Just Another Tool: RealAge

When I first heard about the RealAge test, I took it without adding my vitamin levels, resting heart rate, and a couple of other things. My RealAge was 16.4. It seemed pretty low but I wasn’t sure if that was the lowest possibility. I saw how they used a similar tool in The Biggest Loser to show the participants how unhealthy they are and how “old” they were internally. Lucky for me, my result is about 8 years younger than my actual age.

A few months later, I took it again adding my vitamin levels,  my resting heart rate, and modifying other things to make it more accurate and my result was 16.5.

So what did I gain exactly?

According to the test, my RealAge increases due to the following factors:

  • Not knowing my cholesterol levels
  • Not having a dog
  • Need to review eating habits (see Nutritional Assessment)
  • Exercising too hard

I took the Nutritional Assessment and my resulting FoodAge was 18.2. The test suggests that I do the following items so my lowest age could be 17.5:

  • Eat less red meat – one serving a week should be the max
  • Eat more foods with flavinoids – Flavonoid-rich foods include apples, strawberries, cranberry juice, broccoli, onions, lettuce, tea, tomatoes, and tomato products such as tomato juice, sauce, and paste
  • Increase Vitamin C intake to 1200 MG.
  • Eat more nuts – at least one ounce a day
  • Consume more polyunsaturated fat without increasing consumption of saturated fat

As with all tools, it only provides an approximation of what you really need and you can’t take everything at face value. I mean, the majority of my family doesn’t own a single pet and yet most of them live to be over 80 years old without any major heart conditions or health issues. In fact, my grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday a few months ago and he’s still moving about. So you can’t trust the test to its entirely, it only indicates the average best practices of healthy individuals.

Since reviewing the test and all its recommendations, I will change a few things that I currently do.

  1. I’ll be reducing my intake of red meat, especially pork, to one serving a week.
  2. I’ll take more supplements such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
  3. I need more red fruits added to my food plan.
  4. I need to add nuts into the equation since I rarely eat nuts.
  5. I need to be more careful about my exercise workouts.

I know, I’m doing P90X Doubles and it’s intense. But I’m not going to be doing Doubles indefinitely, which would cause harm to my body in the long term. I know that after P90X Doubles is over, I’ll be cutting my workout time in half because instead of doing an average of two hours a day of workouts, I’ll be keeping it at an hour.

Little changes make a big difference.

End Phase I of P90X

It officially took me 45 days to complete Phase I of P90X Doubles. The first 30 days (Phase I) is scheduled just like Classic, so there was no doubling up of workouts aside from adding Ab Ripper X to the strength program. My delay in completing Phase I was due to a week of traveling and then I had a vacationing relative at my place for another week. Nevertheless, I’m ready to start Phase II, which is where I’ll actually be doing the Doubles schedule of workouts.

The workouts weren’t too difficult to master in Phase I, though I have a lot to improve upon, which is a good thing. The strength-training exercises like Chest & Back, Legs & Back, and Shoulder & Arms have helped me get stronger. I’m starting to use 15 lb weights for Phase II for some of the exercises, which is quite surprising to me. However, for tricep exercises, I still use 5 lb weights.

Kenpo feels more like an aerobic workout than a martial arts training session, but it does get the blood flowing. As for Yoga, I’m getting better every time, though I’m still working my way up to perfecting Crane, the Yoga Belly section, and Wheel. The Stretch program is simple and basic. It’s pretty helpful since I find stretching to be one of the most important parts of keeping your body in great shape. I do additional stretches sometimes since the ones provided in the program isn’t always enough.

Plyometrics and Core Synergistics knock down my confidence a few notches and makes me realize how out of shape I am in reference to these specific workouts. They’re challenging for me and it really takes a lot of effort for me to complete these two workouts, but it’s a good thing since I have 60 more days to go. So by the end, I’ll master it.

Measurements

.

Start of Phase I End of Phase I
Height: 5′1″
Weight: 103
Chest: 30.5″
Waist: 24.5″
Hips: 33″
Thigh: 18″
Calf: 13″
Arm: 9.5″
Height: 5′1″
Weight: 103
Chest: 30″
Waist: 24″
Hips: 33″
Thigh: 18″
Calf: 13.25″
Arm: 9.5″

So, not much has changed but I expected as much since I’m not really trying to lose weight or anything. Externally, I want to look more toned, but internally, I want to be stronger, more flexible, and have more endurance.

Photos

Here are my photos after doing 45 days of P90X in Phase I. They all look about the same so I’m guessing the changes will show by the end of the program. FYI, the right is the before and the left is the after.


Where do I see myself in the future?

In terms of fitness, where do I see myself many years down the road?

I want my body to look the same despite being older, wrinklier, and probably a bit weaker. I’ve seen many Baby Boomers who are still active now that they’re retired and it gives me hope that people can be healthy, fit, and limber well into their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

When I get older like 20+ years down the road, I don’t want life to get in the way of being healthy. That’s an excuse people use to disguise the fact that they didn’t take responsibility for their own actions. We choose not to exercise and not to eat properly…we’re not the victim. I’ve heard plenty of friends say, “Oh, I just don’t have time with an 80 hour work week”…”I eat out with my co-workers, so I can’t eat healthy”…but this is the wrong mindset.

I’ve known an acquaintance who would wake up super early every morning to go to the gym before work, even while traveling, to run on the treadmill. I asked her once why she hardly ever took a break from her exercise routine (unless mandatory) and she told me that it didn’t feel right if she didn’t get that extra boost of energy in the morning. Even if she had to wake up at 4 AM to run…she’d do it. If she didn’t get her morning run, she’d do something during the day. Also, she slept early knowing that she had to wake up well before 6 AM. Nobody could budge her to “party” when she wanted to get a run in the morning. That doesn’t mean she had no social life. She planned ahead for those things. If she was going to have a late night, she would get her run during the day instead of in the morning. It was a balanced situation that worked well.

My other friend is vegetarian who absolutely does not eat meat. But she works in Texas and every lunch is catered…a dire situation right? When she first arrived, the entire spread for lunch had meat in it. She picked it out the meat and later told the person who ordered the lunches that she was vegetarian. The next day, there were vegetable side platters, cooked in bacon grease with bits of bacon in it. My friend told that person about the meat situation and together they were able to find full vegetarian meal options without having “hidden” meat products or only side options. She was the only person in the entire department that was vegetarian and yet, she stood up for her lifestyle and advocated change.

Sure, it takes courage and discipline to buck the system and take your health into your own hands. But it’s well worth it. I know I’m definitely taking charge of my health these days more than I did before. It makes more sense now that I’m older. I cannot stuff myself with several pounds of meat just to get a “deal” at the all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t want to attempt any food challenges for the sake of a free meal or a photo on the wall. It’s not worth it. They make good stories, but it’s not something I want to pursue forever.

I want to pursue a healthy lifestyle of proper nutrition and balanced exercise. I want to be like that lady who does ballet on her own at the gym. I want to be like the solitary man who does yoga on the beach. I want to be surrounded by the Tai Chi group in the park during the early morning hours.

This is what I wish for myself in the future.

When I’m 65 or near that age, I want to be active, limber, and healthy. I know my joints may not be as good as they used to be, but I can still do things like swim, yoga, and Tai Chi. I’m sure there are many more options, but those are the ones I’d want to pursue. Also, I know that strength-training needs to be in my routine as I age because muscle retention isn’t what it used to be and it’s easier to atrophy than it is it maintain at that point. So hopefully, the future will be a bright place where I can be happy and healthy as I age and bypass many preventable diseases.

Fast, Medium, Slow…Can you change your metabolism?

How do you slow down your metabolism?

I think mine is too fast. Since I’ve started doing P90X over three weeks ago, I’m hungry all the time! Less than 2 hours after a meal, I’m hungry. Even when I snack, it sometimes feels like I didn’t eat anything even though I just had a pear or a bag of carrots.

It’s gotten pretty bad as I’ve woken up in the middle of the night because I was so hungry! I’d go to the kitchen to pull something to satisfy my craving. I”m not one to try to suppress my hunger pangs but I don’t get carried away. Most of the time, a snack or a drink of water is enough. I guess I haven’t been adding enough carbs or protein to my diet…so I’ll need to boost the amount of food I’m eating.

It feels so weird that the amount of food I usually eat is not enough! I guess I’m slowly getting back to the days of the bottomless pit with constant exercise. Bring back the AYCE…well, I should hold off until the end of the 90 days. For now, I need to see if the increase in food will minimize this 24/7 hunger.

My metabolism feels like it’s out of control and it’s burning through the calories too fast. I know, a lot of people would rather have my metabolism, but to me, it can be a hassle. I get hungry often and I snack whenever I feel the need. But I’m not gaining weight…at least, I don’t feel it. At times, I think I eat way more than I should for a person of my size. Then again, I do exercise more than the average person.

My Relationship with Food

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Lao Tzu

Food has always been my friend.

I learned to appreciate food when I was young which was enhanced by my cooking “apprenticeship,” When I got home  in the afternoon, dropped off by carpool, my parents would call with instructions to prep for dinner. They were simple things like..wash and put the rice in the rice cooker, take out the meats to defrost, clean and cut the veggies, etc. By the time I was ready to leave home for college, I knew most basic cooking skills.

For the first couple years in college, I languished in dorm food hell even though the school’s food program was rated one of the best in the nation. I craved an opportunity to cook my own meals again. Sometimes, I feel that the dorm food affected my academic performance negatively because…I was so used to clear broth soups, steamed seafood/veggies, and lots of variety…but at school, we mostly had pizza, burgers, fries, and pasta everyday. Sure, there was a salad bar, but it was fresh two days a week…and then it was all brown and sad-looking.

Sad food = Sad me.

Once I started cooking for myself, I’ve gotten healthier. I rarely purchase pre-made, pre-packaged food and I tend to stick to the produce aisle, aside from picking pasta, rice, beans, etc. I’ll buy pre-made items if it’s something I can’t make myself. My sister thinks I’m a hippie health nut…but I think I’m appreciating fresh produce and since I enjoy making things from scratch, I also know what I’m putting in my meals.

I may be slightly unusual in that I don’t eat a typical Western diet. It’s a mix of different cultural styles, but the most prevalent would be Chinese. It’s what I’m most comfortable making, requires the least amount of skill, and the greatest flexibility. You could turn a savory egg drop soup into a sweet dessert just by switching ingredients, but the overall process is the same. Where else can you do that?

Most of the ingredients that I typically purchase can be used for savory or sweet creations. I love playing with my food and figuring out different taste combinations to keep things fun and delicious. Because of my love of cooking, I don’t like to eat the same thing every day and I get bored if I have to eat the same thing for an entire week.

When I do eat, I’m aware of my portions. Major meals are about 3 fist-sized portions of carbs, protein, and fruit/veggies. Snacks are 1 fist size. Also, I eat until I’m satisfied at about 70% capacity…which usually means, I have room for dessert and a drink, but I don’t need both items to finish a meal. Since I tend to have low blood pressure and hypoglycemia tendencies, I have snacks whenever I need them so the number of meals I eat vary daily.

I don’t restrict myself from any kind of food, but I try to limit my beef consumption. When it comes to a budget, I spend about $50-100/month on groceries. Additionally, I allow myself four restaurant outings a month. For the most part, I shop at Trader Joe’s but I’m leaning towards Whole Foods, Gelson’s, and the local farmer’s market to supplement my grocery supply.

All in all, I think I’m doing pretty well when it comes to cooking and eating food.

Are My Bad Habits…My Good Ones?

I’m back from my hiatus and it’s been an interesting week.

I traveled and saw some familiar sights from a familiar place.

Originally, I planned to work out but it proved harder than I thought. So, I eased up on my exercise plan to three 15 minute jogs and doing Ab Ripper X three times this week. I ate whatever everyone else was having, whether it was steak, seafood, sushi, or other items. When I think about, I ate more carbs and protein than I usually do. I tried to add more veggies and fruit to my food intake, but it wasn’t enough. Plus, I snacked a lot on almonds, chips, wafers, bananas, and popcorn. I had some of these snacks 30 minutes prior to going to bed. On two occasions, I woken up hungry in the middle of the night and I went to pick up a bite to eat (like a glass of OJ or a handful of almonds). For some reason, I’ve been ravenously hungry all week and I’ve been eating lots of big and small meals.

Therefore, according to many food and fitness “experts”…I should be gaining weight this week because I’m working out less and eating more in addition to having more unhealthy food than I normally ingest.

BUT…according to an old, janky scale, I lost 3 pounds. I weighed myself twice on the same scale: once when I arrived and again the night before I left.

How did that happen?

My friend says I’ve been unintentionally following a modified version of the Atkins diet. Something about when you eat more protein, your body doesn’t store it as fat as easily and instead, the fat reserves are being depleted. So you end up losing weight.

Also, since I was doing P90X for over two weeks, I’ve been building up muscle which burns through more calories a day which can explain my unquenchable hunger. The extra protein I’ve been eating goes toward repairing my muscles. So I guess my decreased exercise maintained my fat to muscle ratio…no increase and no decrease.

Personally, I’m not looking to lose weight since each pound is practically 1% of my total body weight. I want to maintain my weight and improve the muscle definition in my body. I don’t think in terms of weight…I want to see how my body can be sculpted and defined by healthy food and exercise habits.

But if I was on a track for weight loss…I guess my bad habits are kind of my good habits?!

Where Do I Find Workout Gear that Fits?

You would think that with all this exercising I would have activewear that fits. But alas, only now am I starting to pick up workout clothes. Previously, I’d wear loose shirts, pants, and shorts…basically pajamas or little girls/boys clothes. But little girls sportswear does not support my adult body.

I’m getting to a point where I need actual activewear because I hate the feeling of sweaty clothing. So, I looked online to find something that would fit a petite…in the smallest size possible. It’s not that I’m rail thin, but everything in America is made larger.

I found a couple of items that fit in XXS(2). Additionally, I got a tank in XS(4) to see if I could fit into something larger. However, the XS was too big and I went to the store to return it. I was hoping that they’d carry an XXS in the store, so I decided to ask the sales associate.

She told me that other petites my size had success in that particular store. They do carry XXS for some styles, but most are in XS. Even some of the XS sizes ran small, so I’m sure I could find something that fit. I showed her my XS tank, telling her that it was too big.

Then, she looked a bit embarrassed and told me that the tank in my hand was one of the smallest XS styles they carried.

Great.

Then, the sales associate went onto comment that it was hard to tell what size I was because I was wearing a loose blouse. (My loose blouses are supposed to be fitted, but they don’t work out that way.) In the end, I decided to return the top and wait for more XXS sizes to pop up so I could build up my collection.

Sigh.

I know I’m pretty short, but with all these petite departments cropping up, I figured I should be able to find something! To me, working out = phasing out of clothes.