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Last week I got a request from Jay for a Happy Body update. I’ve been pretty busy with life, but “ask and you shall receive”. Here is my 6 month update on my experience using the weight-lifting exercises of the Happy Body Program.
After my March Dexafit scan, which was the topic of episode 37, I was cruising along pretty well. In fact, I was so confident with the program I didn’t schedule another scan until June 3rd – 3 months later and 6 months after my initial wake-up call in December which I talked about in episode 18. The Happy Body program had delivered as promised the first 3 months using it. I would gain about 0.25 pounds of muscle each week as represented in lean mass gain on the Dexafit scan. I had also dropped from 28% body fat to 20% body fat in the three months, by eating as described in episode 32. This represents 12 pounds of fat lost.
In March, my base weight that I was lifting went up to 7 pounds and in April I hit 8 pounds. I was still at 8 pounds when I did my scan in June. I never missed a day doing the weight-lifting. To do the full sets takes me at least 45 minutes, and I have to admit I did that infrequently – maybe once a week or once every 10 days. I had been hesitant to expect good results with less time, but the Happy Body FAQs state, “You can stop at 30 minutes, wherever you are, and start over again, the next day.” So I aimed for 30 minutes as a “building” routine. Since I was also doing lots of yard work, lumber-jacking, painting and construction some days I opted for only 15-20minutes. I thought with the extra work I was doing, I might still be building muscle even with only 15 minutes Happy Body, but I figured at least I would be maintaining what I had built already. The worse case scenario would be that I would have maintained the muscle I had gained in the first three months and not have gained any new muscle at my 6 month scan. A break even situation.
In the week preceding the scan my weight crept up and outside of the ideal weight range for me. I was 129 pounds when my ideal range was 123-128 by Happy Body standards. I’d been eating too much again. This is a pattern for me. However, I wasn’t too concerned. What goes up, can once again go down. Besides, I was gaining a quarter pound of muscle each week and the weight gain would be muscle and not fat. Again, worse case scenario would be I hadn’t lost any new fat.
The 6 month scan day came. I drove the hour and a half into San Francisco to Dexafit. The results of the June 3rd scan absolutely left me in shock. I had gained 6 pounds of fat and lost 3 pounds of lean mass. How is this possible? I didn’t have my historical data with me when I was scanned and as soon as I got home and compared to my March scan I called back and requested a rescan. This change just didn’t make sense. The Dexa Machine must have made a mistake. However, when I redid the scan two days later the numbers were the same.
So, what happened? First my husband reminded me that lean mass is not the same as muscle. Lean mass includes everything that is not fat. The Dexafit scan only measures fat and the lean mass is just weight minus the fat. So lean mass includes water and all that shit in the intestines. He looked at my results and pointed out that I gained 1.6 pounds of lean mass on my arms and legs. These are the two locations where lean mass probably is really muscle. The “lean mass” I’d lost was located on my trunk and my belly.
Despite the scan saying I had lost lean mass, I was clearly stronger and I was looking quite muscular. The results don’t really make sense still. How did I gain 6 pounds of fat in 3 months and think I only gained 3 at the most? What happened? Although I was still a little skeptical with the Dexa Scan, I decided to accept the results and search for an explanation. I came up with two reasons for the changes.
First, I had lost a pound of lean on my belly and gained a pound of fat in the same location. Although, I thought I was doing at least a maintenance routine every day, I realized that when you hit “maintenance” in the Happy Body Program you can cut all the repetitions in half EXCEPT for the abdominal and back exercises that don’t use weights. I had reduced those by half to a third. This could explain why I lost lean mass in the belly as well as in the trunk.
That would explain the muscle loss, but what about the fat gain. I actually think it might be a hormonally induced weight gain based on a stress response. In the 3 months between scans I made the decision to have my elderly mother move in with us and I was worried about how to put a new roof on a very steep pitched two story home. The mother decision created a lot of subconscious worry initially. I was having stress dreams every night. I was worried about how we would all live together and how we might remodel the home to create two apartments. I was worried about keeping her happy and my daughter happy as well. Some of the weight gain was due to extra stress eating, but I think something else may have been going on hormonally as well.
This makes sense based on the importance the Gregoreks put on the relaxation part of the Happy Body Program. I was also feeling a little rushed doing my routine and not as relaxed as when I started in December. The Happy Body Routine is not as much fun when I am rushing and it is impossible for me to complete in 30 minutes even if I do rush. The promise of a 30 minute routine that would build muscle was beginning to seem like a lie after I got these results.
On the other hand, this fat gain was a wake up call for me on something I’d been pretending to ignore. I really do need to focus on creating a stress free life for myself. I mean, I spent three months religiously, and diligently doing weight-lifting only to find that all my hard work could be swept away by stress. It was like trying to swim upstream with a fierce current pulling me back downstream.
However, the bizarre loss of 3 pounds of lean and gain of 6 pounds of fat still seemed outrageous. A gain of 3 pounds of fat I could accept, but even with my stress hypothesis it didn’t quite make sense to have 3 pounds of lean magically turn into fat while I looked so muscular and felt my strength growing.
I needed a better way to measure fat so I could monitor it at home. I ordered a scale that measured body fat, only to send it back because the reading fluctuated so much as to be meaningless. In my search for a more reliable method to measure body fat at home, I stumbled upon and article at legionathletics.com that cites a study where Dexa scans were off by 8-10%. https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/. It is possible that either my initial scans or the most recent scans were just off. This author of the article on how to calculate body fat did a fairly comprehensive review of every possible method to measure body fat. In the end he recommended the method he uses. He weighs himself every day, does a self-assessment of body fat based on looking in the mirror and comparing his looks to pictures of people at each body fat percentage and he uses calipers once a week. This sounds like a more reliable way to go and moving forward I am using calipers and just watching my fat more closely instead of the scale.
I’ve also made some changes to my weight-lifting routine. I was looking to reduce the time doing exercises that I didn’t think were contributing to my muscle gains. This is a deviation from the Happy Body Program. The Gregoreks are very adamant about using the prescribed weights and not moving up a weight until all of the exercises feel light. For me the first exercise was holding me back from moving forward and the exercises that are done at 50% weight always feel like nothing. I’ve started doing the first exercise more as well as any exercise where the weights feel heavy. I skip or do less reps on the exercises where the weights feel light.
The exercises that target the abdominals likewise felt like nothing and take about 10 minutes to do. I dropped them completely and added a few minutes of planks instead. I intend to add the abdominal routine that Tim Ferris outlines in his 4-hour body book. I’ve already incorporated the cat vomit exercise he describes. I haven’t been doing the exercises that focus on the back either for two reasons. One is that I’ve been texturing and painting a ceiling for the last couple weeks which entails looking up and leaning back. The other reason is that I have full extension and they feel like nothing. I’d like to come up with a version that takes less time because it is a little more intense so that I can maintain the strength without the 10 minutes it takes to do all of them.
The new plan takes me 20 to 30 minutes to do and I feel like it is more targeted. I’ll do it for a couple of months and see if I am getting the results I desire.
One other thing to mention is that just before I did my 6 month Dexa scan I decided to go on an extended fast starting the same day as the scan. That is a whole other story. Extended fasting corrects a number of imbalances in the body such as cancer, heart disease and immune issues. It also stimulates the body to get rid of scar tissue and other tissue that is not needed. I was interested in the general health benefits and was ready to get rid of my creaky knees that I suspected was caused by scar tissue from when I initially injured them as a teenager.
What started as a 7 day fast, quickly became a ten day fast and I toyed with the idea of fasting to what is called “completion”. When I realized this might take 20 to 40 days, I decided to break the fast, since I wasn’t really prepared to not eat for that long. I started eating after 12 days, not because I was hungry, but because I missed food.
When I started my fast, I was worried about losing my hard-earned muscle. However, after my Dexa scan revealed I had lost 3 pounds of lean mass without fasting, I was less concerned. As I studied more about fasting I realized I had a common misbelief that during fasting our bodies will consume muscle. This is not the case at all. In fact, it doesn’t make any sense. What the body does is eat fat and if it wants more protein it eats scar tissue and old cells that aren’t working right. That is why fasting regenerates the body. Further, growth hormone goes up during fasting and growth hormone helps build muscle or at least spare it during a fast.
For the first week of the fast I continued with my Happy Body Routine, then it felt too strenuous, so I skipped it for the last few days. At the same time all during the fast, my days were filled with my usual activities: texturing and painting that ceiling, mowing the high weeds and chopping wood. As soon as I broke fast I started up again with Happy Body and the very next day I moved up to 9 pounds as my base weight. Two days later I moved up to 10 pounds. I attribute the gains in strength to the extra growth hormone circulating in my body.
Four days after my fast ended I did another Dexa Scan. I was down 6 pounds fat (back to 20% fat) and my lean mass hadn’t changed at all. I’ve confirmed that fasting doesn’t consume muscle. Not only did the Dexa scan reveal that my lean mass hadn’t changed, I saw the results of the planks as my abdominals had gained a half pound in lean mass. After the four days of refeeding, my overall weight was at the low end of the Happy Body ideal. I was 123 pounds and that is stable two weeks later.
I suspect there may be more fasting in my future. The changes were more than physical. My whole relationship to food shifted during the process.
Well, there you have it Jay, my Happy Body report. I’d love to hear how it’s working for you. What are you doing to create a Happy Healthy Body?
As always, if you are stuck and would like a Change Anything Now session just drop me a line at DorenaRode at gmail.com. Sessions that I air on this podcast are done for free. And if you would like to hear a podcast on a specific topic, just let me know. Otherwise I will be out chopping wood and carrying water. What else is possible for you that you haven’t even imagined?
Cheery Monday by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Podcast: Copyright 2018 Dorena Rode – All Rights Reserved
Thankyou so much for your response- I cant tell you how much I appreciate your in depth update.
I am doing the happy body with a somewhat different approach.
I don’t have the book and only work off the videos.I intend to give it a year of just the exercises only and see how it goes from there.
I practice intermittent fasting – that is I eat nothing after 2pm.
I have lost a few pounds and I feel good.My body fat is definitely still too high but the exercises alone seem to be very slowly redressing that.
It occurred to me that your increase in body fat may be a metabolic response to fasting.
I find the exercises brilliant and they have addressed injuries to my knees and arms which I got from swinging kettlebells.
I ran a marathon four years ago at age 55 and this left me very tight and injury prone.The happy body exercises are definitely making me more flexible although I feel I am losing some absolute strength- I suspect that this will just be a temporary trade off should I continue with the programme.
I haven’t been able to do the routine in less than one hour – but I am doing all the sets and I think that this is paying off- I take my time and this makes it more relaxing – I can see how this could become stressful if you have a busy life
I have now been doing the workouts for six months and I intend to continue until December when I will buy the book and delve deeper into measurements and diet etc – I’ve done numerous workouts before and this is the best one so far.
The exercises seem inherently safe and very well thought out.
Initially I made the mistake of upping the weights too quickly and found it increasingly hard to workout everyday- I dropped back down again and made much faster progress.
For now I am relying on the scales and mirror to track changes in body fat and I think that this is a good enough method for the time being.
Finally 6 months in and my initial skepticism is being replaced by a sense that this is a very good stand alone programme for all round health and fitness – I’ve had good enough results so far to be excited about the possibilities.
I can’t thank you enough for your fantastic update which has been of immense value to me- I search your blog regularly for your updates and look forward to more in the future.
I hope things work out well with your Mum
Hi Jay, Nice to hear from you. Thanks for your update. I seem to have some setting wrong, since I was not notified of your comment. I have been doing a 26 pound kettlebell swings twice a week. I warm up with a set of Happy Body exercises, since I think just going right into a swing might cause injury. Your report on being injured validates my intuition. I am surprised that I actually am progressing. I started with two sets of 20 swings with a minute in between and now am at 50 swings followed by 20 swings. Yes, the happy body exercises are amazing. I think I can only do the swings because the happy body strengthened my ligaments, tendons, etc. For the first time in a decade I can easily squat down. Where I am wavering is how to do Happy Body with the level of activity during my everyday life. I just bought a 7.5 pound nail gun and am wondering if I would have even been able to use the tool before Happy Body. On the other hand, if I am using the tool for an hour, when is my body recovering? I am thinking once some of the construction projects are done (and it is winter again) I may be inclined to focus on Happy Body.
Also, the fat gain was before the fast. After the fast I had lost the fat again. Fasting as opposed to calorie restriction does not slow down metabolic rate – although caloric demand does decrease because we use a bunch of calories to make enzymes and move the intestines while digesting our food.