Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Wrap Up Part 2: Final Thoughts

It's been a week and a half since Day 90, and I still can't believe how fast the program went! Can't say I have anything more original to say than what has already been said, but I can detail what going through and completing the PCP has done for me:

I have established better eating habits

1) Eating and drinking till I am satisfied, not full.
2) Eating 5-6 smaller portions a day.

PCP really reducated me on the optimal quantity of food to eat in one sitting on a regular basis. Growing up, my mentality was to clear everything on my plate. As a teenager this was not a problem as I was rail thin and very active. However once I graduated and got a desk job, this no longer worked. My weight increased, I became less active, and less healthy overall. Also, the feeling of fullness I had after completing a big meal became almost a source of comfort for me despite the period of tiredness and lethargy I almost always had after meals. By eating until I am satisfied and eating smaller portions throughout the day, I found myself becoming more alert, productive, and energetic throughout the day - a big part of that I attribute to not being in a "food coma" after my meals. Of course getting to this point was very difficult - retraining my body not to desire that comfortable feeling of fullness you only get after eating too much. But that desire for the short-term payoff of feeling full has been replaced with a preference for sustained energy, alertness, and productiveness over an entire day.

3) Eating healthy, well-balanced meals.

Less carbs and more fresh veggies/fruits I feel really helped my digestion. I no longer have a "heavy" feeling in my stomach and again, I feel much more energetic.

4) Eating to live, not living to eat.
5) Enjoying simpler tastes/appreciating complex ones.

This was a paradigm-shifter for me.

For me, eating became somewhat of a stress-reliever for me, something that I would look forward to that would break the monotony of work and the stresses associated with it. I looked forward to being "entertained" and satisfied by the strong tastes and varieties of food that are available. If I was having a stressful day, lunch would be what I looked forward to (what do I want today? Indian? Chinese? Sushi? Hamburger/fries? Thai? French? Italian?). Extremely stressful days would lead me to USD 30-50 prime rib/steak lunches. If I was having a stressful week, dinner at a nice restaurant or drinks with friends would become my stress reliever. Dinner at a nice restaurant, while nice, almost always involved highly flavored, rich, calorie-dense foods. Drinks at the local world beer bar, while satisfying, almost always involved 5-6 beers, fried finger food, and a migration to a second or third bar to continue the night. Eating out for lunch/dinner on a daily basis and drinking on a several times a week basis became an exercise of always looking for something better/more satisfying/more "delicious". This inevitably meant something more calorie-dense, something more strongly flavored, something worse for my health.

Through PCP, I learned how delicious simple tastes can be. Good quality milk, fresh fruits, and grilled veggies (such as carrots and sweet potatoes) are NATURALLY very sweet and satisfying. Salt, cream, and butter are not necessary to create a savory, satisfying dish when you have a diverse selection of veggies/spices (tomatoes, garlic, ginger, rosemary, basil, lemon grass, coriander, etc) at your disposal. And these simple tastes do not blunt your senses into demanding more/stronger tastes and do not adversely affect your health no matter how much you eat.

This is not to say I don't enjoy the occasional slice of caramel almond cheesecake or serving of butter chicken curry anymore. It's just I am not looking to be wow'd by their seductive tastes everyday in every meal I eat. On the occasion I do choose these options, I no longer need an entire serving to be satisfied. A few bites is more than enough for me to appreciate these more complex tastes. But on a daily basis, I am more than happy in enjoying the simple clean taste that grilled/steamed veggies, freshly steamed brown rice, a lean cut of chicken/fish, and strawberries and yogurt can provide.

I have established better life habits

1) Getting an early start to the day
2) Exercising regularly
3) Exercising (not eating) to combat stress

Before starting PCP, I was a night person. I would wake up late, go to work late, work till late, eat late, and go to sleep late. Half of my weekends were taken up by me sleeping through most of it. Due to the nature of my work, 12-14 hour days are the norm. Throw in an hour commute each way, and 5-6 hours of sleep a night and you can see I have very little time for myself/my family during the week.

Fitting PCP into my daily schedule required advance planning and a more efficient use of time on my part. Part of this was setting a time for myself everyday when I could do my PCP exercises. At first I tried nighttime after I got home from work, however this did not end up working as the time I finished work often varied. I then set 6am every morning as my PCP exercise time. At first it was difficult for me to get used to, but by the second month I was getting up automatically without an alarm, regardless of what time I went to bed the previous night.

In terms of the exercises, I found I was experiencing a "natural high" of sorts that stayed with me throughout the day. The sunshine on my face, the fresh morning air, the feeling of accomplishment of just going out and doing the exercises on a daily basis, I think all of it contributes to the overall feeling of optimism and high energy I can carry with myself throughout the day if I exercise in the morning. In effect, morning exercise provided me a more physically and mentally rewarding and satisfying way to relieve stress than eating and drinking out.

In combination with my new eating habits, I found myself more productive at work which helped me decrease my working hours to the point where in the second month, my daily schedule would involve me getting up at 6am to do jumprope/jogging and abs, and then coming home early enough at night to do another round of jumprope followed by the PCP exercises while still getting around 6 hours of sleep a night. When the program ended and I was taking a break from exercising, it really made a difference not having that "natural high" that regular exercise gave me. Needless to say waking up early and doing my morning exercises has become an integral part of my daily routine.

To wrap up:

I can definitely say that by completing the PCP, I am now living the PCP in that I am now living (and knowing how to live) a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. The habits that the PCP have helped me build are habits that will stay with me going forward. Establishing these habits for myself was the main accomplishment I was aiming for through this program; the great physical changes I achieved were a very nice bonus!

Patrick/Chen, thank you so much for putting this program together and making it so easily accessible. This was definitely a life-changer for me and I will forever be grateful!

Fellow Peakers, it was great going through this together with you. All the support, feedback, and sharing really was a big part of the entire experience. You all look great and this was a great accomplishment for all of us! Congratulations!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Wrap Up Part 1: Day 90

Day 90 was probably one of the best days I have had in a while.

I leisurely woke up at around 9am (I decided earlier to take Day 90 off from work and go to Patrick's studio for the final workout) and anxiously checked my email. No clue about the Day 90 workout plan, just be at the studio by 12:30pm. Considering the brutal superset assault we endured over the previous few days, I was really curious as to what was in store for us. Had the regularly scheduled PCP breakfast and snack, and then made my way over to Patrick's studio.

Once there, Patrick reconfirmed how it would go: workout, final weigh in and pics, and then a real non-PCP celebratory lunch! PCP alum Kaz was able to take time out of his busy schedule to join us, and the man behind the scenes himself, Chen, would be there as well!

The workout was totally out of left field, but very welcome considering how tired my body was after the supersets. It was also great to feel firsthand exactly how much strength and endurance I have gained over the past three months (several times we lost count on the reps and just kept going until realizing we could stop!).

Next came the final weigh in and pics:

Week 1 Vs Week 12 By The Numbers

Weight: 73.6kg to 67.1 kg (6.5 kg decrease)
Body Fat: 21.1% to 11.1% (10% decrease)
Visceral Fat: 9.5% to 6.5% (3% decrease)
Muscle Mass: 33.2% to 38.1% (4.9% increase)

Absolutely nothing to complain about - overall weight decreased along with body fat and visceral fat while muscle mass increased!

Week 1 Vs Week 12 Pic, as well as other Week 12 Pics

Again, nothing to complain about!

Meeting Chen in person was a definite treat, especially given all I heard about him from Patrick. We went over my final numbers and then Patrick and Chen presented me with with my PCP completion certificate!
Afterwards Patrick and Kaz took me out to lunch to celebrate! Initially I wanted Italian food, specifically pizza - damn, haven't had pizza in a long time! We went to the best pizza place in Yokohama (near the Yokohama Stadium - Patrick swears their pizza is better than what he's had in Italy!), but unfortunately they were already closed for lunch :( It sounds like that may have been for the best though as I've been told that previous celebratory PCPers who have had pizza after completion did not have happy stomach afterwards. Choice # 2 was Kaiten Sushi (sushi on a conveyer belt that rotates in a circle and you can pick whatever you want off the belt) at World Porters and luckily they were still open for lunch and not that crowded. Now sushi itself is not exactly non-PCP, and we did not really gorge ourselves on ridiculous amounts of sushi. But just being able to eat (and drink) freely with friends while not worrying about grams and salt and such definitely felt good!

Afterwards we headed to Starbucks for an afterlunch coffee (and chocolate muffin and chocolate chip cookie in my case!) and to review my final pics and meet up with Kazue and Kumiko. I've got the look of death in the below pic because the chocolate muffin was nowhere near as good as it looked (but Patrick was hyped about his cookie!).

Spending a leisurely afternoon with Patrick, Chen, and those who came before me in the PCP, talking about the PCP experience as well as everything else under the sun, was just about the best way I could think of to wrap up Day 90 of the program. Stay tuned for The Wrap Up Part 2: Final Thoughts coming soon!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 89!

Gotta get ready for work soon. Yesterday was just miserable here with weather reverting to winter-like conditions, but this morning has been great! The sun is out, the temperature is back up, and I got a good jumprope/8 min ab session in before work. Right now just eating breakfast and catching up on everyone's blogs. Life is good!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 87

In the stretch run and the finish line is near!

One cool benefit of the PCP that I realized about a month ago when I went for my yearly health check is how it makes your veins pop out and be much more accessible. The veins in my arms have always been hard to see (partially because I think I have small veins, and partially because I think I had a good amount of fat covering them). Usually whenever I go for my annual health check (or any time I go the hospital and they have to take blood), I'm kind of used to being a human pin cushion because the nurses always have a hard time locating and succesfully using a good vein to take blood. The norm is 2-3 times before being successful. However this time (which was about 2 months into PCP), even I could see a good number of accessible veins in my arm that could be used. Instead of spending a lot of time searching, the nurse just picked one, stuck the needle in, took the blood, and it was all done just like that! Needless to say I am a very happy camper now that I am not a human pin cushion anymore - an unintended, but very happy side effect of the PCP!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 74 - The Grill Pan!

My wife made this incredible investment and bought this grill pan about a month or so ago. It's basically a 100% iron (I think) pan that you can use on your stove top. Here's the breakdown:

The Good:
- Veggies grilled on this (with absolutely no seasoning whatsoever) are AMAZING. Don't ask me why or how, but grilling on this thing somehow brings out the natural sweetness and aroma of any veggie. Steaming/boiling/frying/sauteing doesn't even come close. I came home one night and there was just this amazing aroma coming from the kitchen. It smelled like she was making a stew or something. Come to find out, all my wife was doing was grilling carrots. Just carrots!
- The only thing you need to add is a touch of oil (we use olive oil). However the oil is needed just to keep the pan "oiled" so whatever you are cooking on it doesn't stick to it. As you can see from the ridges, there is minimal contact between the pan and whatever you put on it, so I think the actual oil that gets onto the food is pretty minimal.
- The pan itself was about JPY 3,000, which is about USD 30. I'm sure you can find it for cheaper outside of Japan, but considering what it does, I think it's a great inexpensive investment.

The Bad:
- It's not as straightforward to use as you would think. I guess because it is iron, you have to bring the heat up very gradually before you can start grilling veggies on it. We place the grill pan on the stove top and turn on the stove at it's lowest heat first. After 2 min or so when we can tell the pan is warmed up, we'll turn the stove up to the next setting. Another 2 min and then the next setting. And so on until we get to the number 4 setting on our stove. It's not difficult, but it takes time and patience.
- Upkeep takes time also. To clean it, you have to wait until it's completely cooled down. Then you soak it in warm water and use a brush to take off anything that got stuck on it (absolutely no cleaners or liquid soap, just warm water and a brush). Once that's done, you have to wipe it down and wait until it's completely dry. Then you'll want to oil it (with a piece of kitchen paper and whatever oil you use to cook) to keep it in good condition and ready for the next time you will use it.

Overall I would say if you have the time and don't mind the extra effort it takes, I would highly recommend trying the grill pan for your veggies. Without using any seasonings whatsoever (and only a minimal amount of olive oil), you will have incredible tasting veggies prepared in a very healthy manner! Below is a pic of the grill pan in action!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 67

It's so funny, it seems like the program is going by so quickly - I mean it's Day 67 of 90 already and in one sense I feel like the remaining 20-some odd days are not enough to get where I want to be. I mean physically speaking I am happy with the energy and focus living a healthy lifestyle brings. Some of the habits I have built around enjoying basic foods simply prepared and jumproping daily are habits I know will continue with me well beyond Day 90. However there are some things that I am still working on: being voluntarily automatic about doing jumproping/cardio first thing in the morning is one thing (I'm pretty consistent with it, but sometimes I really have to battle myself to get my lazy ass out of bed). Another thing is my stomach: the six pack is a nice-to-have that I would like to achieve eventually, however I mainly just wanted a flat stomach by Day 90. It's funny because the upper part of my stomach is starting to show my abs, but the bottom part still has a pretty good layer of fat there... Stuff like this really strengthens my resolve to finish the program up strong so whether or not I achieve these things, at least I can say that I gave it my all.

That's what my mind is saying. My body however, is very conscious of the fact that we have been going through this very challenging program for just over 2 months now, and sometimes its telling me that we are running out of steam. I have also been experiencing the grumpiness/aggression that others have been blogging about (I think mostly because of the food volume restrictions in Month 2) - this is something very unusual for me as I am normally a very mild-mannered person. I've also been having misc aches and pains recently, like a tendon in my right ankle and my left shin. Usually these will go away if I rest for a day or two, but resting a day or two means that many less jumprope sessions or leg sessions, so I am trying to strike the balance between doing the exercise and knowing when not to.
Anyways, enough about that, how about some food pictures! Up until about 2 weeks ago, I would bring my breakfast to work at eat at my desk (along with lunch and dinner). However recently as I have been trying to do my jumprope in the morning, I'm also trying to eat breakfast at home so I don't have to bring so much to work (and not spend as much time there either :))

Here is one hard boiled egg, steamed carrots, celery, and spinich over rice, and a green tea latte (lowfat milk, matcha powder, and a touch of honey). I find eating breakfast at home after jumproping is a nice calming moment for me during the busy week!

Now here is a breakfast on a Saturday or Sunday when my wife and I can leisurely have breakfast together: hard boiled egg with grilled broccoli and eggplant and paella. My wife found a great way to grill veggies that I will blog about next time ;)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The indulgence arrives in the nick of time

Probably had one of my busiest weeks at work this past week since starting the PCP. Month-end work plus a key project milestone equalled a very long and draining week. Missed one jumprope session and one exercise session, but otherwise stuck to the diet throughout the week. Once we got the go-ahead from Patrick on the indulgence, it really couldn't have come a second too soon for me. My friends were planning dinner/drinks for Friday, so I thought this would be the perfect way to end the week!

We went to this place called Billy's in Ebisu, where they have an excellent selection of international beers (and underrated food as well). Instead of planning on eating one dish (or meal) as my indulgence, I just decided to go to Billy's and be sensible, yet not go overboard. On the food front, I thought I accomplished what I wanted to. I naturally gravitated away from the fried foods that I used to partake in and ate mostly veggies (veggie sticks, avocado/tomato salad) and protein (chicken - buffalo wings-style) with a slice or two of tomato/basil pizza. Aside from the salt content, I think it was mostly PCP-friendly. The cool thing is that I didn't feel restricted or anything, I just gravitated towards what I wanted, and it felt satisfying to eat out as a treat.

Now on the drink front, things didn't go as planned. I planned on having only one beer, but I ended up having three:

Pipeline: Hawaiian beer (porter) made with 100% Hawaiian Kona Coffee (didn't really taste like coffee, but a very satisfying dark beer)
Viru: A light, easy to drink Estonian beer with a nice clean wheat flavor
Hoegarden: on tap, always good!
Funny enough, I wasn't affected by the alcohol as much as I usually am. And the next day wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (felt kinda sluggish - low energy, but no stomach problems). I guess it was just the fact that I was planning on having only one beer and I ended up having three that bugs me. One of my goals through PCP is to get to the point where I naturally gravitate towards healthier options, not because I feel I have to, but because I want to. On the food side, I think I am making good progress. On the alcohol side, I think I still have a bit to go. On the plus side though, the indulgence experience on the whole was a planned event, so in that respect things went okay.