November 1, 2021

nce it is clear, I take a moment to enjoy the look of it. I do the same thing when I get the whole office tidied. This can be quick. It's just a pause to acknowledge, "I value this spaciousness, and I created it for myself." It is a moment of self-awareness that reinforces both the importance of the value and the deliberate action that went into achieving it. This little act of attention strengthens the value and ensures it will motivate many desk cleanups in the future. If you were to move on without taking a pause to celebrate, you would miss a critical opportunity to reinforce your values. When you contemplate your values, you feel positive emotions and actually experience your needs being met by you. This is one of the three critical factors that strengthens a value, but it only happens with self-awareness of your own purposeful action. Ignoring this moment implies it is not such an important value after all. Ignoring the clean desk means you don't actually harvest the pleasure made possible by your action. It would be even worse if I minimized the accomplishment. Suppose I said to myself, "It's only a clear desk. That is not important. Now I need to get on to doing the work I was supposed to be doing." When you minimize an accomplishment, you are saying that even though you set a goal and took action toward it, it doesn't count. This is a prescription for turning life into a rat race, where you are always looking at the next thing you should do and never getting any pleasure from what you did do. Minimizing your accomplishments, even something as simple as clearing a desk, undercuts its value to you — and therefore reduces its power to motivate you. Which assessment is going to motivate you to clear the desk next time: a) This is something important that is easy to do and gives me pleasure. or b) This isn't important and I shouldn't pay any further attention to it. Minimizing accomplishments often morphs into criticizing them. Instead of being satisfied that the desk is clear, you start criticizing yourself for needing to clear the desk: "I shouldn't have let the desk get messy in the first place. What's wrong with me that I need a whole process of motivation to clear a desk? This is ridiculous." No. It's ridiculous to take a success and turn it into a failure. Consider: You decided to do something for a rational reason. You did it. And now you're berating yourself. That is not logical. This goes for small accomplishments and big ones. When you are tempted to criticize yourself after a success, look for a self-defeating belief like "I'm not good enough" or "I'll never get ahead" or "I never do anything right" that underlies the criticism. This kind of negativity needs to be challenged whenever it appears and re-oriented toward values. There are tools for doing this, including the self-coaching model, which is a step-by-step process for breaking down a self-defeating belief so you see it is mistaken and then identifying a corresponding value-oriented belief that will inspire you to move forward. For example, "I'm not good enough" could be translated to "I have the skills I have and I'm building more every day," which is a value-oriented way to look at current limits of your skill.

I fell far enough behind that I’m lumping September and October into one update for my health recovery story. The delay is for good reasons! I’ve never worked and traveled for business this much. I also studied for and took another coaching certification exam. Additionally, I handled the attention from the airing of my two-part interview with Michael Roesslein on Rebel Health Tribe’s new Natural Evolution podcast.

Better than Ever!

The great news is that despite all this busyness, post-parasite protocol, I am now feeling the best I’ve felt in my adult life! I had my 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th days where I had time without pain in the last 25 years!

I felt so energetic and had such minimal pain that I skipped my quarterly five-day water fast. With this change in pain, I’ve decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach with extended fasting through 2021. That’ll be a six-month break from the process. At present, it seems I don’t need the stem cell generation from those fasts to help my chronic pain. Achieving this level of health in the busiest work months of my life is quite a surprise for me!

I continued taking daily doses of uva ursi and grapeseed extract to combat the klebsiella that turned up on my August stool test. Dealing with that bacteria could be another reason why I’ve felt fantastic during this period.

Interestingly, I had one bad span with elevated pain near the end of October. I thought it portended some prolonged pelvic, shoulder, neck, and head pain that rated in the 5-6 range. That’s way above the 0-4 I commonly have. It came about from sitting too long on hard chair seats. The exam I took had a lousy one I had to be on for almost four hours. Lack of sleep and travel were also contributors.

With symptoms like these, I was gearing up for my first flare-up in over eight months. I skipped exercise, did more deep breathing, and let myself sleep 1-2 hours more. I even paused my daily coffee intake and stopped my yummy morning heat from Nose to Tail’s Tongue Thai’d spice blend since it has some ingredients that don’t jive with autoimmunity. To my surprise and delight, all the symptoms passed after two days.  I was right back to full function with almost zero pain! The resilience I’ve built with my health is amazing to me. It’s shocking that a glimpse of the awful past could reemerge and vanish so quickly. This is yet another step forward in my recovery story! Health like this is a cloudless warm day where anything is possible.

Back to Lifting

Even better, I restarted lifting weights after I regained my strength and energy post-parasite protocol.

I used to get pain increases up into the 6-7 pain range from weightlifting. Weightlifting has been a painful experience for me even before my period of prolonged disability. Now, I am getting near zero pain from it!

Another new development is that I no longer feel exhausted at the end of workouts. Those entail lifting, ten rounds of high-intensity interval training, and a walk/jog in my weighted vest. Since I got into regular lifting rhythm twelve months ago, I would always have intense fatigue by the time I hopped into my ice bath. Over the past two weeks, I’ve reached the end of a workout feeling like I want to keep exercising and am disappointed that it’s over! I still have plenty of energy to work afterward as well.

In addition to the pain and energy progress, I also made gains on all of my lifts. I set new personal records on deadlift, Pendlay rows, calf raises. I’m almost back to my record highs on all my other lifts as well. And for the first time, I managed to get my legs into a ninety-degree angle during a hanging L-sit. It’s taken a while to get the strength back after two months off due to feeling so dreadful on the parasite protocol.

Bouldering and Running

Christopher-Blakeslee-Bouldering-First-Toe-Hook-November-2021

Two last topics on the exercise front for this health update: first, I went bouldering three times, making six trips this year. On the first visit in September, I did a record ten unique walls and 16 overall. The second time, I gave myself less rest between climbs and wore myself out after eight unique walls and ten total. The final time, I gave myself more rest and managed 13 unique walls, repeating none of them. I was utterly exhausted with trembling arms at the end of the final trip.

Due to the variability of walls, it’s difficult to gauge progress by measuring by the time it takes to get exhausted or simply counting walls climbed per session. I alternate going to Crux Climbing Center and Austin Bouldering Project, and even when I go to the same location, enough time has passed for the routes to be changed. Because of this, I can’t measure myself against the same standard.

I think the most objective measure of bouldering progress is becoming able to do more advanced moves with the body. When considering that standard, I’ve unquestionably gotten stronger. I gained confidence and proficiency in holding my weight on a few toes. I also experimented with dynamic all-or-nothing moves to cover greater distance but which have the downside of falling if I miss the grip or the motion isn’t fluid enough. Another new development for me is using the technique of smearing, which uses one foot to gain traction on the face of a wall rather than the grips or volumes bulging from the wall. The most noticeable improvement is that I managed my first toe hook, as pictured here! It is a strange feeling to be held steady by a leg over one’s head. These new moves opened up possibilities and led to successes on some walls that were previously beyond my abilities.

Second, I switched to using my weighted vest three times per week instead of five. That seems to be helping my recovery and to have less soreness. I can also now run at a peak heart rate for 16 straight minutes. I’ve been adding 30 seconds every other day. Running is the last activity that I physically struggle with. Exercise-induced asthma has plagued me for 30 years, so I feel proud to now run over 1.5 miles without a break!

Adventures in Keto

The last significant topic for this part of my recovery story is my progress with and deeper understanding of implementing a ketogenic diet. Back in July, I transitioned from a paleo diet to a ketogenic diet reliant on oils for fats. My top goal was shedding fat to lean-out. I was also curious to see if my pain would go down. Both have happened, though it’s difficult to say if the latter is a causal relationship.

Since the shift in July, I’ve wondered if I’d been getting into ketosis and, if so, how deeply. Because of this, I bought a Biosense ketone breath analyzer. To my surprise, the first couple of weeks of readings showed only traces of ketones in my breath despite eating 70% calories from fat, 20-23% from protein, and 7-10% from carbohydrates. I assume this was because I need around 3,000 calories to meet my daily exertion, which amounts to carb consumption in the 50-75 gram range. This got me suspicious about trusting macronutrient ratios alone for getting into ketosis.

Biosense-Meter-Recovery-Story-November-2021

Armed with the Biosense data, I began experimenting with an absolute reduction of carb grams. Once I got below 40 grams per day, I saw a rise to advanced ketosis and a visible decrease in my body fat. One morning I saw myself in the mirror and did a double-take when I saw the visible reduction in body fat from the day before.

Some friends I hadn’t seen in 1-2 months confirmed my body composition progress. I got called “muscle man” by one friend, which is far too generous. Two other friends told me that my chest and arms circumference had noticeably increased. I suspect they’re right that I’ve put on some muscle despite being in a daily caloric deficit.

However, I think that most of the perceived improved appearance is that others see the better shape of my physique now that I’m leaner. I’m down to 164.6 pounds from 175 after my bulk-up period. I will get more scientific about measuring my body composition with a DEXA scan next month and start recording my arm and chest circumference to have some data to compare.

Next Month

In all, it was a great two months! I’m thrilled to be back on a trend of improvement and feeling good with the parasite symptoms firmly in the rearview.

With all these positive developments, I’m eager to see what more might happen with my pain, body composition, weightlifting records, and running in November! I’ll also make a point to get back on track with monthly updates for my recovery story. See you then!