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My blog is calling me to write again

Wow it’s been over a year and a half since I’ve written a blog post. The original project was never intended to be a permanent ongoing thing. It was a temporary 40 day project. It helped me a great deal. It was therapeutic to write and started the momentum to me being more productive with my time.

But here I am again, feeling an urge, or maybe more like a responsibility to write again. So why am I deciding to write again exactly? You know sometimes you experience coincidences that seem to have an underlying message pointing to the same thing? That seems to be the case with this blog. Let me explain…

Last week between Wednesday-Thursday 19th-21st December I had Wilbar Surgunaraj’s co-producer for the new movie Simple Superstar, Robert Stephens stay with me while he traced his grandmother’s footsteps when she met his grandfather during World War II. During his trip I made him a fresh juice after dinner each day (carrot and orange on Wednesday and apple and ginger on Thursday). He was fascinated by the juices and took photos of me making them. This reminded me of the times I would take photos of me making juices for this blog when I first started writing here a couple of years ago.

Towards the end of Robert’s trip I discovered that Robert is an active blogger, he showed me his blog I showed him mine.

Also on the Thursday while Robert was sat here I received a phone call from my Doctor. I was expecting a call a week before on Friday. After much chasing he finally called me back a week later on Thursday evening. He had my blood test results. My doctor has a thick south Indian accent. It was hard understanding first time round what he was saying, after asking him to repeat what he was saying a  few times (I would have much preferred an appointment in person) I got the gist of what he was saying.

My Blood Test Results on 20th December 2012

My blood count was normal.

My white blood cells were normal.

My platelets were normal.

My liver function was normal.

My fasting glucose level was normal.

My total cholesterol was high. My Doctor said it should be less than 5 but mine was 5.9.

My healthy cholesterol/HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) was normal.

My unhealthy cholesterol/LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) was high. My doctor said it should be less than 3 but mine was 3.7.

My creatinine level was high. He said it should be less than 110 but mine was 120.

Creatinine he said was a measure of my kidney function. He was going to continue explaining. But the idea that there could be something wrong with my kidney, just didn’t compute in my mind. I thought there must be a misunderstanding. Creatinine sounded a lot like Creatine, and with the doctor’s heavy accent, at first I wondered if he meant Creatine. So I interrupted him and said lately I’d been taking a creatine supplement and maybe that’s what was showing in my blood. He said what’s that and why? I said people who workout tend to use it. It didn’t feel like he was aware of creatine supplementation. Anyway so he advised me to stop taking creatine and that I should have another blood test in 3 months to see if it made an improvement. I then started to think, why did I open my mouth so quickly. I should have let him finish.

He also told me to go to www.patient.co.uk and search for “low fat” which would lead me to the low fat diet sheet.

I had a quick skim over the advice and something just didn’t sit right with me. I have this strong impression that the medical industry currently has a limited understanding of good nutrition and it felt that the advice in the sheet was outdated (for example the advice to eat as much dried fruit as I liked didn’t sound right). Also the information on fats seemed contradictory. If you scroll down it says not all fats are bad. That unsaturated fats  are good and can be found in “vegetables, nuts and fruits”. And yet at the same time condemns coconut, brazils and roasted peanuts as “Foods to avoid or to eat rarely (high in fat and/or ‘unhealthy’ foods)”. I got the feeling I needed to do some more digging to get to the bottom of what changes I should make if any.

On Sunday 23rd December I got a message from Attorneys in the USA to take down copyrighted material that was appearing on this blog (was a photo of a man with nice abs). So for the first time in a year and a half I logged in and was forced to familiarised myself with the blog interface again.

When I first received my blood test results I had quite a positive attitude. I felt good I had numbers to play with. Felt like I had a new health project to work on, and was excited about what I was about to learn about health, nutrition and my body. I was excited about the positive improvements I will be making in the coming future.

But as the week has passed my attitude has taken a turn for the worse. I’ve been getting confused by the contradictory stuff I’ve been reading and feel even more puzzled with all sorts of information floating around in my head.  I’ve been wondering if there really is something wrong with my kidneys? I’ve felt discomfort in my kidney area and been feeling down, weak and a sense apathy. I’ve even wondering if I’m going to die? Sounds dramatic, but it is a thought that has gone through my head. I even looked at some of my Facebook profile photos and thought “Yeh if I were to guess, his face looks like someone who would probably die of kidney disease”. Crazy thoughts I know. I’ve wondered if maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s just an elevated creatinine reading because of the creatine I’ve been supplementing with. I’ve also been wondering if how I am feeling is due to negative psychology rather than something biologically going on underneath. But then I wonder what if there is something wrong biologically, but I’m just blaming it on my psychology? And so the circle of negative thought and confusion goes on and on.

All of these experiences over the last week are making me feel that it’s time to write here on this blog once again. It will be therapeutic for me. It will help me to approach this issue systematically. It will force me to increase my awareness of my health and nutrition. And while I do all that I can share my experiences and what I learn with you, whoever you may be.

Naadira, Ali and Robert Stephens

Robert Stephens, Wilbur Sargunraj's Co-Producer culturally fascinated by a washing machine in the kitchen (it's normal for us Brits)

 

 

My results for the 120 day fat loss competition

Right guys, a couple of days ago I reached the 120th day of the 120 Day Fat Loss Competition.

Judging by the spreadsheet (private for participants only) I’m the first person to have reached the finishing line. It seems a lot of people dropped out during the course of the competition, while others are approaching the end of their 120 day time period. Here are my results:

On Day 1 I weighed 69.4kg and on Day 120 I weighed 63.9kg. That is a weight loss of 5.5kg.

On Day 1 my waist size was 91cm and on Day 120 my waist size was 79.8cm. That is a waist size drop of 11.2cm.

On Day 1 my body fat percentage was 24.6% and on Day 120 my body fat percentage was 14.5%. That is a body fat percentage drop of 10.1%.

A graph of my daily progress can be seen here: https://spreadsheets0.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?hl=en&key=tGAN6tldbNTLiwWkBhnIfrQ&hl=en#gid=1

120 Day Fat Loss Competition Results for Ali Zaidi

120 Day Fat Loss Competition Results for Ali Zaidi

I made the most progress in the first 60 days. In the last 60 days my progress slowed down considerably.

If you’re still participating, do update the spreadsheet and let me know your results once you’re finished. The leader in each category will continuously be updated as the results come in. As I’m the first to finish it seems I am the current leader in all three categories :-P

So what are my plans for my diet now? I haven’t reached my body fat percentage goal of 8%. This is no easy task! It takes a long term commitment and a permanent shift in dietary behaviour. The first day after the competition was over I binged on Medjool and Iranian dates. I’ve been ill these last few weeks, and so went out and bought some fruit. I’ve been feeling a lot better since re-introducing fruit into my diet. After an initial binge, my intention is to go onto a more balanced diet so that my overall health is optimum whilst tweaking it to continue to lose body fat – but at a more gradual pace. As the competition is over for me, I feel there is no longer an urgency to lose body fat, but I do feel that it’s important to continue the battle until I reach my goal of 8% body fat – or at least getting to visible abs territory. I do not feel the need to sacrifice overall health for urgent fat loss. I believe I need to have a long term permanent plan in place.

Let me know who you’re doing. And good luck at beating my initial results!

 

120 Day Fat Loss / Muscle Gain Competition

Burn fat and build muscle

Burn fat and build muscle

Welcome

Thank you all for joining the 120 Day Fat Loss or 120 Day Muscle Gain Competitions. That’s right there are two categories… I started with the idea of doing a 120 Day Fat Loss Competition following the festive period but the first person to respond to my Facebook invite was Tsvetan who was more interested in gaining muscle rather than burning fat. So if you haven’t already joined but are interested in burning fat or are more focused on gaining muscle, join us and compete with us to see who can make the most gains over a 120 day period.

Towards the end of January 2011 more than 40 people are participating! What a great response! Welcome and thank you for taking part!

Getting started

Some of you may have agreed to take part or were thinking of taking part but haven’t yet committed. In that case, if you needed a little encouragement, then here it is! Join us! It will be lots of fun. You can benefit from the competitive spirit or from the sense of community to help propel you towards your goals for your physique.

Body weight is not enough

Usually people track their overall weight when trying to lose fat. The problem with this approach is that body weight is composed of many things e.g. fat, organs, muscle, water, bones etc. When people say they want to lose weight, in most cases what they mean is that they want to burn the excess fat. Body muscle is good, while excess fat is bad. There are many ways of losing weight. We want to avoid ways that will eat away at our body’s muscle. Instead we want to focus on losing excess fat whilst keeping or gaining on our muscle.

What to measure for the competition?

For this competition I’d like you to track 3 things which will give us an overall picture of how your body is changing over the 120 day period:

  1. Your weight in kilograms (kg)
  2. The diameter of your waist in centimetres (cm)
  3. An estimate of your body fat in percentage (%)
My scales always seem to be telling me to Go Run

My scales always seem to be telling me to Go Run

Using bathroom scales to measure your weight

This measurement has been a standard that we have all measured all our lives. As you’re probably weighing yourself anyway we may as well track this as usual in the spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is only visible to participants who have received an invite via email. If you’re participating but don’t yet have access send your email address to either myFacebook inbox or mail me ali.m.zaidi [at] gmail [dot] com.

To get consistent reliable results I recommend weighing yourself with no clothes on, at the same time of day in similar conditions. I for example weigh myself in the morning 30 minutes after drinking a litre of water and relieving myself. If on one day you were to weigh yourself on an empty stomach with no clothes on and then the next time you weighed yourself with winter clothes and boots on after just having consumed a 2kg steak – you would obviously weigh more on the second day…

How to measure your waist size?

How to measure your waist size

How to measure your waist size

Why am I asking participants of the fat loss competition to track their waste size as well as body fat percentage? Like me a lot of you will be using Bioelectric Impedance Scales to estimate your body fat. These are great for convenience, but unless you have a high end one it most likely will not be taking your visceral fat into account as much as one would like it to. Visceral fat is in the abdominal region. Over the last few weeks I have been tracking both my waist and body fat percentage via a BIA (Bioelectric Impedance Analysis) Body Fat scale. Sometimes I’ve noticed that I feel thinner, though when I measure myself on the scale it hasn’t shown a drop in bodyfat percentage. But then I measure my waist size I notice a drop in centimetres. This shows to me the possibility that I may have lost belly fat but the BIA scale hasn’t picked up on it yet. By including waist size in your tracking you will get a broader picture of how your body is responding to your change in lifestyle.

Use an Accu-Measure MyoTape to accurately and easily measure your waist, bicep or any other part of your body

Use an Accu-Measure MyoTape to accurately and easily measure your waist, bicep or any other part of your body

Use a Sequoia OrbiTape to measure your waist reliably by yourself

Use a Sequoia OrbiTape to measure your waist reliably by yourself

To measure your waste size you can either use an ordinary tape measure or you can use an OrbiTape from Amazon.co.uk(Amazon.com) or an MyoTape from Amazon.co.uk(Amazon.com). I’ve just ordered both from Amazon to see which is better – a more detailed blog post on this topic coming later! These products allow for an accurate measure of different parts of the body without the need for someone else to help you measure yourself. They’re great for single people! They also cause a standard tension in the tape, so there is no more cheating involved by subconsciously holding the tape measure too tightly in order to improve your results!

I’ve tried to find the best place to measure the waist. Some people say about a centimetre above the belly button, others say one centimetre below the navel, while others still, recommend around the belly button itself. I personally measure about a centimetre below the belly button. It’s up to you to choose how you want to do it. Just make sure each time you do it you do it at the same place in order to be consistent and get a better idea of your progress.

How to measure your body fat percentage?

I leave this decision totally up to you. Choose whatever works best for you. In this section I will explore some of the methods available.

So what’s the best way to measure body fat? Well there are many ways. The problem with all methods is that they are only estimates. I personally think the only reliable way to really know how much fat there is in your body is to have yourself dissected; have all the fat removed; placed on a super accurate scale in a vacuum and then weighed. As none of us want to be dissected any time soon, all we can do is go by estimates. Some methods of estimation are more accurate than others. But the more accurate methods also cost a lot more.

The more expensive, less convenient ways to get a body fat percentage estimate

The more expensive methods (but probably more reliable) are:

  1. Ultrasound / BodyMetrix (over £2000 for the kit)
  2. BodPod – Middlesbrough Football Club has one. Sessions can be arranged from £30 per session.
  3. Underwater Weighing – used to be the “Gold Standard” for estimating body fat percentage
  4. DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) – is increasingly being considered the “Gold Standard” and can cost from £137 per session with a Doctor’s referral
  5. X-ray CT
  6. MRI
BodPod from £30 a session in the UK

BodPod from £30 a session in the UK

The cheaper, more convenient methods of bodyfat percentage measurements

The cheaper methods include:

BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) Scales

I find this the most convenient way of getting a body fat percentage estimate. If you get the right model it can act like a bathroom scale (therefore also give you your weight) whilst giving you estimates for body composition (body fat, body muscle and body water). I use a body fat scale I bought from Wilkinson on a whim. I walked past it, thought wow and just bought one. I didn’t do any research into it before buying it. If I had, I would have probably gone for a Tanita model. Tanita were the first company in the world to invent a weight scale plus body fat measurement in 1992. Tanita also supply hospitals with similar technology. It seems to me that their products may well be better than the rest. I haven’t tried one myself though so I can’t vouch for them on the basis of personal experience. They have some advanced models which can go so far as to tell you the body fat composition in different parts of your body as well as a visceral fat reading (abdominal reading). The Tanita BC545 Glass Electronic Bathroom Scale with Body Fat Analyser from Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com model is currently on offer at Amazon and is down from the original price of £199.00 to £154.62. It doesn’t just put an electric current through your feet, but also your hands so that it can also give you a visceral fat reading! Awesome!

The Tanita BC-545 Advanced BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) Scales sends electricity through your hands as well as your feet to give you a segmented body fat reading including visceral fat

The Tanita BC545 Advanced BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) Scales sends electricity through your hands as well as your feet to give you a segmented body fat reading including visceral fat

Other cheaper options include Wilkinson (where I got mine from) or as suggested by Zar Yusaf, Argos. I personally wouldn’t recommend Argos as I have boycotted them for appalling customer service and inaccurate website. But as Zar has taken the time to share the link with participants of this competition on my Facebook Wall I’ve shared the link onto you!

The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

Timothy Ferris 4-Hour Body BEI (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) recommendation to drink 1.5 litres of water 30 minutes before using scale

Timothy Ferris 4-Hour Body BEI (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) recommendation to drink 1.5 litres of water 30 minutes before using scale

Again with this method of body fat measurement estimation I recommend keeping things consistent. Measure at the same time of day, and make sure your hydration is similar each time you measure too. In order to keep consistent hydration Timothy Ferris in his book The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman: The Secrets and Science of Rapid Body Transformation on Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com (currently on sale for half price via the links I just provided) recommends drinking 1.5 litres of water first thing in the morning, waiting 30 minutes, taking a pee and then getting on the BIA scales. I was a bit concerned about drinking so much in one sitting – I didn’t want to drown my body with too much water (as tragically happens with some ecstasy pill consumers). After speaking to my doctor and double checking with Timothy Ferris via his blog – I’ve been drinking 1 litre of water rather than the 1.5 litre and the technique still seems to work well for me.

Callipers / Calipers
Accu-Measure Fitness 3000 Personal Body Fat Callipers Tester

Accu-Measure Fitness 3000 Personal Body Fat Callipers Tester

You may decide that you would prefer the use of callipers to estimate body fat percentage. It’s best to have a professional do this for you, or get callipers that are designed for self assessment like the Accu Measure Fitness 3000 Personal Body Fat Tester on Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com. Like cheap BIA scales the drawback to this method is that it won’t take into account your visceral fat – where a lot of us tend to deposit our fat!

Bodyfat percentage calculation

A completely free way to get a body fat estimate is to use the webpage shared by Sohail Anwar on my Facebook Wall. All you need is a bathroom scale to measure your weight and a tape measure to measure your height and waist. You input the data into the web form and hit the “Calculate!” button. And just like magic it gives you a body fat percentage estimate along with other stats. To convert kilograms into lbs for the web page use Google. Likewise, to convert centimetres into inches use Google! Don’t you just LOVE Google!

I personally use a BIA Scale, a tape measure to measure my waist and this calculation on a daily basis. I find doing this gives me far more insight into how my body is behaving. The great thing about this calculation is that it is highly sensitive to the fluctuation in waist size i.e. visceral / abdominal fat. Sometime I find that my scales have not picked up a drop in body fat, yet my waist size has decreased and I feel thinner too – and this calculation picks up on it. You cansee my daily spreadsheet and a graph of all the factors I am tracking below. I highly recommend doing yourself a graph like this as it helps you visualise your progress – (very good for motivation!). Head over to Google Docs and sign up for a FREE account and set yourself a spreadsheet! Also if you haven’t done so already start tracking your weekly progress on the spreadsheet I have designed for the participants of this competition (message me for access!).

My progress so far during the 120 Day Fat Loss Competition

My progress so far during the 120 Day Fat Loss Competition

How often to measure?

Bare minimum to be part of the 120 Day Fat Loss / Muscle Gain Competition

For the purpose of this competition you need to measure yourself at least once at the beginning and once at the end of the 120 days.

For the Google Docs Spreadsheet

However I encourage you to measure and track your progress at least once a week on the spreadsheet designed specifically for this competition. It’s really easy. I’ve already entered your name and designed the rows and columns. All you need to do is start entering your data. You will find that it WILL motivate you immensely to see your progress compared to other participants. At some point I will also allow the spreadsheet to create a chart so that you can see your progress in a graphical format. If you’ve only been measuring your weight, or body fat – it’s not too late to start tracking your waist size too. Start doing it today. You won’t regret the enhanced insights you will gain about your own body! I promise!

The best option is to track your progress every day!

I personally measure myself everyday and you can follow my progress via this spreadsheet. I find that the more often I track my progress the more insight I get into how my body responds to different things (food, exercise etc) and highly recommend you do the same.

If you need help with either the weekly spreadsheet, or creating your own daily tracking spreadsheet – just give me a shout and I’ll be happy to help!

Your chance to be part of an academic study

Eddie Bradley is a researcher at Durham University and is interested in using the data we collect to potentially write an academic paper on the results we achieve. Here’s a message from Eddie describing the kind of information he would like from us:

Hi.

If possible it would be good to get a measure of weight (kg) every week, including initial and final. Also a measure of body fat % once a month.

If this can be recorded in excel or something similar and then collected after 2 months and at the end.

Alongside these measures, can you record a general outline of what you have done each week to lose weight/fat. This does not have to be in great detail, more along the lines of what diet you have been using or type of exercise and overall durations. This can be recorded as a short summary in word and collected as with the above data.

Thanks

Eddie Bradley

If you have any queries in regards to the paper please contact Eddie at: eddiebradley [at] gmail [dot] com.

If you track your progress weekly on the spreadsheet I’ve provided, half of what you need to track for the paper will already be done. All you’ll need to do on top of that is keep a track of what you’re doing in terms of diet and exercise to achieve the results you’re getting.

Tools to help you track your diet and exercise

To help you track what you’re doing you can do the following:

  1. Blog like me and Tvsetan: You can get a free blogging account at WordPressBlogger, or blog.com
  2. Start a fitness, exercise and nutrition journal: Hamzah Malik recommends Body Space. I tried Fitday last year. I found it a little time consuming but worthwhile. It’s also fantastic for tracking the nutrients you take in every day – to see if you’re nourishing your body properly. Others to consider include: MyFitnessPalSpark People,DailyBurn and loads of others (just Google: “free fitness and nutrition journal”)

Connect with each other

You can connect with other participants of the 120 Fat Loss Competition or 120 Day Muscle Gain Competition via:

  1. The 120 Fat Loss Competition / 120 Day Muscle Gain Competition Facebook EVENT Page
  2. I’ve just set up the 120 Fat Loss Competition / 120 Day Muscle Gain competition Facebook FAN Page where there is a discussion forum for participants to share tips, gloat about progress and egg each other on.

Contribute!

Would you like to contribute to the group? I’m looking for guest bloggers (participants or non-participants). Were you once fat or chubby and now have the body of an Olympian god / goddess? If so, share your experience, inspiration and tips with the group. Are you a personal trainer? Are you a fitness freak? Are you a reservoir of knowledge on nutrition and health? Are you a power-lifting or bodybuilding champion? If so, I’d like hear from you! We can do with all the tips, tricks and long term health advice we can get! Leave me a comment below and let’s get the ball rolling…

As participants you can also contribute by sharing information and support on the Facebook Events and Facebook Fan page. Paul Higgs recently offered participants a free e-book on burning fat. Contact Paul on Facebook for the free booklet.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: I’ve started this competition in good faith. I realised the New Year was coming up and Christmas had just passed and I knew people would be making New Year Resolutions to get fit. I thought I and others could increase our motivation and resilience by starting a competition that lasted for a significant period of time. If we keep at it for the 120 days we’ll be in much better shape for May… just as Summer will be starting. Please don’t be stupid like the “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” woman and kill yourself trying to win the competition! Also if you see any advice on this site check with your Doctor first if you are in doubt. And please don’t sue me if things go wrong! :-p Other than that best of luck! :-D

 

40 day detox: overview, effects and conclusions (Day 43+)

Overview

40 Day Detox Graph

My weight, body fat, body water and body muscle readings during the 42 days of this detox and 12 days after completing the detox

My weight, body fat, body water and body muscle readings during the 42 days of this detox and 12 days after completing the detox

My Body Fat Percentage increased in week 1

It’s been an interesting journey. As you can see from the above graph and from the spreadsheet here overall, I did eventually see a drop in body fat. However, the first week started with an increase, starting at 18.8% on day 1 and increasing 1.8% to 20.6% on day 7. I put this down to a mixture of:

  1. prolonged exercise on an empty stomach in the morning, which forced my body to go into starvation mode and thus burned muscle rather than fat;
  2. exercising too much too frequently – the body needs days off to rest so that it can build the muscles you’ve torn during exercise (more muscle equals more calories burnt even whilst resting);
  3. finding my feet with the new detox foods e.g. eating too much fat in the form of cheddar cheese and eating too high a quantity of the new vegetarian food.
The Fat Vegetarian (well almost) photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliastarkey/3838295291/sizes/z/in/photostream/

The Fat Vegetarian (well almost)

This first week is good evidence showing that a person does not become thin simply by becoming a vegetarian. There are many vegetarian foods that can contribute to an increase in body fat e.g. carbohydrates in starchy foods, fat in dairy products and calories in nuts! A vegetarian still needs to carefully plan what he/she is going to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat. In fact to stay healthy, vegetarians need to put more thought into what they eat than meat eaters as they have to figure out where to get all the nutrients they would normally get from meat. Vegans have to be even more thoughtful with the elimination of all dairy and all animal products. Becoming vegetarian or vegan without properly planning and putting thought into what your body needs is a very bad idea. Start your research into nutrition and what your body needs here.

Factors that contributed to a drop in Body Fat Percentage

As I gradually made the following changes I noticed better results in terms of fat loss:

  1. smaller meals
  2. more frequent meals
  3. eating more slowly
  4. reducing nuts (reducing calories)
  5. doing resistance training less frequently to allow muscles to repair
  6. not exercising on an empty stomach
  7. rest days
  8. socialising to reduce stress (stress releases cortisol which encourages fat to be stored in abdominal region)
  9. drinking more water
  10. not eating carbohydrates after 6pm
Smaller Meals

Smaller Meals

During the 42 day period my highest body fat percentage was 20.6% on day 7 and my lowest body fat percentage was 16.6% on day 39. That’s a range of 4% in 32 days! Two days after my detox (day 44) I reached my lowest body fat percentage of 16.3%.

A slight rise in Body Fat Percentage towards the end

Towards the last few days of the detox (day 40 to day 42) my body fat percentage started to rise again. I put this down to the psychological impact of reaching day 40 and thus realising that there was no way I was going to be in shape for a topless photo on day 42 for an “after” picture. This caused me to have a more relaxed attitude to how much I ate.

Other benefits of doing the 40 day detox

Other than fat loss there were many other benefits from doing the detox:

  1. I learned about my body and how it responded to detoxing, improving nutrition and exercise
  2. I learned about nutrition – an awareness that will stay with me for life
  3. I learned about other eating cultures and discovered different delicious foods
  4. I learned that I could write daily if I wanted to!
  5. I found that my body could have potentially healed old wounds
  6. I gained an almost supernatural sense of smell (I’ll be taking it easy with the cologne from now one)
  7. I appreciated the ethical position of vegetarians and vegans
  8. I discovered the benefits of drinking filtered water
  9. I was able to think with more clarity
  10. My sexual health vastly improved
  11. I noticed a drastic increase in positive moods and emotions
  12. Visualise in HD (High Definition) Source: http://punktlos.deviantart.com/art/imagination-71353483

    Visualise in HD (High Definition)

    I felt fresh / awake

  13. I gained fresher breath
  14. I had increased energy levels
  15. I gained a renewed desire to be creative
  16. I increased my ability to remain focused on a task and a sustained ability to work towards goals
  17. I noticed that I could visualise imagery in my mind with a crisper higher definition quality
  18. I noticed clearer more vibrant looking skin with a lighter tone
  19. I increased in confidence
  20. I discovered the significance of 40 days
  21. I came on TV the day after my detox completed!

I was on prime time Television!

Yes that’s right, on the 16th September 2010, on day 43 or one day after the completion of my 42 day detox, at 20.00 I appeared on BBC1 Watchdog. Here’s my bit:

And here is the full Argos feature, plus a follow up of what happened afterwards on the BBC website.

The Universe opened doors for me on day 40, day 41 and day 43

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell

So as you can see, day 40, day 41, and day 43 were all highly eventful. Coincidence? Or is there really something to the significance of 40 days that seems to be recognised by mystical and religious traditions all over the world? Why don’t you do your own 40 day experiment and let me know what you experience by commenting on this post? Commit to doing something for 40 days (even a detox of your own if you like) and let me know what happens!

Effects of going back onto non-detox foods

Once the detox was complete, I didn’t start consuming everything that was forbidden all at once. I gradually re-introduced different foods to see how my body would react.

Day 43: The Omega 3 fats in fish healed my inflammation symptoms but I was highly sensitive to the caffeine in chocolate!

Cod with vegetables

Cod with vegetables

I was still in pain and suffering from the symptoms of inflammation since day 40 so the first non-detox food I ate was fish (Cod). It was ok to eat (not amazing as I find cod one of the smellier fish), but heavy on my digestive system after eating. About 10 minutes after consumption I felt as though my face muscles were twitching. I then checked myself in a mirror and could see my face muscles twitching. Though, I didn’t sense any trauma. I did seem to sense trauma (as if I was sensing the pain and suffering of the slaughtered animal) a couple of times after eating food contaminated with meat in Syria when I did my first detox/vegetarian experiment. However I did notice that my headache decreased and finally disappeared and the inflammation in my nose eased and I could breathe through my nose with more ease. I believe it was the Omega 3 in the Cod that did the trick. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. That’s one of the reasons it’s recommended to eat fish twice a week. I do feel gutted that even though I went out and bought flaxseed oil this day I didn’t use it to see if it got rid of my inlfammation symptoms. Next time I will consume flaxseed oil (which is a vegan source of a type of Omega 3) when I feel similar symptoms and see if it cures the problem. Let me know if you have or haven’t experienced relief from inflammation symptoms by using flaxseed oil by commenting below.

Turkish sesame halva with cocoa - an addiction for me like Iranian dates!

Turkish sesame halva with cocoa - an addiction for me like Iranian dates!

In the evening I had chocolate flavoured sesame halva and two small cubes of strawberry flavoured Milka chocolate. I couldn’t get to sleep at night. I felt full of energy. I was puzzled because it felt as if I had drank some caffeine, even though I hadn’t. It was only the following morning that I found out that there is caffeine in cocoa products. I was quite surprised at how sensitively my body responded to the caffeine present in two small cubes of Milka chocolate and some Cocoa flavoured Turkish Halva! I don’t ever recall noticing the caffeinated effects of chocolate before. Incredible!

Day 44: Fight Fat with Fish and how DECAF Green tea got me high

Fish oil with exercise equals fat loss

Fish oil with exercise equals fat loss

Following the introduction of lean meat (cod) yesterday, my body fat dropped to the lowest since I started taking recordings 44 days ago to 16.3%. Does this mean that in order to lose fat it is more efficient to use lean meat as a form of protein rather than a mixture of vegan sources of protein? I think it’s possible. I think with lean meat you can avoid eating carbohydrates if you want to, whereas with vegan sources of protein, the forms (e.g. legumes, rice, bread) are almost always packaged with accompanying carbohydrates. I have experience of buring fat to the thinnest I’ve been when I was consuming fish daily with steamed vegetables for a bout a month. While writing this I’ve also just discovered that maybe the connection with buring fat isn’t just with lean meat, but specifically with fish.

Decaf green tea, stoneground wholemeal bread with peanut butter

Decaf green tea, stoneground wholemeal bread with peanut butter

The non-detox foods I experimented with today were a mug of Decaf Green Tea and two slices of Stoneground bread and a free range organic boiled egg (not all at the same time).

My heartbeat was racing after drinking the DECAF green tea. I couldn’t believe how sensitive to caffeine my body was post detox. I found it hard to focus and concentrate on my work too until later in the afternoon, by which time the caffeine probably had left my system.

I noticed no side effects from the bread.

The free range organic boiled egg was very light while eating. It didn’t taste eggy in a bad way. It tasted and felt fresh, wholesome, good clean food. Again no side effects were noted after eating the egg.

Setting the cricket free!

The cricket had been in the flat for over a week now. It seemed to me and my wife that its colour was becoming less vibrant than when we first noticed it. There was insect repellent on the windows so it couldn’t get itself out if it was clever enough to work its way out, and no other insects were coming in. Part of me wanted to keep the cricket as in Chinese culture, cricket’s are considered to bring good luck if found and kept as a pet in one’s home and also because it seemed to extend a hand of friendship towards me earlier. The other part of me was concerned that it would die if it stayed in the flat. We captured it (ok not we, my wife captured it – yes, I know, bit of a wussy moment for me) and tried feeding it lettuce. When I looked into it, if it was what we suspected, a female tree cricket, it turned out they eat other small insects not plants. Though I wasn’t 100% sure it was female tree cricket because I couldn’t see any wings! Dilemma, dilemma, dilemma! In the end we decided to free it in the hope it could survive. According to Sods Law, it was probably trodden on by one of our neighbours or eaten by a bird moments later…

Facebook Status Updates on the effects of non-detox foods

Too much caffeine made me feel like crap

Too much caffeine made me feel like crap

The following are status updates expressing how I felt after consuming different non-detox foods.

Day 46

“Ali Zaidi feels like crap”

September 19

I had my first cup of coffee after 7 weeks that morning.

Day 48

“Ali Zaidi caffeine is the evil that runs in the veins of zombies”

September 21

I continued trying to get used to caffeine for the next few weeks. For a good couple of weeks I felt constantly “high” from being on caffeine. I couldn’t concentrate and certainly couldn’t focus on writing new blog posts.

Day 49

“Ali Zaidi is wheezing after consuming the leg of a lamb. First piece of red meat in almost two months.”

September 22

Nihari

Nihari

I went out to a local Pakistani restaurant to eat one of my favourite meat dishes of all time called Lamb or Mutton Nihari. Oh my God! It is a seriously delicious dish. Even though at the time of writing this I’ve just eaten a delicious beef fillet steak, I could kill a Nihari right now! I will definitely have to go and get me some this Saturday on my day off! Anyway, after eating it, on my way home I started to wheeze, and struggled to breathe properly. I also felt quite upset about eating a mammal. It didn’t feel ethically right.

“Ali Zaidi What do vegans feed carnivorous pets (like dogs)? This is perhaps the point where moral veganism falls flat on its face…”

September 22

This status was partly inspired by my experience with the cricket. If I kept it as a pet and it needed to eat other creatures for its survival, how would I deal with the moral dilemma of feeding it other creatures if I was a vegan or vegetarian on ethical grounds? It was also probably my mind justifying to myself the renewed eating of meat which I had recently started experimenting with again.

“Ali Zaidi the nicotine in Shisha makes your heart beat faster”

September 25

Me smoking my shisha

Me smoking my shisha

Well I had just smoked tobacco in the form of Shisha for the first time and noticed my heart beating incredibly fast. It was so fast and pronounced I felt anxious. I also noticed this effect when I smoked a cigarette whilst waiting for a friend outside a tube station. I had never noticed these sensations from smoking tobacco before. It turns out, like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant which is supposed to have that effect on you. Did you know that nicotine is a natural pesticide that the plant it is found in, uses to keep insects from eating it? Did you also know that in some places nicotine smoke is blown onto plants to acts as a pesticide? So in effect an addiction to nicotine is an addiction to pesticide! It might be one of the reasons we can get lung cancer from smoking tobacco!

How my eating habits 3-4 months after completion of this detox have changed

The Yo-Yo effect

Yo-Yo mama so fat

Yo-Yo mama so fat

In the first couple of months I gained an addiction to Turkish Sesame Halva. I was eating loads of it everyday. Needless to say within two months, regretfully, I regained the 2% body fat I lost during the detox. This has made me realise that in order to keep fat off permanently I need to make some sort of permanent commitment to my diet and lifestyle. If I just go on diets for fixed periods of time and then revert back to old or worse behaviours I will experience the Yo-Yo effect of dieting. The funny thing is, as soon as I reached my pre-detox body fat percentage of 18.8% I completely lost my addiction to Sesame Seed Halva. When I tried eating it again, I didn’t care for the taste anymore. Very strange.

To eat, or not to eat animal products is the question

Pescatarian anyone?
Stealing Eggs

Stealing Eggs

When I first started eating meat again, I initially made a move to organic meat, eggs and dairy. My moral and ethical leanings were still quite strong. I wanted to only consume meat from animals that were treated well and fed naturally. However the sheer expense of organic meat (4-5 times the price of normal meat) has made it an unsustainable option for me at present. If I were richer I would only consume organic foods. I did play with the idea of becoming pescatarian where I would eat only the meat of that which I felt I could kill myself i.e. fish and eggs. I can’t imagine slitting the throat of a cow, lamb or chicken but think I could handle stealing an egg or going fishing… I think. I figured what right do I have to eat something if I would be unwilling to kill it myself? Also my whole experience with inflammation from day 40-42 made me wonder if the Omega 3 from fish was important for my health. I also figured I’d be able to get my vitamin B12 from this source which vegans tend to miss out on.

Hold on a minute …what if I’ve become a domesticated human?
Vegetarian: Ancient tribal slang for the village idiot who can't hunt, fish or ride

Vegetarian: Ancient tribal slang for the village idiot who can't hunt, fish or ride

Alternatively, I have noticed that if an animal is taken out of the wild and domesticated it can forget its ability to hunt and survive in the wild. It seems to me that city-life is much like living in a zoo, and I wonder if I myself have become domesticated and for this reason I feel unable to hunt and eat other animals for survival. Could my moral leanings towards vegetarianism and veganism be a product of this process of domestication? I am also not convinced that I’d be able to get enough iron from vegan sources so I wonder if eating red meat every now and again would be better for me.

Organic eggs and reducing my “dairy footprint”

I have to this day retained the eating of organic free range eggs. The taste is just so much better than ordinary farmed eggs. I’ve reduced the amount of dairy in my diet. I pretty much always use vegan alternatives to cow’s milk (e.g. rice milk and oat milk). Only on rare occasions will I have cow’s milk in tea and coffee. When I have bought milk, I buy organic if the option is there. I still indulge in chocolate, ice cream, cheese every now and again. After watching a video on youtube on dairy farming my idea has been to reduce my “dairy footprint” (much like reducing one’s “carbon footprint”). Give the poor cow’s breast a rest!

If I find vegan alternatives to dairy products like Vitalite I generally do use them. However some things I have not been able to replace, like Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream. Nothing compares!

Vitalite

Vitalite

Only wholesome wholegrain will do

Cranks organic stoneground wholemeal bread

Cranks organic stoneground wholemeal bread

In terms of grains, for breakfast I’ve been having bran flakes and muesli with fresh fruit, nuts and vegan milk. For bread I’ve moved to Cranks Organic Wholemeal Stoneground Bread. I can’t recommend it enough. Absolutely delicious dipped into a soft boiled organic egg. Mmmm… I also only eat wholegrain basmati rice, and pasta. My rule of thumb when choosing something to buy is: how much nutritional value does the food provide? Will I be getting vitamins and minerals as part of the deal or will it just be empty fat causing calories?

Fresh fruit and vegetables: if you were to make only one change in your diet …increase these!

Even since the end of the detox I have kept up eating a large variety of fruit and veg daily – and continue to see the benefits in my sexual health and speed of recovery from colds and flu. When I get a cold I increase the intake of fruit which does wonders for me. Much better to help the body recover by equipping it with vitamins and minerals to enable it to fight disease than to just wade out the problem with only using pain killers.

The £1 fruit and veg bowls I keep talking about! Ilford

The £1 fruit and veg bowls I keep talking about! Ilford

Alcohol: a switch to the richness of red wine

I do like a glass of Merlot red wine

I do like a glass of Merlot red wine

Since the detox, I’ve almost exclusively restricted my alcohol intake to red wine as it seems to me the healthiest alcoholic choice. It helps me digest red meat easier. But as I feel a lot dumber (mentally) since drinking it, I am thinking of quitting alcohol outright. By quitting I will certainly avoid embarrassing Facebook updates or comments via my pesky mobile phone!

My new selfish attitude to nutrition: personal long-term health outweighs moral, ethical and philosophical dilemmas

If I could conclude that being vegan is the healthiest option for me I would choose veganism as it matches my moral leanings. If I found ovo-lacto vegetarianism was the healthiest for me I would choose that. If I found pescatarianism is the healthiest I would choose that. If I found being an omnivore is the healthiest I would choose that. If I found being exclusively carnivorous was the healthiest option I would choose that. I think more experimentation on my part is necessary before coming to any final conclusions for myself. For now I choose to be an omnivore with increased use of fresh fruit and veg, the use of wholegrains rather than highly processed grained foods, twice-weekly consumption of fish (not much more due to fears of mercury poisoning), the eating of lean poultry (e.g. chicken and turkey breast), and occasional consumption of lean red meat (I prefer beef fillet steak as it’s the leanest – and most expensive!). On occasions I may also indulge in fattier meat (other parts of chicken and lamb chops for example).

Conclusions and Recommendations

It’s been a wonderful journey. The results have been so good that I am considering doing a permanent version of the detox. It won’t be as restrictive as I’ve done for the 40 day detox, but cutting out that which I know for sure provides questionable benefits (e.g. smoking and alcohol). I will definitively consider coming back to doing some form of experimental detox on a yearly basis. Next time perhaps I will experiment with raw veganism.

Pregnant man

Pregnant man

If you’ve never done anything like this, I do highly recommend it. It was really amazing to discover the kinds of things my body was capable of doing – e.g. super smelling sense, ability to visualise in HD etc.

I intend to continue with experimenting with different approaches to nutrition until I find something that works optimally for my body. I recommend that you do your own exploration to find out what works best for you. Our bodies are all different: what works for me, might not work you, and what works you might not work for me!

The nutritional project I have just started is the 120 Day Fat Loss Competition. There are over 40 people participating! Join us!

 

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