I know I promised to move all of my fitness posts over to my other blog, but this is more in keeping with my current angst, so it goes here.

I have hit the metabolic hurdle known as middle age. Although I am still seeing improvement in my strength and cardio I am stuck as far as weight loss goes. I used to be able to lose weight pretty quickly with a reasonable effort, but my metabolism seems to have slowed to a crawl in the last year or so. I have been losing and regaining the same 4 or 5 pounds for months now, seemingly regardless of diet or exercise. Add to this my body's fun habit of storing said fat around my midsection and you have an irritated and paunchy Pontifex Niger.

I'm nowhere near the size of this guy, but in order to reach some of my fitness goals (pull-ups, pistols, running longer distances, competing in grappling tournaments, etc.) I really need to lower my body weight. I am already quite strong in some ways, but my strength to weight ratio is pitiful. Even though I can press and pull quite a bit in various lifts, something as basic as a strict form dip is near impossible for me due to my tonnage. I don't mind working hard toward an exercise goal, but it is unlikely that my arms will EVER be strong enough to do that - more weight loss is required.

Excess abdominal fat is a warning sign that you may have "metabolic syndrome." The nutrition and fitness communities are quite divided on this issue - there's no clear consensus on the best way to burn off the spare tire, especially if you exhibit such resistance. There is also virtually no information written with vegans or vegetarians in mind. There is, however, general agreement in medical cirlces that it increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Since I have a genetic history rich in such conditions I'm even more at risk.

The really shitty thing about this is that I have this nagging memory of a skinny, fit, and highly functional me. It happened many years ago when I did the Atkins diet. I lost 70+ pounds in a very painless way (well, painless to me but very painful to the animals involved). I was able to keep it off for quite a few years, even after I switched back to being a vegetarian. The problem for me seems to be the carb content of my diet - it's hard to eat vegan and not eat a lot of carbs, or at least, more than is currently recommended.

And regarding those recommendations - after roughly 25 years of observing trends in the nutrition and fitness industry, I have come to the conclusion that we are no closer to understanding human nutrition than we ever have been. The trend shifts every 4-5 years and frequently the new trend diametrically opposes the preceding one. We might as well just go back to trying to balance the 4 humours.

So you see my dilemma. I strive to live a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons; I sincerely believe in trying to reduce suffering as much as possible. I know it has been scientifically shown that one can be fit and healthy as a vegan, but apparently I suck at it. Worse yet, sucking at it may kill me sooner, which would actually increase the suffering of my loved ones, my partner, and the children I'd like to have some day. I know that a carb-restricted diet would get my body weight down, and I also know that I feel good (physically) when I eat that way, but there is virtually no way to do that without eating flesh. Even if I found a local source of eggs that I could feel good about (no battery cages, no debeaking, etc.) I don't believe that I could eat primarily eggs for several months. I would have to eat meat, probably in sizeable quantities. When you add this to my usual February angst, I am seriously unhappy. I hate eating, I hate my body, and I hate my own weakness and lack of discipline.

As a Buddhist, I am supposed to seek out the middle path. The Buddha taught us to avoid both asceticism and hedonism, and strive for balance. Is veganism too ascetic? Is the no-carb thing too hedonistic?

I don't know.


Teh Dr. said...

I don't know much about your feelings towards nonfat dairy and fish/seafood compared to eggs, but I have recently heard compelling evidence of their nutritive and biomolecular superiority to the "meats/eggs", especially when it comes to triglyceride control, which is probably the most important factor in adipose cell(fat cell) depletion.

I don't know if it is in keeping with your lifestyle/moral/spiritual goals, but I would at least suggest you look in to the nonfat dairy if not the fish and seafoods.

I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but I really am sorry you are having such a tough time finding a balance between parts of your life. Being so stressed myself I feel a lot of empathy for that situation and every time I close my eyes I just hope things will move on and get better for myself and for anyone else feeling the same way.

I know your situation has a lot to do with how much you want to take the high road and follow that narrow path, and I can't fault you for that, I just hope you can find time to travel the scenic byways with the rest of us, and that maybe it will relieve some of your burden....damn, here I am spouting all this nonsense like I have any clue.

Anyways after reading your post I am concerned, if I can help with info I will, and I hope things turn out for you.

His Sinfulness said...

Thanks - scientific input is always welcomed. I am having some blood work done to confirm/refute my assessment of my metabolic resistance, and I imagine both fish and some dairy will be on the agenda.

MsEmJ said...

Hey Linus, wish I could be of more help on the metabolic front, but I would like to ask you if you could write something for my (hopefully) soon to be published zine, called Grass Soup. It can pretty much be anything.

If so, send it to:

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