Sunday, September 27, 2009

Intermittent Fasting, Zero Carb and Inflammation

I'm back!

I can't believe I haven't posted since August 6th. Why, you ask?

Well, I haven't been IFing. I switched to a zero carb (ZC) routine, and trying to do both seemed to cause unwanted weight loss. And the pain in my hands and wrists (from rheumatoid arthritis) continued to get better and better on ZC, so I went with that. On ZC, I eat only meat and water, and find it to be quite satisfying, despite my fears to the contrary at the beginning.

Everything went along great, until about 2 weeks ago, when the pain in my hands started to return. Last week, it was getting worse and worse, and I had to intervene. What did I do? Take a drug? A supplement? No. I went back to what started me on the path to healing in the first place: Intermittent Fasting.

In just a few days of eating 24 hours on, 24 hours off, the pain is already subsiding. So I'm hopeful. The only issue now is my weight. I'm 143 pounds (at 6 ft), and that's not acceptable. So tonight, for the first time in 7 weeks or so, I ate something other than meat: I had some fruit. I'm going to add fruit to my meat and water, and see if I can't add a few pounds, even with alternate day fasting.

My big question is: Why did the pain come back? I was very strict with my diet, never cheating even once. I "assumed" the improvement in my arthritis was from avoiding allergens, such as gluten, casein and soy. Now I'm starting to wonder.

Interestingly, I remember reading somewhere that the anti-inflammatory effects of IF seem to last about 6 weeks after stopping IF. Hmmmm....my pain started back about 5 weeks after stopping, and got to be too much to handle a week or so later. Coincidence?

My working assumption now is that intermittent fasting, which is what gave me the initial pain relief, was at least partly responsible for my continued improvement while on ZC. Don't get me wrong, I believe whole heartedly that avoiding gluten, casein and soy is important--I was doing that even before I started IFing, and it did help all by itself. But the fasting seems to be a critical component.

My foray into zero carb has been very interesting, and extremely educational. I believe eating only meat and water is both healthy and effective, especially for weight loss. But more importantly, I have become even more convinced that grains (wheat, oats, rice, corn, etc.) are absolutely poison. We were not meant to eat them, and they contain lectins and proteins that harm the human body.

So while I am adding fruit, I will not be eating grains. If I liked vegetables, I would eat those, too. Since I'm not fond of them, I'll stick to meat, fruit, and water. I'm not eating the fruit because I think it's necessary, but because it is full of carbs and should cause me to gain some weight. I think fruit is the "safest" carbs to eat, especially since I dislike vegetables.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Four Weeks of Intermittent Fasting

Yesterday marked four weeks of intermittent fasting. Here is a summary of the results:

1. Significantly reduced pain/inflammation in my hands and wrists from rheumatoid arthritis

2. Very easy to do. Much easier to go without food for 24 hours than to try to eat just a little bit every other day.

3. Renewed focus on eating the healthiest foods available. When I'm eating only half the time, I want to make sure I'm getting complete nutrition.

4. Lost weight, even though I didn't want to. I dropped 4 pounds from an already thin frame. This is the only significant negative result I've had. I know for many people reading this, they would be disappointed if they only lost 4 pounds in 4 weeks. To you, I would say, "Don't worry." For 3 of the 4 weeks, I was consciously eating more than I felt hungry for, in an effort to maintain my weight.

5. I'm not significantly more hungry on the eating days than I was before I started IF.


As part of 3 above, I have switched to a nearly zero carbohydrate diet. I eat lots of meat, and some eggs. I would also include fish, except that I don't like it. I have found that I really like this diet. At first, it was tough, but as I get used to it, the carbo cravings are going away. Now I find myself really enjoying eating. And I fill up on meat much quicker than I fill up on a mixed diet. It's as if my body is saying "I have everything I need. Stop eating now."

The only issue with that is weight loss, though I've seemed to stabilize somewhat at between 145 and 146 pounds. Ideally, I would like to add about 15 pounds of muscle. I don't think I can accomplish that with IF. So I am considering going off IF for awhile and seeing how my arthritis reacts. My hope is, that with a (nearly) zero carb diet, I would continue to make improvements, even without IF. But there's only one way to find out...

I'll keep you posted.

Bon repos,
Tom

Friday, July 31, 2009

Losing Weight, Dealing with Ketosis

I've recently combined two "new" experiments along with intermittent fasting: 1. I'm striving to only eat when I'm hungry on my eating days, rather than intentionally upping my calories to try to maintain my weight, and 2. I'm eating as close to "zero carbs" as possible, in the spirit of Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

As a result, I have lost 3 pounds in the last 3 days. I went from 149 to 146, and as a 6 ft tall male, that is somewhat alarming. I really don't want to lose any weight.

Part of the reason I lost the weight may be because I have gone into ketosis. I know this not by using test strips, but by the side effects I'm feeling: A slight headache, mulitiple trips to the bathroom, and just a "different" feeling. Plus, I haven't had any carbs in 3 days, other than what may be in an egg or a piece of meat.

I'm sure I lost some weight just from water and glycogen loss. I've been in ketosis before, but never stayed long due to side effects. I'm trying to be patient this time, having been reassured through my reading that the uncomfortable feelings are only temporary, and soon I'll be feeling better than ever.

As for not intentionally overeating, I have been mostly true to my intentions. The only time I've eaten when I wasn't hungry is just before my 6:00 PM cutoff time. I may not be particularly hungry at 5:00 or 5:30, but I know I won't be able to eat for another 24 hours, so I do get a meal in. This works out because if I weren't doing IF, I'd probably be hungry an hour or two later, so I may as well eat while I can. Part of that is also my fear of losing more weight.

As for eating just meat and eggs, it is mostly satifsying, though I admit to some carb cravings. I like fruit, and I have to fight the urge to eat it. It seems like the more fat I can get in my diet, the less I crave the carbs. If I eat more lean meat, the carb cravings are worse.

The up side to all of this is that my joints continue to feel better and better. The cleaner I eat the better, and combined with IF, it works very well.

So I'm struggling psychologically a bit, but so far I've kept on track. I'm hoping this is an adjustment period I need to get through, and then it will be smooth sailing.

Bon repos,
Tom

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Inspired by a 1935 Magazine Article

I have been a believer, if not always a follower, of a low-carb diet since I read Jonny Bowden's Living the Low Carb Life in January 2006. Since then, I've read many low carb books and websites. One common story you read about is that of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Harvard anthropologist turned arctic explorer, who lived with the Eskimos for several years.

He observed that the Eskimos survived on a diet consisting almost entirely of meat (defining meat as all animal flesh, including fish). But he not only observed it, he lived it. He found himself living with the Eskimos and eating their diet. At first, it repulsed him. But over time, he came to prefer it. The remarkable thing is, these Eskimos were completely healthy. They did not have heart disease, cancer, dental cavities, or even scurvy.

When Stefansson returned to the U.S., he shared his findings with the medical community. Alas, most people didn't believe him. So he and a colleague agreed to a highly controlled experiment, wherein they would eat only meat for a year. They succeeded at this, while remaining perfectly healthy. Stefansson wrote about his experiences in a series of articles in Harpers Monthly in 1935. Still, the world paid only passing notice.

I read about Stefansson many times, and found it interesting. But it's only recently that I found the actual Harpers Monthly articles on the Internet. Reading about Stefansson is interesting, but actually reading his articles is utterly fascinating. Here is a first hand account of a man who lived an existence the rest of us can only imagine. And his observations about the medical orthodoxy of the time are just as timely now as they were in 1935. You get the impression that Stefansson thought his work would change the opinion of the medical establishment, and thus change the eating habits of Western civilization. Sadly, we know that his optimism, at least to date, was misplaced.

But at least one person was inspired by those old magazine articles: Me! In addition to my intermittent fasting schedule, I am going to strive to eat a very low carb diet. Mine will consist primarily of eggs and meat. I'm sure I will occasionally have some fruit, nuts and seeds, but the vast majority will be eggs and meat.

The beginning will surely be the hardest part. Stefansson's description of how people adapt to the diet is very interesting. The bottom line is, it's difficult at first, but easy after you're used to it. The "benefit" Stefansson and his men had was that they had no choice. It was either eat like the natives or starve to death. I'm going to have to resist eating other foods, even when they're abundantly available. Will I be able to do it?

In case you thought I was going to leave you hanging about where to find the Harpers Monthly articles, fear not. You can find the first one here, and then link to parts 2 and 3: Harpers Monthly Stefansson.

Enjoy the articles, and let me know what you think. Are you as inspired as I am?

Bon repos,
Tom

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Johnson Up Day Down Day (JUDDD) Diet Review

I have mentioned before the research done by Dr. James Johnson, author of The Alternate Day Diet. That's the title of the book, but on the Internet, it is known as the Johnson Up Day Down Day Diet (JUDDD diet). I suspect the publisher didn't like that title, and thus insisted on changing it for the book. From what I understand, authors do not have the final say when it comes to titles, unless the author is a proven best seller. Personally, I think "Up Day Down Day" is the perfect way to describe the diet, and they should have stuck with that.

The basic premise is to eat as much as you want one day--without intentionally overstuffing yourself--and to eat only 20% to 50% of your calories the next day. At least at first, Dr. Johnson suggests using canned protein drinks or other packaged foods on your down days, so you can be sure of the calories. The reason for the spread between 20% and 50% has to do with weight loss: If you have a lot to lose, go with 20%. If you've reached your goal and you're maintaining your weight, 50% is fine.

Dr. Johnson first got the idea from reading the mice studies on intermittent fasting (see list of sites on the right side of this page). Those studies involved mice on 24 hour on, 24 hour off fasting schedules, similar to mine. But Dr. Johnson, who had some weight to lose himself and always struggled with dieting, thought the idea of going 24 hours without food was insufferable. So he tried an experiment: What if you eat a little bit on the "down days," just to keep hunger at bay? Could you get similar results?

And lo and behold, he did. He lost weight, and several colleagues who tried it had improvements in various conditions such as asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and even menopausal hot flashes.

I heard about this last Fall (2008) and decided to give it a try. Keep in mind the purpose of this blog is to document my experience with alternate day water fasting, and I have commented before how easy I find it to do. Well, when I tried the JUDDD diet, I was absolutely miserable! I was hungry, cranky, and unable to concentrate. That experiment lasted about 3 days, and it was over.

The problem? As I look back, it was twofold: First, it is done on an every other calendar day basis. So, for example, you go to bed on Tuesday night, and you're restricted to 400 calories or so until Thursday morning (unless you're up at Midnight, which I'm typically not). So it's effectively 32 to 36 hours of "fasting." Second, eating a little bit makes me hungry for more. Whereas I find it quite easy to go completely without food, as soon as I start eating I suddenly get very hungry, and I can't seem to stop eating until I'm full.

So Dr. Johnson's theory that "taking the edge off" the hunger with small snacks will make the diet easier, works the complete opposite for me. I'm certainly not questioning the effectiveness of the diet. As a matter of fact, if you can follow it, it should work just fine. My problem is that I just can't follow it.

So if you can't seem to tolerate the 24 on, 24 off schedule I follow, maybe you're better suited to the JUDDD diet. Either way, the book, The Alternate Day Diet, is worth reading, and I encourage you to pick it up from Amazon, the bookstore, etc.

For more information about the JUDDD diet, go to http://www.johnsonupdaydowndaydiet.com/.

Bon repos,
Tom

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Hardee's Commercial- Bad Taste?

Fast food chain Hardee's has a way of creating controversey (and media coverage) with their racey TV commercials. Their newest one is no different. Apparently one of their large franchisees is refusing to run the ad, saying it's too offensive.

While I could never eat the biscuit holes, I do think the commercial is funny. Is it too much for TV? What do you think?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Maintaining My Weight

Well, it 's been just two weeks since I started my alternate day fasting routine. My biggest concern going in was that I would lose too much weight. At 6 feet even and 150 pounds at the start, I don't have any room to spare.

I'm happy to report that I am still checking in at 149 pounds as of this morning. Actually, I was at 150 yesterday morning. Granted, I have been making a concerted effort to eat as much as I can on the eating days. Even if I'm not hungry, I eat, just to get the calories in.

Take this evening for example. I knew I was going to start my fast at 6:00. So I went to a local buffet restaurant to eat, even though I wasn't particularly hungry. I planned on eating more than I did, but I estimate I got in 800 calories or so.

Most people who take up intermittent fasting do it to lose weight. And I don't see how it could not work. Even though I'm already thin, if I only ate when I was hungry, I would surely be losing weight. That's even though 150 pounds seems to be my "set point," the point where my body likes to be.

My next experiment is to test that theory. In other words, to eat only when I'm hungry on the eating days. Will I lose weight? I think so, but we'll have to see. All I need is the courage to try. I guess even if I do lose some weight, I should be able to gain it back by upping my calorie intake. For those of you who gain weight just by thinking about food, that may seem like a no brainer. But I don't gain weight easily. I'm hoping that my 150 pound set point theory is correct, and that I will be able to gain back to that point, even if I drop to 145 or so. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Another interesting note along those lines is the status of my appetite. I find that I'm hungry for that first meal at the end of my 24 hour fast, and I eat a larger than normal dinner. I also look for a small meal or good size snack a few hours later before bedtime. After that, my appetite returns pretty much to normal through the end of my 24 hour eating period. So by following my appetite and not eating just for the sake of getting calories in, I estimate that I might eat 25% to 50% more during those 24 hours than I would during a "normal" 24 hours (meaning if I wasn't IFing). So based on 2,000 calories per day, that would be 2,500 to 3,000. By contrast, for the last 2 weeks, I've been trying to get 4 to 5,000 calories in.

I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Bon repos,
Tom