How to Lose Weight Safely

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Steve asks:

I have asked you about stretches to improve Full Wheel pose. The problem is, it’s so hard for me, even after a good warm up, to get into Urdhva Dhanurasana, the Full Wheel pose. When I attempt it, my elbows cannot straighten, and I struggle to hold it for 10 seconds. I can hold Hangman (which is a gravity passive pose) for 5 minutes, but I still have this problem. Any other tips to loosen up these muscles and develop the Full Wheel pose?

Steve, the deal is, especially for men, we tend to develop upper body muscle and strength, which is kind of the antithesis of flexibility. They can go hand-in-hand, but they don’t naturally. We tend to have to work towards it. So the Urdhva Dhanurasana can be a real brutal one.

A couple of things. The first thing is, if you can hold it for 10 seconds, that’s just great. Just make sure that you’re breathing. Don’t hold your breath. If you can hold 10 seconds, do 5 sets of 10 seconds and that’s great and build from there.

The other thing I want to talk to you about is when you’re doing the Full Wheel pose, your whole focus, your whole job, is to try to get out of your lower back. So naturally, your body is going to hinge right at your L4, L5, S1, right at your lower back. And your job, in your mind, in your body, you want to think, get out of my lower back, get out of my lower back. You do that by really pushing down into your heels, so you get a lot of pelvic rotation, so you’ll start to feel it in the tops of your legs, your iliopsoas muscles, you’ll feel your quads start to tremble. And you’ll also want to get it into your middle and upper back, and that’s when you’ll start to feel it in your arms, in your shoulders, in your chest. You want to feel your heart melting between your hands.

Now in terms of are there any tricks, what you’re doing is right. Hangman is very, very helpful. Urdhva Dhanurasana itself is very helpful. If you can only hold it for 10 seconds, first of all, make sure you’re breathing and do more of them. As long as you’re not experiencing pain, do more of them and keep building from there.

You really want to get up to 30-second holds. Almost nobody does this, but when you get to 30-second holds in Full Wheel pose, that’s when you start to make really, really big progress. Make sure you’re breathing, and also, you can practice on your head. So you do 10 seconds, lower down to your head and just pause there and then come back up. It’s like an Ashtanga style.

There’s some big benefits to that. The biggest one is you keep your body in that position, and your nervous system allows you just to slowly open up more and more. Keep in touch, let me know how that goes. We’ll give you some more tips on that as we go along.

Amy asks:

I’m just wondering, what your take on Kombucha and do you drink it? Also, what’s your opinion on juicing veggie drinks versus blending them in a Vitamixer? Should we mix it up and do both?

Okay, Kombucha, for those of you who don’t know, is a wild fermented tea. Really simply, you take black tea, like an Orange Pekoe, like an English Breakfast, like a really, really dark Chinese tea, black Chinese tea, and you put a bunch of sugar or some type of sweetener, but white sugar tends to be used what’s most often and you ferment it, just like you would ferment wine. It is slightly alcoholic, very, very little, but they actually for a while there in California, they had to take it off the market because of the alcohol content.

The other thing you need to know about it is in almost all cases, there’s a lot of caffeine. By a lot of caffeine, I mean about as much as a cup of tea, except people tend to drink a big 16 ounce, 24 ounces of Kombucha, so it can be as much as a cup of coffee. I’m not a big fan of caffeine, for that reason.

The other thing is, it is fairly sweet. Now depending on the Kombucha, it can be pretty low in sugars, but it really depends. All that said, I do like it, I love it actually. I love everything fermented. I love Kimchi, I love sour kraut, I love anything pickled, I love all of that stuff, kefirs, I love anything that’s fermented. Something about it, my body reacts really, really well.

The one thing you need to know about Kombucha and anything that’s wild fermented, is that there’s all kinds of other bacteria in it. It’s not controlled. Kombucha is a wild ferment. You buy something that’s called The Mother, and it looks like this alien space pod, mushroom, goopy thing and you throw it in the bottom of your Kombucha thing to ferment. It’s like a starter, basically. The same way, if you were making yogurt, you’d take a spoonful of yogurt and throw it in there. You have this thing called a Mother, and some people have Mothers that are decades old, literally. They passed it down from generation to generation. It’s this big, goopy pod thing. It’s pretty weird looking. It’s basically a big bacteria thing that’s used to ferment.

Now in an ideal scenario, you’d have all kinds of beneficial bacteria in there, and there almost always are. But because it’s a wild ferment, you also get other stuff that you don’t want, yeasts and other bacterias that may or may not be helpful. So that’s the real risk of wild fermentation. Is it a big risk? No, but it is a risk.

And so, who should be concerned? Well, if you’re someone who suffers from Candida, if you’re someone who suffers from yeast infections and fungal infections, wild ferments can sometimes make those conditions worse, when you’re trying to make it better, and a controlled fermentation process might be better for you, which would mean making kefirs and yogurts right from a controlled from a laboratory or from a capsule, like if you use our probiotics to create the ferment. That’s a controlled fermentation process, as opposed to wild. Kombucha is essentially wild, and a lot of other stuff gets in there.

Again, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re someone who struggles with yeast or fungal problems, it could be a problem. So what’s my take on it? I don’t like the caffeine. I have made non-caffeinated Kombucha, which I like a whole lot better because I have sort of a personal vendetta against caffeine, and you’ve just got to be careful that you ferment it long enough to get rid of most of that sugar, because who wants a big sugary tea. But, once you get rid of that, it’s really, really refreshing. Fermented foods give you this kind of super charge. They can be really, really fantastic for your digestion, provided you’re not struggling with some kind of fungal or yeast infection as it is.

Second part of Amy’s question is, what is your opinion on juicing veggies or blending them? So both are really great. What happens is, most people don’t eat any fiber, and when I say not any fiber, I mean like less than 25 grams a day. Some people less than 10 grams a day. Most people rely on things like whole grains to get their fiber, which is terrible. Whole grains, they’re inflammatory towards your GI tract and you get a little bit of fiber from them, but that’s not where you want to get your fiber.

You want to get your fiber just from vegetables, really, fruits and vegetables. And so a lot of people say, oh we shouldn’t juice, we’re throwing away all that great fiber. And that might be true for you, if you’re somebody who doesn’t eat a lot of fiber. Once you really get into this plant-based thing, you don’t need any more fiber. You have so much fiber, it’s no big deal at all. Somebody who’s really eating plant-based is eating tons and tons of fiber. Every single meal is fiber-rich, and so to have a vegetable juice is just fine.

Now, if you’re someone who struggles with infrequent bowels or stagnant bowels or irritable bowels, it might be beneficial for you to bend them. So, Amy, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but if you’re someone who struggles with bowel issues, that insoluble fiber that you’ll find in plant foods can be really beneficial. So maybe mix it up, maybe do both. With green juices, I really like to just juice them, because again, I get plenty of fiber and I like to take a lot more than I could take.

For example, let’s say I was going to do a huge, huge spinach salad, 500 grams, a little over a pound of spinach. If I was to eat all that fiber, it would be pretty rough on my digestion. I can take a lot, but in one meal that would be a little bit much. My stomach wouldn’t feel that great. But I can juice 500 grams of spinach. I can drink it down, and I feel fantastic.

So it kind of goes both ways. With greens, I’m usually looking for quantity. I’m usually looking to mega dose the minerals and the chlorophyll in those veggies, and so I like to get rid of the fiber, but I’m a guy who’s got plenty of fiber, so it depends on who you are.

Kore asks:

I’ve been doing your 5-day stretching routine from the YOGABODY Handbook for 2 years. It’s awesome and I’ve made lots of progress on all the stretches, with the exception of Wide Dog. I can’t find any of the benefits or challenges of it. It’s just an awkward pose for me. Can you give me any tips on how to do this pose?

Okay, so first thing’s first, Kore, you might not need this pose. Maybe you’re just fine, maybe it’s not helpful for you. For everyone listening who’s never done it, Wide Dog is like a Downward Dog, but shorten your stance, so walk your feet in closer, and then bring your feet way, way, way wide on the mat and drop down into your shoulders.

This is a shoulder stress, as well as a hamstring stretch. Some people just can’t feel this. Kore, what I’m going to recommend is do it on the edge of a bed. So nice wide stance with your legs, but put your hands up on the edge of a high bed and try that. You should feel a nice, deep stretch in your shoulders.

If you don’t, it sounds like you’re really committed, doing a lot of practice, just don’t do it. Not every pose works for everybody. It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right. If it’s not working for you, skip it, but do try that bed variation, see if that helps.

Denise asks:

I need to lose 70 pounds safely, and my neck and my back hurt. What can I do?

Okay, this is a really, really complicated question, Denise. Let me just give you a couple things to start with. First of all, I do a lot of work with weight loss. I do a lot of work with weight loss of 50 to 100 pounds, 100 pound-plus clients, like lots of work, like thousands of clients.

What I can tell you is, almost everybody, in terms of dietary stuff, needs to get their blood sugar under control. This is a much, much longer conversation than we can go into here, but I’m just going to give you a few things to think about.

Almost everybody who needs to lose 50 pounds-plus, even 40, even 20 pounds-plus, has blood sugar issues, meaning their blood sugar is going up and down, up and down, up and down throughout the day. It’s causing tremendous cravings, and it’s also causing you to gain weight. It’s a catch-22.

So how do you get your blood sugar under control? Well first of all, you need to eat very, very regularly. Don’t skip breakfast, don’t skip that first meal, almost everybody does. You’ve got to eat about every four or five hours, at the most, to keep your blood sugar stable. Secondly, you want to eat really, really, really low-glycemic foods. That means get rid of your breads, get rid of your pastas, get rid of your rice and focus on fatty foods and protein foods. You’ve got to get your blood sugar under control.

Once your blood sugar is under control, you might be able to add some of those foods back in later, but it’s really, really crucial, to fight your cravings, is to get your blood sugar stabilized. If your blood sugar is swinging up and swinging down, you’re always going to feel so hungry it’s going to be impossible.

Those are a couple of things to think about. Again, this is a big, big, big, long conversation. I would encourage you to take a look at TheGabrielMethod.com. This is one of our sister companies. We do a lot of work there with mind/body weight loss, holistic weight loss, balancing blood sugar, balancing lifestyle. You can learn a lot over there.

Star asks:

I would like to know how to get fluoride out of my city water so I don’t have to drink it and pay for it. I have been getting well water from someone else for almost a year and now, but I found I have kidney stones. I do not know if their water is filtered and leaves red residue in jars it has a strong sulfur smell when turning on the hot water in the house , so I am wondering if this is where the kidney stones came from. Can you tell me if water with sulfur can cause stones?

Kidney stones are kind of a big mystery. A lot of people are attributing them to over-supplementation of things like Vitamin C. Some people are attributing them to hard water, like you were talking about. Nobody really knows. There’s a lot of speculation.

If you’re getting well water and it smells funny and leaves residue, it’s a really bad sign. I’d, for sure, get that water tested. Well water, in some cases, can be terrible. In some cases, it’s fantastic. Even funky-colored water and funky-smelling water can still be fantastic, so it’s not necessarily an indication, but definitely, definitely get it tested. You never know what kind of petrochemicals, residues from farms, you never know what’s in there, so get it tested.

In terms of getting fluoride out of your water, we talked a lot about a few different filter options last week. We’ll put a link here in the class notes, or else just flip back to last week’s show. We talked about reverse osmosis and carbon filters and a couple other filtration options. There’s no real easy answer. Everybody has to kind of make do with what they’ve got, but I would definitely be leery of that well water. That sounds funky.

Samir asks:

How often can you do a certain gravity pose, such as Hip Blaster, in a day? Is it beneficial to do it more than once a day?

Samir, you always risk over doing it, so I wouldn’t recommend. For Blaster pose, I’d work on longer holds, rather than multiple times. Could you do it more? Yes, I’d just be leery of it. You don’t want to get yourself too sore.

Seda asks:

I can get into Full Lotus taking first my left leg and then the right leg and can sit in that pose for 10 to15 minutes. However, when I try to bring first the right leg and then the left leg, I can’t keep the pose for more than 5 minutes. It feels uncomfortable on my shin. Should I insist on working on the hard side, or is it normal to be better on one side?

Seda, a traditional Lotus pose, as is taught in tons and tons of traditions, is right leg first, left leg on top. And so it looks like you’re doing it the opposite way. It doesn’t really matter. Certain teachers will say it’s more auspicious or more beneficial to have the right leg first, left leg on top. I don’t really buy any of that. I just think it leads to imbalance.

It’s totally normal to have one side easier than the other. If you’re doing 5 minutes on one side, 10 minutes on the other, it’s a pretty normal imbalance. What you want to try to do is become more balanced. If you’re just feeling it in the shins, that’s a really good sign. You want to be leery of knee pain and really strong ankle pain. If you’re just feeling it in the shins, you’re probably doing okay, so I would just keep working on that weak side.

The key thing is, you don’t want to exacerbate the imbalance. So you want to basically keep your weak side your maximum. So if you can only hold it for five minutes on the lopsided side, hold the other side for five minutes, too, and so you try to balance yourself back out. If you keep holding that strong side longer and longer, you’ll just exacerbate that imbalance.

Jenny asks:

I have been eating brown rice with veg almost every day for lunch. I thought I am very healthy, but I keep losing weight and hair. What am I lacking? Also, I need to lose body fat, about 4.4kg. I wonder where my fat comes from?

Okay, first thing’s first. A lot of food in the world tends to be rice-based, wheat-based, pasta-based, grain-based. Whenever you’re thinking of food, if you think of grains at all, they should be kind of like entertainment. What I mean by that is whether it’s bread or rice or noodles, if you eat them at all, it should be fun food. It’s just there like a garnish, extra food. Something else needs to be the primary thing you’re eating.

If you’re a meat eater, maybe it’s a big fish. If you’re a plant-based person, maybe you’re eating primarily legumes or whatever it is, primarily dark greens or broccoli stir, or whatever it is. But the brown rice, the noodles, all the grain stuff, that needs to be entertainment.

In terms of losing weight and losing hair, the hair thing, that’s something to be concerned about. I would definitely go see somebody and check on mineral imbalances. People talk about copper and people talk about a lot of other things for hair. A lot of it is speculation, but you definitely want to get checked out, especially if you’re losing weight quickly. That’s not a good sign, assuming you don’t want to lose weight.

It sounds like, more than anything, you want to lose body fat. So where could fat come from? Well the important thing to remember is that the easiest way to gain body fat is through carbohydrates. It doesn’t matter if they’re simple, it doesn’t matter if they’re complex. Carbohydrates elevate your insulin levels, and insulin is the fat-storage hormone.

So protein will elevate your insulin levels, but not nearly, not even close, to how carbohydrates will. And fat will not elevate your insulin levels at all. So ironically, if you ate pure fat, you would often lose more body fat than if you were to eat pure carbs, and that’s a real mind bender and a paradigm shift and I tell people that a thousand times and they still don’t believe me, but it’s true.

If you’re eating, for example, a primarily rice-based diet, your body is very efficient, it’s called lipogenic, the lipogenic efficiency of converting something like brown rice into fat is very, very high. Whereas if you gave your body much more fat in the source of perhaps meat proteins, perhaps legumes, perhaps nuts and seeds, perhaps you were working with more healthy fats, whether those were oils or those were fatty vegetables or fatty nuts and seeds, your body would have a much harder time converting that into fat.

Kind of a roundabout answer, I opened more doors there than I think I closed, but if you’re losing hair and losing weight, I think that would be a cause for worry and I definitely would go speak to somebody, a trusted doctor or perhaps a holistic health practitioner who could give you a few tips. You don’t want to be losing hair. That sounds strange.