Monday, June 26, 2017

Intermittent Fasting; An Experiment (Day One-ish)

 If I had to put an age to the question, I would say that I have been struggling with my weight since I was 20 years old. I was in the military at the time, so I was getting plenty of exercise. I simply was not a fan of physical fitness, despite my awareness of the many benefits of being fit. While in the military, I did enough to pass the regular PT tests, and that was it. I had other things I wanted to do with my free-time; drawing, writing, touring Germany, and so on. My body adjusted to the PT routine, and while I had it under relative control, I was obviously putting on weight. I was never on any kind of disciplinary plan for fitness, but I was also no where near my ideal weight.

 From a hereditary standpoint, my mother's family were large, in particular the men of the family. My father's family was much less so, but both my brother and I tend to favor our mother's side of the family. That said, there are prominent examples from that side of the family who are very fit, and I have nephews and nieces who are also fit. The examples I am aware of are dedicated to a combination of diet an exercise, where as I am apathetic about those concerns. Despite my genetics, it is clear that weight loss and fitness are a possibility.

 I enjoy eating. This is an idea that I have come to terms with. My food choices lean toward the deep-fried and sugary variety. I love steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, cookies, and the like. I get cravings, and follow those cravings. I have learned to cook as a means of satisfying those cravings. I sometimes eat as a means to pass the time (especially when I am at work). I tend to eat 3 meals a day, plus a snack mid-afternoon. I believe that I am dealing with what I would refer to as a "food addiction".

 I don't mean to compare this to an addiction like drugs or alcohol, but I do think that in a rudimentary way there is a food addiction epidemic in the US. We have learned to eat three meals a day, and to eat those meals at specific times (whether actually hungry or not). We have food of all kinds almost immediately available, so any craving may be satisfied. We have been taught to clean our plates, and thus have learned to over-eat. The speed with which our society moves has resulted in meals being quick events when we stuff ourselves faster than our bodies can react.

 This addiction uses food to induce a pleasure response in the brain, and anything that spurs dopamine production in the brain can become technically addictive. I began thinking about eating only when I am hungry sometime last year, resulting in an adjustment of my eating schedule. Then I began to question if I was hungry, or just had a craving to eat. I realized that I may have never experienced actual hunger in my life. This would mean that any urge I had to eat was not out of a physical necessity but out of a desire to get the dopamine rush that comes with eating.

 I've tried other diets. I have done Slim Fast, and just felt more hungry. I have tried Atkins (which caters to my prefered foods), and simply could not cut out all carbs (my routine made avoiding some foods extremely inconvenient). Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, and as a result I have cut my sugar intake to almost 0 (not including incidental sugars in carbs and some vegetables). I have been able to adjust my diet, but have not lost weight as a result.

 There are a couple of wrinkles in my mind-set (personality? choices?) that limit what I am willing to do to be healthier. I refuse to change what I eat any further than I already have. My diet is mostly meat; followed by carbs from potatoes, dairy, then bread. I avoid sweets; no candy, no sugary soda, no juice or fruit, and rarely might I have a cookie. When I eat, I want it to continue to be food I enjoy. Also, I am not looking to dedicate a significant amount of time to exercise. I have too much to do. I already walk a great deal. I may add some Yoga to my daily routine, or some weight-training at home. Otherwise, exercise becomes a burden on my time that will dissuade me from my goals.

 My goal is to get down to a healthier weight. Pure and simple. The benefits of weight loss alone are significant. If I manage to simply lose weight, I could see my Diabetes reversed. I may have more energy and stamina, making other fitness goals more realistic. I have no overriding desire to be muscular, more fit. or to "live a healthier lifestyle" (whatever that means). I just want to lose weight.

 While on the Atkins diet, I was greatly impressed with the idea of ketosis; the state in which the body stops burning nutrients that have been eaten and starts engaging the fat-reserves. In theory, eating nothing but protein should effectively force the body into ketosis. The problem I had was that I was ALWAYS craving something to eat, never mind that I had just eaten a steak. The craving, a result of my addiction, was effectively kept active because I had eaten, just not in a way to satisfy the craving. As I do not know what actual hunger feels like, I believed I was always hungry.

 I was inspired by some friends recently to look into Intermittent Fasting. In essence, you force yourself not to eat for a prolonged period of time, then eat as much as you want, whatever you want, during the off periods. Ketosis is engaged because the body simply has no other resource to turn to for its energy needs other than the fat reserves. The craving to eat is not perpetuated by eating but not satisfying that urge, instead you allow yourself to experience real hunger. When you eat, you satisfy actual hunger, not a craving. It is technically not a diet, but a change to when you eat.

 In my mind, you force yourself into food addiction withdrawal.

 Most people go 16 hours without eating, typically including the eight hours they are asleep. The pattern that sounds most effective for me is to skip breakfast and not eat until noon. I would stop eating by 8pm. I love breakfast; eggs and bacon, sausage gravy, hashbrowns, etc. For me, this means that I will need to wait until afternoon or evening to have my "breakfast" meal.

 To start my "diet", I have elected to go without food for 24+ hours. I stopped eating sometime around 5:30 yesterday afternoon. Today, I have had coffee with a little bit of milk and artificial sweetener, and I am drinking Coke Zero. At about 3pm, I felt the extreme urge to eat, but the urge subsided after about 15 minutes (I wrote this instead of getting something to eat). There has been some stomach rumbling, but other than that no additional issues.

 I intend to continue to fast until tomorrow afternoon, when I will have a bag of popcorn at work. I have not decided what my evening meal will be. I am inclined to think that this eating schedule could significantly reduce my grocery bill, as I am eating only one or two meals a day (despite them being potentially large meals). I am also leaning toward eating more gradually. Instead of sitting down to a meal and finishing in 20 minutes, I want to plan on an hour of eating to allow my body to feel full during the meal and to stop when I have that feeling.

 I have no idea what my actual weight is at the moment; probably somewhere in the 350 range. I am purchasing a scale, and will avail myself of the use of one at work tomorrow. Treating this as an "addiction" makes things simpler for me. I mentioned that I cut out sweets simply by choosing to do so (though I miss Mountain Dew). I quit smoking in the same fashion, just one day decided to stop. I am hoping that my previous displays of willpower are just as effective with this plan.