I am a thing-finder who is dedicated to their mission of exploring the human body and analyzing the reasons for the occurrence of one condition or another. Many people feel like they are the victims of their conditions and emotions. Many fail to successfully tackle life’s challenges, because they don’t understand the reason for the way they feel and for the things their body and mind force them to do. This applies generally to training and diet.
Quite often people manage to achieve some kind of balance, when they have a structured and foreseeable everyday life. The moment they have to travel some place, many people panic about how they will manage to stick to their diet, if they will have a place to work out, and normally, in the midst of all this panic, they stop thinking rationally and what they fear most of all happens – they fail to eat well, go for quite unhealthy food and completely discontinue all sorts of movement and training.
Ten days ago I traveled to London to take part in Peter Sage’s Business School (here you can read about the 7 lessons I learned there). Wherever I find myself, circumstances may change, but there is one thing I don’t change – my identity. I have come to realize what is important to me and what things make me feel good, so wherever I am, I try to get a dose of them. Part of my identity is that of an athlete and a person who takes care of their body and its energy and vitality.
Travelling is a challenge to me, too – stepping out of my routine and seeing everything from a different perspective. To me changing the environment is an opportunity to compare what I do every day and what I have to do from time to time. An opportunity to see how my body and mind respond in a different environment and to different challenges, and, of course, to analyze the various situations and conditions afterwards and draw conclusions about the pros and cons of one and the other. In this blog post I will share with you my conclusions from my 4-day stay in London and at Sage Academy with respect to my body, health, diet, sleep and movement. I will tell you what I did and how it affected me. What I will keep and what I am sure I don’t want in my life.
1.Sleep or the lack thereof is the main driver of carbohydrate cravings
Every time someone has a problem with emotional eating, intensified carbohydrate cravings, although their diet seems nutrient-dense, I look at sleep. I request a diary of when they go to bed and get up in the morning, etc. It always turns out that the person is in the habit of staying up past midnight – spending a long time in artificial light and not getting enough sleep or at least not during those hours when the body needs it.
I have a well-developed schedule of what time I go to bed and get up in the morning – I don’t compromise with that, I do my best to be in bed by 11 o’clock at the latest and I always feel good.
During my time at Sage Academy this schedule was disrupted.
There were several things that did not sit particularly well with me:
1.1. There was a time zone difference of two hours. Sometimes we don’t realize how important these two hours are for the body. To the mind they sound like nothing, but to the body they are equal to a leap in time. The good thing about London being two hours ahead of Sofia was that when I got up at around 5 am, that meant 7 am in Bulgaria. But that advantage was immediately offset by the disadvantage that in the evenings, when it was 10 pm in London, it was 12 pm in Bulgaria.
With our schedule we had classes for a period of 14 to 18 hours a day. One evening we went on till almost 2 am and on the other days we were done at about 10:30 – 11 pm London time, which meant 4 am or 00:30 – 1 am.
I was tired all the time and noticed that my body was growing slightly lethargic. I felt sort of bloated and clumsy, even though I neither had any junk food or overate. Luckily, I learned long ago that when the body is under some kind of stress, it produces more cortisol and stress hormones which are one of the reasons we feel bloated. That does not mean we gained weight over the course of 3 days, because normally, if our diet is right, when we get back to a more normal schedule, the stress levels in our body go down and once again we start feeling lean instead of bloated.
As the days went by, I felt slightly worse and worse physically and after the last day I could feel how both my hunger and my appetite were changing. I definitely felt like I needed to eat more and experienced an intensified appetite for carbohydrates. One day I even decided to have just rice for dinner and got a larger serving in order to satisfy my carbohydrate cravings without having to eat junk food.
My lack of sleep and late bedtimes were definitely affecting my energy levels, my desire to exercise and my carbohydrate cravings. Many people don’t realize how merely changing their schedule of when they go to bed and how much they sleep can free them from all this struggle with what and how much to eat and how much to move. As I wrote here, gluttony and laziness are not labels which are part of our identity, but rather conditions which appear in the body and conceal a real cause – once we remove the cause, these conditions become unnecessary.
What is more, when I came back, I noticed that during the next 3-4 days I once again felt like I needed to eat a little more and increase my carbohydrate intake, although I wasn’t working out more, because I felt tired and had decided to take a break.
The other curious thing was my sleep quality statistics. I track my sleep with the Polar watch. Normally my sleep quality is about 87-90% good, but at the seminar it kept dropping more and more and even came down under 80%, which has never happened since I’ve been tracking my sleep (for at least 6 months). This proves that even when you sleeping for 7-8 hours in terms of length, you can feel tired, because your sleep quality changes. The later I went to bed and the more time I spent in artificial light, the more my sleep and its quality suffered. These are things we are not aware of, but the results are in the details.
2.I was not designed for a sedentary lifestyle
I am a very active person. It doesn’t matter if I work out or not, I am constantly moving – I can be walking or standing, doing handstands or stretching – every day, my activity level is 5-7 hours a day (which includes the time I walk, work out, stand or sit on the ground, changing my postures – because my Polar watch registers these movements too. As you can see in the photo, my activity level at the seminar is 2-3 hours a day – quite little.
What I did during the first days was to get up early and start my day with 10 minutes of sun salutation, then I went to the gym and did a brief and intense set of exercises – for some 20-25 minutes. On the first two days I felt good, but on the next two I felt tired. One morning I got up and did just yoga and mobility exercises to feed my body with some movement. You should try starting your day like that. You can’t imagine how the energy starts flowing through your body and how well you are going to feel.
On the last day I decided I lacked sleep and although I had enough willpower to get up and work out, I have learned when I to use my willpower to be more active and when to use it to be less active and give my body a break. On the last day my body needed a break and I gave it one more hour of sleep.
As I mentioned before, the Business School involved a lot of sitting – for an average of 12-14 hours a day.We had one lunch break for approximately 45 minutes and two more breaks for 10-15 minutes each. I would order food from the restaurant as soon as I went there for breakfast, so it could be ready at lunch time and in my lunch break I would set apart 15 minutes for eating and then I go out to take a 30-minute walk on the sidewalk. That definitely made me feel excellent and restored my energy. I always tell the people I work with that they should try to use a part of their lunch break to take a walk – it revitalizes both the body and the mind and makes you even more productive for the remainder of your workday.
The other advantage of these short walks was light. Different light frequencies provide information about which part of the day it is and what the body must prepare for – you know how light outside changes as the day advances. Artificial light fools the body into believing it’s always daytime and suppresses the release of key hormones (such as melatonin), because these hormones are released when the amount of light decreases and is replaced by darkness. Going out on my lunch break more or less told my body what it needed.
This is the other detail many people are missing – sitting imprisoned between four walls all day long is truly detrimental to the body. If more people take note of this, they would realize that every illness starts with a disruption of our circadian rhythms and every illness is actually the body’s incapacity to tell time – the time that is determined by light.
I am very grateful for the mobility I have achieved over the past year with my mobility and yoga practices. It allows me to fold my body into different postures without taking up a lot of space. That was what I did at the seminar where I sat in my chair in a half-lotus position to prevent my hips from getting stiff.
At that seminar I realized I truly love my everyday routine and that sitting all day long is really harmful to the body.
The other thing that happened was that after the seminar I felt very stiff. I am used to feeling light and supple, but the sitting, the insufficient activity and my poor sleep definitely made me feel stiff. So movement is definitely my way of life.
3.Healthy food always revives the body
Like I said, I never compromise with what I believe in. It doesn’t matter if I am travelling or not, I always find a way to eat healthy. Naturally, I can’t eat the way I do at home. I can’t always stick to my usual macronutrient ratios, but the food I eat – in terms of sources –is always the same. I know that when I travel, its quality isn‘t always very good, but as I wrote in this blog post (When You Realize Everything You Eat Is Unhealthy), it is my opinion that the body manages to utilize food, when it is close to the one found in nature.
I would have breakfast at the restaurant where there was a breakfast buffet and I go for yogurt and fruit, and one day I had eggs, rice and cherry tomatoes, because I felt I needed more food and a combination of fats and carbohydrates.
Two days I ordered lunch from the restaurant – eggs, broccoli and some rice, while the other days I had a combination of canned tuna, shrimps, vegetables and avocado.
In the afternoons I would have my healthy brownie for travellers and I had bought a couple of yogurt containers that I took with me on the very first day.
My suppers were also in the form of salads with some kind of meat and avocado.
I did not eat any unhealthy food, but I still felt I needed to have some cooked food and not just salads. I wanted to steam a mixture of colorful and fresh vegetables, combine different tastes and cook a nutrient-dense meal. But I knew that was simply the price I had to pay to be part of Sage Academy. And like I wrote in my previous blog post, that was a one-of-a-kind experience and I am very grateful I had the honor of meeting people of this caliber.
What I described above was not caused by Sage Academy, but by what happens to the body when we sit, don’t move enough, don’t get enough sleep etc. This is the everyday life of many people who don’t realize these processes are occurring in their bodies. It is the result of each and every conference we go to. These are processes that, once we become aware of them, can be changed and we can make sure they are the small price we pay for experiencing events like Sage Academy or other interesting events we want to attend. But these processes should absolutely not be regarded as a necessary evil of our everyday lives. They should not be seen as a way of life and we should realize that there is another way and that when we take care of our bodies, the labels “glutton”, “lazy”, “gourmand”, “lacking willpower” become unnecessary, because we have taken care of what happens in the body.
Our body is an external expression of the invisible processes that go on inside us. Before we change our appearance, we need to change the signals we send to our body.
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