Tag Archives: diet

The fast way to self-improvement

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Well, I did it again, and this time I won! I have 95% successfully completed my second water fast. I didn’t journal the first one but this time around I thought it would be interesting to track how my body responded.

As before, I jumped into this after several weeks of thinking about getting prepared to think seriously about doing it. Tuesday night I was dinking around on Facebook and I popped in to see what was happening on Aussa’s new group page, and she’d just posted her weekly challenge to set a goal and grab it by the … pearl necklace and make it behave.

Fat orangutan

Just like this. But with jeans. And my belly button is still an innie. (Source)

I was not in my happy place. It was nearly midnight, which meant I had once again failed to get to bed early enough to bounce out of bed, all full of get-up-and-go, before sunrise. (Here in the gloomy north the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 7.30 at this time of the year, but I’m pretty pathetic when it comes to sleep. I fight it like a bitch, but I need a lot of zzzzzs.) I’d been in full binge mode (aka compulsive pleasure-free eating) for nearly a week, and I felt squeezed by my XXXL jeans despite having undone both button and zipper,  and was also regretting the ice cream I’d engulfed earlier that evening in the hope that a sugar hit would keep me awake long enough to manage the half hour drive home from the vet. (It didn’t. I had to pull over for a snooze less than 10 miles from home.)

In other words, my life was once again out of control at its most fundamental level. So, of course, I sneered and hated myself and kept scrolling to read about the extraordinary successes racked up by my fellow Aussa bitches … and then my fingers took over my brain, and by the time they’d done dancing around on the keyboard I had scrolled back and announced my intention to do a full water fast, starting immediately. Then I logged off and went to bed, quickly, before I was compelled to eat something.

I started each day with two green tea capsules (for energy) and a splash of raw apple cider vinegar in water (for gut health). We’re blessed with delicious water – our well draws from an aquifer nearly 600 ft down below a thick layer of rock. During the day I drank tap water whenever I felt thirsty. I slept longer and more deeply than usual, and woke feeling refreshed. I didn’t do any extra exercise, and as the fast progressed I moved more slowly and rested more often, responding to the needs of my body.

Ask Google “What happens to my body when I fast?” if you want to invite a barrage of conflicting information, ranging from “Your muscles will shrivel up and you will diiiieeee!” to “You will directly experience Nirvana and your whole life will change forever!” The interweb is host to hordes of experts, both self-proclaimed and accredited, and it can get confusing, so choosing your guru is pretty much an act of faith. As with any faith, the smart way to go is to study what the guru says, check in with opposing views to maintain your balance, remember that if anything sounds too good to be true it probably (but not definitely) is, and over time evaluate what they say based on your personal experience.

My guru of choice is Dr. Jason Fung. He’s flavor of the month and also way too young and pretty – definite red flags – but on consideration, for now at any rate, I’m willing to hop on his wagon and see where it takes me.

Day 1 – Tuesday

I didn’t start to feel hungry until quite late in the day, and several hours before I felt hungry I was aware of other benefits – dramatically reduced inflammatory pain in my muscles and joints, no brain fog, and a happier, more relaxed mood. I was moderately active (by my low standards) and became tired shortly after dark.

According to Fung, during the first day of my fast my insulin levels dropped and my body accessed its glycogen stores to release glucose for energy. The human body keeps a 24-hour glycogen reserve mainly in the liver and skeletal muscles. That stored in the liver is available wherever energy is needed (and apparently most of it goes to the brain! For some reason I find that reassuring.) As I understand it, the glycogen stored in muscle tissue used by the muscles, not readily released to the rest of the body.

As the day progressed without any more carbs going in, my basal metabolic rate fell as my body sought to cut back on energy expenditure. Most of the pro-fasting literature I’ve read says your metabolic rate rises again after a few days of fasting, to above your normal level, but I didn’t get to experience that. Maybe next time, when I go for longer…

Day 2 – Wednesday

Woke early feeling clear-headed and energetic, but after I got up I quickly ran out of energy. No hunger pangs as such, but I was aware that my body wanted fuel. My head felt tight, as though it was thinking about having an ache, but in fact I didn’t experience any headache during this fast.

I spent the day being gentle with myself, resting often, but still writing and doing my regular chores. By the afternoon I was ravenous and stupid, and by evening I was still hungry, tired, irritable and floppy all over. I was also constantly thirsty, despite drinking lots of water.

101 dalmations

For some reason I cooked dinner for the male members of the household – my signature spaghetti bolognese. I don’t ever cook without tasting (I learned that the hard way – but that’s a story for another day) so I had maybe a teaspoonful of bolognese sauce and one strand of spaghetti … and then, after gritting my teeth and not eating with the men I couldn’t resist the redolence. I ate four, I mean five, okay SIX teaspoons of bolognese sauce. It was almost unbearably delicious. My stomach had pretty much given up on me by then and was hiding in a corner grumbling sadly to itself, so it was a little startled when that lot came walloping down my gullet. But the discomfort passed quickly and the relief was great!

Mind you, I was pissed at myself. I felt I’d let myself down, and was tempted to call myself a loser and just quit. But it was only meat, not carbs, and totaled well under 100 calories, so I decided to declare the fast unbroken and keep going. (Full disclosure: I ate a few teaspoons of bolognese sauce again the next night – I was just so hungry, and it was there. But that’s the only food I consumed for the 84 hours I fasted, so I feel … not good, but okay about it. Next time I’ll do better.)

To know what was happening with my body, I turned again to Dr. Fung. After 24 hours my body had depleted its store of glycogen, which activated other processes to generate energy.

  • My liver kicked into gluconeogenesis, creating glucose from amino acids.
  • In a parallel process (and I’m not going to pretend I understand yet how they are connected) it launched into autophagy, which essentially involves cannibalizing junk proteins, also to generate energy. If you want scholarly literature on the subject, Google has plenty; for those who want a greatly simplified explanation in layman’s terms, go here.
  • Meanwhile, the hunger pangs kept coming and going because of a hormone called ghrelin – and the interesting thing about that is that ghrelin will switch itself off after a couple hours if you ignore it, even if you don’t eat. Knowing that hunger won’t last makes it a lot easier to resist!

The most important of these processes, as far as I’m concerned, is autophagy. This is relatively easy to trigger – unlike ketosis, which takes longer and can be harder to sustain. All you have to do is not eat for 24-48 hours. Unfortunately I didn’t get the full benefit of it, because eating even a small amount of protein switches it off. I wish I’d known that … It might have made it possible to resist the bolognese…

Day 3 – Thursday

I’ve read about how, after fasting for a few days, your body kicks into higher energy mode. The theory is that its initial response to a lack of food is to reduce your rate of energy consumption (aka “starvation mode”), so your metabolism slows and you feel tired and sleepy. But if there’s still nothing on the menu after a couple days your body goes “Woah! Gotta fix this!” and you experience a surge in energy, as well as much greater clarity of thought – because you have to get out there and chase something down and kill it.”

I was kinda hoping to feel that way by Thursday, but … nope. I woke hungry and was tired and draggy all day. My brain was clear but I was so fumble-tongued I might as well have been catatonic, for all I could communicate. During the afternoon I went out into the garden with Peter Pan to discuss vegetable matters, and – being too floppy to pick up my feet properly – I tripped over a squash vine and went down like a dropped two-by-four. And once down … well, I lay there for a while on the cool dirt, thinking about how nice it would be simply to stay there. Getting vertical again took way more effort than seemed worthwhile!

Anyway, Dr. Fung says you go into ketosis after two to three days of fasting, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen for me this time. I’ve always struggled to achieve and maintain ketosis, even when eating super low-carb and high fat. I’m not diabetic but maybe I’m somewhat insulin-resistant; I need to learn more about it and figure out how to change.

Day 4 – Friday

I went into this fast not sure how long I’d stay with it, but determined to last longer than I did last time. About halfway in a friend called and invited me for tea, so I put her off until Friday afternoon and set my goal at noon Friday – giving me 84 hours of fasting, or 12 hours more than last time. And I made it! In fact, I think if I hadn’t had the tea date I could even have lasted longer. By Friday morning the hunger pangs were less and my head was clear and alert, although I was still physically quite weak.

This time, I broke my fast gradually. At noon I had a cup of hot, salty bone broth. About a half hour later I had a small fruit yogurt with heaped spoonful of crushed pecans, which kept me going an hour and a half. Then I had a cheddar and tomato sandwich – just one slice, not my usual two. Tea was more indulgent – I chowed down on crackers with whipped cream cheese and pepper jelly and found room for lemon cake, but after that I didn’t want dinner. In fact, I didn’t eat again until after noon on Saturday.

Since then I’ve been ramping up my food consumption, which is annoying – why this relentless compulsion to eat? Still … I do seem still to want smaller quantities, and I seem to be going longer between meals, and I don’t have quite the same desire for sugar … so I guess I’ve gained some ground.

I found, while fasting, that my mood improved greatly. Since going back onto sugar I’ve been more irritable and short-tempered. The burning, aching inflammatory pain in my joints and muscles stopped entirely and still hasn’t come back – although it will if I’m not careful. I slept very deeply while fasting, and when I started eating again I immediately fell back into my night owl habits, reinforced by insomnia. My jeans were looser, but they’re getting tight again.

Now what?

The main takeaway seems to be that very fat people are more likely to survive the initial weeks of the Zombie Apocalypse because, provided we have access to water, we’ll be able to hide away and live off our fat stores for a good long while – and when the hunger pangs don’t bite we’ll even have a jolly old time of it, because our brains will be sharp enough to joke, sing and tell stories.

UnexpectedParty

We’ll find a cozy hole and party like Hobbits. (Original illustration by David Wenzel)

But over the longer term the outlook for VFPs isn’t so good, unless our hiding place also includes some weights and an exercise bicycle.

I’m convinced that the reason I didn’t experience the energy surge I expected is that I’m starting off at a frighteningly low level of fitness. It’s unrealistic to think you can go from being someone who can just about maybe almost chase down one chicken in a very small pen without having a heart attack (and actually the last time I tried to do that I eventually had to call in reinforcements in the form of Peter Pan), to being capable of chasing down a wildebeest, merely by not eating.

This is going to take some thought. And planning. And work. And a whole lot less ice cream.

I’ll think about it … tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another day (2)

 

Let’s talk. Have you ever tried fasting? What kind of fast, and what was your goal? What was your main takeaway from the experience?

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The promise

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This evening I sat down to write an inspiring but wildly funny post about My Flab And New Strategies For Getting Rid Of It.

This was an important post, because it came at the end of a day of assiduous consumption of everything in the kitchen that didn’t up and run away. I’ve become quite good at the housewife thing just lately, so my kitchen is almost completely clear of things with legs. In other words, not a lot escaped my ravenous maw.

It made me feel miserable.

I pondered the words in my last post, about wanting to “honor” my friend’s memory, and be a better person as inspired by her, and I mocked myself. Words like fat frumpy failure of femininishness came to mind.

The post I wrote was all very funny, of course, ha ha ha, not at all miserable, and then I tried to access a site that I wanted to link to the post and my computer had a fit, and by the time it regained consciousness the entire post was gone. It was one of those rambling exercises in free association that is completely impossible to replicate.

There was only one thing to do, and I did it. I drove the four miles to our nearest convenience store and bought ice cream. In a few minutes, I will take my ice cream and my book and climb into bed and call this miserable day DONE.

But first … there’s something I need to do. I hope it doesn’t make you feel used.

I need to make a promise. The promise is being made to myself, no one else, but I feel a need to make it public. I will probably regret posting this tomorrow, but I hope I will have the courage to leave it up anyway.

My promise is this: from tomorrow, I will begin to introduce new discipline into the way I nurture my body. I will nourish it with food that helps it work well. I will take it for walks as often as I can – I hope daily. And I will put it to bed in time to let it have the rest it needs. Most importantly, I will learn to stop hating, despising and resenting it.

With companions like these, and a place like this to go walking, how can I not learn to love "exercise"?

With companions like these, and such a place right nearby to go walking, how can I not learn to love “exercise”?

I will do this in honor of my friend, who started running to fight cancer and stood her ground for 26 years; who rose before dawn every morning until weeks before she died because time was too precious to waste; and who regarded each day as a gift.

But just to be clear, I’m not doing this for her. I’m doing it for me. She’s my inspiration, but I am my own and sufficient reason.

And I’ll be checking in with you on my progress as I go along, in particular sharing lessons that you might find useful. I hope you’ll stick with me and share your own stories. A change this radical isn’t going to be easy, and it would be good to know I’m not making it alone.

Anybody out there with me?

Uuugghhhhh!

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I am halfway through at least half a dozen posts … and I just can’t finish them. I have zero energy, I’m not eating much but feel bloated and exhausted, and my weight has been stuck for several weeks. Ugh ugh ugh!

I stayed with the Daniel diet until Day 36. By that point my weight had gone down 25 lbs, then crawled back up 5 lbs for no discernible reason, and there it stuck for about 10 days. I just got sick of it! So I switched to Phase 2 – Eating Like A Thin Person – a few days early. And that’s been kinda going okay, in that I have little desire to eat much or often and few serious cravings. However, I am still inclined to stuff down more than I actually need if the food is particularly yummy and it’s a social occasion and I’m hungry. And regardless of how much I eat, I feel completely disgusting and entirely disinclined to get on a scale.

Today I realized that I’d been sitting on the couch for hours. I mean, HOURS. I would read for a while, then come to the end of a chapter and think to myself, “Okay, get up and do this, this and this,” and then sit and stare into space, and then drift back into another chapter.

People in old age homes do this. I am 56. It’s ridiculous!

So I googled “ways to increase metabolism”, and here is the list.

  • Green tea. Opinions vary regarding whether it’s best to take the tea or the supplements, but since I have the Green Tea Fat Burner supplements from Costco, I’m going to start with those. (They contain caffeine, which is also recommended in limited quantities, and I’m pleased it’s in the capsules since I rarely drink coffee or soda.) I think they made a difference in the past, but stopped taking all supplements (apart from thyroid tabs and a greatly reduced dose of Fluoxetine) when I started the Daniel diet.
  • Fish oil. Hate the fish-breath the Costco capsules give me … but hate staring into space more.
  • At least three veg and two fruit servings per day. I ate plenty of both while on the Daniel diet, but have cut way back recently, mainly because food preparation demands effort and I don’t have the energy. I am just going to have to battle through this one.
  • Protein. Apparently digesting protein burns up more calories than digesting carbs. Argh … cooking … sigh.
  • Spice it up. Capsicum and other spicy foods burn energy. Well, I guess if I’m cooking anyway… sigh some more.
  • Exercise – both aerobic and muscle-burning. I was doing the 5BX exercises until I had a sciatica flare-up … but lately I’ve barely moved. Poor Argos is feeling the lack of serious training time. So … okay. As of tomorrow, I will set my alarm to go off every hour on the hour, and when it does I will get up and move for 15 minutes. Maybe clean house, maybe work with Argos, maybe do yardwork, maybe lift weights.
  • Frequent snacking. UGH. I am not hungry! Except when I am, and then I want a LOT. Oh well … I’m just going to have to force down five (small) meals a day, because apparently that also keeps the metabolism chugging along better than fewer meals of whatever size.
  • Drink more water. And it should be iced, because warming it up burns calories. I’ve been pretty good about a daily 2-3 liters, but I’m going to push it up to 4 liters per day. I Am Woman – Hear Me Slosh!
  • Sleep. This has been the worst. A side effect of spending hours every day sitting on my butt staring into space / at a book / at my computer monitor has been that I don’t want to go to bed, and when I do I tend to read until way past midnight. And then I sleep late, and wake up exhausted. Woe and alackaday!

Yeah, I know this is an uninspired post on a boring topic – who wants to read about someone else’s flab woes, after all? But for some reason writing it here helps me, and since this is, after all, my blog, that will have to do.

I will post something more entertaining on Wednesday. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my beautiful boy. How could I not love walkies with such a companion?

Argos

Argos

Daniel diet: Day 1

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Argh. Just argh.

Here follows a deeply uninspired posting. I will try to keep it short.

I have, in a previous post or two, shared my feelings of disgust, despondency and dismay regarding my corporeal form. And here’s the problem with going public with certain subjects: sooner or later, you have to decide – Do I want to strive to become the definitive blogger on the subject (in this case, fatness)? Or would it be more entertaining to strive for, and document, a change?

Plus there’s that dang bucket list I posted. That’s not a wish list or a dream list; everything on there is something I genuinely want to do. And a whole shitload of the goodies in my bucket are literally impossible to do when your bones and heart and liver and lungs are carrying around the equivalent of an entire extra adult (and not some skinny-malinky, either; this body of mine is a real two-for-the-price-of-one deal).

So for the sake of some good blogging material, and my bucket list, and also as an act of kindness toward my thumping heart and sore feet and aching ankles and perpetually tired, de-energized self, I have launched upon a 40-day Daniel diet. In other words, for the next 40 days I am restricting my diet to fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, with only water and rooibos tea to drink. The food is minimally processed and free of any chemical additives. By the end of 40 days I will have figured out what to do next.

tomato

The “Daniel” part comes from the book of Daniel in the Bible, which describes how the prophet and his friends refused the food from the royal table and ate only vegetables and fruit. And here’s the bite … This isn’t really supposed to be a diet; it’s supposed to be a fast – undertaken with prayer and contemplation, with a spiritual motive. I wish I could just think about it as a diet, but I can’t; I am conscious that this ought to be a God thing. Because man (and woman) does not live by bread (or chocolate) alone. Only I’m still kinda skulking in my corner and sulking at God.

I can’t do anything about that right now. If I could get me to a nunnery for 40 days of contemplation, I would. Even an isolated fishing shack on a rain-swept beach would work. I would fast and pray and hold the infinite up to scrutiny, and emit verse and gush prose and eat nothing but apples, and at the end of that I would be … what? Enlightened, maybe? Certainly thinner.

Which brings me back to the point. You have to start somewhere, so I’m starting with 40 days of a really tough diet. I hope that at some stage I will be able, with integrity, to start referring to this as a fast and not a diet, but right now this is all about the stomach and, honestly, my spirit isn’t engaged. Having done this before, I know the first seven days are horrible – the past several times I’ve tried to do this, I’ve not made it past Day 3. I’m expecting headaches, nausea, zero energy and tears. After that it should get better.

And I am going to blog about it. Every. Single. Day.

Hold my hand, okay? I’ll try to write about other things too – I have so many stories to tell! But I have to do this – I have to win this fat battle – or all my stories will be in the past tense. And that would be such a terrible waste of the good life I’ve been given.

Body image

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Several of the blogs I follow have been talking about body image just lately, and how important it is to have a good one. Here, we have shamelessly rounded thighs, here sexy jiggliness, something sad but hopeful here, and one of the better improvement strategies here. And if you think that I’m dangling all these great posts – that will make you laugh, touch your heart and inspire you – in an effort to distract you from my own contribution to the topic, you’re probably right.

A couple days ago I gave Himself a pretty cool camera. (It was our anniversary, and his birthday’s coming up, and what the heck, he’s a nice guy.) He’s a talented photographer, often reminisces about his time as president of the photographic club at his school, but for all the years we’ve been married he’s been making do with a series of mik-en-druks. It was only recently that I became aware that this was a real but unspoken longing, so I did something about it.

A happy Himself promptly spent several hours bebopping around the house figuring out how it worked. Obviously, that entailed photographing everything that entered his new viewfinder. He was absolutely thrilled by the quality of the images. “Look how clear the detail is, even when I expand the picture to the max!” he exclaimed.

Yeah. That’s some detail there, alrighty…

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So tell me … how the fuck does one have a “positive body image” over that?

I want to blame somebody. Maybe I should sue the chocolate companies – they know that shit is addictive. That’s why even Hershey is a sweet stock on the market – and their so-called chocolate is disgusting. (Sorry, but it really is. Don’t argue with the connoisseur.) If cigarette companies must pay for people who die from smoking, then clearly same penalty should apply to the pushers of chocolate, candy, cookies, cream cakes,  ice cream, cream cheese, artisan bread, real butter, peanut butter … oh good grief, someone stop me, because even with those horrible knees up on my monitor right in front of me as I write this, I want to eat something, and I’m not fantasizing about celery sticks either. Not unless they’re sliced and lightly fried and incorporated into a cream sauce, anyway.

So … what to do? The last post I wrote on the topic of My Fatness ended on an optimistic note – diet and exercise and yadda yadda yadda. It sounded great, but it didn’t go well.

Today I got up onto my bathroom scale and … there was this sort of ouchie noise, and then – I swear I am not making this up – the scale wailed, “I give up! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know! Just Please Stop Standing On Me!” And numbers flashed and glowed and it told me that in 24 hours I’d shed 36.4 pounds. So I got off, pondered a bit, picked it up and shook it a little, and stood on it again.

“Okay, okay, you knew I was lying – how about 16.2 lbs? Maybe 23.4? Too much – right – not convincing – okay – 8 lbs? Just a nice round 8.0 – you can believe that, right?”

Not really. Plus, it said “round” and presented me with a number that is essentially a bulgy torso and a blob. I think that damn scale is trying to mess with my head.

Your turn … Do you have any addictions that nobody else takes seriously? And are they killing you too?