Why I no longer eat OMAD and what I do now

In the past, I have experimented with eating one meal per day (OMAD) on a ketogenic diet. And I am sure I will at some point in the future go back to eating only once a day. But why did I stop and why doesn't it fit my current situation?

Beans and lentils are a major part of my diet

Energy in = Energy out
This simple equation explains why I cannot eat only one meal per day at the moment. When I was eating only one meal per day, I had a sedentary job and was doing only about 20 minutes of body-weight exercises per day. Now on the other hand I lift heavy 6 days a week and ride my bike for about 40 minutes and swim in an ice-cold lake on a daily or weekly basis. This and the goal of gaining muscle requires me to eat a lot more on a daily basis. If you are not interested in either a lot of daily activity or in gaining any weight, then OMAD is probably the best diet for you to gain maximum longevity- and health benefits.

Lowered digestive capacity
For many years I struggled with Crohn's disease and still do to some extend. Which means that I have to be very careful not to eat any foods that trigger a bad reaction in me. That shows me that my digestive capacity and the robustness of my digestive system is lower than in other people. I have found out that it is better for me to eat a meal that is below my digestive capacity, which means smaller portion sizes. It takes me unusually long to digest large meals and this shortens the fasting part of the OMAD approach which is the whole point of doing it.

Constant muscle twitches with a high-fat diet
In my experience, the OMAD approach is better suited for a relatively high-fat diet. I tried out a low-fat approach, but it was absolutely impossible to eat enough calories that way. Eating a diet high in fat though is perfect for intermittent fasting. While fasting you utilize mainly fat for energy and therefore eating a high-fat meal allows the body to efficiently use that fuel. Switching back and forth between carbohydrate- and fat-metabolism gives many people a feeling of low energy.
I had the additional problem that my muscles would start to twitch all over my body when I ate a high-fat diet. I have tried many different things to solve this, but have not found a solution. The only thing that stopped it was going back to a mainly carbohydrate-based diet, which is better suited for eating several meals per day.

I actually figured this problem out. You can read about it here.

What I do now
I adopted a flexible approach to fasting. I like the feeling of fasting. Therefore I do about one 24 hour and two 16-18h fast-days per week. I closely monitor my weight though and if I do not see a slow but steady increase in my weight of about 1 kg per month I will have to reduce that even further.

I also switched away from the high-fat approach back to a high carb diet. My diet is about 70% of calories from carbs, 15% from each protein and fat. Some days my fat intake might be around 20-25% though.
I am still eating whole plant foods, but I have also found that I need some fatty foods like nuts and seeds in my meals in order to feel satisfied. But the main component of my diet are foods high in complex carbohydrates. I eat a lot of lentils, peas and beans. I combine those with grains like millet, buckwheat, oats, whole wheat pasta and granola in order to adjust the calories. Most of my meals also contain several hundred grams of different vegetables. I eat some type of cabbage almost daily, red cabbage, brussel sprout, broccoli or cauliflower.

This is my current diet and I feel quite energetic on it. It is also very affordable as I buy only basic ingredients and cook most of my meals at home. In case you have any questions or want to know about how to start a healthy whole-food plant-based diet, feel free to shoot me a message through the form on the right (not visible on mobile version).

The Psychology Of Daily Cold-Exposure

I started winter-swimming in a nearby lake six weeks ago. During the last two weeks I have been doing it daily and I plan to continue to do so. In this post I want to reveal the insights I had into my own psyche from this experiment.

 Test of your mindfulness

What happens in your mind when you face a painful and counter-intuitive challenge every-day. As I am practicing mindfulness throughout the day it is especially interesting to observe my mind when faced with such a challenge. The water has a temperature of around 4°C. Outside temperature is often between 3-9°C the last couple of weeks. On some days I encounter the additional joy of strong winds, which make the time after swimming equally cold until I am dressed up again.

Your mind makes you suffer not the experience
What I found is that the mind is inherently bad at predicting the degree of pain and suffering. When approach the lake and getting undressed my mind comes up with all sorts of excuses of why it is better not to do it today. This quickly becomes tricky business. The mind is quickly deceiving you into believing something else than the truth. The exaggerated fears and the anticipated pain quickly becomes entangled with all sorts of other excuses, like catching a cold or freezing to death. Which of course is mostly non-sense if you approach it with careful and gradual cold-exposure. 

This practice makes it unmistakably clear that thoughts have nothing to do with who we are. The decision to go into ice-cold water every day is not made by the thoughts. If I were the thoughts, I would not go in the water. The doubts and the thoughts that say no are in the mind-space while something else just goes in the cold water and stays in there for as long as the timer demands. 

Becoming a superconductor
Make no mistake, the water causes you a lot of pain, especially in the hands and feet. The meditative practice here is to become a superconductor for this pain. As long as you don't resist it, it isn't painful. This is a beautiful experience. You experience that the sensation we call pain is inherently empty. By staying with it in every millisecond without resisting it, there is no pain. But as soon as the mind fights it, wants to change it, can't accept reality and wants the present moment to be something else than what it is, there comes the pain. Shinzen Young talks about this in his meditation technique, which he calls strong-determination-sitting. You can experience something similar within seconds of entering ice-cold water. It's a true test for the strength of your mindfulness-muscle. 

Not believing the fearful predictions of the mind
Very quickly we believe in the scenario that our mind presents us with. You think about some future dream of yours but your mind comes up with all sorts of bad consequences that might happen... Don't be so quick to believe what your mind is presenting you with here. But don't go to the other end of the spectrum where you do not think at all about the consequences of your actions. 

What you can do instead is ask yourself: How likely is it that the scenario my mind has come up with will happen? And if it happens, would it even be as bad or painful as my mind makes it seem at the moment? What can I learn from my past experience? How have the situations I encountered actually turned out when I predicted them to be bad, fearful or painful?

It is funny to be in ice-cold water and to experience that very thing you feared. I already started laughing about myself several times and thought: What? This is the thing I feared and wanted to avoid? It's not inherently bad at all. And afterwards it feels genuinely good to have overcome and seen through the fear and pain once again. 

Strange Loops

Everything goes full circle.
It has to, because everything is you.
You can't go anywhere, whatever it is, it is here and now.
You stare down the infinite, right now.
Who says, there must be knowledge about the infinite at every moment.
The finite couldn't be any other way.
Without this finite, the infinite had a hole to fill.
This finite, you call your life. Your now.
Infinite freedom from nothingness springs forth from this very moment.
Without creator. Without creation. You created you.

Inspired by:
The Legacy of a Truth-Seeker:

Something To Be Inspired By

1000 Days Of Hiking To Enlightenment

I am pretty sure the above article will be a great inspiration for every spiritual practitioner.

She would be up for a long-distance hike every second.

Considering this monk started his 1000 days of hiking up and down a mountain, 100-200 days of every year, when he was 24 years old, reading the article strengthened my desire to do a long-term hike myself.

So far I feared to face and the pain and suffering involved in a self-supported, long-distance hike. But Stories like these show me that I, as a human being myself, probably have similar strength in me.

Doing a long-distance hike is not uncommon. Many people do it. But, as I know from myself, it is easy to get lost in thoughts most of the time. In order to raise your consciousness, the technique of All-Day-Awareness or constant mindfulness, makes all the difference. Not letting the mind wander and staying focused on the present moment is the goal. All the time.

These monks represent a state of mind that is truly worth aspiring to. So I recommend you read the article. And let me know what you think of hiking as meditation in the comments ;)

Someone else who is hiking and meditating: http://thewalkingmonk.blogspot.com/

The Beauty Of God

Everything in existence is beautiful. And I mean everything. The problem is only that we humans like to put things into categories and divide them. The good and the bad are human concepts which do not apply to the outside world. They purely exist in our minds. But the Truth is what exists within consciousness is just so and there is no arguing with reality. For god, everything is terrifyingly beautiful.

I like this as a pretty good example of what god would call beautiful art:

Mature art transforms what we usually call ugly into something that can be seen as beautiful.

Insights from the Darkness

I quit my darkness retreat after 4 days. I could say it was the noisiness of the place that got at me. But really, I am weak. Or my ego is strong. Whichever way you want to put it. Learnt some interesting lessons though.

Ego is a deep entangled mess. Can't see clear. Thoughts get stuck in themselves.

I am just starting out. Many more retreats needed. They are the way to go.

Much deeper meditation than in daily sittings.

Darkness is wonderful for calming the mind. Little movement and exercise sucks though.

Darkness regenerates. I feel motivated and joyful with a more positive outlook on life.

Life is entertainment. Whatever you experience is whatever you wanted to experience.

All forms arise within me.

Existence recognizes it's infinite beauty through experience.

Contrast your life with the alternative of ever-present nothingness. Joy, gratitude and mindfulness follows.

Darkness with fasting is the ultimate stoic exercise. Increasing happiness through contrast.

Darkness will rise within me again. Light will follow.

14 Days Darkness Retreat - Preparation

Beginning from tomorrow, 08.01.2018, I will be on a silent darkness solo meditation retreat for 13-14 days. It is supposed to be the most intense form of meditation retreat one can do. I have to say I am slightly afraid, even though I am also really looking forward to the experience.

The beauty in light is recognized within the contrasting context of darkness.

Here is how I prepared for the retreat:

My daily meditation practice started about 5 years ago and I have not missed many days. I tried out different techniques and can get into a very calm and peaceful state pretty quickly. That was not always the case. I had periods where the mind-chatter would go really crazy during Do-Nothing-Sessions. A lot of purging was done that way. I think through the habit of meditation my mind has learned to remain conscious in and of the beauty of existence alone. Just staying in the calm awareness of being has become more joyful to me than most external experiences. Without that I would probably not able to do such a retreat. And I will see how well developed my meditative capacity is during the retreat.

I had a few trips on psilocybin mushrooms. I think they prepared me for beautiful, strange, scary or crazy experiences that might happen during the retreat. And to expect the unexpected. Which is probably one of the most useful lessons they thought me. I hope that those experiences will help me see through my feelings and emotions in difficult times and not cling to them in beautiful moments.

On this particular topics I read two books. The first one is "The Dawning of Clear Light" by Martin Lowenthal (Link to Amazon). And the second one is "Hygienic Dark Room Retreat" by Andrew Durham (Link to Leanpub). They provide two different views on the experience of darkness retreating. The book from Martin Lowenthal gives a deep insight into his personal experiences under the light of buddhist tradition and practice. It gave me the confidence to do this.

A remaining doubt of mine is that I will not be able to meditate for so many hours per day. And for that it was helpful to read the book by Andrew Durham. From his point of view the subconscious knows best how to deal with psychological issues and the deep rest of darkness retreat just provides the necessary circumstances for those issues to be sorted out. Therefore ones conscious attempts to guide or force any changes should be minimized.

My Approach:
My take-away approach after reading those two books is that I will be meditating as much as possible, but not so much that I feel stressed from it. I know from experience that I can remain in a meditative state for many hours a day, but probably not for all of waking time. When the bodily discomfort becomes too much to bear I will move and exercise. I am going to use meditation for the purpose of facilitating insights and dealing with emotional issues. Facing fear and anxiety with mindfulness and not letting the mind attach to experience and go wild with it. I am going to allow for many hours of deep rest and contemplation.
I have thought about apply the following routine:
1. Sitting-Meditation-Session
2. Standing-Meditation-Session
3. Exercise/Stretching
4. Lying-Down-Meditation-Session
5. Repeat with No.1

As I will have no access to a timer I will have to go by feeling. Usually it is 45-60min for sitting- and for lying-down-meditation and 20min for standing meditation.

I will take a notebook and a usb-stick with voice-recording function with me on the retreat. That way I can share a first hand "live" experience from the retreat.

So that is all I have to say before this retreat. See you on the other side with my report!