Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cortisol and protein

I've often railed about the dangers of the dreaded stress hormone cortisol on these pages, but until now I wrote from study and theory, rather than direct experience. Cortisol comes from stress  -- any kind of stress, physical, mental, emotional, worry, anxiety, poor diets.  All of these things and more can put stress on the body, and the body responds with cortisol. In that respect, it's a good thing. But prolonged stress with prolonged high cortisol levels is downright dangerous. A quick Google search will tell you all you want to know about it. I found this quickly, just to find something to quote here, from a medical professional:
Sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, co-opt biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfere with healthy endocrine function; and weaken your immune system.
And that's just the beginning. But, I'm not going any deeper because exploring cortisol is not the purpose of this blog entry. The purpose is to document a recent experience with my ongoing weight-loss regimen during a period of high stress. I keep great records of this stuff, to help me know what works and what doesn't.

I've been losing weight slowly, but steadily, since February. A few weeks ago, starting with a very stressful meditation retreat and continuing through two or three weeks of personal stress regarding my living situation, everything changed. Regardless of calorie intake, my weight went back up a couple of pounds, fluctuating daily but recorded weekly. Nothing seemed to get it going downward, and I blamed it on cortisol, because of the unusual amount of stress. Starting last Friday, 5 days ago, I also decided to up my protein intake to see if that would help. On Sunday, 3 days ago, the living situation was resolved and the stress lowered. Somewhere over the weekend I noticed the daily scale number going down, and the past three days it has gone steadily down, even though I've been eating far more calories than I try to follow for weight loss. I'm now at the lowest point since February!

How much of it is due to decreased cortisol and how much is due to higher protein is something I don't know, but the combination seems to have worked. The loss was too quick and too steady to be due to anything else, since these were the only things that changed other than higher calories, not all of them healthy calories. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep that scale number going downward. Ten more to go is my mantra these days, regardless of what the scale shows. I don't have a specific number in mind, I just know that for now at least, 10 more is a good thing to aim for. It'll all depend upon how I feel and how I look. I'll know it when I reach it.

Hopefully, the stress level will stay down. I can control the protein intake, although it takes a lot more time and effort to get that and still stay close to the daily calorie intake I want. All I can say about that is thank goodness for Excel! I don't have to do the calculations.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Yeah, we like to Shout!

If I actually had a bucket list, one of them would have been ticked off yesterday. And it was something I didn't even know I wanted to do. Imagine that.

But, I get it now. That spring game I went to at Autzen Stadium was nothing more than a mere hint of what a real game would be like. If you'll remember, after that game I decided I was happier watching a game on TV where I wouldn't get distracted by everything going on in the stadium and forget to watch what was happening on the field. And where the cameras gave me good close ups of the players and what was happening down there on the field.

But when a friend couldn't make yesterday's game and offered me his ticket, it seemed foolish to say no, so off I went. And I found out what it's all about. Didn't hurt that it was a clear, if nippy, day, or that the Ducks played their best game of the year and beat up on an old rival in the process. Or that Oregon's most recent revered football idol was in the house. None of that hurt, at all. I got the full experience -- and let's face it, lots of really fun stuff happens in the stadium during commercial breaks! And of course the noise, egged on by the big display saying 'make noise', and 'louder'. And which I was happy to take part in. Surprised I still have a voice today, frankly. Fun, exhilarating, a lifetime experience for me even though I didn't realize it would be that way going in.

I accidentally found myself at the tunnel that leads from the stadium to the team locker rooms (a pretty snazzy place) pre-game, so I stuck around for awhile to see who might show up. Missed Vernon Adams, heard somebody else point him out, but he was walking the other direction by then, stopping graciously to pose for quick photos with fans. Embarrassed to say I don't know who this guy is, although his face is certainly familiar. Even studying the team roster photos I couldn't connect him to any of them, with any certainty. And of course, I don't remember his number. He's a big one, though, whoever he is! And gracious with the fans.

Pregame festivities with the band on the field -- more stuff we never see on TV, and it's stuff that I enjoy. A lot.

And, as I mentioned above, Marcus Mariota was in the house today, enjoying being a fan and no doubt happy to be around a winning team again. His presence probably gave the team a little added energy and incentive, too.

Earlier in the day, in a private ceremony, Marcus' Heisman display was blessed in the traditional Hawaiian way.

Marcus with Vernon Adams and Scott Frost. Both photos shamelessly stolen from Twitter.

During the first quarter, probably at the first commercial break, the Thank You, Marcus video was shown on the big screen and then Marcus live, on the field, waving at the crowds. Another standing O from grateful fans.

And of course, between the third and fourth quarters a long-standing tradition at Autzen, this year featuring a different video on the screen. Part of the toga party scene from Animal House -- the Shout! In the past they used video from the movie. This year, part of the movie was spliced into the beginning of a video that came out last summer, the same scene recreated with the same singer but featuring Oregon athletes. And minus MM breaking the guitar. Do we want to dance? You bet! And we like to shout, too.

In the end, I didn't have a bit of trouble following the action on the field, keeping my attention in the right place.  Many thanks to the friend who furnished the ticket. Sorry you couldn't go, but really, really glad that I had a chance. First, and probably last, game at Autzen. Hard to beat that.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Support Feminine Wisdom in Buddhism

As I may have written previously, my Bhikkhuni friends in California have been searching for a new in-town home for some time now. The current vihara is leased, and the owners have been quite generous in extending the lease to accommodate the search. But, the lease is pricey and both the monastics and their supporters feel that the money would be better spent being invested in a purchased property, rather than a lease. They have the hermitage in the redwoods, but that is remote and inconvenient for most of their Bay Area supporters, and unsuited for potential retreats and other large gatherings.

They recently found a place that would be perfect, but even with $400,000 in cash to use for down payment, they were unable to secure traditional financing without a guarantor. Property in Sonoma, CA is expensive! If this place is no longer on the market when funds are in place, they'll continue to search for something else.

Many people suggested a crowdfunding campaign, and today that campaign has been launched. They have two months in which to raise $500,000 in donated funds. They are a verified non-profit, thus any donation is tax deductible.  If this sounds like a pitch from me to you, that's exactly what it is.  Donate whatever you can afford  -- from $5 up. I can't give much, but I can handle a small amount. Every $5 or $10 helps, and if you can afford more, I promise you they will be most grateful.

Here's the link: Support Feminine Wisdom in Buddhism. Please forward it to everyone you know who might be interested or willing to chip in for this very worthwhile project.