I turned 40 about 43 days ago. I commemorated this momentous occasion by throwing out the amazing birthday ice cream cake my girlfriend made for me.
Why? Because I was searching for a a way to motivate myself to be better.
Look better (difficult, I know).
So I challenged myself to cut out processed sugar for 40 days.
And do yoga every day for the same time frame.
And I intended to do 2 vision drills for 40 days, but I only made it 20. I’ll pick this one up again soon.
I did this because the best my body ever felt was after I completed yoga teacher training. For about 4 months I was doing bw 3 and 10 hours of yoga every week. It completely transformed my body. I never woke up with aches or pains.
I moved like someone who, in the words of my wonderful friend Stephanie Greenfield, is comfortable in his body.
But wear, tear and marathons added up over a few years. The last time I ran (before the challenge) I stopped about 2 miles in; I felt like both my achilles tendons were about to pop off. I walked the final mile home.
I needed a course correction.
Growing old sucks. You can accept it, or do something about it.
And you know what I did.
- 191 lbs
- 13.7% body fat
- Lean body mass: 164.79
I used calipers and the Jackson/Pollock 4 site body fat calculator at http://www.linear-software.com/online.html.
(I need to mention that 0% body fat is impossible. Men need a minimum of 5% to cover/protect organs and function. Women need a minimum of 12%. These aren’t optimal ranges, they’re just the lowest you can go before we should have a talk. You can look at what’s considered a healthy percentage on the website linked above.)
And also- have a look at this great chart that explains what you can expect to give up to get to each body fat percentage.
Back in my youth I was once 5% body fat. I was also running 70-90 miles a week and looked skinny jacked. Two observations:
- I dont need to run that far any longer.
- I look better at 13% body fat.
Back to day 1. I went to work.
I think cut out somewhere between 90 and 95% of processed sugar from my diet. Who knows how much exactly. Sugar is everywhere. I’m sure I had some here and there, but for the most part I behaved. If you are inspired by this and decide to try cutting out processed sugar then my suggestion is hunt for elephants, not mice. You’re gonna take in some sugar inadvertently. Just try to cut out 90%+. Dont sweat it if you accidentally have 4 grams in your ketchup.
I did 30-75 minutes of yoga day.
I walked a ton.
Once my achilles tendons felt better I began running.
When I was hungry I ate. Thirsty, I drank. Just no processed sugar.
I posted every day on social media because I’ve started several of these self challenges privately and then crashed and burned. I find the more I post the more disciplined I am. A sample daily post would look like this:
Day 35/40: there has been a decent amount of ‘work’ to get my body here, but it has never felt like work.
If I can get here anyone can.
And that’s the truth. When I began taking yoga I was terrible. I persevered. You can read all about it here.
Once upon a time I was self conscious about posting daily updates… more on that later.
My final #’s.
- 189 lbs.
- Body fat= 11.3%
- Lean body mass= 169
I “only” lost 2 lbs.
But my body fat dropped 2.4%. 2.4% of 191 = 4.584 lbs of fat.
Here’s what 5 lbs of body fat looks like:
My lean body mass increased by 4.2 lbs. Muscle gains, WHAT? (For any ladies reading this… yoga WILL NOT MAKE YOU BIG. To gain this kind of muscle you would need to take steroids. Or supplement. A LOT. But because I’m a man, and my body produces testosterone, I gained muscle.)
The caliper measurements indicated most of my fat loss was at the waist (HOORAY!).
I’d love to say this is typical. That if you follow what I did you’ll lose weight around your waist and get ripped, but every body is different. You may lose it in your chest and legs. Weight loss is a riddle. No one can guarantee how much weight you’ll lose, where on your body you’ll lose it, or in what amount of time.
All I can say with some degree of certainty is that people related to me will probably have similar results.
What about the benefits that you can’t measure with a scale or a caliper.
Well this isn’t my first time doing yoga every day. Last time I documented the changes in a video. Have a look.
Poses got deeper. I could hold strength poses longer.
That was after 30 days.
After 40… I felt comfortable in my body again. I’m sure a new video would look similar. Only Ive been told I’m better looking with age.
My sleep improved. I fell to sleep quicker, and slept deeper.
My energy level increased. No sugar crashes.
My anxiety went waaaaay down. Was that the yoga or the cleaner eating? Who knows?
I’m happy to report that I’m running pain free. My achilles tendons feel good (of course this means I’m going to start training for a race ASAP, you know, to make sure my body aches again).
And at the risk of sounding trite this challenge was fun. How so?
I’ve always said if you want to get to know a place go for a run there. I’d add take a yoga class at a local studio to that. I had great classes at the Yoga Barn in Vt, Health Yoga life (home base!), Prana yoga in NJ and the Om center in Ct.
The friendly antagonism from my family on Halloween (‘Uncle Stephen, want some of my candy? Oh wait…’), my nephews birthday (‘oh my God Uncle Stephen, this is the best cake ever. Mmmmmm’) and Thanksgiving (‘let’s take a photo of Stephen in front of a big mound of pie and ice cream.’) was… fun. Funny. Endearing. It was not always easy to say no.
If you do this and give in to temptation then that is fine. We’re hunting elephants. 39 great days and one bad one is an AMAZING RESULT.
It felt good to be on a mission. It gave me a sense of purpose and made me feel vital.
I was flattered by the encouraging comments on social media and in person. The likes and the ‘you got this’ comments make a difference.
I saw two former co workers on the T on day 40 and they hugged me in congratulations.
Most amazing were the two dozen people who told me they started their own challenge. My advice: post every day. Keeps you accountable.
As I mentioned before I had some reservations about posting every day. I didn’t want to seem preachy or condescending in my posts. At the risk of sounding cheesy I wanted to, in the words of Ghandi:
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
40 snuck up on me. I don’t feel old. I have a lot of young man goals I am chasing. I needed to do something to remind myself that age is just a number. You can change, you can learn, you can grow. You can hit the reset button and feel comfortable in your body. At any age.
What’s next? Well, I had some sugar this morning. I got both the shits, and a headache. Turns out my body didn’t miss it that much.
What do you think? Another 40 days? 100? With yoga? Running? Meditation? I’m not sure of all the details yet, just that I need a month to process everything, heal a nagging shoulder injury and then figure out the next goals.
Quick aside on the shoulder injury- it didn’t happen in yoga. It happened while sleeping. If that ain’t an old man injury then what is. I had a client when I was like 26-27, Richard Gargiulo, he was in his 70’s. He hurt his shoulder in his sleep and I think I called him a “F#<king liar”.
Ok. Back to what’s next. It will involve meditation, fitness and goal setting.
And it will start 1/1/19.