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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Intermittent Fasting Is Helping My Rheumatoid Arthritis

I am absolutely convinced that my rheumatoid arthritis is caused by diet. Before starting alternate day fasting, I was already doing my best to eat a diet free from gluten, casein, and soy. Those three are the biggest triggers of symptoms for me.

Eliminating those allergens led to a substantial decrease in pain. I had been taking naprosyn (generic Alleve), and I switched to Tylenol when I eliminated gluten, casein and soy. But with intermittent fasting, I am taking no pain medication whatsoever. And the amazing part is, I stopped taking the medicine after just one day of fasting!

As I wrote about yesterday, asthmatics get relief from a less severe form of IF, and asthma is another disease related to inflammation. Others on IF have reported less pain and suffering from a variety of inflammation related conditions. So I guess it's no surprise that I would have this result, but it's still a surprise to me. I "hoped" it would get better, but I was pretty skeptical. So unless this is simply a placebo effect, and I start hurting again a month from now, I'm a believer.

None of this is to imply that I am "cured" or that I am totally without symptoms. I do still have some discomfort from time to time, but it's a 1 on a scale 1 to 10. Previously, without medicine, I would have been a 6 or 7. I do have some disfiguration in my right index finger, and that's not going to correct--the damage is done. But if I can keep the rest of my joints from being similarly afflicted, I will have accomplished a significant feat.

For the time being, I am still taking some medicine, though. I take the antibiotic minocycline (100 mg 2x per day). This has been shown to help those with RA, and it seems to help me. (This is a controversial claim amongst rheumatologists, and yours may not agree to prescribe it, though it is about as benign as a prescription medicine can be. There are several books on the subject. For more information, go to http://www.roadback.org/.) I would love to be able to stop taking it, but honestly, I'm afraid. I decided to stop taking it about 2 years ago, and within 6 months my index finger joint started being effected. I don't know if it was coincidence or cause and effect, but I really don't want to find out.

For sake of completeness, and so anyone else suffering with RA might benefit, I also take krill oil, which helps as well. I get it from Dr. Mercola's site http://products.mercola.com/krill/, but you can find it at health food stores as well. It's similar to fish oil, but it works better, and it doesn't give you those gross fish burps. I take 6 pills per day, which is 6,000 mg.

The rest of my supplemenation regimen consists of a once per day multi vitamin, Simply One for Men by Super Nutrition. I get it at Whole Foods Market; a calcium supplement, Country Life Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, 3 per day; and a probiotic, Country Life Power-Dophilus, 1 with each meal.

I do not take the supplements while I'm fasting. I take them with food. Since I eat every calendar day, I'm able to make it work.

I do take the minocycline while I'm fasting. It actually works best on an empty stomach, and it's so little, I don't expect it to hurt my fasting results enough to notice.

But I have been taking the supplements and the medicine for a long time. That alone is not enough. I want to repeat how amazed I am that within one day I felt good enough to stop taking pain medication. I'm fasting now and typing this, and I feel no pain in my hands (my hands and wrists is where 98% of my pain is locted). The way I see it, this is a cheap and easy way to get a significant reduction in pain. I do feel its important for me to stay away from gluten, casein and soy, though I have toyed with the idea of testing it now that I've gotten such good results from IF.

The bottom line is, intermittent fasting combined with a gluten, casein, and soy free diet seems to be a powerful combination.

Bon repos,
Tom

Monday, July 20, 2009

Intermittent Fasting is a Natural, Effective Treatment for Asthma

Dr. James Johnson wrote the book, The Alternate Day Diet. His website (link on the right side of this page) calls it the Up Day Down Day Diet.

His regimen is different from mine. He alternates calendar days, eating as much as you want one day, and 20% to 50% of your maintenance calories the next. I'll post my experience with his method later, but for now I want to focus on his results with treating asthma patients. The following is from his website (http://www.johnsonupdaydowndaydiet.com/html/diet-science.html#the-asthma-study):

The Asthma Study

Dr. Johnson conducted the first study that examined the ability of alternate-day calorie restriction to treat symptoms of disease in humans. He selected asthma because it is associated with obesity and inflammation, and its symptoms are very easy to observe and monitor. Twenty overweight people with asthma were chosen to participate in the study. Every other day, they were allowed to eat as they normally would, and on alternate days they were instructed to consume no more than 20 percent of their normal caloric intake. Only one person was not able to comply with the diet. At the end of the eight-week study, the participants had lost, on average, about 8 percent of their initial body weight. They all experienced a drastic improvement in their asthma symptoms as well as increased energy. In addition, their nitrotyrosine levels, a measure of oxidative stress and an indicator of heart disease, decreased by 90 percent, and their levels of TN-alpha, a marker of inflammation, were reduced by two-thirds.


By demonstrating the anti-inflammatory effect of alternate-day calorie restriction on asthma sufferers, Dr. Johnson believes that this diet has the potential to have profound effects on other diseases associated with inflammation and aging, including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's.


The asthma study also showed that many of the health benefits of alternate-day dieting take effect in a very short period of time. Although the study lasted eight weeks, most of the improvement took place in the first two to three weeks of the study. Dr. Johnson believes that the SIRT1 gene is the reason why the diet is so effective, and SIRT1 levels are increased very quickly after the gene is activated.


In his book, The Alternate Day Diet, Dr. Johnson devotes chapter 4 to this study, and gives the actual measurable, clinical results. It's amazing, really. Who would have thought you could achieve a near complete remission in symptoms, with no medication? But that is essentially what happened, simply by restricting the patients' food intake every other day.

Even for those of us without asthma, the inflammation reducing effects of alternate day fasting can have profound effects. In my own case, it's rheumatoid arthritis I struggle with, and in my next post I'll talk about the effects of IF so far in my effort to beat this disease.

Bon repos,
Tom

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Intermittent Fasting is Soooooo Easy!

I've just passed the 19 hour mark of today's 24 hour water only fast. It is remarkable to me how easy it is. I'm not hungry in the slightest.

I actually find the fasting periods to be much easier than the eating ones. How so? Because when I'm eating, I'm constantly thinking/worried about getting enough calories (remember, I'm thin). So I end up forcing myself to eat, even though I'm not very hungry. That causes a certain amount of stress.

By contrast, when I'm fasting, I have no worries. I have more time, spend less money, and less stress.

Don't get me wrong: That first meal after the fast is always a good one, no matter what it consists of. I usually start to feel a little hunger around hour 21 or 22. So by the time I eat, I'm ready, and it tastes good.

Perhaps as I get further along this journey, I will stop worrying about getting enough calories, and just eat when I want to during my eating days. As long as my weight stays at a reasonable level, that would be the ideal.

Interestingly, others have tried this 24/24 style of alternate day fasting, and have had a very difficult time with it. One popular low carb blogger, Jimmy Moore, tried it and absolutely hated it. He found himself ravenously hungry, grouchy, unable to concentrate, and he completely gorged himself when he finally got to eat. See his comments here http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/trying-out-dr-mike-eades-intermittent-fasting-concept-episode-67/.

I'm not sure if Jimmy just didn't give it enough time, or if it's just proof of the expression you often see on internet boards related to diet: YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Bon repos,
Tom

Eat "Whatever You Want" With Intermittent Fasting?

I mentioned previously that I got the idea to try alternate day fasting from reading about it on Dr. Michael Eades' blog. He presented it as a way to eat "whatever you want" on the eating days, and to just have water (he also mentioned zero calorie beverages) on the fasting days. This could be a ticket, he said, to all the benefits of calorie restriction, without the constant deprivation.

Similarly, Dr. James B. Johnson wrote a book called "The Alternate Day Diet," where he describes an every other day fasting regime where you can eat "whatever you want" on the "up" days, as he calls them. You then eat 20% to 50% of your maintenance calories on the down days.

Dr. Bert Herring wrote "Fast-5," an intermittent fasting plan where you fast for 19 hours every day, and eat during a 5 hour "window." He also says no foods are off limits.

I've heard others echo this same theme: "How would you like a diet where you can eat as much as you want of whatever you want, and still lose weight, improve your health, and even live longer?"

Are these claims legitimate?

When you read these programs more closely, of course, they hedge themselves. Eades says that it's really best to go low carb on your eating days. Johnson suggests a "healthy" diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, essential fats and adequate protein. Herring counsels you on how to keep from getting too many calories in your 5 hours a day of eating.

Common sense, and my admittedly brief foray into this way of eating, tells me that you should not eat anything and everything. Crap is still crap. As a matter of fact, I've even seen it called IFOC, which stands for "intermittent fasting on crap," or alternatively, "intermittent fasting on carbs."

If health is your goal, you still should be eating good healthy food. That means getting adequate amounts of the essential fats and amino acids (protein), as well as the vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that keep us going. And since you're only eating half the time, it may be even more necessary to make sure you're getting what you need.

So where did this idea that you can eat whatever you want come from? I can only speculate, but I think it's primarily from two places: First, there could be some confusion in language. Some people say "whatever you want" when they really mean "as much as you want." And on intermittent fasting, you can have as much as you want on the feeding days, but I contend it should be of healthy food. "As much as you want" of ice cream, cookies, cake and beer, is not going to lead to good health.

Second, the animal studies have shown that alternate day fasting activates the SIRT1 gene, which is called the "survival gene" or "rescue gene." Many scientists believe this gene is responsible for the positive, life and health extending benefits of daily caloric restriction. And since the gene is also activated by IF, people believe you can eat whatever you want, and the SIRT1 gene will protect you from the ill effects of junk food.

That's a nice theory, but do you literally want to bet your life on it? I do believe the gene is activated by IF--that's one of the reasons I'm doing it in the first place. But eating junk food is only going to make your body work that much harder. And if you're not getting the nutrients you need, and if the junk food is attacking your cells while your survival genes are trying to protect them, how far ahead of the game are you likely to get?

And another thing: The mice and other animals in those IF studies are not eating junk food. They're eating the same Purina Mouse Chow (or whatever) that the control mice are eating. That chow has been formulated to provide the mice with all the nutrients they need, in the proportion they need them. So if you want similar results, you should primarily be eating food designed to make you healthy. What is that? Real, whole foods. Namely: Meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

In defense of the good doctors who wrote the aforementioned books and blogs, there could be a psychological component to their promise of eating "whatever you want." I mentioned in a previous post that I initially took the program as a license to eat junk. Fortunately, my tastes and preferences are changing, and I'm desiring less and less junk food. Maybe the doctors know this. So they lure you in with a very appealing concept: "Eat as much as you want of whatever you want--even junk food!" Then, when you actually get on the program, after an initial period of gorging on every decadent treat you can think of, your tastes and preferences change, and you end up eating a healthy diet after all. Maybe the doctors aren't as dumb as we think.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food Preferences Changing

I've only been doing alternate day fasting for 9 days, but I'm noticing my food preferences are changing. I have to admit, at first I saw this as a license to eat anything I wanted. And I did. Eating candy, french fries, corn chips and potato chips, along with more healthy fare.

Now I'm noticing that my desire for those junk foods is decreasing drastically. It may be because I was already eating a mostly paleolithic type diet before I started intermittent fasting. But even my desire for Diet Dr. Pepper, which used to be my favorite "cheat," is going away. I'd rather have water. I also seem to have less taste for carbs in general.

And in case you're not up on the research, it's been known literally for decades that carbohydrates are what cause obesity and Type II diabetes. The fact that this is even debated, and that Dr. Atkins was ripped to shreds by the medical establishment, is a travesty. The science was documented expertly by Gary Taubes in his book, Good Calories Bad Calories. The book is a must read for anyone serious about the link between health and nutrition.

So my new found penchant for healthy, low carb food is a definite benefit of ADF. I look forward to seeing what other effects come about.

Bon repos,
Tom

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fasting Tonight- I Love It!

My alternate day fasting schedule is 6:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Last night (Wednesday), I was not able to eat until about 6:30. That turned out to be fortunate, because I was at a business/social engagement until 6:00 tonight. The last time I had eaten was at 3:30. So I stopped at Whole Foods and grabbed a bite to eat from their food bar. I was finished before 6:30, so I maintained the 24 hour cycle. Tomorrow, I will not eat again until 6:30 or later. Then I'll get back to 6:00 on Saturday night, when I start fasting again.

I find that I really like the fasting part of my 24/24 schedule. I know it's only been a few hours, but I already feel better. And I guarantee I will wake up early tomorrow, alert and ready to go. I've definitely noticed a reduced need for sleep in the short time I've been practicing intermittent fasting.

It is a bit awkward, though, when you're at a function where everyone is eating. I was at a neighborhood get together tonight, where there was lots of food, and they kept inviting me to eat. Despite the fact that I write this blog, I am not comfortable telling people face to face what I am doing. I find that people think you're trying to "show them up" by telling them how you're fasting for health, or even that you're avoiding junk food or whatever. The truth is, I could care less what other people eat, and I don't try to convince anyone to do things my way. If they ask me with genuine interest, I am happy to share, but I'm not going to force anything on anyone. So I don't tell people what I'm doing. If I just don't eat and keep quiet about why, they might think it's a bit odd, but they'll quickly forget about it.

I also cannot have gluten or casein, because it affects my rheumatoid arthritis, and most foods at these social events have one or both of those. So if someone really pushes me, I can just explain that I'm "allergic," and that usually gets them to let it go. So I just drink my water, and enjoy the conversation.

It's somewhat humorous to hear all the people talking about their diabetes, claudication and heart problems. All the while, they're eating this high sugar, high carb, junk food! Again, I could care less what they eat, but complaining about diabetes (excess sugar in the blood) while eating pure carbohydrate (sugar) just strikes me as completely nuts. You don't have to be a rocket surgeon to figure out that people with a sugar metabolism problem shouldn't be eating sugar, at least not if they want to get better. Dr. Richard Bernstein has proven this both with himself, as a Type I diabetic, and with thousands of diabetic patients (Types I and II). If you haven't read his work, I encourage you to do so, especially if you or someone you love is diabetic. Check him out at http://www.diabetes-book.com/.

Speaking of diabetes, one of the reported benefits of IF is an improvement in insulin sensitivity, and thus a reduction in the likelihood of getting Type II diabetes. If you're a Type I diabetic, however, you should definitely check with your doctor before even thinking about fasting. I'd love to hear Dr. Bernstein's opinion on the subject. I'll see if I can get him to answer that question on one of the regular free conference calls he does.

Keep checking this blog for more updates on my progress, as well as (hopefully) interesting information on diet and health.

Bon repos,
Tom

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Journey Begins (A Week Later)

I should probably start by mentioning that I am not a heavy person. Quite the contrary. I'm a 44 year old man who stands 6 ft 0 in and weighed 150 pounds when I began this little experiment (weight was first thing in the morning in my skivvies). So I'm hardly a candidate for a weight reducing diet.

So why am I starting this journey of alternate day fasting (ADF)? Primarily for good health, and secondarily for possible longevity.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, and one of the many reported benefits of ADF is a decrease in inflammation. Having been at this for one week already, I can report that the decrease in inflammation is real. More about that in a later post.

This is also supposed to make us live longer, much like calorie restriction (CR), or maybe because of calorie restriction. There is an ongoing debate about whether it's intermittent fasting (IF) per se or the concomittant calorie restriction that accounts for the animal studies showing increased lifespan in animals put on an every other day (EOD) eating schedule.

In case you're not aware, calorie restriction (eating every day, but restricting calories by 30% to 40%) is the only thing ever found that extends the life of every animal it's ever been tested on. And it's been tested on plenty of animals since the 1930s. Rhesus monkey trials are well under way, and even humans are being studied. No definitive results from those studies yet, but it looks good so far, based on lab tests and incidence of disease. Interestingly, no one knows for sure why CR extends life, though there is plenty of speculation and continuing research.

Some people tout ADF as a way to eat just as many calories as someone who eats a normal diet every day, while still getting the health benefits of CR. Presumably they would do this by eating twice as much on the days they eat, making up for the lack of calories while fasting. At the same time, fasting would activate whatever "survival gene" or mechanism there is that makes CR so effective. More on that later, too.

For now, I'll lay out what I'm doing and how I'm doing it: I have a 6:00PM cutoff time. That's when my 24 hour period begins and ends. So today is Wednesday. I was fasting until 6:00 tonight. Since 6:00, I've been able to eat as much as I want. That will continue until tomorrow (Thursday) night at 6:00. Then I will be on water only until 6:00 Friday evening.

Choosing 6:00PM makes this routine psychologically easy. Why? Because I get to eat as much as I want every calendar day. How so? Well, today, Wednesday, I get to eat as much as I want, as long as it's after 6:00PM. Tomorrow, Thursday, I get to eat as much as I want, as long as it's before 6:00PM. Friday, after 6:00. Saturday, before 6:00, and so on. So even if I'm hungry, I always know I will get to eat later today, and that I can eat as much as I want. Piece of cake (pun intended).

And, Yes, I only have water when I'm fasting (and medicine, which is minimal). I don't do coffee, diet soda, tea, sugar-free gum, etc. While those technically have no calories, I'm concerned that they may nevertheless trigger an insulin response, and insulin is one of the main things we're trying to minimize by fasting. Others believe it's only calories that count, so anything calorie-free is fair game for them. That's fine, but the mice in the studies weren't drinking Diet Coke, so I'm not going to either. To each his own.

I should give credit where credit is due, and mention that I got this idea from a blog post by Dr. Michael Eades, the low carb guru and bestselling author of Protein Power. Read it here http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/intermittent-fasting/fast-way-to-better-health/.

But before you get too excited, you should read his follow up post, where he backtracked http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/03/03/real-life-extension-caloric-restriction-or-intermittent-fasting-part-2/. He has since changed his mind somewhat again, and thinks there is some benefit to IF. I'll let you know when he writes more, as he certainly will, since this is by far the most popular post he has ever written, generating tons of comments and questions.

Stay tuned. I'll be sharing much more about my own experiences with ADF and other dietary experiments, as well as the latest research.

Bon repos,
Tom