Archive for June, 2009

Bikram Yoga: Gaining Weight

Bloated Ms. Spears

A couple of days ago, my weight escalated up 0.6kg literally overnight. This is after 4 days of daily Bikram yoga and a very well behaved raw diet. My eyes popped out staring at the scale. It didn’t make any sense. I remembered overhearing a discussion an instructor had with a student over in February. She said there are plenty of people misinterpreting Bikram as a fat loss tool, and that Bikram yoga finds your ideal weight balance, it’s not unusual she finds people who are too thin actually gaining weight in Bikram. I did in fact gain a tiny bit of weight during my 30-Day challenge.

This time around though, it really bothered me. It just can’t be right. Especially after I learned how much calories you burn in one Bikram session; using a fitness calculator, someone of my weight burns 819 calories in one session. On average people people burn around 600 calories. They should only be used as a guide however. Depending on each one’s weight, ability, and effort, they fluctuate. Someone who has been doing it for longer undoubtedly are able to perform postures more optimum, theoretically burning more. On top of all that, I am on raw food, a relatively low calorie diet. I couldn’t buy the whole ‘Bikram yoga finds your ideal weight, so you may gain’. It’s just physically impossible to gain fat on that basis. Nor would I gain muscle mass. Muscles would make you look more defined, not… bloated.

Still trying to make sense of the weight gain, I went in for another morning Bikram yesterday. It was probably the best class performance yet. I used to wonder how a previous instructor could sweat a bucket’s worth in one class. This time (well just a fraction of a bucket) I did it. I pushed beyond my capabilities and drenched the whole area of my mat. It doesn’t sound pleasant, but it was a good progress sign for me!

That night (last night), I realized my body had swelled up into a balloon. My thighs, belly, and arms had grown in size in a matter of hours. I never felt so bloated so suddenly. Something wasn’t right. I researched on Bikram yogaists who had gained weight. There were no clear explanation, only the same speculation of ‘finding an ideal weight’. Still didn’t buy it. Becoming physically fat in 2 days is impossible.

So, I tried another search. Water weight. I’ve heard the term a lot and used them occasionally. Did I understand them? Not really. I’m sure a lot of people don’t either. So this is the conclusion I managed to draw out.

  1. When you are not drinking enough, your body retains water to compensate. Technically, fluid retention can be eliminated by drinking more water, not less.
  2. My choice of exercise being Bikram, the more advanced you are, the deeper you go into postures, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you ought to drink to replace what’s lost.
  3. You guessed it! I was sweating more than I was replenishing my body with enough water. As a result, any water my body takes (both from food and drinks) it’s retaining every bit of them to compensate.

Now it makes sense why I get bloated after long haul flights. I would get so bloated, my feet almost don’t fit in the shoes upon landing. I’m flying to Los Angeles tomorrow morning. I’m bringing an empty bottle with me for it to be refilled throughout the flight! No more water shortages for my dear body.



Bikram Yoga: 30-Day Challenge

Bikram himself reenacting Jesus on the cross.

Bikram himself reenacting Jesus on the cross.

My first Bikram yoga class was summer of 2007 at Yoga @ 42° in Jakarta (they also have a studio in Bali) followed by my second class a year and a half later in January 2009. On my second visit to the studio, on the wall was posted a large piece of paper titled ’30 DAY CHALLENGE’ with names and 30 checkbox columns. Some boxes had 😦 faces drawn indicating a ‘fail’.  By the end of my class that day, the instructor suggested to give it a go. So I did. I have always been a competitive type in challenging my own capabilities. Though while in high school I was never half good enough to make it to any sports varsity teams; I was always allocated in the junior varsity teams, which basically means you’re shit but you tried. I was determined to achieve a level of something this time around.

Began the 30-day journey; there were lots of good days, there were also lots of bad days when my body would refuse to endure the class and experience near-vomit refluxes. During some days, 90 minutes went by quickly, and on other days, a duration of 90 minutes cardiovascular in heat was a slow living hell. Towards the end of the challenge, I managed to learn (or so I thought) a yoga trick of emptying the mind completely into a meditative state that helped me ease through the class. I was staring into blanks, only letting my ear function to listen to instructions. So after  30 days of ticking my attendance box with the ups and downs of a yoga journey, complete it I did.

More than physical changes themselves like flexibility, lengthened muscles, detox, stamina and endurance, the most rewarding aspect from having completed the challenge for me was the discipline and perseverance mindset I adopted. If I could endure (Note: with effort, not just flopping around) 90-minute grueling yoga clases for 30 days in a row, I can do anything. You can do absolutely anything if you put your mind into it. Make it an intention. Progress takes time through practice. Changes don’t happen overnight, but add another night or two in and you’ll be surprised to see what you can do on day 3! Use every little improvement to push you forward.

Bikram is for everyone. Any age, size, gender, shape, condition, background, you name it. You come to the class and work at your own pace. There’s no need to feel embarrassed at your level of practice. Everyone had been there at the beginning. You will be required to make high demands of yourself; tremendous concentration, patience, trust, discipline, and determination. As you push yourself harder, they will  develop within you.

If you are considering Bikram and found a studio running a 30-day challenge for its members, I recommend giving it a go. You really get there so much quicker.


How The Body Works: Digestion

I’m a big geek in learning these sorts of stuff.

Soy Controversy, Debunking The Myth

Copied and pasted email interview with Mark Messina, PhD. The Soy Connection. Source of post can be found here

Soy Products

Soy and soy foods are rich in protein, fiber, phytochemicals and other nutrients. Soy and soy foods are popular in the U.S. However, some myths impact consumers’ opinion of soy. I asked Mark Messina, Ph.D., an expert on soy and nutrition, to help me dispel the myths surrounding soy.

Myth: Soy Is a Goitrogen and Is Bad For the Thyroid

Tofu, soy milk and other soy foods are considered a healthy addition to a diet. However, some people avoid soy, believing that its proteins will depress the function of their thyroid glands. The thyroid gland is found at the base of your neck, just in front and either side of your esophagus. It’s main function is to regulate your metabolism and body temperature.

So what’s the worry about soy? According to Messina, “concerns about the anti-thyroid effects of soy are based primarily on in vitro and animal studies involving the soybean isoflavones (phytoestrogens). Several cases of goiter were attributed to the use of soy infant formula but this problem was eliminated in the mid-1960s by fortifying the formula with iodine.”

The problem with putting too much stock into animal studies is that lab animals such as rats are quite different physiologically from humans. Messina tells us that “in rats, isoflavones inhibit by about half, the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO), which is required for the synthesis of thyroid hormone. However, not only are rats much more sensitive to possible goitrogens than humans, but even though TPO was inhibited in this study, thyroid function remained normal in the rats.”

Human studies are necessary to really understand how soy (or any other foods) effect the human body. In 2006, according to Messina, a review of 14 clinical trials concluded there was little evidence that soy foods or isoflavones had an adverse affect on thyroid function in healthy human subjects. “Studies published subsequent to this review have also found no effect on thyroid function. Thus, quite clearly in individuals with adequate iodine intake and normal thyroid function, the evidence indicates soy foods even in very large amounts do not adversely affect thyroid function. The only study that raised concern was published in a Japanese journal in 1991. The study was never repeated and was poorly designed.”

Since there is no real evidence that soy foods cause hypothyroidism, there is no reason for healthy people to avoid soy foods. But are there any connections between soy and hypothyroidism? Messina says that eating soy foods may increase the amount of thyroid medications needed, but this is also the case for many other foods, herbs, drugs and fiber supplements. “Furthermore, it is not necessary for hypothyroid patients (with the exception of infants with congenital hypothyroidism) to avoid soy foods since medication dosages can easily be adjusted to compensate for any effects of soy.”

More research needs to been done on hypothyroidism and diet. Messina describes two clinical situations that need to be explored. “One involves individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism, which represents about 5% of the postmenopausal women. This condition is defined as having normal levels of the two primary thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, but elevated levels of thyroid stimulating hormone. The other situation involves individuals whose iodine intake is marginal or inadequate. In the United States, iodine intake is quite good; furthermore, when individuals with inadequate intake are identified the appropriate recommendation is to increase iodine intake not to avoid soy foods.”


Food Controversy: Soy

I stumbled upon the above video featuring Dr. Sherrill Sellman on rawmodel’s blog. Personally, I lose respect on anyone who draws a hypothesis without stating much correlative research to back it up. This woman goes on and on and on with her medical terms and generalized assumptions:

1. Asians eat so and so teaspoons and tablespoons a day (any study to prove this?). I know a lot of Asians who drink lots of soy milk, especially if they are lactose intolerant. Both my grandmothers make them for their kids and grandkids, I can assure you we drink more than what Dr. Sherrill had stated and I know not one person in the family who is suffering from Hypothyroidism.

2. “It was only used in times of famine when they had nothing else” Where on earth did she get this from?

3. Highly allergenic. There are a million other allergies that exist in this world! I encouraged my little cousin to eat raw that could help her eczema and she’s highly allergic to mangoes, cashews and macadamias. Are they toxic too simply because some people can’t tolerate them?

4. “We’re a society of thyroid issues” “We’re an allergic society” Let me guess, we are a society of heart diseases, sinuses and diabetes too?

5. There are lots and lots of other “nutritional star” foods that contain phytoestrogen other than soy. Flax seeds actually contains a higher level of phytoestrogen than soy beans. I’m excerpting the following table from this site.

phytestrogen foods list

There is no hard study evidence that soy leads to hypothyroidism. Dr. Todd Nippoldt, a consultant in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition and who has worked with patients with disorders of the hormone-producing glands including thyroid problems says this:

“Hypothyroidism is generally treated with synthetic thyroid hormone — and soy has long been thought to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb the medication. However, there’s no evidence that people who have hypothyroidism should avoid soy completely.

If you have hypothyroidism, take thyroid hormone replacement as directed by your doctor — typically on an empty stomach. Generally, it’s best to wait four hours after taking thyroid medication to consume any products that contain soy. The same guidelines apply to other products that may impair the body’s ability to absorb thyroid medication, including high-fiber foods, iron and calcium supplements, and antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium.”

Like all health controversies, there’s a pro and a con side to the story. But it is saddening to see people getting inaccurate information on certain types of foods, especially when they have been long known for its benefits. Almost every food has its bad side when consumed too much. Fish and mercury? Garlic and uric acid? Raw chocolate and caffeine? I’m not going to live life monitoring every food intake. Just enjoy and consume food moderately.


Raw Meat.. and Rotten

I can see the sense and science behind it, but definitely not my cup of tea. Read more about  Aajonus Vonderplanitz and watch his Ripley’s Believe It Or Not TV documentation below.

Freezing Seasonal Fruits, Fresh Produce, & Raw Dishes



I don’t know why I didn’t think of freezing my raw ingredients and dishes before. I was always afraid of wasted foods so often I would strategize the time to buying berries and limiting my dishes. This is great for seasonal fruits and overstock fresh produce.


Kristen Suzanne does it. Read her blog on freezing raw vegan food here. Here is some information on Freezing and Food Safety from the USDA website


Is Frozen Food Safe?

Food stored constantly at 0 °F will always be safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.



Does Freezing Destroy Bacteria & Parasites?

Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds – – present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.


Trichina and other parasites can be destroyed by sub-zero freezing temperatures. However, very strict government-supervised conditions must be met. It is not recommended to rely on home freezing to destroy trichina. Thorough cooking will destroy all parasites.



Freshness & Quality

Freshness and quality at the time of freezing affect the condition of frozen foods. If frozen at peak quality, foods emerge tasting better than foods frozen near the end of their useful life. So freeze items you won’t use quickly sooner rather than later. Store all foods at 0° F or lower to retain vitamin content, color, flavor and texture.



Nutrient Retention

The freezing process itself does not destroy nutrients. In meat and poultry products, there is little change in nutrient value during freezer storage.




Enzyme activity can lead to the deterioration of food quality. Enzymes present in animals, vegetables and fruit promote chemical reactions, such as ripening. Freezing only slows the enzyme activity that takes place in foods. It does not halt these reactions which continue after harvesting. Enzyme activity does not harm frozen meats or fish and is neutralized by the acids in frozen fruits. But most vegetables that freeze well are low acid and require a brief, partial cooking to prevent deterioration. This is called “blanching.” For successful freezing, blanch or partially cook vegetables in boiling water or in a microwave oven. Then rapidly chill the vegetables prior to freezing and storage. Consult a cookbook for timing.




Proper packaging helps maintain quality and prevent “freezer burn.” It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its supermarket wrapping but this type of wrap is permeable to air. Unless you will be using the food in a month or two, overwrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage using airtight heavy-duty foil, (freezer) plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a (freezer) plastic bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to repackage family packs into smaller amounts. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry before freezing. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use; merely overwrap or rewrap it.



Freeze Rapidly

Freeze food as fast as possible to maintain its quality. Rapid freezing prevents undesirable large ice crystals from forming throughout the product because the molecules don’t have time to take their positions in the characteristic six-sided snowflake. Slow freezing creates large, disruptive ice crystals. During thawing, they damage the cells and dissolve emulsions. This causes meat to “drip”–lose juiciness. Emulsions such as mayonnaise or cream will separate and appear curdled.


Ideally, a food 2-inches thick should freeze completely in about 2 hours. If your home freezer has a “quick-freeze” shelf, use it. Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, spread them out in one layer on various shelves, stacking them only after frozen solid.



Safe Defrosting

Never defrost foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.


There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Small items may defrost overnight; most foods require a day or two. And large items like turkeys may take longer, approximately one day for each 5 pounds of weight.


For faster defrosting, place food in a leak proof plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. (If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Tissues can also absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.) Check the water frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change the water every 30 minutes. After thawing, cook immediately.


When microwave-defrosting food, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.




Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through defrosting. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion.


If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.

I’m off hunting berries tomorrow.