With All Day Awareness You Listen To Your Honest Inner Voice

I have been in the habit of cultivating All Day Awareness for many years now. It began with a technique to facilitate Lucid Dreams and I practiced it vigorously for many month. I noticed that it became a habit. I was doing it for a great length of time every day without much effort. And even though I did not keep up the practice at that level in the recent past, I still notice a high degree of Awareness for the present moment. It is grounded in my direct sensory experience. And I am pulled back to it at regular intervals without conscious effort or a reminder.

This has recently led to a profound insight. Being highly conscious of ones direct experience at regular intervals does provide a lot of opportunities to asses and reflect ones actions and situations in general. This fleeting experience of the emotional state in combination with a grounded presence often reveals raw and honest truth!

I discover emotional triggers early on in their chain of reaction. It teaches how the brain constructs it's own problems into the world. I also learn very early if something is going wrong in general in my life. Or if my actions really reflect my true inner values.

This can be difficult in the moment, when you have to face every problem. On the positive side this gives me the opportunity to stop problems before they become to big to handle. And ultimately I believe it is easier for me to become fulfilled with what I do in life through this practice. Avoiding the development of serious life-issues, negative habits and being able to listen to the guiding inner voice are among the greatest benefits of practicing All Day Awareness long-term.

To start the practice I recommend setting an alarm on your phone at regular intervals. You can find apps in your app-store that do this by searching for "reality check" for example.

In addition to a daily meditation practice this can facilitate your personal development greatly. But be warned that this might force you to drastically change your life. Even if you right now think this might not do much for you and you are comfortable with what you are doing most of the time. Any action that is not fully aligned with your true values will be openly revealed by this technique. And if you stay aware you can not act against your own believes for very long. You can only do that by listening to and being absorbed in the inner voice that justifies the action while you are acting it out. And then you are most likely not fully present.

Full Awareness of the present moment is a good guidance and probably the best we have access to.

Combining intermittent fasting with exercise and cold showers

I have so far experimented with two ways to increase the positive effects of fasting. While intermittent fasting can be a great tool to increase autophagy it can also be difficult to eat all the daily nutrition in a very short eating window.

A beautiful place to get your cold-exposure?
So I asked myself the question: How can I have a larger eating window while still getting the benefits of prolonged intermittent fasting (20-23hours a day)? I feel that protocols that implement shorter duration of intermittent fasting (16-18h) do not evoke the same metabolic responses as those longer protocols. But with short eating-windows it can be difficult to digest and absorb all the food, especially if vegetables make up a big portion of ones daily food.

Therefore having an eating window of around 6-8 hours with two large meals (high volume due to large amount of vegetables) at the beginning and the end was my goal. Without compromising the benefits of the fasting period. I found two ways in which this might be possible: exercising and cold showers during the fasting period. So far this might not be a new idea for you. But I believe the trick is to fast for several hours afterwards.

So a typical day might look like this:
·         6:30am wake up and 30 min of bodyweight workout. Alternating muscle groups daily with three different training days.
·         7:00am cold shower: 1min warm/ 3min cold/ 1min warm/ 1min cold
·         Continue fasting until 12:00am – lunch: high vegetable; high in fat, medium in carbohydrate and protein
·         6:00pm-7:00pm – Dinner: high vegetable; high in fat, low in carbohydrate and medium in protein

This gives me around 5 hours after my sport and cold showers in the fasted state. If you try this out you will recognize how much different this approach feels from normal intermittent fasting of same duration.

Exercise is known to increase autophagy and by combining this with fasting you will increase this effect even further. The body is basically pushed ahead into higher autophagy similar to several hours of fasting. You are basically jumping from the 10h to the 16h mark. (Just an idea, I have not measured it :D)

In this way you have already increased the efficacy of the fast. The continued fast after exercise forces your body to recycle everything possible in order to provide for the muscular regeneration. Stress hormones are released that not only wake you up but also increase fat burning.

If you now combine this with cold showers it will enhance fat-burning, ketone-production, GABA- and BDNF-release even further.

The cold shower should in theory have following effects:
·         Activation of heat generation in brown adipose tissue
o   This will pick-up glucose and fatty acids from the blood stream, lowering the blood-glucose spike from the exercise
·         Increase wakefulness through the release of adrenaline and cortisol
·         Lower body temperature à more calories burned in the following hours (coming from fat) as you continue your fast
·         Increase circulation (in combination with the shift to warm water) of blood and lymphatic fluids
·         Enhance recovery from the workout
·         Make you clean and leave you feeling refreshed

After following this protocol for two weeks, I found out that I can combine the benefits of high vegetable consumption and eating twice daily (an enjoyable, large meal, high in vegetables) with the benefits of a longer daily fast.

I might even go so far to say that this approach is superior to the longer daily fasts. The reason is that the huge meal (as in the one meal a day protocol) takes considerably longer to digest. That basically shortens the real time spend fasting anyways. Two smaller meals, containing basically half of the calories digest much better than the giant one meal.

The greatest advantage of this approach for myself so far is that it takes almost no will-power. Eating within a 6 hour window, it is absolutely possible for me not to get hungry.

Combining fasting and cold showers for maximum longevity

Research on mice has shown that it is possible to negate the life-extension benefits of caloric restriction if the temperature is increased. In theory this leads to less energy burned to maintain body-temperature. For caloric restriction to work it seems to be necessary to be on the lower end of the caloric equilibrium. Meaning that the body has to regulate the temperature down in order to conserve energy.
With an increased environmental temperature the down regulation of body-temperature to conserve energy is counteracted. Therefore requiring an even higher degree of caloric restriction to reach the same life extension.

This line of thinking makes sense to me. And if it is correct we might be able to say something about cold showers from it. In my last post I talked about how the combination of intermittent fasting and cold showers probably increases the degree of autophagy brought about by the fast.

If you are experienced with longer intermittent fasting periods you might know about the cold inducing effect of the fast. When your digestive system has shut down for several hours and you have run out of liver-glycogen the body down-regulates the body-temperature. This might not happen the first time with intermittent fasting but after continued implementation for several weeks I bet most people will experience it, if calories are lowered as well.

With the combination of cold showers, this cold inducing effect of the fast is brought on much earlier in the fasting period. When showering with cold water for several minutes and not showering warm afterwards the body temperature decreases noticeably. At least during winter when the water-temperature is low. This mimics the body-temperature lowering effect also brought about by caloric restriction or intermittent fasting. In the following hours after the cold shower the body has to increase the amount of energy burned in brown adipose tissue to increase the body-temperature again. Brown adipose tissue picks up glucose and fatty acids from the blood stream to burn it in it mitochondria for heat generation. Burning a higher amount of fat in a shorter amount of time makes the fasting period more effective. Especially if on exercises before the cold shower and continues the fast for several hours afterwards.

I guess we have here a tool that has the amazing property to increase longevity and it takes only a few minutes a day. Especially if combined with intermittent fasting in the way I outlined in my last post. But the benefits of cold showers go beyond the possibility to extend life-span. The greatest benefits I feel personally are psychological. As I am building the habit right now to exercise (almost) each morning and taking a cold shower afterwards I can judge the difference it has on my day. The experience of not having regular cold showers in the morning is still fresh in my mind. Cold showers are a test of willpower, no doubt. But mastering this first challenge of the day has a profound impact on how easily I can navigate challenges that come up later during the day. It becomes much easier not to give in to food temptations for example. Having what it takes for a cold shower in the morning is just too big of a contrast to giving in to unhealthy food choices for a mere few moments of perceived pleasure. This behavior would just not be in line with the outcomes I hope for when I take that cold shower. Building willpower is really a skill that can be learned. Turning down that “oh-so-delicious” mixture of high-fructose-corn-syrup, white flour, soy-bean-oil and aromas has become incredibly easy.

Secondly cold showers are the greatest natural energy-boost out there. The clarity and feeling of aliveness and freshness can just not be topped by anything I know of. Especially after exercising the increase in circulation from the cold-shower and the rush of blood to the skin and from the extremeties to the organs gives a lot of energy. One reason for that might be the increased rate of breathing the cold-shock automatically induces.

Important things to keep in mind:
After having experimented with cold showers in the past already I noticed several negative effects. After several month of daily cold showers I noticed that I just could not stand the cold shower anymore. I would not warm up at all anymore afterwards and felt cold almost the whole day. I were not aware of several things that are important. I now think that cold showers should not be combined with prolonged intermittent fast and severe caloric restriction. In the past I often did cold showers in the morning and would not eat until the evening. And also quite a restricted amount of calories due to not eating enough fat. And eating too much calorically dilute food in general.
Now I am restricting my calories not as severely and feel much better. I warm up faster after the shower. Also the fasting period lasts only 5 hours afterwards.

Other important points to take care of are stress, hormone-release, coffee-consumption and thyroid health. A cold-shower causes a natural release of adrenalin and other stress hormones. This is great for waking you up, but in combination with too much caffeine can lead to an overstimulation of the adrenal glands. But you will find that you do not need as much caffeine as before or might even be unable to tolerate it in the fasted state after a cold shower. Also make sure to take in enough iodine. I think the amount in the western diet is way too low. Even using iodized salt does not come close to the optimal dose. Either take a good multi-mineral-supplement that contains at least 100%  of the RDI. Another good option is the daily consumption of seaweeds. Nori is low, Wakame is medium and Kombu is high in iodine. Be careful not to eat too much kombu daily though. In Japan daily consumption of seaweed is the norm and in talking to several Japanese I found out, they were not even aware of the possibility that you could eat too much of them.

Iodine is important for a healthy functioning thyroid. It regulates how well your body is able to produce energy. So demanding heat-generation after cold showers from a body with a poorly functioning thyroid is not a good combination. If a lack of iodine is the issue it can easily be fixed with continued higher intake.

I hope this is helpful for you if you want to optimize your health regimen. Adding in cold showers while being aware of the “dangers” might be a wise move. I think they can replace the short term adrenalin and stress response we were used to get in our evolutionary past when a wolf, bear or tiger showed up with the intend of having human sashimi for dinner. But cold showers might as well be a joke compared to the feeling you get from such an encounter. So man up and give up that climate-change-causing warm shower of a pampered and underchallenged 21st century-human being ;)…. Have fun!

Staying Consistent And The Difficulties of Readjusting

So due to circumstances it has been too difficult for me to eat one meal a day for the past 5 weeks. I was travelling in Japan without excess to a kitchen. I had to navigate my eating between dinner invitations to restaurants I could not choose and the foods that were available at the local supermarket.

I settled into eating twice daily. Lunch and Dinner on most days. I was provided free lunch at work and had dinner at restaurants whenever I was going out, eating with colleagues.

The free lunch at work was nice but I could not eat so much that it would be sufficient for me if I ate only one meal.

Staying on track is easier than readjusting

Now I am experiencing the whole adjustment process again. I am going back to eating one meal a day and can already tell after the first few days that I have lost most of the momentum I had build previously. I do not continue where I stopped. Eating one meal a day almost takes as much getting used to as it did the first time.

And this leads me to write about the importance of positive momentum. I believe it is very important to stick with positive habits not allow any deviation. If you have found something that makes you feel good and works for you than do not change it. It will be harder to get back to it. Not as difficult as the first time when you were building that habit, but definitely some mental effort. It is like an alcoholic can never drink again, and if he has only one drink he will have difficulties again staying sober for some time.

Building momentum - also in the mental world

The second biggest reason for why one should always stick with positive habits is, that it is very easy to forget about the positive benefits one has gained. For example with the OMAD lifestyle it is easy to forget how much clarity and mental focus you gain from the fasting and how good it makes you feel in general. Just after a few days of not feeling 100% you might accept this as the norm again but wont associate the lack of energy with the different eating pattern. And then you might not get on the protocol again because you have forgotten the subtle benefits you are only aware of when eating that way. And then you forget about the positive habit until you somehow get interested in it again. Or that might not happen at all and you loose the habit permanently.

Additionally some benefits of positive habits take time to develop. On OMAD you won't feel good right away. You might even feel worse and have to exert mental energy to stay on track. Only after a couple of weeks does your body run optimally in the fasted state and your energy is high and only eating once becomes a no-brainer.

Do not make yourself go to the adjustment period twice. Stick with positive habits. I speak from personal experience here now with this lifestyle.

But I am back on it. Because the benefits are definitely worth the effort.