A Thorough Caloric Burn

Last night, Deborah and I went to see one of my favorite local rock-n-roll bands, SUNSPOT. This is one of the rare live bands I am compelled to get out on the dance floor for (the others being, in rough order of compulsion from highest to lowest, COWBOY MOUTH* and ELECTRIC SIX), and last night was no exception. Even though we were not at the show for the whole performance, the band fortuitously managed to put several of their most flailable** songs in the first set, resulting in a substantial cardiovascular and lower body workout for me. On top of that, I had gone to the gym for 45 minutes of stationary bike cycling just prior to attending this show, so my body was primed for a thorough caloric burn, and it got one.

I am 50 years old, a fairly recent development. It has been a long time - probably several months - since I flailed at a SUNSPOT show, much less as vigorously as I flailed last night. In that time window, I adopted a vegan diet and increased my gym attendance (both activities were part of graduate school class projects, but the health benefits were obvious and immediate, so I stuck with them). When I got out onto the flo' (as they say in the vernacular) last night, it was immediately apparent that I have indeed substantially reversed the aging process of my body through good health and wellness practices. In my admittedly subjective assessment, I have never EVER flailed more energetically at a SUNSPOT show than I did last night, even way back when I first started to go see this band something like 15 years ago (damn...that long?), when I was mid-30s-ish. My body responded to my brain's flail commands fluidly and instantaneously last night, as if I were not 50, but more like a 25-year old. And not like a sluggish American 25-year old either, mind you, but more like the generally fitter and healthier European or Australian 25-year olds. I was as incredulous about this as were the 30-somethings*** bopping around me with age-appropriate zeal at the show.

I can't lie to you. I'm sore this morning, especially in my legs, from all the high energy jumping around to the music I did last night. But it's not age-related soreness. It's "Damn, I haven't used those muscles in a while" soreness. It's like the soreness you get after your first 3-mile jog outside in the spring after not running for a few months over the winter. You know the feeling...or maybe you don't. It's caused by lactic acid produced anaerobically by muscles pushed to the upper limits of their tolerance specifications. The main thing I noticed while I was out on the dance floor last night was the ease with which I was able to repeatedly propel myself into the air (also known as "repetitive levitation," a phrase coined by the time-traveling fun rock band, HIATVS). I attribute this to two things:

1. My regular lower body (cycling, primarily) workouts at the gym have substantially strengthened my leg muscles and cardiovascular system (with the side effect of giving me ridiculously well-defined calf muscles...my sexiest physical feature, in my opinion), allowing for sustained flail stamina.

2. I have had significant weight loss, due in large part to the aforementioned exercise, as well as the adoption of veganism (one of the best weight loss diets**** I have ever tried). As such, I have considerably less total body mass (on the order of 40 pounds less) to hurl into the air under the power of the magnificently sexy pistons that are my calf muscles.

I've lost so much weight so fast in the past year that I seriously considered the possibility I had a tapeworm or some type of rare cancer. I kid, but only "on the square." Before adopting a vegan diet, I had been exercising regularly, but I was never able to get my body weight down to under 210 pounds, a goal I had set for myself. After becoming vegan though, my weight quickly plunged below that ever elusive bathroom scale metric, and now I actually have to really try to get my weight above 210 pounds. I am not kidding...yesterday I had two big slabs of vegan lasagna for dinner, along with a rich salad containing caloric nuts and avocado, and I drank some overpriced beer at the rock show too. I fully expected that kind of gluttonous hedonism would push me over 210 pounds, but when I got up this morning, I weighed in at 208 pounds - the same weight I have been hovering at for most of the past few weeks. I attribute the sustained weight control to both regular exercise and the well-documented health and wellness benefits of a 100% plant-based diet. The vegan diet has three attributes that I...well, attribute...to its health and wellness benefits, including healthy weight management:

1. It's been scientifically documented to be a thermogenic diet [SOURCE]. Your body "runs hotter" on a plant-based diet, which means your basal metabolic rate is set higher, so you burn more calories just by being alive, never mind exercising.

2. It's a nutrient dense but lower calorie diet than an animal-based diet. Your body can get ample nutrition from a vegan diet with a lower net intake of calories. In addition, the high fiber content of the diet slows the absorption of food in the gut, which effectively lowers the average glycemic index of the diet. High glycemic index diets stimulate the pancreas's production of insulin, the hormone that tells the body to store energy as fat. The vegan diet does less of this. Also, the body has to do more work just to digest the whole food matrix of many plant-based foods (recall that your body burns more calories digesting a piece of celery than the calories contained in that piece of celery).

3. It's a high fiber diet. My wife insists that I not blog about the colon-blowing attributes of a plant-based diet. So, dear reader, I will have to let you contemplate that one for yourself. Suffice to say, Metamucil is not needed on this diet.

According the modern medicine and mainstream media, American 50-year olds
*****  simply do not lose 40 pounds and improve their ability to dance (flail) the night away by a power of magnitude. Indeed, it is a conventional stereotype of pop culture that Americans in middle age get inevitably and irreversibly fatter and slower over time. Alternative outcomes simply are not allowed according to the scientific wisdom of the American medical model. This is in part by design, a consequence of capitalism and reductionist empiricism. To wit, the industrial food industry in the United States survives economically only by the grace of government subsidies and dietary policy-making that encourages consumption of caloric, processed (aka, "value-added"), and animal-based foods [SOURCE]. The production of animal-based foods requires about ten times the investment of natural resources compared with plant-based food production, due simply to the biology of food chain ecosystems. When people get sick from eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), as they inevitably do, they are rarely encouraged to change their lifestyle habits. Instead, they are sent to doctors and hospitals that are largely guided by a reductionist, medical model that treats all diseases with drugs or surgery. Rare is the physician who treats a chronically diseased patient with a health-improving, age-reversing lifestyle intervention like a plant-based diet. But there are some health practitioners who use lifestyle interventions as an adjunct to standard medical treatment.

By American food industry policy standards, I should be pre-diabetic, hypertensive, and erectile dysfunctional at my age. That's the sad health profile of my demographic. But damned if I haven't non-conformed with the conventions of the medical model of health and corporate mainstream media stereotypes in full punk rock fashion!

*Note: Cowboy Mouth, in fact, has a mandatory requirement that show attendees vigorously engage with the dance floor, and their frontman/drummer will verbally taunt and ridicule anyone who is non-compliant. I have to respect their strong enforcement of this stance, even if I pity first-time Cowboy Mouth show attendees who are unprepared for the onslaught of over-stimulation.

**Note: I use the term "dance" very loosely. What I do on the dance floor is more akin to flailing, but the phrase "flail floor" is not a part of the popular lexicon due to the difficulty with which it falls off the tongue.

***Note: SUNSPOT has been rocking and rolling for over 15 years, I think. So, the people who were in their early 20s when they became fans of the embryonic band way back when are now approaching their mid- to late-30s. Just an observation of fact, not a judgment.

****Note: I dislike the word diet here, because it implies a transient behavior with a before and after time boundary, as in: "I'm on a two week juice diet." Veganism is a more permanent lifestyle behavior than a "lose weight fast" fad diet. It does not require any portion control or caloric restriction, only that no animal-based foods be eaten, including eggs and dairy (and even, technically, honey).

*****Note: I grant you that I am 1/2 Australian by birth, but I am still demographically Anglo-European by heredity.

No comments: