Listen to Your Heart [Rate Monitor]

Anytime I am asked how to get the most out of DDP Yoga, I always take the opportunity to convince people to use a heart rate monitor. I very nearly didn’t get one when I started out; at the time I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference. In fact, as memory serves, some accumulated Amazon points were the only reason I got one. But thank goodness I did!

When I first started doing DDP Yoga, the Diamond Dozen blew my mind. There is so much information in that tutorial/workout that I am still, to this day, watching it and picking up new things. There were a lot of new moves and positions for my body. Engaging everything at once was new to me and was not a habit I was in, so it was hard to remember the lower half of my body when following along with the instructions for the upper half of my body. My heart rate monitor is set to beep when I when I am above or below my ideal zone. Whenever I would forget to engage my lower body, especially my glutes and quads, my heart rate would dip, and my monitor would start chirping at me. Yes, of course, much as people react to their GPS devices, I anthropomorphized my heart rate monitor, and took the chirping as passive aggressive judgment on its part. The chirping, and my oddly negative reaction to it, forced me to remember to engage my lower body, and kicked my fat burning into gear. As I have pointed out before, I blew past my weigh loss goals long before my first 90 days were up. Using the heart rate monitor was a huge part of that*.

#TeamDDPYogaProblems

#TeamDDPYogaProblems

As my practice continued, the judgmental chirping helped me improve engaging in less cardio-ful moves like twisted lunge, dropping down into catcher or broken table. I can now stay in my fat burning zone in any of those moves or positions!

More recently, I ran into the worst enemy of your fat burning zone: complacency. I started noticing that the numbers of calories I was burning in each workout, as well as the percent of time I was spending “in zone” were both dropping. I log everything in MyFitnessPal, so it was easy for me to spot this pattern. I initially assumed that I was just getting so fit that my body was more efficient, and therefore I was finding it harder to get into my zone. This, to a certain extent, was true, but before I headed off to TeamDDPYoga.com to ask for advice, I decided to exam my DDP Yoga performance. Was I engaging as much I had been when I started? Was I making the most out of each position? I focused on each and every position and movement as I was doing workouts like Strength Builder, Diamond Cutter, and the Level 1 Workout, and examined my heart rate monitor. The answer to the above questions was NO!

Since then, I have been more diligent about my form and engagement while working out, and I have found my performance has returned to my heyday of weight loss and fat burning.

So, like DDP says at the beginning of every workout, make sure your heart rate monitor is on and kicking. And like I say, always ask yourself, is there anything more I could be engaging.

For those of you not old (and possibly not European) enough to remember Roxette, this post’s title was a play on one of their song titles. Good luck getting it out of your head!

* DDP Yoga being that frickin’ awesome was the even bigger factor! 

9 Myths of Weight Loss

1. The Less You Eat the More You’ll Lose
No, no, no, no, no! While it is true that if you eat fewer calories, you will shed some pounds,  it is not a linear relationship. If you eat too few calories, you will enter starvation mode and your body will begin to think it’s in a famine. Your body’s reaction to this situation is to drop its metabolism and do everything it can to store fat (back in our caveman days, this was a useful and important thing for our bodies to do). This will actually slow your weight loss, and is not sustainable in the longterm. There are some great online calculators to figure out how many calories you need to enter an efficient and sustainable weight loss pattern. Generally, you need to eat more calories the more you weigh, and as you lose weight, you need to recalculate how many calories you should eat per day. A good rule of thumb is to recalculate your calorie allowance with each 10 lbs of weight lost. And yes, losing calories from your daily allowance with each 10lb lost is the worst incentive scheme in the world!

Just add a little seasoning….

2. Workout Before You Eat/Workout Before the Sun Has Come Up
Yes… if you are an all-star olympian whose performance is already at 97%, and you’re trying to get that last 3% out of your athleticism. For us mere mortals, the best time to workout is when we are most likely to keep at it. If you’re an early bird, lucky you. I am not, and my workouts are in the evening. I lost 49lbs and counting with my sub-optimal evening workouts. I did go through a brief phase of working out in the morning, and according to my heart rate monitor, I was burning more calories that I would have for a similar workout in the evening. But it wasn’t sustainable and I quit. You are far better off burning 200,000 calories (50 lbs worth of weight) slowly over the course of six to nine months in afternoon workouts, than burning 400o calories in one week of morning workouts before burning out and quitting.

I hate her!

3. Workout Every Day
No, no, no, a thousand times no! You need a break for every reason possible. You will stick with your workout regime if you have days off to do other things, and strike a balance in your life with other hobbies and interests. And while you are indulging in your new-found love of macramé or philately, your body will be hard at work building muscle. It is a misconception that your body builds new muscles when you are working out. It doesn’t. Your muscles get micro-tears during vigorous strength exercises, and that triggers your body to build newer, stronger muscle during the recovery period. If you create new micro-tears on top of the old ones before the muscle is repaired, you will never build that new muscle. The micro-tears will just group together to form macro-tears, i.e. an injury. Make sure you get one day off a week at a minimum.

June: Quit, return to couch, nurse injured knee!

4. Do Thousands of Crunches Every Day to Drop Belly Fat
In a larger sense, this myth is applied to other body areas as focused fat burning, but the belly is the most popular one. Basically, the idea is that if you target strength exercises like ab crunches to a body area, you can target the fat-burning to that area too. Sadly, you can’t. If you want to get rid of belly fat, you need to do cardio and lose all your fat, and if my experience is anything to go by, the midsection is the last place to go. But it’s worth it for you health, your happiness, and your weight-loss. It’s hard to keep at cardio just for the sake of burning fat. Pick a cardio exercise that you enjoy doing, and let the fat-burning be an afterthought. If you want proof that crunches are not the way to go, grab your heart-rate monitor and do 20 minutes of ab-work and see how many calories you burn. Then do 20 minutes of running. I’ll bet you’ll burn twice, if not more, the calories running, and you need to lose calories to lose fat (fat IS stored calories). If you also want to do some core work to tone up your abdominal muscles in addition to your cardio, pick something less back-breaking than classical crunches. Like Red Hot Core, perhaps?

I hate her too!

5. No Pain, No Gain
New mantra: Pain is pain! Evolution went through millions of years worth of trial and error to hook you up with a sweet brain that interprets pain signals from your body. To ignore that pain would be, well, just plain rude! If you want to be strong, healthy and lose weight in a sustainable fashion, you need to be on the same team as your body. And teammates listen to each other! As you learn to listen to your body, you will learn the difference between an exercise being difficult and feeling fatigued or injured. If you are fatigued, you need to take a break, because you are more likely to get injured in that state. If you are injured, you need to back off working the part of the body that is injured rather than pushing through. A good way to learn the difference between a workout feeling tough and an actual injury is to pick a low impact workout that you can modify to your needs. Even better, if you can find one that doesn’t leave you stiff and sore, you will have a better time keeping on the wagon, and staving off injury. If only such a workout existed!

Success!

6. Strength-training Will Bulk You up Like a Man!
Nope. Do you have any idea of the science that goes into body-building for  men? Everything they eat has to be perfectly prescribed and timed. Their workouts are grueling, involve weights you don’t see in a normal gym, and takes year and years. A big clue that bulky muscle is not something you accidentally gain comes in the pervasiveness of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in the body-building world and other sports. For women, it’s even harder, because you have to go against your body’s natural inclination to gain fat – for nursing our young – and force it to gain muscle for hunting and gathering, which Evolution decided was “Men’s work”. As a more personal example, I have been trying to increase my shoulder strength for months. I have been doing the toughest DDP workouts six days a week, I have held plank for 20 minutes. I have been doing pull-ups. And this is the “bulkiest” pose I can muster:

I love the smell of HGH in the morning...

I love the smell of HGH in the morning…

7. You’re Too Old to Start
Shhhhh… don’t let DDP hear you say that. DDP’s wrestling career didn’t start until he was 35, and didn’t even take off until he was 40. He wasn’t introduced to yoga until his mid-forties, and he was in his fifties when DDP Yoga took off in the form of the Arthur video that brought most of us in. That said, I understand how it feels to think you’ve missed your chance. Most of the fit and healthy people we see in magazines, on TV, in the sporting world are not legally old enough to have a beer, which works out well because they are too goddamn perfect to ever drink something so carb-loaded! Eventually, we start to believe that health and exercise are reserved for the young. I was 33 staring at my fat body in the mirror, with chronically injured knees and no energy to even stand up straight, never mind do a push-up. I’m blessed that I gave it one last shot, because I mentally decided that was all I had left in me. But there is no reason that I couldn’t have started later. DDP started later. So did Terri. And Arthur. And Jake. And Stacey. And [Your Name Here]?

What’s your excuse?

8. You Need to Do Long Workouts
“I’m going to workout for SEVEN hours today.” Okay, good luck with that! This approach offers you all the injury potential of not taking a rest day (see #3) without having to wait a whole week. Working out to the point of fatigue will cause you to lose good form, and you risk injury and burnout. Also, much like not eating properly, you will force your body into survival mode. Your metabolism won’t allow you to burn fat efficiently and you won’t be losing as much weight or gaining as much muscle as you would if you have spread the workouts over the week. Needless to say, you won’t be able to sustain this pattern very long.

The length of time you spend working out should be commensurate with your experience and strength level. If you have never worked out before, a twenty-minute workout will be all you need. A good way to monitor if you are overdoing it is to use a heart rate monitor. If you find you are struggling not to exceed your maximum rate, you may be overdoing it. If you are struggling to get over your minimum, you may need a harder or longer workout. People who run ultra-marathons or climb Everest don’t just wake up and do it, they spend months building up to those endeavours. Don’t do the at-home equivalent of an ultra-marathon without building up to it!

On a personal note, the vast majority of my weight loss occurred when I was doing Energy, Fat Burner, and Strength Builder, i.e. workouts ranging from 25 to 40 minutes. I didn’t start the hour-long workouts in DDP Yoga until I was a few months in. As long as you’re using more calories per day than you are consuming, you will lose weight.

Is it tomorrow already?

9. The Science of the Fat-burning Zone 
This point is more about ignoring the myth than debunking it. The science of the fat-burning zone is somewhat controversial, but you should still use your heart rate monitor and aim for it during your workouts. Here’s why: while you you may burn more calories per hour in the upper end of your target zone or in your anaerobic zone, you are running your body too hard. As DDP says, it’s the same as putting the pedal to the metal and driving your car in the red. Sure, you’re going get there a lot faster, but you’re not going to have the same level of control, thus risking a crash-and-burn, and the engine is going to burn out a lot quicker. Your body is an engine, and your heart rate monitor is your tachometer. You should aim to be in the 3000-4000 rpm range on your car’s tachometer if you want it to last, and you should aim to workout your the fat-burning zone to make your body last and your workout regime sustainable.

Anyone else looking forward to turning 60?

A Brief History of Liz

In the run up to Wednesday’s DDP Radio Episode in which yours truly will be on, Stacey Morris asked me to write a quick bio. Four MS Word pages later, she suggested I make a post out of it. Et voila! 

The very first time I ever felt fat was when I was in my early teens. A group of my friends and I were hanging out the bedroom of a boy I was smitten with. I sat on the edge of his bed, and his bed-frame promptly snapped in two, leaving me sitting on the middle of his floor surrounded by shards of wood and humiliated. In retrospect, I wasn’t that heavy, and the cheap bed frame was probably going to break regardless of who sat on it, but at the time neither me nor my friends understood that. I remember everyone looking down at me like I was a worthless, fat, lump. Remembering the look on their faces still stings today as I type this. Worse still, the boy whose bed it was (remember, the one I was in love with), ran out of his room shouting – with a very tangible tone of disgust in his voice – “Dad! Liz sat on the bed and her big ass broke it!” His father was very nice, and made sure to say that the bed was old and had needed to be replaced, but he was the only one who was nice about it. Everyone else teased me for months after that, which paled in comparison to how I made myself feel about it, and how I let it shape how I saw my body. It was a truly soul-crushing experience.

Childhood
All through my childhood, I wasn’t fat, but I was certainly the least thin girl.  I was NEVER sporty; I didn’t do extra-curricular activities of any description. The only exercise thing I participated in was Sports Day at school (they made me), and to this day my parents laugh that I was always dead last in every race because I was waving at the spectators I knew, and making no effort to make it to the finish line. Food-wise, my parents always made dinner, but breakfast was a sugary cereal, lunch was a sandwich with chocolate and chips, my snacks were candy and junk foods, and I was showing signs of the overeating and lack of self-control that have plagued me to this day.

The Teen Years
At 12 years of age, I was somewhere around 170 lb and I remember LONGING to be somewhere around 150. Bit longing was all I ever did. I never did anything other than wishing it, because quite frankly, until I went to secondary/high school, I didn’t know you could! I thought your weight was luck of the draw, and I don’t know that it occurred to me that diet or exercise could be involved! I developed the normal teen insecurities; I hated my body and didn’t once feel confident about it until a few months ago. Since age 12, I have had a negative body image, and like most girls, did stupid and unhealthy things in an effort to lose weight, such as crash diets, unhealthy eating habits, and even taking up smoking! However, all that time I was overeating and indulging in terribly unhealthy food (basically, the complete opposite of the DDP Yoga nutrition plan) so my weight steadily climbed through my teens. I showed a general disrespect for my body, and my health was not on my list of priorities.

Early Twenties
In college, I felt a little more comfortable in my own skin, so the silly diets went away, but I continued in my overeating and indulgent behaiours. I ate donuts, fatty sandwiches, ramen noodles as my most common food choices, but I had to walk 30 minutes to and from the bus, and I had the lovely metabolism that comes with being in your twenties, so I only got to about 180 lbs. I say that I did kickboxing and Tae Kwon Do, but realistically I never stuck with it consistently. I made it to class for a month or two at a time, and then I would make up excuses not to go. After my second year in college, I gave up martial arts completely and did zero physical activity.

Dublin 05L29 (9)

Late Twenties
After college, I moved to the US for grad school. This is when things changed for the worse.  There were no more 30-minute walks to the bus because I could afford a car. I could also eat out at least 2-3 times a week, which I couldn’t afford in Ireland. I discovered places like Applebees, TGIs, and Chilis, drive-through fast food, processed food, large packages and portion sizes, and the wildly affordable junk food that had never been available to me before. I gained weight quickly!

To counteract this weight gain, my roommate who made equally poor dietary decisions and I started on-off relationships with The Firm, Tae Bo, Pilates, Weight Watchers, other diets/exercise programs, and after grad school Gaiam Yoga, P90X. As I have said before, I always went at it hard for a month (using my over-indulgent personality for good), and then promptly got injured or burned out.

The worst was The Firm, because a combination of its 16” step and weights on my shoulders destroyed my knees. I blamed myself by thinking I was getting hurt because I wasn’t getting the form right, so I kept at it on and off for a decade, racking up thousand of dollars in wasted money on all these programs. Each time I quit, I would replace the compulsive exercise with overeating. I have always had zero self-control with food, exercise, shopping etc., and I have had a hard time sticking with anything, be it diets, hobbies, anything really.

Before_2

Thirties
When I was 29. I got married. I was working for a really abusive boss when I was doing my postdoctoral work. During this period, I did a lot of comfort eating, which laid waste to what small achievements I had made in toning up for the wedding (at my best I was at 185 around this period). I took up yoga taught by a colleague’s wife, and it was wonderful, but I wasn’t losing weight doing it.; whatever calories I was burning were no match for my food intake (I had a steadfast belief that if you worked out, you could eat whatever you wanted).  However, I found a love of yoga and I could tell yoga was capable of being a really tough form of exercise while being low impact.

When I was 31, I had my daughter. I had to go on an elimination diet to breastfeed, and I lost all the baby weight (229 back down to 185), within two weeks! HOWEVER, once she could handle dairy in my diet (around 3 months), I went nuts making up for lost time eating ice-cream… and other things, but mostly ice-cream. I let myself think that breastfeeding game me carte blanche for eating. It didn’t. I remember going to a doctor’s check up, and the nurse weighed me at 198 lbs. I tried P90X, but between all the injuries it caused me and the time-suck of trying to do 1/5 hours of exercise with a newborn, I couldn’t stick with it.

2013
The worst period for my health, weight, and state of mind all was when my husband moved to Illinois for a new job a month ahead of us. I stayed behind for the month of January, 2013 to finish up work, and to deep clean our house to prepare it to go on the market. Each day, I was working full time, looking after my toddler, and then once she went to bed, cleaning the house until I went to sleep. I quickly ended up having zero time or energy to make food for myself, so every single day I ate Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast (two Boston Cremes with a large decaf with cream), take-out for one of the campus restaurants for lunch and either take-out Indian or Mexican for dinner. I also kept the house stocked with chocolate, cakes, and ice-cream for rewarding myself for all the housework I was doing.

Once I moved to IL, I was so fat that I couldn’t bear to let anyone, especially my husband, see my body. I also became really depressed, both because of my weight, and also because of how my poor health made me feel. I lashed out at people, again, especially my husband. For instance, I became upset and started blaming him for my getting fat. My “logic” was that I became fat because he didn’t make me feel special or beautiful enough. Obviously, I just didn’t want to admit it was my fault because I couldn’t fix it. I wasn’t taking enough care of myself for anyone to think I was beautiful, and even though my husband did somehow love me and think I was beautiful, I was too depressed to let that message in.  So our marriage was doing great! On top of being depressed and bitter, I had such a heavy feeling of hopelessness about the situation. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking I just couldn’t fix this. I was too old and too injured.

Before-1

Discovering DDP Yoga
Around this point, someone put up the Arthur video on Facebook, and I watched it and reacted to it like everyone, but it didn’t occur to me to think of myself making the same change. Along with many Facebook friends, I shared the video too, and at some point it occurred to me to look into what DDP Yoga actually was (Duh!). I still dawdled before buying it. Owing to my past experiences with exercise and diet systems, I spent a lot of time looking online for a BAD review of DDP Yoga but I couldn’t find one. I could find plenty for The Firm or P90X (and wished I’d looked when I was buying them). That is when I decided to buy DDP Yoga. I’ve said it before, the period of time I wasted between seeing the Arthur video and actually buying the DDP Yoga system is my only regret with DDP Yoga.

For a more detailed description of my first 90 days, please read this post!

Day 0
On April 7th, 2013, I started DDP Yoga! My original Goals were to lose 20 lbs (192 to 172lb), stick with it for over a month, thus beating my previous record, and for my knees not hurt more than they did at that point (I couldn’t get up a flight of stairs without wincing in pain).  Starting DDP Yoga my mindset was that if or when I failed that was it for me. In the big picture, I didn’t envision the weight coming off, running races, or sticking with it, but, as this was to be my last attempt at fixing myself, I decided to do everything little thing that the system wanted (joining TeamDDPyoga.com, using the heart rate monitor, doing the 6 pictures every 30 days, engaging*, etc). I also read somewhere DDP saying something along the lines of not wanting to ever hear someone say “I can’t do this” or “I’ll try to do this” but “I WILL do this” and “I CAN do this”. I wish I could find it, because I want to share it with everyone given the difference employing that mindset made for me.

I started out like a recovering addict, taking everything day-by-day, or within a workout I’d take it move-by-move. I’d repeat in my head over and over “I can do this” as I did a 3 count pushup, and ignore the remaining push-ups in that workout that I still had to do; I just focused on the push-up I was doing at that moment!

Day 0 Front and Side

Day 0 Front and Side

Day30
I remember taking my pictures and thinking I hadn’t changed much until I saw them side-by-side. I was blown away by how I had changed. My weight had steadily dropped over the first 30 days. I feel like every time I stepped on the scale, I was lighter than I had been before. And I was starting to believe that perhaps it wasn’t too late for me. Perhaps my fatalist belief that I would fail was wrong.

Day1_30_Side

Side Comparison

Day1_30_Front

Front Comparison

Day 60
I had to re-edit my goals on my TeamDDPyoga.com profile because I had met my weight goal. I ran a Warrior Dash so my knees were obviously doing a lot better. I went gluten-free and fully dairy-free (i.e. vegan), despite having initially scoffed at the idea and deciding I would NEVER do so! I am very happy I did. The reduction in inflammation meant I had better knees and skin!

Day1_30_60_Side

Side Comparison

Day1_30_60_Front

Front Comparison

Day 90
I met my new weight goals! In addition to literally slaughtering all my original goals, over the first 90 days, the list of things I  learned how to do grew and grew!

  • Side Plank 3
  • Road Warrior 3
  • Black Crow
  • Slow Burn Push-ups
  • Normal Push-ups
  • Wrap & Burn
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Firefly Pose
  • Black Crow
  • Side Crow
  • Eight Angle Pose
  • Eka Pada Koundinyasana I
  • Forearm Balance
  • Flying Pigeon Pose
  • Pull-ups
  • A Sub 10-minute Mile (running)

The best thing from my 90th day was getting a phone call from DDP. When he told me who he was, I replied, “Oh My God!” I corrected myself and said “Hi”, but in retrospect, I think I got it right the first time!

Day1_30_60_90_Side

Side Comparison

Day1_30_60_90_Front

Front Comparison

After the First 90 Days
The biggest achievement for my knees was running a half marathon (remember, I had initially hoped that DDP Yoga wouldn’t cause any further damage to my knees. Instead, it fixed them!). It’s worth noting that I started the half-marathon training AFTER I had met all my goals, so running did not contribute to my weight loss. I did the Hal Higdon plan, which calls for Stretch days, Strength days, and Cross Training. DDP Yoga was my choice for ALL of those days, because it satisfies each of them. In the last week before the race and the week after it, I did the Extreme Hip, Back and Knee Opener Workout exclusively. For my future running goals, I’m signed up for the Wisconsin Full Marathon in May.

mara

I finished the half-marathon like this because DDP Yoga is the reason I could do this!

These days, I am training to get certified as a DDP Yoga Instructor, and I am still plugging away at forearm balance as well as other poses. Ultimately, I would like to transition into a career with DDP Yoga, perhaps as a personal trainer, or some other way of helping people, which I thought I would get out of science but it didn’t!

I am so inspired by the TeamDDPyoga people who branch out (Ben Miller’s Donate My Weight, Christina Russell’s Cookbook etc), but I lack that creativity. However, what I lack in creativity, I more than make up for in passion and puritanical faith in DDP Yoga. There are people who equal my passion and belief in DDP Yoga, but no one exceeds it! That’s why I am so driven to help others find their way to this system, and I want to find new and better ways to do that. I already have my 2-year-old asking to do the “Diamond Cudder” at least a few times a day. My husband is my Everest in the conversion efforts, though I am forcing him to be my “student” for my certification training.

My biggest motivation is supporting others around TeamDDPYoga, or via email. I also love promoting the endeavours of my teammates on Facebook or Twitter because the community feeling in TeamDDPyoga is one of my favourite things about DDP Yoga. I also love Arthur Boorman’s philosophy of never meeting all your goals, because if you’re not moving forward, you’re sliding backwards.  But like DDP says, there’s always some place to go, so I am not short on goals to work toward.

DDP Yoga let me meet my weight goals, fixed my knees, and gave me the passion to stick with something for over 6 months and counting. It also gave me the ability to love my body and to feel pride in myself. My health is better than it has ever been before, and I have a confidence in myself I have never had before.

The most remarkable thing about DDP Yoga has been not only the amount of weight I have lost, but the fact that I have kept it off. The other most remarkable thing is that I still have enthusiasm for the system. Actually, the most remarkable thing is that I, for the very first time in my life, have muscle tone in my arms. Okay, there’s a lot of most remarkable things where DDP Yoga is concerned!

Screen shot 2013-11-15 at 22.55.11

* I mention “engaging” because when I researched the workouts, I knew I could totally engage my body to raise my heart rate and lose weight, but once I got the DVDs in my hands, I started feeling self-doubt and wondering if I would stick with it, or fall back into half-assing the workouts like I had in the past.

The 10-Point Battle Plan for Surviving the Holidays

On 01/01/13, I was somewhere between 192 and 198 lbs, and I was really miserable. I was heavy on the outside, and I had an even heavier weight on the inside.

In April, I started DDP Yoga with some good, tough goals, goals I had never come close to meeting with other exercise or diet regimes. At the risk of repeating myself, I wanted to get down to 172 lbs, not injure my knees any more than they were already injured, and stick with the program for at least a month. At the close of 2013, I am down to 148 lbs, which – more importantly – I have maintained for three months. My knees were strong enough to run a half-marathon with my orthopedist’s blessing, which I did in under 10 mins/mile, and I have been with the program for over 6 months, and I have no plans to stop. In fact, I am actively working toward getting my certification as a DDP Yoga instructor, and running a full marathon in 2014.

In other words, I have come a long way this year.

But, before I get to New Year’s day of 2014 and officially declare 2013 a victory, there’s one last hurdle I need to get over: The Holidays! In addition to refraining from binging on the 8,000 calories the average person consumes during a thanksgiving meal, this year I am traveling out of country to see my family this year. That means being out of my element and away from the controlled environment of my own kitchen. As I have lived abroad for over a decade now, I will – from a culinary perspective – be a guest in someone else’s home. That puts me at the whims of their diet, and my family are most certainly not vegans, gluten-free, organic-chomping calorie-counters. As I will be in a different country, I don’t know if I will be able to find all the healthy mainstays of my diet. Finally, I will be jet-lagged, and I will have a jet-lagged toddler in tow. I am stressed about maintaining my health and weight over this month-long visit.

Like I said, I have come a long way, and I don’t want to undo it. Instead of sitting around and worrying about it, I am preparing strategies for it.

1. Preemptive Strike 
I have primed my family for my diet on my home turf. My mother visited last month, and my father visited this month. Both were able to see what I would and wouldn’t eat, and were able to see the level of commitment I have for this diet.

2. Measure for Measure
I went to Walmart, and bought the cheapest set of measuring cups I could find, which was a full set ranging from 1/2 tsp to 1 cup for 88c! These will be coming overseas with me, because most of the MyFitnessPal measurements are done by cup and we don’t use that unit in Europe. My number one food rule is to measure out what I eat, and I have no intention of letting that habit slide simply because I am abroad.

3. I’m Lookin’ at the (wo)Man in the Mirror
The first step in a backwards slide is the silencing of the part of your brain that stores your resolve to be healthy or your pride in your accomplishments. To avoid making that first misstep, I will do all I can to remind myself of the hard-earned accomplishments I don’t want jeopardize with short-lived enjoyment of junk food. This will range from writing my current weight on my hand before I go to cocktail parties with family friends, to posing in the mirror and looking at all the things I like about my new body as I get ready.

4. Buffering…..
Despite my best efforts, I may put on some weight over the holidays. For that reason, when I recently dropped a couple of pounds (I’m down to 146 lbs from the idela 15o lb), I didn’t adjust my calorie intake to get back up to my preferred weight. Instead, I will keep it off for the next couple of months, and therefore if I indulge once or twice, or miss the occasional workout, it won’t be the end of the world. That said, I will still be making my “best efforts”, and this weight buffer won’t be a carte blanche for eating crap.

5. Clean Up Your Act
I did a toxin cleanse a couple of months ago, and despite having no discernible drop in my toxin level – in fact, the recent bout of migraines I experienced may speak to the contrary – I did lose a couple of pounds. While crashing weight off is generally not a great idea, because I am so scientific with documenting my food intake, and I kept that weight off. I am fully planning to do another cleanse as soon as I get back after the holidays.

6. Forward Thinking
Arthur Boorman said on the DDP Yoga Experience Podcast that he has not met his goals. He always has new goals because if you’re not moving forward, you are sliding back. While I am proud to go home and show of my new healthy lifestyle and weight loss achievements, I am by no means done. I am doing a marathon and two 7-10 mile mud runs in the May 2014. As part of my training for these events, I need to keep myself on a healthy diet and in good fitness habits over the holiday season. Looking forward to those goals will help me look past the temptations.

7. The Accountability Crib Superhighway
TeamDDPyoga.com has helped me stick to my goals at home, and it will help me away. I will be checking in with the greatest support system on the planet while I am away, I will upload vlogs, and I will be an open book in terms of my failures. I have also made my MyFitnessPal log public, and I will continue to document every single morsel of food that I consume. Feel free to email me for an update!

8. Feeding Those Who Need It
Ben Miller of the original Donate Your Weight challenge has issued a holiday challenge to help out those in need. While I don’t want to lose any more weight, I will be adapting this challenge to help me keep my weight. At the end of the holiday season, I will donate 0.5 lb food for every 1 lb of my current weight, and 2 lbs for every 1 lb I gain over the holiday season.  I will also be focusing on Ben’s advice that he shared during the DDP Yoga Experience Podcast interview. When talking about having slips, he said to get back on the wagon right away, not the next day! I will be focusing on that advice, because that is a mistake I have made it the past. If I have one cookie, that will be one slip. If I have a second one half an hour later, that will be a second, distinct slip. The first cookie will not give me carte blanche to eat crap for the remainder of that calendar day. And I will document that cookie in my online food journal!

9. Stay in the Driver’s Seat
I am vegan, gluten-free, organic-food eating, pain in the ass to cater for. And I like it that way. Like I mentioned above, I like to know exactly what I am eating, measure it and document it properly. By being so obnoxious in my eating habits, it has become easier to just bring my own food to people’s houses. With some exceptions, most people are relieved to hear this after I get done explaining what I will and won’t eat. These days, I have shortened the conversation down to the following:

Host: Would you like to come for dinner?
Me: Yes. However, my diet is so strict that I have found it is easier to just bring my own food. I hope that’s okay with you.
Host: (normally). Sure!

I don’t mind doing this because while I have made this decision for myself, I am not some sanctimonious, evangelical vegan, and I don’t proselytize or attempt to convert anyone to my way of eating. I routinely cook meat with gluten for my husband or guests, and I have found (mostly) acceptance of my diet when I offer acceptance to others. While I am home, I plan to prepare as much of the food I eat myself. That way I can stay on track!

10. Lie. Lie Like Your Pants Are on Fire! 
When all else fails, I have found lying works. I told a certain family member that I have been off eating gluten so long that it now triggers migraines. There was an abrupt cessation of efforts to get me to eat bread when I did that!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!!

 

10 Things I Know About Food (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the DDP Yoga Nutrition Guide)

The Short List
1. Measure your food, count your calories.
2. No processed or pre-made foods.
3. Eat organic.
4. Eat at home, make your own food.
5. Drink a large glass of water before eating! Don’t drink anything else.
6. Cut as many animal products out of your diet as possible.
7. Only eat what you can find in nature.
8. Eat more veggies, less fruit, and NO artificial or added sweeteners!
9. No cheat days, no food rewards.
10. Nothing with “Light/lite”, “Reduced”, “Free”, or “No”, on the label.

Around teamDDPyoga.com and in my personal life, I spend a lot of time talking about food and eating. Since I committed to health, I have spent a long time reading about how we eat, how we gain weight, how we lose weight and what does and doesn’t work. I spent 33 years practicing the latter, and during the last 6 months, I have been learning how to eat healthily, how to lose weight, and how to maintain weight. I decided to put what I have learned, and what worked for me into a concise-ish1 list. Yes, a lot of this is going to be from the DDP Yoga guide. DDP Yoga is the only system on the planet that works, so I follow it pretty closely. There are, however, some points on which I differ with the DDP plan. You’ll have to make your mind up on those points2.

1. The First Law of Thermodynamics: Don’t Talk about Thermodynamics.
It’s calories in versus calories out. End of story. In this day and age of fad diets, supplement pills, and shortcuts, it is not fashionable to talk about calories, or suggest someone needs to make that amount of effort to lose weight and keep it off. But calorie counting works, because all diets one way or another end up restricting your calories. Track your calories while you are dieting and also for the first couple of years you are in maintenance mode (at least). There are some great apps/online resources like MyFitnessPal to accomplish this. And make sure you are getting enough calories! If you don’t eat enough calories, you risk making your body think it’s experiencing a famine, which, amongst other serious health issues, will crash your metabolism (making it harder to lose weight), and make it harder to recover from workouts. There are some great calorie calculators online (MyFitnessPal has one built in as you set up your profile). Remember to recalculate your daily calorie allowance with each 10lbs lost, because it will change as your weight changes. And remember to use your heart rate monitor to calculate your calories burned during a workout. This will be added to that day’s calorie allowance (Yum! More food!)

Make sure it’s gluten-free, organic pie

2. Mom’s special ingredient? 1-Methylcyclopropene!
I have a rule of thumb for when I am in the grocery store. If I am contemplating buying something, I read the ingredient list, and if there’s a single thing on the list that I can’t find elsewhere in the store, back onto the shelf it goes. Do they stock sodium benzoate, potassium bromate or sodium nitrate anywhere in your local grocery store? Do you know what those things are? Do you ever need them when you are making things from scratch? If you answered no to even one of those questions, then you should stop buying food-like substance with bizarre chemicals in them.

Just like Mom used to make it

3. Are You Round-up Ready?
I’m not going to get into the science of this one, but one PhD in cell biology under my belt and I do understand why Round-up is said to be the safest pesticide currently in use (email me if you want a semi-lay explanation of this). That said, I do not believe that the long-term studies that demonstrate its safety are unbiased, nor are they remotely applicable to the levels that are used on the GMO “Round-up Ready” crops. I’m not abjectly opposed to GMO crops. I don’t (in my scientific opinion) believe a threat to human health has been demonstrated, nor is one likely, for crops that contain new genes that allow them to be resistant to drought, mould, aphids on their own. I do, however, think genes that allow them to resist pesticides, and therefore to survive having massive amounts of pesticide dumped on them, could pose a threat. It’s not the genes that are the problem. It’s the pesticides they allow. There are crazy levels of 100′s of different pesticides in our food supply now, and virtually no research into how they may effect human heslth. The only way you can avoid them is to buy organic food. To ease the tension on the old purse strings, follow the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen list!

Nothing says safe for human consumption like some breathing apparatus

4. The Bottom Line and your Waistline. 
When you cook at home, you are probably carefully not to use too much oil. You likely find alternatives to salt when you season. You carefully cut the fat off your meat. When you portion out your meal, you probably make a good effort to stick to the serving size. Whatever you make, it’s probably the healthiest version of that meal that it can be. You do this because you know your goals and you have a vested interest in your own health. Do you think that the minimum wage cook at a chain restaurant shares your interest. When he has a shift’s worth of wait staff yelling at them to get their orders out, do you think that he’s carefully measuring out healthy amounts of cooking oils, or do you think he’s sloshing it into the pan as he tries to keep all the things he’s meant to be doing straight? Do you think corporate restaurant chains are using more expensive flavoring ingredients when boatloads of cheap salt and sugar will do? Do you have anyone wandering around your house asking if you “saved room for dessert?” The simple fact is that when you eat out, you eat on average more than half your daily allowance of calories in one meal. Unless you eat two meals a day, that’s bad news for your waistline. Also, eating out costs an extra $35 per week. In other words, only eat food you make yourself!

Save some pounds to lose some pounds… Okay, that pun only works in the UK

5. Hungry, Bored or Thirsty?
There’s a simple test for this. If you think you want to eat something, drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If you still want to eat something, go for it. 72% of the time we are hungry, we are actually hungry (nice job, evolution). It’s a hard habit to get into, but once you start trying to satiate thirst before hunger, you’ll drop pounds quickly. And when I say deal with your thirst, I mean with water. Do not drink a single calorie… ever (says the hypocrite who can’t give up decaf). Any calories you consume in liquid form are digested faster, which leaves you hungrier sooner. Your goal is to slow down the absorption of food, and the labour-intensive process of having to actually chew is one way. High fiber foods are another. And wash it all down with a big glass of water to help all that fiber find its way back out, carrying with it absorbed fat and nasty toxins.

“Fullness” by density and stretch receptors, fiber and water will fill you up with the least calories

6. Nothing You’d Serve with Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti.
Okay. Time for a disclaimer. I am a vegan. I was a vegetarian, and then the DDP diet sort of put me in vegan mode. I would like more people to be vegan. It’s healthier than being not vegan, and it would reverse climate change overnight. That said, I am NOT an evangelical vegan, nor am I using this blog to promote my environmental ideals. I only care about your health and your waistline. The simple fact about animal products is that the calories per weight or per volume is significantly higher than you find in non-animal product foods (my beloved PB being an exception to that rule). If you want to lose weight, stay full, and avoid the temptation to snack, fill your tummy with broccoli and cauliflower! And the Hannibal Lecter reference at the top this section? Under a microscope, there is very little difference between animal meat and human flesh. Yuck!

One of these is from a cow, the other from a human

One of these is from a cow, the other from a human

7. What Are You Meant To Eat? 
No, I am not promoting the “Paleo Diet”. I think, while well intentioned, this diet has a wildly misguided perception of how much meat our ancestors had access to. In all reality our diet (depending on geography) was probably closest to that of the Gorilla or the Bonobo. Yes, these animals eat “some” meat, but the majority of it is termites and other insects, and on occasion, some fun bouts of cannibalism, and makes up less than 1% of their diets. In other words, meat is a rare treat rather than a vital brick in their food pyramids. I am not suggesting we start eating carpenter ants or our young. All I am asking is that you take a reasonable approach to considering what is good for us and what isn’t. Setting aside the meat controversy for now, I can tell you very few Bonobos are eating refined oils, sugars, gluten, or the lactational by-products of other species, and you shouldn’t either! Honestly, I don’t care what we are “meant” to eat. I only care about what is healthy for us to eat. If we were meant to eat meat, gluten, dairy, sugar, etc. we wouldn’t have the incidence of cholesterol problems that we as a species experience (ever seen a lion picking up Lipitor prescription at the pharmacy?)

But, he has canines, so obviously he is meant eat meat, right?

But, he has canines, so obviously he is meant eat meat, right?

8. Eat More Kale, Spinach, Peas… Anything That Has a Cell Wall, Really. 
I love sugar. I love things that are sweet. And now that I have started eating healthy, whole foods, I love fruit. I eat pounds upon pounds of fruit. Way too much of it. But it’s so gosh darn yummy. Thanks to the fruit in my diet, I don’t miss chocolate or other erstwhile vices at all. But I am in the process of cutting back on my fruit intake. Anything, whole food or Monsanto-borne, that elevates your blood sugar leads to systemic inflammation. That means you are increasing your cancer risk, aggravating any injuries you may have, and causing an insulin-dump that will cause you to be hungry sooner, lessening your chances of sticking to your diet, and storing all your sugars and carbs as disease-causing midsection fat. Bad, bad, bad. Fruits have a lot of health benefits, but they are mostly redundant with, and dwarfed by the benefits of vegetables. So eat more vegetables and moderate your fruit intake. And while we’re on the topic of your sweet tooth, no more artificial or added sweeteners, I don’t care how natural or healthy they claim to be. If they come in little paper packets, you don’t eat them anymore. All that stuff is junk, and its bad for you. It has been shown that diet sodas are as bad for you as regular soda in terms of your ability to lose weight. “Well, duh!” said my Type 1 Diabetic friend when I told her this. She went on to explain that certain sugar substitutes raise her blood sugar 10-20 times higher than an equivalent amount of sugar!

Please don’t sue me, Chick-Fil-A!

9. Retrain Your Brain. 
I loathe the concept of a “cheat day” in dieting. A lot of diets call for you to allow yourself to splurge on one of your old vices one day a week. In a similar vein, certain diet plans encourage you to reward yourself with an unhealthy food treat when you reach a milestone, like hitting a goal weight. Both of these suggestions reinforce a wildly unhealthy relationship with food, as well as causing you to think about nothing other than the one thing you’re trying to quit. Here’s the best analogy I can come up with. I smoked cigarettes for over a decade, and I have been a non-smoker for 4 years now. When I made it to the one-year-without-smoking3 mark, I didn’t reward myself with a pack of Benson & Hedges! I don’t speak for any [Your favorite addiction] Anonymous organizations, but I would wager that ZERO of them recommend using the thing you’re trying to quit as a reward for quitting. “Six months off heroin? Here’s a tourniquet and a spoon. Go to the back alley and have a blast!” And junk food is the single most addictive thing we encounter thanks to Evolution’s pesky insistence upon keeping us alive. You have maybe heard the idea that 28 days makes a habit? Eating healthy is a habit, and retreating to junk food reinforces your old bad habits. On a recent episode of DDP Radio, Stacey Morris pointed out that after 60 days of doing something new (e.g. eating more vegetables), the connections in your brain are changed. That means after 60 days of eating a healthy, non-sweet diet, you will develop a taste for healthy, non-sweet foods.

Weight Loss Food?

10. Changing Lanes.
This is really a combination of #2 and #9, but they bear repeating. The DDP Yoga page frequently posts a motivator that reads “Whenever you see the words ‘LOW-FAT’ or ‘FAT-FREE’, think of the words ‘Chemical Shit Storm.” True. But this logic really applies to anything that is “FREE” of dairy, sugar, gluten, fat, anything really. The same goes any label with the words “reduced”, “light”, or “natural”4 When you decide to go gluten-free, you will reap infinitely more health benefits if you don’t instantly go and buy gluten-free versions of foods that should have gluten in them. For instance, when you make a lasagne with gluten-free pasta, it’s certainly better for you than one made with regular noodles. But it still has blood-sugar spiking, empty calories in the pasta. How about dumping the pasta altogether and using organic zucchini slices instead? In other words, when you ditch something bad from your diet, replace it with a completely different healthy, whole food instead. 

Your Gluten-Free Supply

A Brief History of Time Food

The food supply is toxic, and while upsetting, the history of how we got there is both interesting, and important to be informed about.

To start, let’s go back a few decades to the Farm Deal. Originally under Roosevelt, and for reasons best left to economists, it was designed to keep production of so called “commodity crops” low and prices high. Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, reengineered the goal of the subsidies to do the exact opposite: to increase the level of production and drive prices down. The “Big Four” of commodity crops are corn, rice, wheat and soy. Under this policy, these crops alone get 60% of subsidy payments from the government, so the effect of Butz’s policy was to promote massive production of corn, rice, wheat and soy. This left the country with a surplus of these crops, and to some extent a dearth of other crops (it’s not quite that simple, but it effectively works out that way).

Back in the day, most farms were small farms (those at or below $250K per annum revenue). In other words, farming was a good, honest, family business. This type of farm is the one we learn about in our picture books as children. The one where the farmer owns his own land, goes to the supply store to buy some seeds, plants, grows and reaps the crops, and sells them on the market. He is the boss of his small business. But all that money being more-or-less given away by the government caught the attention of big business who came in and reworked agriculture to covert it to a serfdom in which the farmers are financially and legally beholden to these companies, and have no control over their own land. While the farmers were losing control their business, the food supply was unchanged. Sure, the proportions of the Big Four flooding the market were off, but they were the same corn, wheat, rice and soy the nation had been eating all their lives. Until the scientists stepped in5. The government subsidization of the crops produced and economic impetus to increase their production by any means, and one of those means was their genetic modification. The motive here was to prevent loss from plant disease, weeds, etc, and maximize the amount of crops each unit of farmland could produce.

Skipping the science of GMOs and pesticide use that I touched on above, this corporate interest in agriculture lead to a surplus of commodity crops. Yes, we could give them to starving children in war-torn countries. But why do that when you could find a way to drink corn? And we did. Now, thanks to the farm deal, high fructose corn syrup is in almost everything. And contrary to ads funded by the people who stand to gain financially by public acceptance of HFCS, your body most certainly does know the difference. Every single cell in your body can digest glucose. But only your liver can deal with fructose. When you dump large amounts of fructose into your body, your liver gets overwhelmed and kicks any it can’t process in the the triglyceride pathway. This ends up being hormone-producing midsection fat (the stuff that has a lot of negative health implications like cancer), and an overall increase in obesity levels in the US. Yes, we spend less on food, but we spend more on health as a direct result. There are no free lunches in nature!

A more indirect cause of our Violet Beauregard-esque waistlines was the Prohibition Era. When the sale of alcohol became illegal, restaurants had to attract new customers to make up for the loss in profits being unable to sell alcohol caused. That new batch of customers was the family. In other words, they needed to appeal to kids. And kids like high carb, high sugar, high fat foots. The end result over a number of years was a nation full of people with a taste for these kinds of food which are worst kinds of food you can eat.

Finally, and this is a point I wish anyone who was ever tempted to make fun of someone because of their weight could know about. Our environment is conspiring against us. This was shown by scientists who saw that all their lab animals were getting fatter than those grown under the exact same conditions a few decades ago. These are caged animals, so the midnight raids of the refrigerator I was guilty of can be excluded from the list of reasons they are getting fatter. These animals are grown in the exact same way as their leaner predecessors. The only difference is the environment. Thanks to lax environmental regulations and a gutted EPA, our environment has become toxic with hundred of thousands of synthetic chemicals, and we have seen rates of cancer, ADHD, autism, allergies and obesity all soar. Somewhere between 1 and 3 thousand new chemicals have been allowed to contaminate the environment every single year for each of the last three decades, with little to no regulation or studies of their impact on human health. And those chemicals are getting into us, even before we are born. A recent study showed that the average placenta contains up to 200 man-made chemicals. The ways to solve this problem are beyond the scope of this blog, but it is worth considering as organic a diet as you can afford.

Further Reading:

Movies:
Forks Over Knives
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Food, Inc.

Books:
Eating Animals
The China Study
The Omnivore’s Dilemma

1I’m not what you would call short-winded. Of course, having made it to this point, you probably don’t need that pointed out! 
2You’ll have to decide for yourself between the living legend who can do psycho push-ups, and who has single-handedly helped thousands people lose tens of thousands of pounds of combined weight, and the woman who can do one pull-up, and lost about 30 lbs. I know, I know, it’s a toughie! 
3Apart from when I have had a few drinks. But since starting the DDP nutrition program, I have completely quit drinking, so that’s not an issue anymore. </em
4“Natural” is not regulated by the FDA or the USDA, and means nothing! In fact, it usually means they are protesting a little too hard! Also, don’t buy anything from any company that has the word “natural” on any of their labels, because what the hell is in the products they didn’t label “natural”??? 
5As representative of the scientific community, sorry about that! 

An Eighth Thing I Would Tell a Newbie

I was just writing a reply to a fellow Women of DDPY-er who is having a tough week. She’s new to the program and experiencing the second week blues. In answering her question, I was forced to revisit my early days in the DDP Program and remember what I did that kept me going during the harder learning curves.

The second week is damn hard, especially if, like me, you have been completely inactive before starting DDP Yoga. During the first week, the shine is still on the apple. The excitement of trying out new workouts combines with the pass you give yourself on not being able to do everything straight away to help you motivate yourself quite easily. But on the second week, when you’re looking at the long list of things you can’t do yet, and you’ve been through the workouts a couple of times already so there’s no novelty to amuse you, your negative thoughts can get the better of you.

I hadn’t thought about this in a while, because now that I am up and running, I am so focused on moving forward that I tend to forget what’s in the review mirror. When I started out doing DDP Yoga, I read a lot about DDP and DDP Yoga, watched interviews with Arthur Boorman and DDP, and spent a lot of quality time with the nutrition program. A theme that cropped up over and over was DDP saying that people needed to know they could achieve their goals,  say “I can and will do this” instead of “I wish I could do that.”

I really took that to heart, and made sure to say in my head, or out loud when necessary, “I can do this”. Whenever I was in plank about to do a slow-burn push-up, I visualized doing the push-ups properly, and I would say “I can do this” in my head over and over. In fact, instead of counting 1.. 2.. 3, I would say “I can do this” three times.

At first the negative part of my brain knew I was lying, but over time with enough repetitions of the “I can do this” mantra, and enough visualizing of myself doing something successfully, it started to work.

And the rest is history. In the five months since I started DDP Yoga, the number of things I have learned how to do has exploded:

  • Side Plank 3
  • Road Warrior 3
  • Black Crow
  • Slow Burn Push-ups
  • Normal Push-ups
  • Wrap & Burn
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Firefly Pose
  • Black Crow
  • Side Crow
  • Eight Angle Pose
  • Eka Pada Koundinyasana I
  • Forearm Balance
  • Flying Pigeon Pose
  • Pull-ups
  • A Sub 10-minute Mile (running)

I’m definitely leaving things out, but you get the idea!

So, no more saying “I think I can do this”, or “I will try to do this”. From now on, it’s “I can do this”, or “I’m going to do this”. And if you currently struggle with something, no more “I can’t do this”. Instead, quote the great Arthur Boorman and say “Just because I can’t do it today, doesn’t mean I’m not going to be able to do it someday.”

The Spirituality of DDP Yoga

I was just listening to DDP Radio, and DDP mentioned that we should post about what motivates us to keep going. It occurred to me that in all the rambling I have done on this blog, I really never posted anything on that topic. The main reason for this lack of introspection on my part is that when you are busy doing something, you don’t have a lot of time to think about the fact that you are doing it.

I was just watching the DDP Yoga segment on HBO’s Real Sports (post to come).  They brought up the point that DDP has taken the spirituality out of yoga. I both agree and beg to differ. I have been to conventional yoga classes in the past. I have sat in the lotus position, focusing on my breath, seeing through my third eye, while my chakras are energized by breathing energy up from the earth (Yeah, I have no clue what any of that means either). I never got anything out of it. Honestly, I was usually just pretending I knew what I was meant to be experiencing, and wondering what all the other people in the class were doing that I wasn’t.

When I do DDP Yoga, the instructions are straightforward and understandable. I know what DDP wants me to do. In between poses, instead of telling me to release the weight of my  bones into the earth or to cultivate pranayama, he’s using the time to remind me that I can do it, or telling me that I am doing great. Every workout is infused with such great support, motivation, encouragement and positivity that it lifts me up emotionally. Spiritually, you might say. When I walk away from the mat after a killer Diamond Cutter or Extreme Psycho Workout session, I feel good about myself. I am happier. I have a better confidence in myself and my abilities, and that gets carried into other areas of my life. My spirit is enriched by DDP Yoga. I am more peaceful, more centered and more joyful for doing DDP Yoga. Basically, I get out of DDP Yoga all that I was meant to be getting out of the yoga that was full of “spiritual mumbo jumbo” (as DDP puts it).

That uplifting support and encouragement is not only in the DDP Yoga DVDs. It’s in the world of DDP Yoga. I get so much support and uplifting energy from everyone at teamDDPyoga. And I get that support from DDP himself. I have received a number of emails and phone calls from him to show admiration when I achieve something new or to help me with something I am trying to achieve. One of the emails he sent me gives me such joy and motivation when I read it, I have it taped to the elliptical for those mornings when I just can’t get myself going. I debated transcribing it here, but I ended up deciding to keep it to myself. It was such a special message to receive, both in the content of the email, and who it was from, that I want to keep it to myself.

Speaking of running, DDP Yoga helps me there too. I am currently training for a half-marathon, and when the longer runs, or the runs I do in the morning get too tough, I envision myself doing the Diamond Cutter sign as I cross the finish line. That mental image helps me go faster or longer, and gets me over the hump. Similarly, when I am doing a tough DDP Yoga workout, I pretend that I am one of the participants in a workout as it is being filmed. I am in such admiration of DDP that I wouldn’t want to mess up a DVD filming, so that imagery helps me keep my form.

I spent so long as an inactive and unhealthy person that I had a lot of anxiety and self-doubt about what I could achieve and maintain. As people go, I am also prone to stress and anxiety in other areas of my life. Doing DDP Yoga has allowed me to find some inner peace and centering like I have never experienced before in my life. It has given me a strength of spirit that I never had before. So yeah, DDP Yoga has no references to your chakras, your third eye, or any earth elements you are meant to be absorbing through your breath, but it is chock-full of spirituality. That said, sometimes I could really go for a nice, long savasana after doing Double Black Diamond!

Untitled-2

It just doesn’t look right, does it?

7 Things I Would Tell a Newbie

It’s weird to think I am a success story at the ddpyoga.com transformations page. It was less than 6 months ago that I was filling out my mailing address at the DDP Yoga store, horribly overweight, in chronic pain, really, really depressed, and quite convinced that I was going to be like that for the rest of my life. As I have said before, I was one last attempt away from completely giving up on my health, my body, and any dreams I had about getting thin during this lifetime. Luckily for me, that last attempt was DDP Yoga.

But’s that’s the power of DDP Yoga. I get fairly frequent emails from people who are just starting out asking for tips and advice, or simply asking what I did to get where I am.  And the answer, to quote my father, is RTFM (I’ll let you urban dictionary that one!).

I didn’t do anything special. But I did do everything that the program guide asked of me. And everything is important, even if you don’t get why at the start (and there were a lot of things I didn’t quite get when I began this journey).

1. Let’s Get It Started.

Start with the Diamond Dozen and nail it before you go charging off into the actual workouts. Little Miss Know-It-All here very surprisingly followed this advice, but trust me, it was out of character for me to do that. But I am glad I did. There is so much information in that 35 minute lesson/workout that I still go back to it to fine tune my practice.

 2. Ride on Time.

Do the workouts at the frequency that the program guide says, at least at first. That will help you set a good pace. Some people may be inclined to be slackers, or if you’re like me, following the schedule is a good way to avoid over doing it and burning out and quitting all in the first month. The schedule was, to the best of my knowledge, written by DDP with the Yoga Doc, so this is what experts know to be a good pace for you. Once you’re up and running, you can deviate and explore the different workouts before the calendar tells you too, but keep referring to the calendar to ensure that you’re putting in enough time.

3. Take A Picture.

Do the Day 0 pictures, all 6 of them. Then on Day 30 do them again. Then on Day 60, and Day 90, and Day 120…. I also recommend that you wear the same clothes and do your very best to make sure that your camera is in the exact same place each time*  A laptop’s in-built camera is useful here, because you can see on the screen what you’re aiming at, and at the same time have your Day 0 pictures open to see where you were standing, and what the camera had been aimed at. The pictures will help you see where you are. When I was at Day 30, I hadn’t reached my weight goals, but I had lost some weight. While the weight was coming off quickly (I lost 37 lbs in 3 months, baby!), no one loses weight at the rate they would see on a day-to-day basis. At Day 30, I didn’t think I looked very different. Until I took the photos, that is. Once I put my Day 0 and Day 30 side-by-side, I saw that I had made some huge changes, especially around my midsection where the dangerous fat is. Seeing that improvement was enough motivation to fuel my next 30 days, and some of my best workouts have happened after taking update photos!

Day1_30_Front

4. With Every Beat of My Heart.

Get a heart rate monitor!! There are numerous benefits to having one. First, it lets you know where you are in your workout. That’s not just a fleeting curiosity. That information will change how you do the workout in a way that will translate to more weight loss. When I first bought the DDPY system, and was waiting for it to arrive in the mail, the initial Arthur-lost-weight-so-I-can-too enthusiasm disappeared, and the cold, hard reality of having to actually do exercise which I didn’t like doing hit in. I looked at my fat body in the mirror and worried that the person who let their body get that way would never actually do all the dynamic resistance. Sure, I’d do the workout, but no one would be looking so I would probably half-ass it. I had done that with most workout systems in the past. Having that pain-in-the-ass heart rate monitor chirping at me when I fell out of my zone really helped me build good habits as I started out. Nowadays, my HRM helps me on days were I just don’t have the energy, or I’m just not in the mood. I make myself get on the mat telling myself I can half-ass it if I want. Every single time I have ended up bringing my A-game and burning a tonne of calories.

5. Let’s Get Together and Feel Alright.

Join teamDDPyoga.com and get involved. Like I said before, it’s the only place in the world that you will find people who are interested in supporting and motivating you. There’s no judgement if you stumble, and there’s no jealousy when you succeed. Not to speak ill of my own gender, but even the women are all banding together and making one another stronger. I started a group called “Women of DDPY”, and I have received so much from the friendships in that group. TeamDDPyoga.com has also helped me immensely in the transition between reaching my goals and finding what to do next. I am in two groups, “YouTube Yoga Freaks” and “Warriors in Training”. Both of these groups challenge me to try new things and that has prevented the issue of letting all the weight come back on during the maintenance phase that many people experience. Like DDP says, “There’s always some place to go!”. However it is that you define yourself, by your gender, your age, medical condition, location, there’s a group for you. There’s so much more to teamDDPyoga.com that I am omitting, and it occurs to me that I should write a separate post about it, so I will leave it at this: the time I spent at teamDDPyoga.com was pivotal to my success, and I would not be where I am without it. Period.

DDP Radio 4

6. I Want Candy!

Well, you can’t have any! I’m the biggest sweet tooth I know, but I had to decide what tasted better: brownies or feeling good about myself. The DDP Yoga program guide has a whole nutritional program which takes up about half the program. I always tell people that it’s hard to lose weight with diet alone; it’s impossible to lose it only exercising. It’s thermodynamics. Calories in, calories out. Every diet you have heard of comes down to this. The low carb diets, the vegan diet, the cleanses, the really bizarre ones. They all work because they create a restriction in your food options that cause you to lower your calorie intake.  The problem is that you eventually discover loopholes and cheats. You need to lower your calorie intake below your calorie output if you want to loose weight. You also need to get the metabolism crashers out of your diet, and the DDP Yoga nutrition guide will help you do that. I am a vegan, so I had to make minor modifications to the DDP Yoga plan, and because I am an overeater, I choose to measure my food and track what I eat on MyFitnessPal** too. But if you work up to Phase III, in essence you will be calorie counting. The plan sets enough limits on caloric foods and encourages you to eat the right things that you will end up eating the correct amounts of healthy foods, and restricting the worse foods so that you will be in the correct calorie range. Basically, DDP did all the tedious calorie counting work for you.

7. No Excuses.

As much as I am happy to chat about DDP Yoga all the live long day, spreading inspiration and positivity, and using my story to get people into the only system that has ever worked for me, I have encountered the one type of person that causes me to get a little frustrated: The Negotiator. You aren’t gainfully employed by Priceline. You can’t haggle your way to losing weight without putting the work in. Like DDP says, you will get out what you put in. If you do all the things I said in 1-6, you will reach your goals in a similar timeframe. If you don’t use a HRM, or you don’t do the nutrition side of it, then you will have a harder time. If you don’t engage your muscles when DDP tells you too, you won’t be burning as many calories. As people go, I am stubborn, I am prideful, and I am a little lazy. I get the instinct to talk your way out of doing things that seem difficult. But it’s up to you. Do you want to get a free pass or do you want be healthy?

That is the sum total of my wisdom, and those 7 things are what I did to get to my goal weight and keep it off. Follow them, and in no time you too will be answering emails from people who want help getting to where you are. You may be thinking, “You didn’t say anything that isn’t already in the DDP Yoga guide.” I know, like I said at the start of this post: RTFM!

*A footnote to this is that I was speaking with a girl on teamDDPyoga who is kicking it, and had her before and after’s featured on DDPY’s Facebook. Instantly, the haters and conspiracy theorists attacked her saying she photoshopped her after picture because the door behind her looked thinner. This happened because she put the camera at a different angle. I have seen enough of her pictures to know that she has lost the weight. So, like I said, put your camera in the right place!!

** Another reason to get a heart rate monitor. By knowing exactly how many calories I have worked off, I can eat more on workout days while knowing I am within my calorie limits and maintaining my weight.

DDP Yoga Math

DDP readily admits he was never any good at math; the Diamond Dozen has 13 moves after all!

But DDP Yoga can definitely improve your math. Here’s what it did for mine:

1. Thirty-seven

The number of pounds I lost in 94 days. That’s 0.4 lbs a day! Or 0.02 lbs an hour. Or 0.0002 lbs a minute. Or 4.5×10-6 lbs a second. It’s also roughly 122,500 calories that had been stored in my body as fat, mostly around my midsection, which means it was hormone-producing fat. That’s the kind of fat puts you at an elevated risk of cancer and other diseases. The thirty-seven pounds I lost can also be expressed as three hundred and ninety-five Boston Creme doughnuts (in all honesty, that’s how most of those calories went in!)

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2. Ten

The size I am now. I have never been that size in my entire life, at least not in my adult life. I have been a size 16 since I was about 20. In the last year, I got up to an 18 (though I never actually bought any size 18 clothes, too depressing!). Over the course of my first 90 days, the size 16 jeans that had been too tight started fitting, then having spare room, then being so ridiculously baggy one of my friends begged me to go buy some new jeans. That’s when I discovered I was a 10!

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3. Thirty-five Percent

The improvement in my flexibility as measured by leg stretch. I was always pretty flexible in my legs and worked on it before DDP Yoga, so I didn’t think I was going to improve anything there. But I was wrong. There’s always someplace to go!

Day1_90_LegStretch

4. Sixty

The number of seconds I can hold Black Crow for. That’s an increase of 60 seconds, because my previous record for Crow was ZERO!

5. Two

The number of 5Ks I have run since starting DDP Yoga. Before I did DDP Yoga, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without wincing in pain. I have written about my stupid knees before, but, briefly,  I have been diagnosed with both ITBS and PFPS. Now, I am training for a half-marathon that means I will run 13.1 miles, which is 21.1 kilometers, or 21,800 meters, which is 21,800,000  millimeters, and 2.18 × 1013 nanometers! Though, I’ll probably be measuring it by the mile!

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Did I mention one of those 5Ks was a Warrior Dash? I completed every obstacle and came in the top 25% of times.

6. Four hundred and thirty-nine

The average number of calories I burn per hour doing DDP workouts, as measured on my Heart Rate Monitor. I compared this to a range of popular yoga for weight loss DVDs (P90X yoga, Jillian Michaels, Rodney Yee, and The Firm Power Yoga). These are very good workouts, and come highly recommended. But compared to DDP Yoga, they pale in comparison, coming in at an average of only 334 calories burned per hour.

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7. Fifty-three

The average time I spend in my Fat Burning Zone doing DDP workouts. This was also measured by my heart rate monitor. Again compared to the non-DDP Yoga workouts, DDP reigned, as the others only came in with twenty-two percent of my time being in my fat-burning zone. (If you want to know about my methodology, or specific results for any of the workouts, please email me!)

Time_In_Zone

8. 90%

What you should be living life at. I watched DDP’s motivational talk on the New Member page when I started DDP Yoga, and I have watched it a few times since. If you haven’t watched it, WATCH IT NOW! I started out mostly applying it to my workouts, but DDP is right, it applies to everything. Whatever your intentions with doing yoga, I recommend watching this video; it will change your life.

10. Two thousand and twenty

The number of calories I now eat per day. I get more on days I exercise, which is most of them, because a day without doing DDP Yoga is a day that wasn’t used to its fullest. I have tried dieting and calorie counting (and low carbs, and cleansing, and supplements, and you name it) before, but I never stuck with it. It’s hard to motivate yourself to stick with something when you don’t seen any results. Another problem I had was that I was STARVING, because although I was counting my calories, I wasn’t eating well. Now, thanks to the DDP Yoga nutrition guide, I feel full all the time, and I feel energetic because I am eating better than ever before, and seeing results quicker than ever before!

11. One hundred and ninety billion

The amount of money obesity-related diseases medical costs amount to in the US per year (as reported in 2012). That’s $2,741 extra spent on healthcare for an individual obese person. I started out DDP Yoga with a BMI of 26.8, which is overweight. I had no muscle tone then,  so all of my 192 lbs was fat. I wasn’t obese, but I was on the way there. Now my BMI is 21.6, which my doctor described as “extremely healthy”. Also, I am now strong and toned, so my actual BMI may be lower. Savings of $2,741 per year certainly make the money I spent on the DDP Yoga system seem like chump change, especially when compared with the ~$5000 I spent on exercise and diet systems over the years that didn’t work!

12. One

There’s only one DDP Yoga. And there’s only one DDP!

A Pleasant Fringe Benefit

I noticed something awesome about DDPY this morning. Last night I did the Extreme Psycho Workout. It kicked my ass. I burnt a tonne of calories, strengthened up my body, sweated, and did more cursing than I am proud of. It’s Extreme! And it’s Psycho! As tough a workout as I have ever done.

Cut to this morning. When I woke up, I was well-rested and limber. In fact, I was less stiff this morning than mornings when I haven’t worked out at all. And this is true of all DDPY workouts. I basically sprang out of bed.

I compare this to previous workouts I have done in the past. Whenever I did P90X, The Firm, Tae Bo, or a Lau Gar Kickboxing class, the tougher the workout was, the stiffer and more sore I was the next morning. P90X plyometrics usually had my knees begging for mercy, any videos using weights from P90X and The Firm usually left me unable to raise my arms about shoulder level, and I remember having to walk sideways up the stairs after a grueling kicboxing class because my legs wouldn’t work properly for a couple of days.

But not DDPY. I get stronger than I have with any other exercise (I’ve NEVER had muscle tone like I do now), but I never get the horrible stiffness and soreness, or injury to my joints. Nope, in fact it’s the opposite. I am more limber and relaxed the day after a grueling DDPY workout!!

WIN-WIN!! Oh, and BANG!!