Adventures in Eating Clean: Impact on Health

Anyone who has been to a restaurant with me can tell you my diet is plain obnoxious. I’m vegan (don’t roll your eyes yet… there’s more). I don’t eat gluten. And not just gluten; I don’t eat any refined or processed grains*. I don’t eat sugar or sweeteners, artificial or otherwise. Obviously the veganism would cover dairy, but it bears repeating that I don’t eat any dairy. At least, I find myself repeating that to certain family members. And, all of this restriction is purely voluntary. I have not been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. I have been tested, and I definitely don’t have celiac disease. And, before you ask, I am not “orthorexic.**”

So why bother with such a restrictive diet? To maintain a reign of dominance over my friends and family with a Kobayashi Maru-like set of nutritional demands? As much as that may appeal to some, it’s not the (primary) motivation for me. After years of chronic pain in my knees, I rehabbed them with DDP Yoga, only to find out that my body is primed to attack itself and destroy all my connective tissue, which would put me back at square one with chronic knee pain. I have high Anti-RNP antibodies (normal folks have none), and I have low C3 and C4 complement protein levels (you want them high; low indicates they are being used up in autoimmune attacks). Coupled with a family history of autoimmune disorders, this could be worrisome. Nevertheless, I don’t have any symptoms or diagnosis of autoimmune disorders, but given the horrific side-effects associated with their treatment, I would rather avoid developing any. To do that, I went all-out on clean eating. I was already vegan and gluten-free, but so are Justin’s peanut butter cups.


Remember 1 tsp of sugar equals 4 grams

My allopathic rheumatologist (surprisingly) confirmed that clean eating -including a gluten-free diet- will help reduce or prevent symptoms. Together with Haydn Walden, I once and for all quit sugar between my first set of blood work and my recent set.

So, did it work? Check it out. I graphed the data, yo.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.53.41 PM.png

My Anti-RNP antibodies went from 6.4 to 5.4. The normal range is less than 0.1, so I still have fifty-four times the level of the general population, but it’s moving in the right direction.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.53.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.52.49 PM.png

My C3 and C4 are also improving. Again, I am below the lower limit of normal, but I am getting closer. Qualitatively, I haven’t had any symptoms, and I have been working out with weights for 10 – 12 hours a week, so I have had plenty of chances to notice if any of my joints were operating at suboptimal efficiency.

Clean eating is definitely worth it when you consider the symptoms of autoimmune disease, and the side-effects of glucocorticoids. It is worth mentioning that some people will never avoid autoimmune disease, no matter how clean their diet; I do not condone blaming patient-blaming. It also goes without saying that unless you have access to parallel universes, it’s impossible to know if I ever would have developed an autoimmune condition if I hadn’t taken such drastic measures with my diet. But it’s a game of odds. I would liken it to wearing a seat-belt. Some people who don’t wear seat-belts will survive well into their 90s. Some people who do wear seat-belts will die in car crashes before they reach life-expectancy. But they are outliers, and when you look at the data across millions of people, you see that the behavior of seat-belt wearing is demonstrably safer.

So is clean eating.

For added accountability, I have made my food diary fully viewable to friends on MyFitnessPal (username: myDDPyogajourney)! I’m amazed at how I consistently fall below the recommended daily sugar intake. Before this challenge, I was always 75 – 100 grams OVER! 


*Or refined/processed foods for that matter.
**We’ve been through this; there’s no such thing



The Top 7 Food Myths

“Humans are the only species that need to be taught how to eat.”
Michael Pollan

I frequently run into the same misinformation regarding nutrition over and over, and it never ceases to upset me how people are tricked into believing complete nonsense. There’s a number of interesting psychological reasons why smart people believe blatant rubbish, but let’s just dig into the myths themselves:

Myth 1: Superfoods Exist

Repeat after me. There is no such thing as a superfood. In nutrition, there are a number of terms that are regulated, meaning foods have to meet certain criteria in order to have those terms on their labels. The FDA and their international equivalents have defined certain food packaging terms, such as “low,” “reduced,” “high,” “free,” “lean,” “good source of,” “light,” and so on. The term “Superfood” has no regulation or definition. It means nothing. You can print the word “Superfood” on a packet of jelly beans without legal recourse.

Colloquially, “Superfood” is used to describe foods that are really good for you for some perceived reason. In the best cases, these are foods that have a large amount or large variety of vitamins and minerals (what the FDA would define as being a “good source of..”). In the more misleading cases, the term is applied to foods with purported-but completed unsubstantiated-health benefits. A good example of the latter is coconut oil. Coconut oil is said to cure almost every health problem you can think of, fix your split ends, moisturize your skin, and housebreak your cat to boot. Okay, I made that last one up, but a lot of ridiculous claims are made about it. In reality, coconut oil is a high calorie, nutritionally inferior source of saturated fat with no magical powers (other than than an impressive ability to clog your arteries when consumed in large quantities).

In moderation coconut oil, along with all the other so-called superfoods, are fine. Some are even healthy as part of a balanced and varied diet. The problem I have with the term Superfood is that it implies a shortcut to complete nutrition where one doesn’t exist, and it offers a license to over-consume. Why eat numerous different boring vegetables when chia seeds will solve all your nutritional needs?

The only positive thing to be said for “Superfood” is that you can quickly identify if someone has a clue what they are talking about based on whether they use this term when seriously discussing nutrition!


Except Coffee… Coffee cures everything!

Myth 2. Chocolate Doesn’t Give You Pimples

First we were told chocolate gives you acne. Then we were told it didn’t. Both statements are simultaneously correct and incorrect, using a Schrödinger’s Nutrition sort of logic. Chocolate does cause acne. But it doesn’t cause acne because it’s chocolate; it causes acne because it’s full of sugar.

Acne is uniquely endemic to the Western world, and recent studies have indicated that acne during the teen years is a signal of larger health issues in later life. The reason is that that both acne, and the most common causes of death and disability in the Western world are all symptoms of prolonged inflammation. The are many causes of inflammation in the Standard American Diet, namely sugar, processed and refined foods, dairy, excess protein and animal products, and all the numerous weird and wonderful chemicals that wind up in our food supply.


Chocolate will cause AND hide your pimples!

If you want to cut down on acne, and major health issues, limit or eradicate all inflammatory foods from your diet… including chocolate. Sorry. It gets worse. Not only will you be in chocolate withdrawal, but all your immediate family members will begin to accuse you of being orthorexic….

Myth 3. Orthorexia is a Real Disorder

This armchair diagnosis popped up over the last few years as an apparent reaction to the waves of people who are jumping on the clean-eating wagon. In a nutshell, orthorexia is being so obsessed with eating clean that it becomes a psychological compulsion.

The problem with this condition is that it doesn’t exist. Anorexia and bulimia are in the DSM5. Orthorexia is not. There certainly are people who have a clinically relevant disorder that manifests as an obsession with an unobtainable standard of nutritional purity. There are also people that have a clinically relevant disorders that manifest as compulsive couch stuffing eating, paint drinking, car consummating, or baby-powder snorting.* The DSM5 doesn’t have separate categories for people who compulsively eat cigarette ash or cat hair. They, like “orthorexia” are all manifestations of a broader underlying disorder; they are not distinct disorders in and of themselves. And before you use the tired, “Well, the DSM5 reported homosexuality as a mental disorder until recently,” argument, be warned, I will come to your house and bonk you on the head with a copy of the DSM5 if you do.

The number of people with an actual disorder likely represents less than 1% of all the people who have been accused of being orthorexic. The remainder of the accusations are levied against people out of resentment; on an individual level by the less healthy who perceive healthy living as an affront to their own lifestyles, or on an larger level by business interests that have a vested interest in preventing people from pursuing healthier lifestyles (fast food restaurants, pesticide manufacturers, etc.).

The simple fact is that we as a society have been eating garbage for so long that it has now become the norm. It now seems crazy to question whether the standard diet is healthy, whether our food companies or government bodies have our health as their number one priority, or to take the enormous amount of effort that is now required to eat and live healthfully. There’s no good solution here. Just keep your cool, give anyone who shows a genuine interest any information they need, and keep pursuing your own good health.


Answer: No.

Myth 4. Do What Healthy People Do

We love shortcuts and quick fixes. From all the research into why certain populations have longer life expectancies, instead of looking at the whole body of results, we want a single line item explaining what we can shove into our daily routine to increase our longevity. But it’s not that simple. Adding the daily recommended intake of fruit or the extract of green tea in capsule form to your otherwise disastrous daily routine of getting all your food handed to you through your car window, and being sedentary for most of your waking hours won’t make you outlive a Blue Zone population. You need to look at every difference between their lifestyle and yours. And the most important things usually aren’t what they do; they’re what they don’t do. They don’t eat processed foods. They aren’t sedentary. They don’t eat whopping amounts of protein or animal products. Certainly, the intake of fruit, green tea or other miracle superfoods will afford these populations a small amount protection against cancer or heart disease, but the largest impact on longevity comes from the fact that they don’t do things that increase their risk of debilitating disease in the first place.


I dropped that juice capsule somewhere around here…

Myth 5. Do What Cavemen Do

The most amusing fad diet of recent years is the Paleo diet. Emulate the diet of humans from an era when life expectancy was 35.4 years? Awesome plan. No real idea what proportion of their diet was animal products? Just guesstimate (and by all means round up). I get dragged into a lot of inane “What we’re meant to be eating” arguments, where I am expected to argue on behalf of veganism from an evolutionary standpoint. There certainly are a lot of sound arguments to be made for veganism, but it’s still the wrong question to be asking in the first place.

A friend of mine argued that we are clearly meant to eat meat because humans can utilize creatine from animal sources, whereas our closest great ape relatives cannot. It stands to reason that humans, particularly those in Northern climates, would adapt to consume animal products. But that doesn’t mean we’re meant to do so, or that any adaptation to those food sources has rendered them healthy for us.

First, we need to think about what Evolution is actually a measure of. Health or longevity? Nope. Evolution is a measure of your ability to produced more viable offspring than other species or communities around you. It does not measure if you managed to live long enough to see your great-grandchildren. Evolution needs you to stay alive long enough to breed a few times, and maybe even get your offspring into adulthood. But that’s it. Like elderly lions, once your children are old enough to fend for themselves (in cavemen times, that would have been somewhere in their mid-teens), you can wander and die as far as evolution is concerned.

This is the subtle yet important difference between performance and health. Performance is the ability to be stronger and outperform others in a certain task for a finite period, even if that performance is to the detriment of your future health. Health is a measure of how long you are likely to live, and what that quality of life will be. Think of it this way, anabolic steroids are classified as a performance enhancing drugs; I doubt anyone has ever called them a health enhancing drugs.

The correct question to be asking is what diet and lifestyle choices are associated with the best health and longevity outcomes. The vegan diet is the only one that has shown improved health outcomes in large-scale, long term studies. Aside from the obvious China Study which is largely correlative, mechanistic studies also bear out this conclusion. A great resource is the annual presentations of the year’s scientific studies that Dr. Greger puts out in every year (see below for resources).

That being said, the healthiest diet for you is the one you are going to follow. If veganism won’t work for you, and there are a multitude of reasons people can’t go vegan, the paleo diet, which focuses on organic, whole foods, and a reduction or elimination of refined and processed sugars, is probably the second best option. Just don’t try to sell me on making a caveman my diet guru!


Just like they ate in the Paleolithic era….

Myth 5. Go Low Carb/Vegan/Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free to Lose Weight

There are numerous diets in existence that promise dramatic weight loss if you just cut some category of food from your diet. The more recent examples are gluten or carbs. These diet plans are usually accompanied by some sort of pseudoscience to explain why cutting this one food type from your diet will cause you to lose weight, but in all cases, the weight loss comes from a temporary restriction of calories. Sadly, the weight-loss itself is accordingly temporary.

The reason these diets result in temporary weight loss is that when you suddenly stop eating a type of food that accounted for a reasonably substantial percent of your daily calories; you generally don’t replace it with an equally caloric alternative at first. But over time, you will find the gluten-free cookies at your local grocery store, or the vegan restaurant that serves a delicious soy milkshake, and before you know it, you have regained whatever weight you lost, and maybe more. This effect is amplified by the increased availability of “gluten-free” or “low carb” products as the diets increased in popularity. Once upon a time, going gluten-free probably did equate to good health and weight loss, as you were effectively forced to eat whole foods. However, over time the food companies saw the demand for gluten-free foods, and responded with a king’s bounty of sugary, gluten-free treats. Nowadays, you can go gluten-free and actually eat an increased amount of refined carbs and sugars!

NOT a weight-loss food!

NOT a weight-loss food!

That’s not to say that there aren’t great health reasons to cut gluten, dairy or other unhealthy types of food from your diet, but you can’t expect them to be long-term, weight-loss strategies on their own. Ultimately, all weight loss boils down to thermodynamics, i.e. calories in versus calories out.

Myth 6. Just Cut Calories to Lose Weight

So I should just track calories, but otherwise go nuts right? Not so fast. While all weight loss boils down to thermodynamics, sustainable and healthy weight loss is a combination of calorie control and the quality of food consumed.

Recently, there was a news story about a teacher who lost 40 lbs eating nothing but McDonald’s to prove a point to his students. I have no idea what horrific point he was making, but there’s a lot more to health and weight loss than the number on the scale. For starters, I am sure his blood work would paint the picture of someone in terrible health if he had maintained that diet. He might meet the definition of “TOFI” (thin outside, fat inside), in which the amount of hormone-producing fat with in the abdomen is equivalent to that of an obese person, without the actual obesity. In a nutshell, thin does not mean healthy!

Another issue with this McDiet (or any other calorie-cutting only diet), is that over time, people eating restricted amounts of unhealthy foods will bit-by-bit fall back into eating excessive amounts of food. High fat/sugar/sodium foods are nutrient poor and calorie dense. The result is that they leave you feeling hungry sooner. Unless you are incredibly disciplined, you will inevitably end up eating more and more over time. These foods are also addictive, so when you crave more food, instead of desiring nutrient dense food, you crave more of the same junk food.


Why You’re Hungry 30 Minutes After Eating

Yet another concern about relying on calorie cutting is the impact on the midsection. If you’re looking for a ripped six-pack, you’re not going to get there without clean eating. Even if you stick to 1,200 or 1,400 calories, you’re going to find getting defined abs tricky if those 1,400 calories are all coming from Snickers bars. Sugar and refined carbs hit the blood rapidly, and cause a massive dump of insulin, which in turn sends all the sugar to be converted to midsection fat. A great example of this is the toddler. They typically don’t eat a lot, but they are little sugar junkies. The end result is skinny little limbs and a pot-belly. Cute on toddlers, not so much on adults.

The answer is to be cognizant of your overall calorie intake, but more focused on the quality of food you are eating. High fibre, high nutrient, low calorie foods are going to keep you fuller longer, give you a healthy body, and help you maintain a healthy weight.


Sugar is similar to oil in this illustration

Myth 7. You Can Take Shortcuts

There are no shortcuts in nature. Show me a shortcut, and I will show you a negative consequence. Anabolic steroids will get you “swole”, but they leave you with the testosterone of a prepubescent girl and the vasculature of a 90-year-old smoker. Low carb or high fats will help you drop weight fast, but the results with be short-lived and your triglycerides will end up through the roof as a result. Cleanses and juice fasts will help you lose pounds in a matter of days, but your weight loss will include losing muscle mass, and the pounds will come back as soon as you return to your normal diet. Capsulated fruit and vegetables will give you (limited) nutrients, but rob you of all the stomach-filling fibre and water than whole fruit offers. Diet pills might help you lose weight, but if they act by a mechanism other than a placebo effect, they do so by stimulating you so much that you can kiss goodbye to sleeping or not feeling shaky ever again.

For long-lasting, healthy weight loss and bodybuilding, there are no shortcuts. Get rid of the idea of “going on a diet” or “doing an intensive 6-week exercise plan.” Eat whole, plant-based foods in sensible amounts, exercise regularly, and lose weight on the same exercise and nutrition regimen that you plan to follow for the rest of your life.


Here’s your diet and exercise plan!

Video resources from Nutrition Facts (Dr. Greger):

1. From Table to Able:

2. More Than an Apple a Day:

3. Food as Medicine:

4. Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death:


* All real behaviours from My Strange Addiction.

Haydn Walden: The Body from Britain

Haydn was the first DDP Yoga community member I met in person, and is also one of my favourite people in the world!


When I first met Haydn, we were both toward the end of the DDP Yoga instructor certification process at a time when there were only a handful of people in the certification program. We had been friends on Facebook for a while when I noticed he listed Bognor Regis as his hometown. I live in America, but my mother not only lives in the UK; she lives less than 5 miles from Bognor Regis!! The two towns are so close that I have run from her house to Bognor Regis on reasonably short training runs when visiting her. I sent a pm to Haydn asking if he actually lived there; I couldn’t believe what a crazy coincidence this was!10302106_10101288038632107_3137774677428002408_n

Before I knew it, we had arranged to meet while I was home for the holidays. That quickly evolved into us both filming our video submissions for the certification process together, and spending as much free time as I had while in the UK going out to coffee together.  By the end of the trip, Haydn, his wife Laura and I were friends for life.

Three-way Diamond Cutter

Since meeting Haydn in the UK, I have been able to enjoy two vacations with him at the DDP Yoga retreats in 2014 and 2015. Possibly my favourite of the retreat is our annual tradition of doing a freestyle, instructor-only workout together. This year, Haydn and I, together with Steve Doyle, took turns in kicking each others’ butts in a workout without any push-ups or supine poses.

I’m not the only Haydn fan in my family. My mother takes his class, and is such a huge fan of Haydn’s, that when she and I were driving to a DDP Yoga workshop in Illinois, she spent the entire car ride planning how she would praise Haydn when she met DDP. I had to gently remind her that she may want to mention another DDP Yoga instructor to him (rhymes with Schmirstborn!).

Aside from being a genuinely wonderful person, Haydn is also a true beacon of inspiration for the DDP Yoga community. Not only has he lost weight, healed physical injuries and improved his health with DDP Yoga, he has overcome massive obstacles. Haydn’s humility and grace really model how we should all tailor our expectations to our own situations, practice not comparing ourselves to others, and allow ourselves celebrate our victories even though they may not be big achievements to others.

I’m thrilled to share Haydn’s story, and to share a challenge Haydn and I are undertaking together.


What was your background with physical fitness and exercise?

In school I had a major dislike for any physical exercise. My P.E. teachers didn’t accept my dyspraxia as an issue to work with, and would force me to do humiliating activities, such as sticking me in the goal for class football because I couldn’t catch, kick, or run, so I was used as target practise for the others.

I started general gym workouts age 20, lifting weights and using the elliptical, to improve my physique. At 25, I was looking for a new path, I had lost a very close friend to smoking and alcohol (I was on the same route). I discovered a personal trainer who was a Muay Thai specialist as well as a general PT. Each week I would rock up to the gym and get my ass kicked all over the room for 90 minutes. Bit by the fighting bug, I wanted to turn semi professional and try my hand at in ring competition. Unfortunately, injury (a torn ACL) stopped that.

Taken at the time of Haydn’s injury. Smile courtesy of a concussion.

What exactly is Dyspraxia, and how does it affect DDP Yoga?

Dyspraxia affects the fine and/or gross motor coordination, things like handwriting, balance, hand eye coordination etc. For me it was always balance and hand eye coordination. I found lunges and single leg balance positions killer. DDP Yoga has improved my balance, my posture -dyspraxics have notoriously bad posture- and my mind focus. There is a video on YouTube of me holding the Roundhouse Kick position for a 70 count. That would never have happened before DDP Yoga.

How did you discover DDP Yoga?

In January 2013 Chris Jericho returned to the Royal Rumble after touring with his band Fozzy for six to eight months. This dude came back to the WWE in incredible shape and wrestled for over 40 minutes on his first night back. The next day people were tweeting him asking how he stayed in shape on tour, his answer……DDP Yoga! A few days later a friend of mine showed me this video of a veteran called Arthur*, I put the two together and ordered the package.

Haydn getting to meet his idol at this year’s DDP Yoga retreat in Mexico

What was your physical status when you started DDP Yoga?

When I ordered DDP Yoga, I was close to 235lbs and injured. In 2010 at age 30, I tore my right ACL while training Muay Thai. I tried to keep up some kind of training regime, but since my cardio dropped and the intensity of workouts lessened my body started to break down. I had been harbouring a neck injury (bulging discs at C7 and T4), a bicep injury and my left leg started to deteriorate through compensation. I eventually stopped training, but kept up eating….a lot! By 2013, I was 235lbs, walking badly (some days with a stick), in pain and not well.

What were your original goals with DDP Yoga?

I wanted to see if this really worked…..if Arthur could do this, could I? All I wanted to do was to lose a little weight and not be in pain when walking and driving. The goals were realistic to me because I didn’t believe in myself at the start, so it was a day-by-day approach.


How long did it take you to meet your goals?

My initial goals were met and blown out of the water; three weeks in I was down 20 lbs. I started the Phase II eating plan, which was a total game changer. Did I fail to meet any goals? Not at first, as I said it was a day-by-day approach. I was happy if I survived Energy and didn’t modify, or if I got through Below the Belt without a balance aid.

Are you still working on any goals?

……hahaha……I have a huge block with inversions. For two years, this dyspraxic boy has been trying to get upside down. I nailed Black Crow after 12 months, which is why I have it tattooed on my arm, but forearm balance or Psycho Push-ups are still not happening. It’s easy to get negative over this, as you know. But taking it day-by-day, and realising the little improvements is how I control it. I recently got some awesome help with the inversion positions from you (Liz) and Canada’s own Steve Doyle, while we were on the retreat together. I will be putting the advice into practise over the next few weeks.


What role did the Team DDP Yoga community play for you?

Well, as I said above, I received help on inversions from you and Steve. The whole team is an incredible family. I read stories that motivate me every single day, from seasoned DDP Yoga people and complete newbies. When you see someone like Nathan Munsell posting his videos each day, it makes you work harder. This family is built on respect and inspiration.


Who has been your biggest supporter?

So so many to mention! Laura, my wife, has pushed me harder than anyone. She knew my goal was to walk down the aisle at a comfortable weight and not limping. Laura will attend almost all of my classes, she was my guinea pig while learning my Level 1 certification and she is my rock when I struggle with food or inversions.


My parents need a mention here too, they have always shown pride in all I have achieved due to the interesting start to life I had with dyspraxia. I will never forget my parents telling me that “it’s great you are doing the DDP Yoga thing, but remember it might just be a phase….” When they saw the difference it made to my posture and my walking, it’s not just a phase it’s a way of life.

What hurdles have you encountered along the way?

Physical hurdles came from the balance aspect of the workouts. I was not able to get deep in lunges for a long time. Punching while in a lunge would throw me off the mat. Further down the line Wrap and Burn and Black Crow became huge obstacles that I would spend time working through. I would do Fat Burner then put ten minutes of Wrap and Burn and Black Crow at the end. Also, Can Opener was a real git to get into; my hips were so messed up through a lifetime of bad posture and hypermobility that it used to hurt!

Flexibility by DDP Yoga

Food wise, I struggle with sugar! Gluten and dairy were easy to give up, but sugar will not go away. In fact I’m working on a new plan with you right now, so people can look forward to some insightful blogs from us both in the near future [see below].

How did you decide to pursue certification?

Within 3 months of DDP Yoga I had fallen in love with workout and the way of life. In June 2013, we attended a DDP Yoga workshop in the UK. Meeting Dallas was a huge honour and I asked then if there would be any way of teaching this program, he explained the plan for the certification and told me to keep looking for the launch date. The certification launched on August 1st 2013 and I signed up that very day. My original plan was to be able to teach DDP Yoga to my friends; just to pass the certification was a goal beyond my wildest dreams.

Small Class

How long did the certification process take for you?

I passed the certification on 16th December 2013. I found the whole process a pleasant challenge, nothing was easy, but also nothing was unobtainable. I enjoyed pushing through my 100 hours of practise, most of which was taken up with learning the Level 1 workout. Becoming an instructor increased my fitness level, calling a workout and doing the workout at the same time can be challenging… especially if you don’t keep track of your heart rate throughout.

What has being an instructor done for you?

This has pushed me to a whole new place in life and in physical fitness. I have recently moved away from my old job in government music education to become a self-employed drum tutor and DDP Yoga instructor. For the first time in 12 years I am my own boss. I have met so many incredible students, and helped people achieve their goals no matter how small they may seem. This is very humbling.


How did you build your classes?

I started with one class at a local boxing gym. Through self motivation and social media, by September I had fourteen classes in five days. Due to a venue closing, I’m currently running eight classes and three one-on-one sessions each week. Classes sizes vary from six to fifteen people per class. The best part about teaching DDP Yoga for me is watching people take control of their lives, if I have a client that wants to gain flexibility so they can improve their running speed, or a 60+ year old who wants to be able play with her grandchild on the floor again, if they achieve that then I am over the moon. Not everybody wants to be able to hold a 60 count Black Crow, some people just want to feel good about themselves! That’s why I do what I do.

My mother will kill me if I don’t ask: who is your favourite student?

Hahahaha…..I have so many favourites…..all of them! It’s a real pleasure teaching my Over 60’s class (which includes your mother, Mary). These are ladies who want to regain flexibility and they are lovely to teach**. But I genuinely couldn’t pick a favourite from all of my classes! They all Rock!

Haydn's favourite is in the pink top!

Haydn’s favourite student is in the pink top!

What advice would you give to someone considering the certification process?

Do it! Own it! Listen to the advice your mentor gives you, listen to Yoga Doc, be open-minded and most of all take any information on board and store it!

What is next for you and DDP Yoga?

I want to build my classes and increase the knowledge of DDP Yoga in the UK. I’m keen to progress through the next Certification Levels as they are released.

Class Large (3)

Is there anything you continue to struggle with?

As I mentioned above, forearm balance is an ongoing struggle. I will overcome this with practise and using the advice given to me by you and Steve Doyle. It’s mind over matter! Sugar is my other struggle, again I touched on this earlier too, a change of work/life balance and staying focused will help with this, along with staying accountable to you.


What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Teaching at the 2014 and 2015 retreats are easily my proudest moments. I feel privileged and honoured to have taught in Mexico in front of Diamond Dallas Page and other fellow instructors.

IMG_6244 copy

Toughest class of the retreat! Trust me!

What would you tell anyone considering DDP Yoga?

Don’t consider it any longer, just do it! Whatever you want to achieve DDP Yoga will help you get there.


Where can we find you?

Facebook: Haydn Walden and Hi-energy Wellness
Twitter: @DDPYogaGB
Website: Hi-energy Wellness


As Haydn touched upon, both he and I struggle with sugar addiction. This year at the retreat, we discussed this issue and realized that we had the same pattern of cycling on and off the wagon. We decided to become accountability partners, and came up with a challenge whereby the second we stepped foot onto our respective countries of residence, we would abstain from all sugars and artificial sweeteners.


We have laid out the rules of our sugar free challenge, our personal motivations for quitting sugar, and a diary of our progress on this page. Check in to see how we’re doing… You may even catch us live-blogging!

We are going to do this challenge for at least 60 days (the length of time it takes to rewire your brain), but hopefully longer.

*The Arthur:

** He can’t possibly be referring to the same woman I taught to knit! 

My Inspirations: Adam Meador

Time and time again, I meet people in the DDP Yoga community who are in such great shape, it’s impossible to imagine they were ever anything but lean and toned. I never cease to be amazed when they then tell me that they have lost massive amounts of weight with DDP Yoga. However, weight loss stories aren’t the only victories in this community. I recently learned the abbreviation NSV, meaning non-scale victory, and no one embodies that better than Adam Meador.

I first met Adam at a DDP Yoga workshop. He is very clearly lean, built and athletic. After speaking to him I learned that he had always been a runner and weight lifter, and had taken up DDP Yoga to get some more flexibility. This description fit well with the physique I was seeing before me. What didn’t fit with that image was him telling me that he had recently had major heart surgery. I couldn’t grasp that someone who had needed such a major operation was at a DDP Yoga workshop doing everything in beast mode and nailing it!

Adam’s story is amazingly inspiring, and he’s currently working towards becoming a DDP Yoga instructor. We’re really lucky to have him in the community, and he’s going to be able to reach even more people as a DDP Yoga instructor.

Knoxville workshop November 2014

Before you started DDP Yoga, what was your health/fitness level?

Before DDP Yoga, I would say that I was in good shape. I worked out anywhere from 3 to 5 times a week whether it be jogging or hitting the gym. I watched what I ate for the most part as well. I was always the guy getting a salad at lunch when others were getting burgers and fries.

How did you find out about DDP Yoga?

Being a wrestling fan, I knew that DDP had some sort of yoga program, but didn’t really know the specifics. I had a friend of mine mention that he’d tried it a few times and felt like it was a great workout. What sealed the deal for me was back in February 2013 when I saw the a picture of Jake “the Snake” Roberts and his amazing transformation. Of course after seeing that, I started my research and that led me to the Arthur video. The rest, as they say, was history.

What were your original goals?

Initially, my goal just wanted to try something different to get in shape. I had just turned 38 and was tired of the stress that lifting weights puts on your joints. Plus I had ZERO flexibility. I was a skinny guy who couldn’t even come close to touching his toes.


How long did it take you to achieve those goals?

I literally started noticing results within the first couple of weeks. I felt fantastic both physically and mentally. After about 6 months into the program, I was able to do things I never thought possible. In a million years, I never thought I’d be able to do a Black Crow, but I did.

You had major surgery recently. What happened?

In November I got sick with what felt like a bad case of the flu (but is there really a good case of the flu?). However, no matter how much rest I got, how many antibiotics I took, it just wouldn’t go away. I was losing weight without any explanation and had zero energy. Fortunately I have a very smart wife (who’d just finished school to become a Respiratory Therapist) and she forced me to continue seeking medical treatment. I’d gone to the ER before with the symptoms, but that trip proved unsuccessful. After spiking a fever of 103 the following week, she forced me to go again.

Long story short, after many blood tests and an echocardiogram I was diagnosed with endocarditis, which is a bacterial infection of the heart’s valve. In my case, the bacterial growth, or “vegetation” as it’s called, was on my aortic valve. I checked into hospital on December 13th, 2013 for what was supposed to be a short stay, getting IV antibiotics to kill the infection. Unfortunately, the antibiotics weren’t doing the trick, as the bacteria was slowly destroying the valve.

On December 20th, 2013, I had open heart surgery to clean out the bacteria and replace the valve with a shiny new mechanical one (but you can imagine my disappointment when I woke up post-surgery and didn’t have the Iron Man arc reactor in my chest). After another week in the hospital (we celebrated Christmas on the hospital floor that year), I was discharged and finally able to come home. Additionally during this time, my dad had a stroke and was in the hospital for a few days. In fact, before I was transferred to the other hospital for my surgery, we were literally across the hall from each other.

December 2013

How did DDP Yoga fit into your recovery?

As far as DDP Yoga and my recovery, I wasn’t able to put any pressure on my chest for 3 to 4 months post surgery. But as soon as I got the green light, I was back on the mat. However, I’d lost all of my flexibility and strength and forced to heavily modify. Additionally, having the heart monitor was crucial for me. But I feel like DDP Yoga helped me on the front end. I was in the best shape of my life before getting sick. Had I not been in condition, who knows what the outcome could have been. Aside from the physical challenges of recovery, there were also mental challenges. All of that hard work I’d put in to get into such great shape was now gone. I became very depressed. All I could really do was lie around and watch TV. Couple that with the fact the it was the middle of winter, so the dreary cold weather didn’t help my situation (neither did re-watching the entire Breaking Bad series in a month’s time). But there comes a point in time when you have to decide if you’re gonna sit around feeling sorry for yourself or you’re gonna do something about it. I remembered DDP’s mantra of living life at 90%. The health issue was over and done with. Now I had to decide how I was going to react to it and press forward.

Did the DDP Yoga community provide any support?

The support from the DDP Yoga community was outstanding. In fact, I remember laying in my hospital bed the day before surgery feeling pretty low. I was facing a long recovery and knew that I’d have to work my butt off to even get close to being where I was before (if at all). But as I was laying there, I got a tweet from DDP himself, wishing me luck and that the DDP Yoga family had my back. I can’t begin to tell what those few words did to my spirits. As cliche as it may sound, I felt a sense of calm. The outpouring of love and support from everyone in our ever-growing family continues to humble me. As a matter of fact, I saw Dallas back at a workshop in March of this year. The very first thing he did was give me a hug and ask how my heart was doing. To me, that shows that the love and support of the DDP Yoga family starts at the very top.

It took me almost a full year before I felt like I was close to my old self again. Now, I feel like a million bucks. I just turned 40 back in February and am probably in the best shape of my life (even after an open heart surgery). I learned that life is fragile and to make the most of my time here. It wasn’t until a few months after surgery that my wife let me know just how serious it was. Basically, I was a walking timebomb. At any point, the bacteria could started breaking off into pieces, thus causing a stroke, blood clot, etc. I could’ve dropped dead at any time. Therefore, I don’t get rattled over many things these days. As the old saying goes, I “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

What kind of support do you get from your family?

I couldn’t ask for a better support system. My wife and family have been behind me 110% of the way. She does the workouts and attends my classes when her schedule allows. She’s also great about researching gluten-free recipes for meals.

Christmas Day 2013

What stands out about DDP Yoga?

Nothing I’ve ever done really compares with DDP Yoga. I’d always been a runner, but after tearing both meniscus in one knee a few years back (while cutting the grass of all things), jogging became more difficult. Lately I’ve incorporated some light jogging back into my schedule as I find it’s good for just clearing my head.

What stands out the most is that ANYONE can do this, no matter your level of fitness. And if you stick with the workouts and the nutrition, you WILL see results a lot quicker than you might think.

Did you experience any other obstacles along your DDP Yoga journey?

I think my biggest obstacle is sometimes myself and knowing when to listen to my body. I like to push myself, but sometimes I need to know when to dial it back a notch.

Is there anything you still struggle with?

Probably the main thing I struggle with is the nutrition. And it’s not the typical struggle of “eating bad”. Due to having a mechanical heart valve, my blood has to remain thin to avoid clotting on the valve. Therefore, I have to take blood thinners for the rest of my life. This means I have to monitor my intake of Vitamin K. What’s full of Vitamin K? All of the great greens that are a big part of the nutrition we follow. I can have them, but it has to be on a pretty limited basis.

What are your current goals with DDP Yoga?

Just to become a better student. Though I’ve been actively practicing DDP Yoga for over 2 years now, I feel that there is still so much more for me to learn.

March 2015

What made you pursue DDP Yoga certification?

I’m very passionate about it and want to share that passion with other people. It was a goal of mine before my health issues. But after all that, it became a mission. I hope my story can help just one person know that they came overcome anything, no how insurmountable it may seem. I made my final submissions to Doc a few days ago. Pending approval of those, all that’s left is taking/passing the final exam. It’s so close I can taste it!

What do you hope to do once you are certified?

I hope to continue teaching Saturday classes at my church while also looking for other places in my area who are interested in hosting workouts. After my DDP Yoga certification, I’d like to pursue a nutrition certification.

May 16 2015 class

What would you say to someone considering DDP Yoga?

I would tell them to research all of the amazing stories of people who have done the program with mind-blowing success. That’s the beauty of DDP Yoga. People at all levels of fitness can do this. As the man himself says “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”.

Where can we find you?

Facebook –
Twitter – @AdrockTN
Instagram – @AdrockTN (also)
Email –

I’m currently looking to set up a website and Facebook page once I’m officially certified. Be on the lookout for RISE UP FITNESS!!!

Run, Fat Girl, Run!

It’s Marathon time again! My training program for the 2015 Prairie State Marathon started today and I am so excited.

I ran my first full marathon in May last year. See, I have a tattoo to prove it:


A little prideful, perhaps?

And a sticker on my car:


Okay, I’ll admit that’s pretty obnoxious…

I started out the training at about 145 lbs and finished the marathon tipping the scales at 162 lbs. Despite (erroneous) claims that I lost weight running, I managed to gain just under 20 lbs while running an estimated 422 miles (plus the actual 26.2 of the race). What the….???

It turns out, this isn’t an isolated incident. The phenomenon of packing on the old el-bees while preparing for a long distance race is well-documented. Like many others, I had no clue about this while developing a love of distance running, and promptly fell into many of the pitfalls. I have since done my reading and learned a lot about the physiology of exercise and hunger. This Run Haven article sums up some of the reasons.

I have a friend who disproves this rule, but it’s very true for me and my bulky quads!

While it is true that I was building more muscle and that my body was storing more glycogen, for people like me who battle a food addiction, reason #3, eating too many calories, was definitely the main culprit. During the marathon training, I allowed myself to “carb-up” the night before long runs. Then, after each long run I would experience intense hunger, and I would allow myself to indulge on the grounds that I had burned a tonne of calories. Yes, I had burned a tonne of calories, but probably not as many as those two massive, carby meals (heaping orders of pilau rice from my favourite restaurant) flanking the long runs were providing.

Compounding the issue was the fact that this training program land smack in the middle of my ill-fated departure from using MyFitnessPal to track calories. So those calculations about how much I could eat versus how many calories I was burning involved a lot of very generous “eye-balling.” Translation: more calories were going in than were coming out.

Another issue is heart rate and hormones. As I mentioned above, people close to me seem confused when I try to explain that DDP Yoga was responsible for my weight loss, and running wasn’t. In DDP Yoga, we are told early and often to use a heart rate monitor, and to back off if we go above our fat-burning zone. This keeps us efficiently burning fat and calories, and more importantly, doing so at a rate that goes under the radar of our appetite control centers in our brains.

Running, on the other hand, blasts your heart rate into your high aerobic zone, and (if you are not athletic as was the case when I was training for my first marathon), right into your anaerobic zone. Your brain detects this activity and responds with a massive appetite surge causing you to eat way more than you burned. To make matters even worse, as I learned recently, long periods of moderate or intense cardio cause a huge dump of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone causes every calorie you take to be absorbed and stored at maximum efficiency (i.e. guess who’s gaining some weight!).

Don't even get me started on leptin!

Don’t even get me started on leptin!

That’s why cardio exercises like DDP Yoga, walking or light/short jogging that keep you in your fat-burning zone, and strength-building workouts (such as DDP yoga) that help you gain lots of metabolism-boosting muscle are great for weight loss. They don’t trigger huge hunger bouts and leave you with metabolisms geared toward fat storage. That’s not to say running is bad for you. It isn’t. It has a lot of benefits, but you need to know what you’re dealing with, and prepare accordingly.

This has been alarmingly accurate on occasion!

And that’s what I plan to do this time around. First, I am back on the MyFitnessPal wagon, so my calories are going to be carefully monitored. Second, I won’t allow my training program to minimize other programs that are beneficial to weight management such as DDP Yoga and other strength-building workouts. And third, I will be focusing on eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods (no large orders of refined white rice from the Indian restaurant*!). But most importantly, I’ll be having fun. There’s no greater feeling than accomplishing something as huge as a marathon, and putting on 20 lbs didn’t detract from that feeling in the slightest last time. It’s important to care about your body, but it’s more important to remember the number on the scale isn’t everything.

*except maybe the day of the actual race!

P.S. It’s not okay to call anyone “fat,” the title of this article is a play on the only okay movie, “Run, Fat Boy, Run!”