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MOVING DAY!

My new website is up and running!  www.cynthiakuni.com

I have long worried that my professional site on this platform, which started as a humble blog, has been looking more and more like somebody’s middle school project. I want to thank the endlessly patient tech support people at Bluehost for helping me start fresh.

I will continue to blog here and occasionally share posts on my Facebook page. See you at cynthiakuni.com!

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What follows are my honest conclusions after many hours of study and my own health experience. I’m not a doctor and this is not meant to substitute for medical advice. Some resources to do your own research and to get started are listed at the bottom of this post.  I wish you the very best health and success being your most beautiful self, inside and out.

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Calories in, calories out?  You are not an automobile!  You are a wondrous, amazing chemistry lab, in which insulin, ghrelin, leptin and other hormones regulate what your body does with the calories you eat and the calories you store.

In my past, I have done the calorie restriction + exercise method to get my weight under control and I can tell you my experience: it’s very hard, it will leave you in a continual state of hunger, it takes forever, and it can really mess up your metabolism. Honestly, I think it sucks!

There is another way that is so much more natural, easier, healthier, and faster! If you promise you won’t run away screaming, I’ll say it. High fat, low carbohydrate diet.

Most people will admit sugar is not healthy. But did you know that all carbohydrates turn to sugar by the time they reach your bloodstream? Even whole wheat grains, potatoes, and apples — they are all converted to sugar when digested.

“A calorie simply is not a calorie. I’m not saying the laws of thermodynamics don’t apply–they do! But they only apply when the hormones are balanced correctly. If the hormones aren’t balanced, the calorie hypothesis isn’t valid.”— Dr. Adam Nally

The amount of sugar that a human being can tolerate in the bloodstream at any given time is only about one teaspoon.  Just 4 grams of carbohydrate. A large Fuji apple contains the equivalent of about 4 teaspoons of sugar. Since high blood sugar will kill a person, your body makes insulin. Insulin’s job is to store sugar as fat, and keep it there.  It’s a great mechanism for fattening up in late summer for a long hard winter of deprivation, but not so much for the modern human being fitted for a wedding gown.

The three “macronutrients” of diet are fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  In terms of percentages, if you lower your fat intake, the other two must necessarily go up. If protein goes up, you soon hit a limit of useful protein because the body can only use a certain amount at one time and the rest goes into… fat storage (and urine). If carbohydrate goes up, you end up with massive amounts of insulin running around trying to lower your blood sugar levels and locking up your… fat storage. If fat goes up (and the other two go down), your hormones and enzymes do a wonderful little readjust called the adaption period and voila – your chemistry lab now gives you less hunger, more energy, clearer head, clearer skin… and so many other benefits.

People used to know this about sugar. Before the 1970’s everyone knew that to slim down you must avoid sugar, not fat.  But then politics and lobbying got involved and the “amber waves of grain” needed a little marketing help. And ever since the low-fat lie took hold, Americans have become heavier and sicker, just as many scientists predicted we would.

Let’s say it is cold and you have a fireplace. If you fill it with little sticks and paper, it’s going to burn very fast, very hot, and then need more fuel very quickly. That’s the “eat every 3 hours” nonsense that a high carbohydrate diet requires. But if you burn big logs, they just keep going and going. That is what it feels like to live on a high fat diet. Be a fat burner!

Becoming fat adapted is not always a smooth transition. They used to call it “Atkins Flu” or “Keto Flu.” The slump many people experience comes because at first you do not have the right hormone and enzyme balances and your body is crying, “where’s my sugar?” Most experience a transition period of 3-10 days, though it can take longer for some.

Random thoughts and suggestions for going forward:

  • Stop eating cereal, sandwiches, and “easy” food. Sorry. You’ll be glad later though.
  • Saturated fat is not bad for you. In fact, when you lose weight with any method, you are living on a high saturated fat diet. That is, your own body fat.
  • Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. You are not obligated to eat it.
  • Drink high quality salted broth while transitioning to a high fat low carb diet. Many people have reported that salted broth diminishes the transition discomforts.
  • Avoid basing your new high fat diet on seed oils (canola, safflower, corn, etc.) They are highly processed Omega 6 bombs that will cause inflammation and interfere with weight loss. Instead, eat egg yolks, avocados, grass fed meats, butter, macadamia nuts, and olive oil.
  • Old Atkins vs. New Atkins… eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables!! I cannot stress this enough.  You will feel great if you do this and many of the vitamins in your veggies will be better absorbed with a fatty diet.
  • High/full fat dairy only. I don’t tolerate milk, and even whole milk has a lot of sugar in it, but I love cream, whole milk plain yogurt, butter… Note: if I cannot get pastured dairy I usually choose not to eat it at all. Pasture raised meat/dairy/eggs, have more omega 3, more nutrients, and more flavor. Plus, unpastured animal husbandry is generally inhumane in my opinion.
  • Pack your lunch. Pack snacks. Don’t leave home without it!
  • If you drink… Everyone’s different and I don’t presume to be the expert here, but I find it best for weight loss to limit drinking in several ways. 1) No alcohol the first 2 weeks of your weight loss project. 2)  Thereafter, only drink once or twice a week. 3) No sweet drinks, and rarely wine (spirits in club soda is a good option). 4) If you are going to drink, do it early, enjoy every minute, and then switch to water, tea, or other harmless beverages. Drinking later interferes with sleep. 5) Take a B complex vitamin before drinking. 6) Throw away all the rules (except the one about driving) on your birthday.
  • Stop believing that “fruits and vegetables” are a food category.  Fruit doesn’t share a category with kale, it shares a category with Snickers. Get a reliable carb counter book or app and learn how much sugar is in your food.

Although I support your desire to be more slender with all my heart, I feel obligated to say that your long term health is the most important part of this goal. There are ways to get thin that will mess. you. up. The good news is that this isn’t one of them! It’s fast and it’s healthy and you won’t be hungry all the time. The price is our beloved carbohydrates. And you may find social gatherings challenging. If you can pay the price, you will succeed.

In conclusion, I wish you the very best in achieving your weight loss goal. I myself am not “naturally thin.”  I still fight temptation and sometimes fail. It doesn’t matter. Keep moving forward. Work hard to understand why you make certain choices and you will always find a way to do better. Write to me if you have specific questions I might answer.

Please also check out my older blog post on avoiding sugar and grains, here, where you can find even more motivation and details about this way of eating!


RESOURCES (these are just a few – tons out there!)

Podcasts

Reading

Watch

 

You know how you can be standing there minding your own business, and a harp suddenly comes out of nowhere and grabs you?  I didn’t, but I do now.

Once a upon a time (last week actually), I was assisting a harp-shopping student of mine by visiting harp shops* and playing as many harps as possible for her. The variety of sound quality in harps is unbelievable. Even two harps made at the same time with identical design can sound different, as you can see in this video. (Close your eyes when you listen; test your ears!) Harps are like snowflakes, no two alike.

As we began to narrow down the kind of harp my student liked best, I took note of an old pedal harp off to the side and sat down to play it out of curiosity. Oh. My. What a sound. Too bad my student was not seeking a harp like this. I took a short video to post on my Facebook page (scroll to July 13, 2016, recorded at Enchanted Harp) and moved on. Or tried to.

This is the part where I was abducted, blindfolded, and taken to a secret location to be tortured with gorgeous sounds until they finally broke me and I wrote a check… Okay, not quite. But I could not get the harp out of my mind. We took a second trip to that shop to test another harp a few days later, where further torture occurred. A third visit to the shop and I succumbed.

My new harp, the harp I didn’t need, the classically carved harp I never expected to own, the harp that wouldn’t take no for an answer, is a Lyon & Healy Style 17, built in 1952.

At age 64, she is an antique in the harp world. Unlike many other instruments, harps get better and better for about 100 years, and then they explode. Seriously, unless the harpist removes the strings or replaces major components of the harp a la George Washington’s Axe, the body of a harp cannot survive the 2,000 lbs of tension from the strings much longer than that. But having consulted a harp restoration company with photos and their checklist, it looks like I will remain captive for many years to come.

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Lyon & Healy Style 17, at The Enchanted Harp in Puyallup WA

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Hand carved in 1952

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Welcome to the fleet…

* We are so blessed to have a number of harp shops in the Puget Sound area: Dusty Strings, Austin Harp Arts, and The Enchanted Harp

B-I-N-G-O!

 

I got 24 out of 25. The playing on a mountain top happened to someone else I know.

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Camera Shy

 

The thing is, I don’t have an inferiority complex or social awkwardness, or any of the usual excuses for being camera shy with regard to playing harp. I just get so distracted from music when a camera is around. Why?

It may be that my amateur-photographer mother insisted on full smiles and total cooperation from her four children as she snapped away on her Graflex.  We were polished, posed, and portrayed, her four little angels of photographic perfection.

There was little resistance. My brother stuck out his tongue in a couple of shots (mild enough to be adorable rather than mutinous), and in one glorious instance my oldest sister leaped in front of the camera just as my other sister and I were to be immortalized in our Halloween costumes. We were hobos. Oh, the irony.

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“Okay. Now lean in and pretend to whisper… Nooooo! Laura!!!!”

Then there is the pinky thing.  When I was 12, there was an accident involving my left hand, a gold fish bowl I was cleaning in the back yard, and a bit a concrete. Eight stitches and a monstrously bandaged month later, I was left with a pinky refugee, never to return normally to its sisters. It won’t fold flat, it won’t go where I want it to go, and (yes, I know that only I and a handful of other harpists would notice) it doesn’t do Good Hand Position at the harp, preferring instead to curl up as if I’m sipping tea at a bloody cotillion. Normally I don’t think of it much, but put a camera in front of me and The Voice of Dysfunction whispers in my ear, “cream or sugar?”

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So, for whatever reasons, I have never been comfortable playing music with a camera on me. But I am determined to overcome! I may never be able to smile perfectly (or even speak) while playing, but I will make more YouTube videos!

How? Snippets! For the past few weeks I have been recording small portions or shortened versions of songs on the harp as a sort of conditioning therapy. I am calling them “Saturday Snippets” because I have a weakness for cutesy alliteration. I have been posting them on my Facebook page rather than YouTube; I suppose it seems less exposed. After all, the snippets are not always my best work. And it’s just me, my harps and an iPhone. There are little mistakes, the cat starts meowing, my pinky goes out for tea… Nothing polished. Sorry, Mom.

But it’s a start. And I really think it’s helping.

 

I am sometimes asked, “Why do harpists charge more for a wedding than they do for background music if they are doing the same thing? Playing harp is playing harp, regardless of where you are, right?”

Well, first let me say thank you. If it seems like I’m playing the exact same way at your wedding as I would in my own living room, then I am doing my job well.

Still, although it seems like I am doing the same thing in each performance, the fact is that you are not getting the same thing in a wedding as in a background music situation. My extra hours of preparation and decades of experience make it possible for me to perform through stressful situations and still play well and keep my head.

First, there is the simple truth that it is generally harder to perform a skilled task when one is being watched. It’s true that one also gets somewhat of a boost from being watched: that adrenaline-spiked “magic of concert day” so to speak. But even that boost is dependent on the performer’s level of experience. A less experienced harpist or a student may not get a boost at all, but rather a case of shakes. Or even a fainting spell. (That actually happened to me in a high school play.)  It simply takes greater experience to deliver a solid performance under a spotlight.

Second, things can go wrong. Things do go wrong. A novice who is quite adept playing background music at your birthday party, may come apart completely if she is seated at the front of a church full of staring people, or if your bridesmaid’s silk flower bouquet catches fire during your ceremony (that has happened) or if the harpist suddenly cannot see what is going on because your videographer just planted himself in front of the harp during your processional (that happened more than once).  An experienced harpist will not come apart just because the situation does. But her fees will reflect the costs of Grace Under Pressure.

Think of it this way. One thing you are paying for is the raw skill of plucking harp strings to produce music.  Then add “points” for various aspects of performance that require more experience: pressure of being in the spotlight; pressure from the magnitude or importance of the event; nature of the audience (is it your book group or will the Governor be there?); and potential for glitches (weddings nearly always have them).

Myself, I have limits. I have played for a Governor, and a Mayor too. And my beloved harp teacher always told me I could do anything I set my sights on, bless her. But I have turned down a few opportunties because they seemed beyond my self confidence or abilities.

What I want to convey is that playing harp is not just playing harp.  All performance situations present some level of psychological challenge. We harpists have paid with our lives to meet those challenges. Literally our lives, because playing the harp well under pressure is never a side hobby.

Why do we charge more for a wedding than a cocktail hour? Because we are giving you not just our time at your event, but all the years that came before.

This post goes out to my sisters, my cousins, my daughter, and my female friends, and to the men who care about them.  And as often happens, this post has nothing to do with playing the harp. Or does it? Recently I found a new podcast that I like (The Model Health Show), but it has dumped a big ol’ paradigm shift on me. I have to catch up on episodes because the podcast has been around a while so I’ve been picking an episode here and there.  TMHS #003 (The Truth About Breast Cancer) and #021 (Dressed to Kill) have got my head spinning.

I already knew that the “cancer care” field is a multi-billion dollar industry that has no interest whatsoever in putting itself out of a job. I already knew that cancer prevention will never be given the grant dollars that the lucrative cancer drug and treatment ventures receive.  But oh, what I didn’t know! Enter the podcasts.  Here are just a few of the omg moments:

  • Only about 5% of cancers occur because of genetic causes.  95% are caused by environment and lifestyle. Having a genetic marker for cancer is not a death sentence.
  • Statistically speaking, “normal” treatments (surgery, chemo, radiation) decrease cancer survival rates.
  • Everyone has cancer cells in their bodies all the time. It is normal. Our biology has a system for getting rid of them. We either overload or sabotage the system, hence the disease.
  • The lymphatic system (crucial to cancer prevention) does not have a pump, like the circulatory system has the heart. It relies on the free flow of lymph (no constricting clothing) and the movement of the body to do its job.
  • Among bra-free women, breast cancer rates are about the same as they are in men. In other words, minuscule! (The Fred Hutchinson cancer’s study citing no connection between bras and cancer did not include any non-bra wearers in the study. Looks like a smoking/cancer study that doesn’t include non-smokers.)

Which brings me to… bras.  Most women in our culture wear a bra. We don’t want to “sag.” We don’t want to bounce and “have stuff show.”  We don’t want men staring at our torsos and forgetting we have heads.  We are not all charismatic, trend-setting Kate Hudson. We are not all brave.

Questions and choices dance a ring around me right now. Is this truly like the situation of corsets, which were terribly unhealthy for women but nevertheless worn for hundreds of years? Did the women who first said “no” to corsets feel afraid? Would ditching my bra make me feel like one of those human advertisements, a person in a pizza outfit jumping around on the corner, only my outfit would be a giant boob? And most vexing of all… having grown up in that 60s pre-women’s-lib era where men could slap women on the behind with impunity, having seen the most prurient side of men, having the suspicion that any image of a female breast will stop most men in their tracks and turn off their brains… what oh what do I advise my daughter to wear?

I hate reading/hearing anything about cancer because, like most people, it scares me. Both of my parents had cancer, and one died from it. We all know someone who has it, or who died from it, or who has had a “cancer scare.”  But I am fanatically proactive about my health, and I do not want to live in fear. Is this the choice then: fear of cancer or fear of body exposure? (For further exploration.)