Thursday, 21 March 2013

March 2013 - Where did 2012 go?

It's been a very long time since my last post, due to a variety of issues that I won't bore you with :)

2012 Results
This is slightly skewed because I started my fasting cycle in Feb(12) and finished it in Feb(13) but I'm calling this the 2012 results.

I successfully completed a year of weekly fasting. I fasted every week for at least 40 hours and sometimes substantially more. My longest fast of the year was 108 hours.

2013 Plans
I first read The 4 hour body while committed to my one year fasting regime, so put it down for future review. Over the Xmas period I picked it up again, and decided that this would be my next 1 year program.

As, I'm currently carrying excess weight my first plan is to start with the Slow Carb Diet (SCD), the idea of losing fat while doing no exercise is appealing to someone who spends a lot of time at a desk especially when my regular training has taken a big hit lately.

Using a template that one of the 4 Hour folks generated I have a one year weight loss spreadsheet that shows an ideal path along with upper and lower limits. I record my weight daily and track it against the projected plan.

For more details on the actual plan I refer you to the 4 Hour Body by Time Ferriss which you can find on Amazon and other bookstores.

Other changes
My interests have always been beyond just fasting, so I have a new project that I'll be launching soon that's in a similar vein to what I've been trying to do here.

Onwards and Upwards!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Alternate Daily Fasting - Status Update

It's been a while since my last post during which I have been experimenting with the ADF regime, I have found that for me a Feast/Fast paradigm doesn't work, or at least isn't working for me right now.

This realisation left me feeling a little torn, I like the concept and the framework for extending my fasting but found that for me the strength of this method for some was the source of the problem for me.

Once again this illustrates to me the need to be pragmatic and not dogmatic especially in matters as serious as your health, if you are following a regime that is not bringing you tangible benefits just because, then you need to look at this from another angle and get to a place where what you are doing is working, and working well.

As a brief recap, the idea between ADF is a feast/fast model. One day you feast (eat whatever you want), the next you eat low calorie diet. For a more detailed run through see my earlier posts.

For some people the fact that you get to eat every day, and that every other day you get to splurge is a great incentive to get them to reduce their total caloritic intake, and take a step forward to healthier living.

All sounds great doesn't it? And yet it just wasn't working for me, here's my breakdown of why:

Feasting days with no limits were too liberal, without an upper limit the possibility for abuse was too easy. Not that I ate excessively but I did eat a lot more than i normally would on a normal eating day, and the items that I tended to eat were not as nutritious. So I was eating more food of a lesser quality - Ouch!

Fasting days - were not real fast days (in my opinion) as they were not complete abstinence but a low calorie intake (1500 cals). I found these days harder than completely fasting, rather than getting the break from thinking about food (and the digestive overhead of processing it) I was spending time planning low calorie meals which results in a fixation on restriction - another negative.

And yet I still liked the idea of being able to extend fasting beyond my current 40/64 hour weekly fasts. In the end I came up with what I think is a workable solution, it's doing a 'real' ADF routine. There is a period of normal eating, and then a fasting (no food ) period, over a 2 week cycle it looks like this:

M  T  W  T  F  S  S
F   F   E   E  F  E  F
F   E   E   F  F  E  E

There are 3 periods of 2 days eating followed by two days fasting, and a 1 day fast / feed cycle. This results in the consumption of 1 weeks worth of food every 2 weeks, or more plainly it halves your intake and expenditure.

I am 2 weeks in so far and am finding it easier that the typical ADF routine, as I mentioned previously I will continue this until the end of year and see how I am doing at that point before planning my goals for next year.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Alternate Daily Fasting - Week 1

As I mentioned in the previous post I have decided to try Alternate Daily Fasting (see previous post for all the gory details), as part of this experiment I will post a weekly review discussing my experiences and the results.

Week 1 Weight loss
I record my weight every day but use my weight on a Saturday morning as the measure for week to week comparisons.

In week 1 I lost 1 lb, this was despite eating a diet that was considerably worse that my normal diet.

The inter day totals are interesting, if not really meaningful, the peak weight loss was 4.6 lbs, the peak weight gain was 0.6 lbs, and as mentioned previously the week on week today was -1 lb.

Week 1 Review
Although I am only doing one 100% fasting day a week, I have now added 3 partial fasting days which results in a greater caloritic deficit. The partial fasting days (500 calories) were more difficult than the pure fasting day, because of the pure fasting days I don't think about what I am going to consume (as there is no consumption), the partial days require thought and planning because there is consumption.

Week 2 Plan
After seeing that I still lost weight even after an excessive week I am interested to see what the totals will look like on a 'clean' week - this is the goal for week 2. Also, due to the nature of the 14 day cycle, in even weeks I end up with a partial fast day, 100% fast day, and another partial fast day in a row which should also provide greater weight loss.

Assessment of ADF
After one weeks experience my current feeling is that this would be a great regime for maintaining weight especially if you over indulge on the feed days. I will update this assessment each week taking into account the experiences of that week and hopefully at the end of the experiment will have some solid information on how this works for me (and hopefully might work for you).

Monday, 1 October 2012

A new phase

On the 29th September I decided to make a change to how I was conducting my weekly fasting regimen.  Since February I've been fasting for at least 24 hours every Monday, usually 40+ hour and some much longer but I was looking for an additional challenge and wanted to incorporate more fasting into my week.

After some thought and a bit of research I decided on Alternate Daily Fasting, the basic premise of this being that you work in a repeating cycle of 2 days. The first day is a fast day and the second is a feast day.

Fast Day
Fast day in this model doesn't mean complete abstinence from food, it means consuming about a fifth of your normal daily calories, ideally around lunch time.

Feast Day
Feast day means you get to eat whatever you want to eat, cake, chocolate, ice cream, whatever.

Again the idea is that you are unlikely to consume the calories you didn't consume on the fast day, on top of the calories you would normally consume on your feast day resulting in a net deficit in caloritic intake.

Running the numbers
Assuming that you normally consume 2500 calories a day this would result in a fast day allowance of 500 calories, lets also say that on your feast days you consume an extra 1000 calories. What does this end up looking like?

Using the every other day model it takes 2 weeks before you repeat the days on which you fast/feast, so using that as our cycle length:

7 Fasting days     * 500 calories =   3500
7 Feasting days * 3500 calories = 24500

For a grand total of 28000 calories in a 14 day period.

If you had stuck with your original 2500 calories a day over the same 14 day period, you would have consumed 14 * 2500 calories = 35000 calories

That equates to a deficit of 10500 calories over that period, or just over 2 lbs fat (assuming 1 lb fat - 3500 calories).

General thoughts
I see a lot of benefits for some people in this plan, you are eating every day and are only ever one day away from any cravings that you may have. There is also a sizable caloritic deficit that seems to be at a sustainable level.

My modifications
I do a complete fast on Mondays so over a 14 day period my numbers look like this:
2  100% fast days         *       0  calories =        0
6   fast days                  *   500  calories =   3000
6   feast days                * 3500  calories = 21000

For a grand total of 24000 calories in a 14 day period.

Using the same assumption of 2500 normal consumption this results in a deficit of 11000 calories, or a little short of 3 lbs of fat.

I also don't intend on consuming an extra 1000 calories on the feast days (at least not on every one), so that would result in even more savings.

Final thoughts
If the idea of not eating for a substantial period is not something you get excited about and you're looking for a gentle introduction to the fasting experience then this may be something worth trying.

I'll be following this program for the next couple of months (perhaps longer depending on how it goes) and reporting weekly on my experiences.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Fasting - What's stopping you?

Fasting seems to be getting a lot of press at the minute, some good and some bad. As the debate continues you may be hesitant to get started not knowing whether you should, or if its really worth it.

Here are some things to consider:

You already fast
Every night when you go to sleep, you stop eating (at least most of us do :)) and spend several hours without taking in food or water. Considering that you spend roughly a third of your life asleep, I would argue that your body is designed to handle long periods without eating / drinking.

When you are sick you stop wanting to eat
Depending on what is wrong with you, this isn't always the case, but it happens often enough to be of interest to a pragmatic faster. I believe this is your body wanting to preserve its energy to use in fighting off the ailment, rather than spend it on digestion of food. If at the time your body is most vulnerable it's quite happy to stop eating then this also seems significant to me.

Hunter Gatherers
If you consider a hunter gatherer community (ie they have no real food stores and have to find food each time they want to eat) then two ideas present themselves. The first is that there will be peaks and troughs in their food consumption. The second is that they exercise predominantly when in a fasting state. Must hunter gatherers are slim and capable of extended endurance especially when compared to those of us in the 'modern' world, whose exercise is very limited, and food is essentially an unlimited resource.

If you don't like it or don't get on with it - eat!
Fasting is one of those things that can be started and stopped at virtually any time, don't let the fear of a long fast put you off. Build up gradually, if you are not ready to start with skipping meals, push your meal time back gradually - give yourself time (and permission) to go at your own rate. If you commit to a fast and its too much (for whatever reason) just eat.

It may be that fasting is not for you, perhaps just now or ever, but how will you know if you don't try it?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Fasting and Food Appreciation

If there is one thing that I would wish for you to discover in your fasting experiences it's a heightened appreciation of food. This may seem like a strange thing to say as when we fast we stop consuming food, but its really a complementary concept.

Fasting has many benefits, it can reset your cravings both physically and mentally, it can help you distinguish between real and psychological craving, and bring you to a new understanding of yourself.

Food is something to be celebrated, it nourishes and sustains us, as you know I am very keen on organic food and home cooked meals. I believe in putting the very best (in nutritional terms) into my body and those of my loved ones.

Fasting can bring us to the realisation that eating is not a chore, we shouldn't eat because its 6pm or because we feel we should. Many cultures include prayers before eating, which I think is to bring us to a proper sense of reverence and gratitude before we eat and sustain.

We should eat when we are truly hungry, not because the boss shouted at us, or because the expected cheque (check) didn't turn up or because its raining - this is an abuse of food to my mind.

Eating should be a mindful process, an honouring of the food we consume (especially if its animal based), eating to live, not living to eat.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Fasting Frequency

Once we get into the flow with fasting, it's something that we can incorporate regularly into our busy lives. It's even something that you can start to look forward to (or maybe that's just me :) )

As I've mentioned before I think its very important to establish a solid base, and always end a fast feeling strong and knowing you could go longer. Not only does this apply to the duration of a single fast, but also to the frequency of fasts.

Let's say that you complete a 24 hour fast and feel great, so great in fact that you do another a couple of days later, or a week later, and that goes well too, so you decide to pursue a weekly schedule, and before you know it a month or two has passed.

This is really good and something that you should feel proud of, but you also need to be monitoring the fasts to ensure that you have the frequency set just right for you.

As an example, lets say you've been fasting daily (24 hours) for 3 months, and you are starting to notice that the fasts are becoming more problematic. As you've already 'proven' you can handle a daily fast you may be confused by what is going on - you may also be tempted just to force through (and thereby violate the finishing strong maxim).

What I believe is going on here, is that your body is experiencing some difficulties that need to be addressed prior to continuing on your fasting regime. Things to consider are:

  • Has your diet changed recently? (ie is it not as clean as it it was? are you using your fasting regime to justify bad choices?)
  • Are there any new stresses in your life? (changing jobs, new relationships, bills, etc)
  • Your willpower may be running low, I think that it is possible to consume willpower but also to regenerate it. There was an interesting article floating around on facebook a few weeks ago about how people who restrict things in their lives (ie in our case fasters) can suffer from a reduced ego which can lead to reduced will power.
  • Are your motivations for fasting now, the same as they were when you started? Are you still fasting because you want to, or because you are the skinny guy/girl at work who doesn't eat once a week? As pragmatic fasters we strive for self knowledge - be brutally honest with your self and use that to drive forward momentum.

So what's to be done?

Perhaps nothing, you may want to continue and see if this is just a blip

You may be 'done' if you had a certain goal that you've now met, or have got this weird fasting thing out of your system :)

You might consider taking a break for a while. Settle back into a 'normal' dietary routine for a while and see how you feel. If you find that you are really missing fasting, that's likely a good signal to start again (assuming you want to). If you find you are eager to start again to meet a goal, but are not looking forward to it - this may be a sign that you should leave it a while longer.

Ultimately, you have to be the one that takes responsibility for your fasting and for your health. If fasting is bringing you health and pleasure then why not continue it, if fasting is making you cranky, unhappy and hard to live with perhaps you need to relax your duration or frequency or perhaps stop for a while.

I've been fasting (on this particular cycle) since Feb 20th 2012 so about the 6 month mark, this is where I normally begin my introspective process, and start planning my goals for the next 6 months.
I have no idea (at this point) how long my fasts will tend to be, if I'll be doing any long (or longer fasts) or whether the experiences will change at all.

I will be paying attention to my body and looking for the signals that will help me fine tune as I move forwards.