels were high.

I only had negative thoughts in my mind. I took my fat body as a representation of who I was and who I deserved to be. It defined my self worth. It defined my destiny.

It was a terribly dark time.

When I look in the mirror now, I still see an overweight person. I don't like the way my abdominal region looks at all. I feel self-conscious and at times I feel depressed about how I look.

However, this is the reality. This is my reality.

I don't think it's unhealthy or bad or self-loathing to be honest about your body.

I have minimized/practically eliminated all the other really negative, dark self-talk. Instead, I focus on coming up with a plan and figuring out how to get to where I want to be.

There are many people out there who say that they are happy in their oversized body.

I am not one of them.

When I look in the mirror, I see a fat person.

This doesn't mean that I'm not smart, not kind, not a good person. It just means that I'm fat.

I don't always get a positive reaction if I say this to other people. They say I'm being hard on myself and that I should love myself no matter what.

I think if those previous thoughts still consumed me, then perhaps that would be so. However, a big dose of reality and some tough love never hurt anybody. Just because you don't love your body doesn't mean you don't love yourself. It's two separate things. I don't think this realistic perspective makes me a self-hater or someone who is negative. I'm realistic. I know that if I don't change my habits then my body will not change. Therefore, I need to do the work. I think that facing this is much more productive than hiding behind a form of self-acceptance which can often lead to complacency.

Just as I'm sure that others don't want to be judged because they've accepted their overweight size, I don't want to be judged because I've chosen to be honest and say that I don't love my body and therefore I will do something about it. I cannot say anything about those who accept their body regardless of size because I honestly don't know how to do that or what that feels like. If that works for them and they are happy in life, then I am happy for them. That perspective, however, is not one that I share.

I am grateful for my body in that I am healthy enough to be without disease to be able to move without pain or problems and to have the strength to be able to work towards my goals -- but I am fat. This is how I see myself, and nothing anybody else will say can change that. Only I can change that by doing the work and putting in the effort, and I am 100% happy to do that because I'm worth it.

Just to clarify (or maybe confuse): Although I am calling myself fat, I am using it as an adjective to describe the size of my body. I am not using it to insult myself or as something negative - just as a fact. I think that calling others fat is hurtful as it is an unnecessary comment/observation to make.

Never call a guy fat either - insecurities and self consciousness knows no gender gap!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The New (two week) Plan

I found a nearby place for BJJ training. Fortunately for me, the classes don't start until the 1st week of August. Ramadan ends on July 28th so that works perfectly for me in terms of adjusting my eating, training, and sleeping schedule to this new routine.

Dealing with the long days has definitely been tricky in terms of thirst if I work out during the day, even if I go for a walk outside. I'm going to have to come up with the right balance as far as that is concerned.

Although it's the middle of the month, I've set goals for July. They're very simple, but they're goals nonetheless.

Goal 1: Hit my 10,000 steps count each day
Goal 2: Incorporate 2 resistance training routines per week
Goal 3: Stretch for 15 minutes daily
Goal 4: During long periods of sitting (e.g. when I'm doing my writing/research), get up and walk/move for 5 minutes every 30 minutes.

That's it.

Although I'm posting this today, I actually started implementing this plan from the 15th. It definitely needed some tweaking. I found that going out for a walk in the afternoon (particularly uphill) left me quite tired and thirsty. I will have to rethink the timing of my walks.

The combination of jet lag (up at around 2:30 a.m. each morning) and minimal food intake (there's only so much you can eat between 9:15 p.m. and 3:45 a.m. -- particularly when you want to get in a few hours of sleep!) has definitely left me weaker than I expected. Aside from a few hunger pangs during the day and a little bit of thirst, the fasting is actually fine. It's the fatigue from the lack of sleep that's mainly been getting to me.

I've been eating my usual dinners though now I'm eating at 9:15 p.m. Then, since I'm up because of my jet lag, around 3 a.m. I eat something - usually leftovers. The only beverage I've been drinking is water.

I estimate my calorie intake to be around 1200 even though I'm only eating 2 meals since my dinner portion has been a bit later than usual. I have mixed feelings about this - I know I need to get my calories in, but with such limited movement during the day, and particularly very little movement right after my meal, I don't know if I should tweak this? All I know is that I need to be sensible about my choices.

I weighed myself on the 15th and although I am a daily weigher, I will not check my weight again until August 1st. Although I am fasting, this is not a weight loss regime. It's religious ritual. I don't want the numbers on the scale to distract me from the real purpose behind fasting.

Here's a short article on fasting and your health if you're interested.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Food

I know I wrote a post on staying healthy on holiday before I traveled -- I tried. I really did, but boy did the food get me.

Although there were mornings of eggs or yogurt and granola or fruit -- there were also mornings of pain au chocolats and muffins.

There were lunches/dinners of salads -- but there were also dinners of short ribs or pizza.

... and there was dessert.

I am so happy I stayed active over the holiday, but it wasn't enough. There too many periods of inactivity between workouts (lounging around, relaxing etc.) and too many calories in those indulgent meals. Add to that what felt like an endless journey back to London and I guess it's no surprise that I've gained some weight.

I know what needs to be done. It's just about doing it now.

The further challenge at this point is that I'm fasting. It's the month of Ramadan during which fasting involves no food or water from sunrise to sunset -- which is from around 3:50 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.

That's a long time to go without food or water, but that's not the part that worries me. I know the first couple of days are challenging because your body is getting used to the new routine. It does get easier.

The tough thing is the exercise. In Kuwait I would usually workout about 2 hours before it was time to break my fast. That way I would get home, shower, and be ready to eat.

However, I don't think I've ever been in a situation where sunset is SO late.

I know that I won't be doing my HIIT workouts during this time (too exhausting and they definitely make me thirsty), but I will be focusing on walking and perhaps some basic resistance training.

So, I won't be falling into a regular routine just yet but will have more of a modified one until the end of Ramadan ... and then I'll see where to go from there.

In a way, it's kind of good to go through this now as it'll be a sort of detox. The trick will be to eat the right things at the right time (isn't that always the key though) as I will be eating dinner much later than normal and will have to choose foods that will slowly release energy through the day.

Citizens was one of the restaurants at the Mandalay Bay. When ordering the chicken salad, the waiter told me that the portions were huge. He suggested sharing the salad - he would divide it into two bowls. I'm so glad he did. This photo is half a portion of the salad (I couldn't finish it -- and I didn't eat the corn or the fried bits that came with the salad). It was really good - chicken, lettuce, tomato, black beans, and avocado. However, the portion size bewildered me.

What's the point of serving such a massive salad? I wish I had taken a photo of the original size. If between 2 people it can't be completed, why serve it in the first place? Isn't it wasteful? The portion sizing in the States was overwhelming. I know people want more for their money but still -- it just seemed so wasteful to me. Still, I'm glad the waiter suggested we share the salad. It was tasty and definitely enough for two!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eating, Training, and Sleeping

I'm back from my holiday! I had a great time in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, though my stay in LA was way too short! 

Aside from heading out to the States for a bit of R&R, the main purpose of the trip was to go to UFC 175. I got there about a week before the event, which is good because I definitely needed the extra time to get over the jet lag. 

Over the past 2 weeks I basically ate, trained, and slept (not much different to my normal schedule). I'm really glad I got as much training in as I did because the food was really tough to handle. Eating out 2-3 meals a day for 2 weeks was rough! I'll admit that despite my best intensions and effort to make healthier choices, I know that the foods I indulged in were really high in calories -- and even though I did exercise regularly, it wasn't enough to combat all the eating out ... 

Anyway. I just wanted to share a few pix of the holiday. 

Yay! Las Vegas!! I'm actually not a fan of Vegas at all. If it wasn't for the fight events, I definitely would have chosen a different holiday destination. 

Jet lag hit hard around 4 p.m. -- the best way to battle it was to head to the gym. 

I got in 4 gym workouts while in Vegas. I thought I would go easy with the weights but I ended up just continuing my regular routine and even managed to up the weights on some of my lifts! Happy :) 

To help get ready for the BJJ training seminars that were part of fight week, we moved all the furniture from the living room portion of the suite and made some space to do some drills. 

I completed 8 hours of BJJ training with Ryron and Rener Gracie. 

Here I am with the brothers!

Seminar Group Photo

In LA I stopped by CrossFit LA to say hello and get in a workout. OMG - I'm still sore from it (and that was 5 days ago)!! I tried pistols for the first time and did pull-ups (with a band) for the first time in over a year -- no wonder I have been so sore! 

Even though I was only in LA for a short visit, I just had to head to Jean Jacques Machado's BJJ academy for a training session. I can't even describe how warm and welcoming the atmosphere is here. 

This time I was lucky to meet the Master himself -- amazing man! 

I also got to meet Professor Jay Zeballos and attend his class. It was awesome! 

I was happy to show my support for Fighting Against Rape with my new patch. 

Heading back to the hotel after my final day of training and last day of my holiday -- it all went by so quickly! 

The best part of training on holiday, particularly attending seminars and meeting so many inspiring people, is that I've returned home with new motivation to tackle my goals for the rest of the year.

As always, there's much work to be done!