PJ's Fitness Blog

A blog about a fitter you. Come find out what is on the cutting edge of fitness science and be a part of the ongoing conversation.

Food Crisis Prevention

4430273Have you ever felt so hungry that you feel frantic and then end up eating junk because that’s all that seems to be quickly available?

When your blood sugar drops, your brain is hard-wired to eat the nearest, quickest thing and that usually means something processed.

Thinking you can use willpower to wait until you can find something healthy contradicts how your brain is wired.

Willpower is a high energy resource, coming from the highest energy part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – so when your brain senses that it is low on fuel (blood sugar), it does two things immediately:

  1. Starts turning down activity and access to the high energy parts of the brain, starting with the PFC.
  2. Forces you to frantically eat the nearest, easiest thing to get blood sugar back up ASAP.

Bye bye willpower. Hello crummy (and sugary) food choices.

Then, about 15 minutes after you have eaten your crummy food choices, hello guilt and shame. The reason for this is because that crummy food did indeed give you some quick fuel, which enables your PFC and willpower to come back online and say, “Wow, I step out for a minute and look what you go and do!”

Then the cycle repeats (even as soon as an hour later) and you find yourself automatically overeating, bingeing or just eating whatever happens to be in front of you again, without even “thinking” about it (seemingly anyway, but now you know why).

This is what I call the crummy crisis cycle circle. I used to fall prey to it too, but not anymore because I’m “fat adapted” (more on that below), but there are very few of us who are nowadays. 5,000 years ago, we all were, but since the agricultural revolution and especially in the last 50 years, thanks to the sugar explosion, 99.4% of people now are sugar burners. So, since I’m most likely talking to a sugar burner here, below is a 4 step strategy to prevent the crummy crisis cycle circle.

1.) Be sure to have a crisis food pack handy at home and on the go. 

Here are some of my favorite snacks I have on hand at home and/or with me at all times:

  • Fitness chocolate in the fridge at home and in a cooler bag with me.
  • Canned wild salmon and Salmon Jerky.
  • Jerky (wild bison, grass-fed beef or organic turkey).
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds are the superstars).
  • Kale chips (Costco is cheapest).
  • Trader Joe’s freeze dried broccoli florets.
  • Hard-boiled eggs (from pasture raised hens if possible).
  • Pre-cut cucumbers, peppers and celery in Ziploc baggies (pair with guacamole or try this tomatillo salsa).
  • Avocado, right out of the shell with a spoon, with a little salt.
  • gRAWnola!
  • Any organic cheese snack and string cheese.
  • Valley Fresh 100% natural white chicken pouch.
  • Bumble Bee chicken breast pouch or pink salmon steak pouch.
  • Chicken of the Sea salmon pouch.
  • Organic sliced turkey breast and sliced cheese (roll them together for yummity goodness).

2.) When you do eat, eat slowly and mindfully. Your hunger/satiety mechanism takes 20 to 30 minutes to register that you are full, so when you eat slowly, you will have eaten less food during that 20 to 30 minutes, making overeating much less likely. Also, studies show that when you eat mindfully (taking time to chew thoroughly, savor the food, sense the taste, texture, etc.), your brain becomes more satisfied, which brings on feelings of satiety faster.

3.) Use the Hunger Scale technique, so you don’t let yourself get to the “frantic” point. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being on the verge of passing out from intense hunger and 1 being stuffed so full you think you might barf, rate your hunger at the moment. If it’s an eight or higher, you’re frantic. If it’s a three or lower, you just overate. I eat when I’m at a six or seven and then stop eating when I’m at a four (which is still a little bit hungry, but 10-15 minutes later, I’m at a three, which is satisfied, comfortable and content). When I do get to a seven, I tend to top out there and can stay there for hours without any mood changes or frantic feelings. How? Because I’m “fat adapted,” which leads me to the next step below.

4.) Become “Fat Adapted.” Once you are fat adapted. Your brain won’t get frantic anymore from sensing blood sugar drops, because it will have learned that it doesn’t need sugar as a fuel anymore. It’s learned that it needs fat instead and even an extremely lean person like me has days worth of fuel on my body sufficient to power my brain and physiology. Sugar on the other hand, has limited storage potential in the body, so the brain is always trying to replenish it quickly whenever it senses it doesn’t have enough. Fat adapted people are no longer slaves to the blood sugar cycle and can always think clearly, with plenty of willpower because they always have access to their PFC. Since fat stores are plentiful, the brain doesn’t go through the shutdown process of the high-energy areas like the PFC. When fat adapted, your hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin are also in balance and working properly, so that is the best long term solution by far!

Thanks to Dr. Hyman for his great post on this subject and inspiration to me for writing my own. Also, be sure to get his amazing book Eat Fat, Get Thin! I’m not getting anything from him to plug his stuff either. I’m just a big fan!

No Xcuses

I’m done with Xcuses! I keep claiming I’m too busy to work out as much as I know I should, so I’m finding ways to make it happen. Check out the video below for more on this and maybe even some ideas that might be of use to you too:


Do you feel blessed enough to “Frivagive?”

GenerousDo you like buying frivolous stuff for yourself that you don’t need but it’s just fun to have? Me too!

Do you like the feeling you get from giving to the poor and needy? Me too!

Here’s one strategy to do both. It’s a win-win! Join me in this movement to bless others in need because we are so blessed!

It’s called the Frivagive Challenge. It’s about blessing others because we are so blessed. It’s about altruistic, unconditional giving to those in need, without any expectation of a return, or even getting any credit at all, in any way.

Here is how the challenge works:

Keep buying frivolous stuff. No one judges! Then, for every frivolous thing you buy, place a proportional amount of money in a separate giving account, based on your income, to give to the poor when you feel called, in the amount you feel called to give.

For example, if you make $100,000 or more per year (net), and you buy something fun and frivolous that you don’t actually need, which costs, say $20, then you put 100% of that amount ($20) into your giving account to be given later when you feel called to do so.

If you make $50,000 per year, you put 50% of the amount of each frivolous purchase in the account. If you make $23,000 per year, you put in 23%, and so on, based on your income.

For more details, see the video below:

And now I invite you to join the movement with other people who have chosen to give in this way by participating in the Facebook group! Just click that link below.

You can help grow the movement by sharing the video (bit.ly/frivagive), comment below, email your peeps, join https://www.facebook.com/Frivagive/ and get your friends to join the movement!

It’s a fun project and a great way to help reduce poverty on our planet, so get on board today!

Schooled by Firefighters

I got schooled big time at the 2016 Big Climb.

I was allowed to participate this year in the LLS firefighter stair climb up the tallest building in Seattle. I’m not a firefighter, but the LLS staff is like family, so they let me in. I didn’t have a chip either, so it was basically just for fun.

Yes, I think stuff like this is fun.

Here I am, pictured right, lined up before the race, trying to keep cool, onnaccounta that gear is freakin’ hot just standing there in it, let alone climbing up a skyscraper. Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 4.36.10 PM

So I says to myself, I says, “How much harder can an extra 60 lbs. be and how hot can it get anyway?”

Well, my legs certainly protested loudly about all that extra weight, starting at about floor 9. But the worst part was the heat. It felt like hot yoga, starting around floor 20. That’s about when I started to fall off pace too. I picked 70 steps per minute (double-stepping) and that seemed pretty doable until the hot yoga part started. Then I just endeavored to keep double-stepping and quit listening to the metronome. I probably should have single stepped, at least for some of it, but I wanted to see if I could do the whole way up with double steps. I made it, but I’m sure it cost me time.

Floor 40 is the bottle change floor because that’s about the time most people run out of air and need to swap out for a fresh bottle. My low air alarm had just started, so the staff scooted me out for a bottle change. I wasn’t technically on a team though, so after walking around for almost two minutes, we gave up trying to find someone to help and I just went back into the stairwell. That added a bunch of time, but “meh – NBD” because I wasn’t being officially timed anyway.

Besides, that helped me set a bar so low I can roll over it, in case I ever do this race again.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 4.54.11 PMEven with the nice little regrettable rest on floor 40, this event still kicked my butt. Here I am, pictured left, at the top, with my face stuck that way. This was how my face looked all the way up, as I labored to suck air from a tank, inside a claustrophobic, steamed up mask. My mom always told me not to make faces too long, or it will stay that way. She was right, but it thankfully, it wasn’t permanent this time. It only stayed that way for about 14 hours. I’m glad it went back to normal because I wouldn’t want to have to go to work like that tomorrow.

And that’s not hair gel you see in this picture either. That’s some nasty sweat – about 3 lbs. worth, in fact. That’s about as much as I remember sweating in an hour of hot yoga, back when I tried it – once.

Notice also there’s no “thumbs up” going on here like there was in the picture at the start line. I woulda if I coulda, but my thumbs were too tired to lift at this point.

If it weren’t for the nice ladies who were there at the finish line to help peel off my tank, pack, helmet, mask, gloves and jacket, I’d probably still be stuck in those too. I hear there’s a wait list for that job BTW. Apparently, the “undressing the firefighters” positions are the first to fill up.

Here’s the link to my Suunto data if you’re a biometrics nerd like me: http://bit.ly/firestairs

And the official race results are here: http://www.racecenter.com/results/2016/res_ff16.htm

But like I said, I’m not in the official results, onnaccounta I’m not a firefighter, but if I was, my 17:34 would have placed around 244th out of 1793. In other words, I got my butt handed to me by 242 fellas today and two chicks. The fastest female smoked me by more than 2 minutes in fact! I think I might have a new crush…