Let’s catch up. It’s November!

Do you realized I haven’t written anything substantial in a few weeks?

My very very bad.

It’s been insane trying to get myself together because my experiments have caught up with me (hence getting home near midnight), my epic eczema flared up and my plan to finish my Precision Nutriton certification before other things get crazy.

All of a sudden when the weather got colder and things got more busy, my new eczema broke out of nowhere. Now it covers pretty much 70% of my skin from the chest up, excluding my face and my back. My chocolate abuse as a form of stress relief literally doubled the itchiness, so I had to give up chocolate. :-(

The typical modern treatments for eczema is some atopic steroid cream, which worked really well for me when I was a little kid. But as far as I know, they only work to cover the symptoms, not at the root cause. And steroids are bad for you, especially in the long term. I simply believe there is no better treatment than addressing the root cause.

Just earlier this year when I visited the naturopath’s office, they told me that the little eczema patches on my hands were caused by my digestive issues. They also emphasized that I would do best service of myself by going on an elimination diet and reintroduce common food suspects to find out what triggers it. At first I was skeptical: how could the skin rash had anything to do with the digestive system? But I was open-minded, so I listened.

Coincidentally, I have been practicing 24 hours Intermittent Fasting every Sunday since September, and at towards the end of every fast, I noticed that my eczema was 50% down, and the itchiness was literally gone.

So food, it is.

Then, I realize that I am in such a unique position. First, because I’m a scientist. I understand most medical jargons and how the whole research world works. Second, because I’m studying Holistic Nutrition and have access to nutritionists with a track record of helping eczema patients and other inflammatory conditions. Third, because I have this blog.

I know that lots of you are itching out there, and you don’t know why. Maybe you wish you aren’t itching but you aren’t even paying attention. Or maybe you are putting that steroid cream on your body.

I complained to 4 people and all of them told me they have it too. It’s just not bad enough for them to be desperate. So, I realize what I learn has gotta be useful to someone else, too. I’m gonna be open-minded and try every single treatment like I am my own research subject. I will share the ins and outs of what made it worse or better, the 20 odd lotions that I have tried. Hopefully, when someone itches and their skin oozes with blood, this will be a relief for them.

That’s what’s on my mind lately.

Aside from that, I finished the Precision Nutrition Certification earlier tonight. While I felt like I accomplished something, this was only the beginning of my journey as a nutrition/body transformation coach. The scary part (although I look forward to) is that they instruct us the coaches to go into the client’s kitchen and help them make it over. Everything is about becoming that magical coach that leaves no stone unturned to deliver client long lasting results. This will definitely help me with holistic nutrition as well.

My next step is to get and read the books that will help me become a better coach. Precision Nutrition Suggested books like Motivational Interviewing, Influence and Switch.

Next is to find a few clients (victims) and help them achieve their new year’s physique resolutions, so that I really become a coach.

That’s it for now. For Monday. I hope I don’t only inspire you (told ya I hate being an inspiration), but I triggered in you some actions of awesomeness.

Upcoming stuff
– When a scientist and holistic nutritionist itches
– Recipes (see those awesome photos I posted on facebook) to impress your follow party attendees
– How to survive the holiday season without getting fat
– My kitchen gadgets
– The best places in town for budget-restricted grocery shopping

Oh and if you want to be my first few nutrition coaching victim, do let me know. This certification is a lot deeper than everything else I have seen before.

 

 

Breakfast cereals? Eww…

Breakfast cereals now make me say EWW…

We are all such victims of marketing.

I know. I have been, too.

Back in the day I used to hoard like 10 different types of cereals, mueslis and granolas because they looked healthy. The nutrition encyclopedia that I read also talked about the food pyramid with grains at the bottom. [Now, I also hear nutritionists criticizing this food pyramid almost daily and mocking the Standard American Diet as the SAD diet.]

Needless to say, towards the end of every class, I was counting the minutes towards my lunch hour and nothing at lunch ever filled me up. I was angry for having such a big appetite and not being able to control my weight.

During university I regularly had Special K for breakfast before class, and within 2 hours I was more hungry than if I hadn’t eaten. Some days I had time to visit the cafeteria and filled my tummy with eggs, sausages and potatoes. Those turned out to be days that I took way better notes than days that I had cereals for breakfast.

Eventually, it registered to me that I needed some solid protein for breakfast. So, I switched to something nostalgic: dumpling and seaweed. I started hoarding frozen dumplings instead. I learned to make my own dumpling and (yes, you hear this right) dim sum.

Doesn’t sound like breakfast to you? Lots of Asians have dumpling or dumpling variations for breakfast, or even normal dinner foods for breakfasts.

Years later as I learned more about nutrition, here’s what I found

1) You are probably paying more to get entertainment in a bowl than nutrition. Look at all the colorful designs on the box and the story behind it.

2)  The breakfast cereals originated from the porridge they give prisoners… if you remember what you see in medieval movies. Why would you wanna eat that?

3) Breakfast cereals are processed foods, no matter how healthy it looks to you. Gluten free, high fiber, low fat etc, are bullshit. It’s going to mess up your hormones and make you more hungry in the end, especially if you have insulin sensitivity issues. The end result: it makes you fat. Oh and did I mention additives, colors and preservatives? What about GMO corns, soys, the myriads of sugar?

And I don’t mean just the boxed breakfast cereals. I mean, ditch any starch or sugar-heavy breakfast altogether (bagels included).

Stop justifying the fact that you bought the breakfast cereals. If you will, get ones that are single ingredient-based and non-GMO. Save them for a post-workout meal when your muscles really are looking for that kind of carbohydrates.

That might change your life in a major way like it did to me, beyond getting me better grades and helping me get more work done.

Charles Poliquin recommend the meat and nut breakfast  as optimal for health, performance and body composition. I quickly embrace this concept because it resonated well with my experience, and I’m leaner than ever before.

Give yourself a couple of days and do an experiment when you have solid protein and fat sources for breakfast. Ditch the common connotations of breakfasts, too. Observe how you feel with respect to mood, concentration, hunger, energy level throughout the day.

I would rather puke on the treadmill than wait in the doctor’s office, would you?

Actually I don’t even remember visiting a medical practice in North America and not get frustrated or angry one way or the other. What I personally experienced with increased wellness over my body transformation made me realized that preventive medicine is much more superior. I grew to eventually resent modern medicine.

Once, I waited for 4 hours for a 15 minute slot with a doctor after throwing up at 3 AM the night before, only to get a sheet of paper that says “Gastroenteritis.” It instructed me to go home and rest. Very useful, indeed.

Seriously, I would rather puke on the treadmill than go and wait in a doctor’s office. Typically, the 2 weeks wait time often resolves the problem on its own, which perhaps is a good treatment solution.

And it’s not like the appointments are useful, either. For 9 of out 10 appointments, I left the offices with vague diagnoses and nothing else in hand, or referrals that led to more appointments and more wait times. American doctors appeared a lot more reluctant and conservative in their approaches than the Thai doctors.

Just as McDonalds decide the standard size for all chicken breasts in North America, the litigious society shape American professional health care practices. To me now modern medicine feels like the prevention of death and lawsuits.

Who am I to judge? I was a premed, mind you. I have many family members and lifelong friends who are medical professionals. I spent many of my childhood afterschools in the hospitals just waiting for my parents. I observed surgery for the first time when I was seven.

Medicine was this awesome thing to me back home. Our culture is more trusting and we have much better hospitality. A doctor’s visit was always welcoming and at least I usually left with a solution in hand. (Later I found that this is a double-edged sword.)

Once I got to North America, medicine metamorphosed into something irritating yet necessary. Over my recent body transformation, it evolved into something avoidable and should be avoided at all costs.

Perhaps I should consider myself lucky that I can avoid the doctor’s office at all costs. The doctors would probably agree. I often hear them discredit patients that visit their offices or emergency rooms with trivial problems like common cold, stomach flu, constipation, hangover, severe symptoms of undiagnosable causes, etc.

Of course I understand where they are coming from, scientifically. The viral infections will clear up on its own and ribavarin would only speed up the process by just a day. Hangovers could only be recovered by sleep, rest and lots of water. (speaking of this, I have once spent 3 hours in the emergency room pleading the nurses to put IV on a very hungover friend, and they refused.)

The philosophy of medical treatment in Thailand errs on keeping the patients comfortable and satisfied while being less conservative. Just like modern medicine anywhere, they rarely treats problems at the root cause and pay less attention to the side effects of the treatments.

It was common to be prescribed chlopheniramine maleate (an antihistamine), a cough suppressant and vitamin C if you visit a doctor’s office for a common cold. In fact, I and some family members occasionally took chlopheniramine maleate to sleep because it caused drowsiness.

On my first dermatologist visit for my acne during my late teenage years, I was prescribed 0.01% Retin A and 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide. The dose doubled every 2 weeks until it topped at the highest available dose at 0.1% Retin A and 10% Benzoyl peroxide. Following every consultation was the Iontophoresis treatment (i.e. using electric current) to get these medications deeper into my skin. Every night after the treatment my face would burn so badly that I cried myself to sleep. My skin subsequently adjusted to it and no longer felt the burns after a few days.

For my eczema, the dermatologist prescribed me Chlopheniramine Maleate and 0.025% Triamcinolone Acetonide (a medium to high potency cortocosteroid). Every 2 weeks she doubled the dose of the TA dose until my eczema cleared up.

When I asked the dermatologists when I could get off the topical medications, the answer was “until you don’t get (acne/eczema) anymore.” My acne returned just a few weeks after getting off the acne medications. My eczema only came back a few years later when I faced the North American winters. My brother who has a much worse case of incurable dermatitis became constantly tied to Chlopheniramine Maleate and Triamcinolone Acetonide. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that applying high potency steroid cream on yourself every day for the rest of your life is BAD, do you?

For my recent body transformation, I switched from the USDA food pyramid to a low glycemic impact diet and introduced a few supplements (omega-3, multivitamin, antioxidants and calcium). I eat mostly whole foods, cut down grains and sugar. Beyond the fat loss, I noticed that my acne has completely cleared up. I got significantly less allergies and virus infections.

There is indeed a real scientific basis behind low glycemic impact and good nutrition healing acne and improving immune responses. Everything is better.

Then I wondered if all my nights of crying myself to sleep because my face was on fire was all worth it. I got angry about it, that if only I knew… It was the poor lifestyle choices that caused my acne.

Looking back at the doctor’s visits where I left empty-handed, I now understand the reasons behind their conservative approaches. Every treatment in modern medicine comes with side effects one way or the other, and our body has its own way of combating diseases (or being defeated by it). American doctors tend to be much more cautious in weighting risk/benefits before prescribing treatments even though the medications were over the counter.

I now passionately believe that there are always lifestyle solutions to all these little diseases eating us. Some may seem less tangible than others (e.g. you hating your job can cause your eczema flare up). Being a scientist, I understand that, oftentimes, science just hasn’t caught up yet. Otherwise, there shall be no need for scientists in the society.

And then I wondered what other problems could be solved just by a few simple lifestyle changes. You can pretty much wean off most prescription medications, especially for lifestyle-related diseases. The key is to solve the problem at the root cause(s).

It goes the other way around as well. If you are not ill enough to need a doctor’s visit doesn’t mean you are well. Someone with a heart attack today isn’t well yesterday. If you constantly need coffee to live then that’s a manifestation of a much larger issue. Wellness isn’t easy to achieve, but I assure you that it is much better to have wellness than to clean up the mess of illnesses later.

More than half the times, we know with our gut feeling what the root cause is. Perhaps we can use the experts and healthcare professionals for guidance. I encourage you to take an active role in healing yourself and get healthy.

What do you think? Ever got really angry or frustrated with the doctors? Have you made lifestyle changes that improved your health in ways you didn’t expect?

Creating a deadline to get things done Part I – what I learned from my first muscle photoshoot

As some of you might know, I had a muscle photoshoot recently. I just got my foot in the fitness industry after achieving a body transformation, so it was time I needed a website. This website was the motivation to eventually reach my goal. Through this journey, I realized that I would never otherwise get this lean without the photoshoot deadline.

What did I learn?

1. Now I understand why I needed a deadline to get this done and why successful people keep preaching this. This applies to everything else in life. I hate deadlines at times, but things only get done when there are deadlines.

2. It makes me a better trainer and wellness professional. When clients come to me, they come for a change. But even more importantly than the route is that they (and I) need to know where the finish line is. It doesn’t matter how good the workouts or the diets are if there are no way of tracking the outcomes, goals and deadlines.

So now when someone comes to me for a change, I first ask them to define their endpoints and priorities.

3. It was much easier to turn down treats and postpone irrelevant things when there was an end point because I could wait to have those after the shoots. Diets are not supposed to last forever, after all.

4. Without the deadline, I was much more likely to cheat on the diet, miss the workouts and go into vicious guilt-self punishment cycles. It is also important to have a maintenance plan to fit in “normal life” after all the hype fade away.

5. I am finally a representative of what I want to provide.

6. It’s life changing. As soon as I uploaded my photos on facebook, they garnered numerous likes within an hour. Friends from as far as back in Bangkok congratulated me and asked me for advice. (Of course there was this glorious feeling.)

7. From these correspondence I also learned the kind of misunderstandings people have about achieving a body transformation, which make for hilarious blog posts [later].

 

8. I came to terms with things. I have never been leaner and stronger in my entire life but I am still imperfect. That is soul-crushing after all these hard works I am still quite soft and a few parts are still wiggly. The funny thing is that, I am the only person who notices it because I am the only person who looks for it.

“Why be perfect? Perfect is boring.” ~Jillian Micheals 

 Do you notice I am chiseled but not absolutely shredded? My ultimate goal is to change people’s lives, not to compete in a bodybuilding competition. So I thought, I would just be myself and not photoshop a single imperfection out of my photos. I am proud of my body this way.

 

9. At no other times do I feel happier to move on and work on other things (like this website and school). I am sooo… motivated to work on those after the shoots. The honeymoon phase to a change has its positive effects. Fitness-wise, I also start experimenting with different styles of training and intermittent fasting. Now is time for the fun stuff.

 

How did I get here? I religiously followed Flavia del Monte‘s Curvalicious workout programs, which also came with diet plans and photoshoot prep protocols. The program was fabulous and fun, although really tough. And, like I keep saying in many posts, I had a hard time believing that my abs is showing. That was the last push that led me to plan this photoshoot.

I also bought the personal email coaching add-on which turned out to be invaluable because I had so many questions. Flavia replied to all of my emails even when she was on vacation (!). I am so so happy and thankful.

Later this week in Part II I’m gonna write a post in details about how SMART goal setting was critical to achieving a body transformation goal, and then Part III about what was involved in my first fitness photoshoot. [PS It was an adventure.] I will also include the pictures taken at different time points just to demonstrate.