Monday, April 24, 2017

30 Day's of Intermittent Fasting: Beginning

In the previous two posts I discussed some health issues and information that I'd been working through and within those writings, I discussed the idea of trying intermittent fasting.  The idea was not just to lose weight, though I won't lie that would certainly be nice, but to build upon and push into further it because I'd already noticed it seemed to make me feel better.  Writing this, I'm about 11 hours into my first day,  I'm unsure if I've planned this exactly correctly since I'm admittedly not doing this with no supervision but I did discuss is briefly with my Dr who didn't see an issues with trying it...though to be frank, I didn't have the impression that she knows all that much about the subject either so if you follow me on this journey or this leads you to further research and try yourself, please, please, please do yourself a favor and speak to a professional before beginning. For many people, not eating regularly can cause issues and the last thing I want is for someone to do anything unhealthy because of what they read here.  That would, you know, be 100% the opposite of my intent when I switched the premise of The Simple Things.

I think the obvious question from some will be, why would I choose to try this?  If you haven't read the previous posts, I generally feel good when I fast whether it's been done intentionally or unintentionally.  That's not to say there are not times when it didn't suck because there have been.  There have been occasions when I've fasted and then eaten half the food in the house when it was over.  Clearly, that's not the best idea (those were generally fasts in the 20 plus hour range.)  I tried the, Master Cleanse once.  I made it three days on little food and the nasty "lemonade" you're supposed to drink and frankly, I think it'd be easier just to avoid food all together rather than do it their way again.  Oh, and if you can't tell I don't recommend trying it.  I'm sure there are others elsewhere who'll stand by it but my ass isn't one of them.  A second reason I want to try this is because for me, fasting generally isn't that difficult.  Will there be days when I'll be itching to eat before my window opens?  No doubt but for me missing meals isn't the hard part.  Where I have problems much of the time is stopping after I begin eating.  That's when things get dangerous for me.  I'll binge if I'm not careful, and that's not necessarily because I'm post fast.  I have an admitted unhealthy relationship with food and yes, fasting could possibly be a coping mechanism for dealing with it though I don't know for sure. That's best left up to someone with more knowledge on the subject than I.

I'm also not doing this on a whim.  This has been something I've been thinking about for over a month and during that time I've played with it a little day to day.  It's already shown some clear benefits weight wise and I've also felt better overall, other than days I've eaten things I shouldn't (coming back to this shortly).  As such I've laid out some parameters to follow:

  1. Keep a Food Journal :  I've tried this more than once with limited success, mostly because I'll miss a day or two and then it all falls apart.  However, when I've tried it previously it was by using an app on my phone, which I'm currently unable to do because I don't have the available storage.  So it's currently back to pen and paper, which I honestly don't mind because I'm weird like that. Additionally, I'm planning this initial fast for 30 days.  By planning a beginning and an end, I believe that mentally I wont fall into that "constant diet" mentality that becomes so emotionally wearing over time and thus will have a much easier time maintaining consistency.
  2. Plan Workouts for Eating Hours:  Last week I did a training session at the end of a 20 hour fast as research.  It sucked, and I'm not just talking about doing it while hungry.  The session itself sucked.  My numbers were down, I was in a constant fight to continue, the further in the more I yawned (which I'm coming to believe is a sign of nutrient deficiency for me), and simply put, I felt heavy all over.  I suspected that it wouldn't be a good workout but it was one of those things I wanted to experience for myself and I did.  While I can't say it'll never happen again, going forward I'm hoping planning ahead will help me avoid it.
  3. Daily Plan:  It would be much easier if I could just say today that from 9pm to 9am I'm going to fast daily for the next 30 days.  Unfortunately, that's not going to work because I work a couple overnight shifts per week and that must be taken into account.  And it's not just those days, it's the day prior and the day after because unfortunately, at least for the time being, I'm struggling to move to a consistent night schedule and my days and nights are in a constant rotational flux.  Common for night shifter's from my understanding and something that must be considered.  In order to do this, there are days when my fasts will be extended or my eating hours will be cut to adjust but I'm not too concerned honestly.  Some hunger pangs may arise here and there but that's to be expected regardless.
  4. Two Weeks of 12, Two of 14:  That's fasting time.  From some research it seems that many people, at least once they're into it for a bit, have an 8-10 hour daily window for eating.  To begin, I decided to extend it a couple hours to increase the likely hood of continuing.  Basically I want to set the stage for some mental and moral victories before moving on so that's what I'm going to do.  The first two weeks's I'll have a daily 12 hour window in which to eat (9 am to 9 pm today for example).  The last two weeks, I'm going to cut it to 10 eating, 14 fasting.  Who knows, I may find it unbearable and move back to 12 and 12 but I won't know until I try it.  For now though, this is the plan and as I'll be updating periodically, I'll let you know how it works out.
  5. Food Experimentation:  I'm going to be playing with and trying some different foods throughout. This kind of goes with tracking but some things I'll be consuming expressly to find out how my body reacts. I've been dealing with some, what I believe to be, gut issues, for awhile and because I'll already be tracking, this is the perfect opportunity for me try and find what my body is processing well and what it isn't.  I already know things like milk, mayo, and creamy dressings are a no go and believe that white pasta is as well but how is my body processing bread?  How's it working with crackers? Are there certain veggies I feel better eating over others?  This are a few of the questions I'm hoping to answer.  30 days may not be enough time to answer everything but my hope is that it puts me on the right track.
  6. Food Tracking: While I'm planning to track my food and keep accounts of the physical feelings, I have no plans to limit what I eat nor get deep into tracking specific nutrients like micro and macro's at this time. My current focus is on the fasting potion as well as doing the food experimentation.  Getting deeper into the nutritional portion may happen at a later date but that's not my intent here.  It may and likely happen some because hammering down Cheezits and Snickers is clearly unhealthy but I won't be getting to the end of any days and worrying about whether I hit protein or carb goals.  While definitely valuable I'm afraid attempting to do to much at once will increase the likelihood of failure. I'm going to eat during my hours, see what happens, and adjust accordingly. If nothing else, this will give me a good baseline for further adjustments later.    
  7. Imperatives:  Imperatives are the things I believe must be done daily in order to get the most out of this process; physical, mentally, and research wise.  I could be missing a few and reserve the right to add: 
      • Accurate Daily Journaling
      • Drink 1/2 body weight (150 oz est) in ounces of water daily
      • 3 cups of vegetables.  Recommend daily is 2 1/2 but I'm a big guy and it can't hurt.
      • Eat kimchi daily.  Recommended for gut health and it's delicious to boot.
      • Fish oil.  Easiest way other than eating to get omega 3's is to simply take it in oil form.
      • Daily vitamins.  Multi, Vitamin D, Garlic.  May add more eventually.
So this is where I'm at thus far.  I feel like my plan is fairly solid but I could be wrong and thus it's subject to change.  I'll try and document as best I can, both successes and failures.  By the end I'm hoping to have an accurate account of my experience.  I weighed in at 296.8 lbs this morning which is actually down from a high at one point of 317 lb and I took some mediocre before and after pictures to insure I had some kind of visual account. Weight will, of course, only be a single measure of how successful this is but it's a tangible one that people understand.  Wish me luck and feel free to ask questions!        

Monday, April 17, 2017

Rough Week Part 2

The previous post covered my getting sick and how I related that to both the need to take the next step in training and nutrition as well as discussing the potential means and processes I'm looking at undertaking to advance my physical well-being.  I also mentioned that it wasn't just the illness that had begun my thinking, it was a rough visit to the doctor's office.  The news was not unexpected but just the same, when preventable medical issues are discussed as a result of your physical (un)well being, there are only two real roads to take; acceptance or change.

Before I go any further, nothing I'm going to discuss pertains to an immediate death or anything along those lines.  Of course, I can't say that it's impossible because medical problems arise from nowhere all the time, but nothing the doctor and I covered concerned the presentation of immediate issues for me.  However, at 34 years old the standards of my visits are also changing.  I remember 20 years ago when the most pressing question was whether it was an appointment that required dropping trough and turning my head to cough. Now I'm only a few years away from bending over the table on a semi regular basis so the doctor can use his digits to check my colon health.  While I'm not quite at that level yet, there are certainly more conversations revolving around my diet and exercise patterns.  There have been more discussions regarding regular blood work and physical testing.  There are potential neurological exams in my future (result of repeated head trauma, not age necessarily).  Gone are the days when, "it's OK now but if you don't make changes it won't be" because that future has arrived and according to the awesome lady I met with the other day, not changing now means I'll be starting the medication train soon, likely within a year.

Funny until it's not.
As I mentioned, my appointment the other day was not very good. I'd originally gone in for what I believed to be an inner ear infection that I hadn't been able to get rid of.  It was having side effects that were annoying as hell and I both wanted and needed it gone.  That part of the appointment was relatively quick but as it was a new provider, she wanted to cover some information in my chart.  That was when she revealed I'm borderline diabetic.  I knew I was close but the previous doctor told me I was still within the normal range and not to be too concerned.  (Not long following the initial testing I had my accident last summer so even though I wanted to jump into making immediate corrections, it was not possible)  While technically true, this nice lady actually gave me the damn truth and informed me about how close I really am. It wasn't wholly surprising but for some reason it clicked much louder to hear it from someone who makes their life's work to study such things.  She was no bullshit in our discussion and I appreciated it.  She also checked my legs and while it was not definitive, she also mentioned there's a good possibility that I'm on the verge of developing gout as well, which Google defines as,"a disease in which defective metabolism of uric acid causes arthritis, especially in the smaller bones of the feet, deposition of chalkstones, and episodes of acute pain."  A further breakdown is available here but basically it's a whole lot of preventable pain.  Sounds like a good time doesn't it?

Fortunately, there is good news.  Nothing thus far is irreversible.  My blood pressure is generally good, coming in at 120/80 90% of the time.  (It was off the other day but as I mentioned, I was on the verge of this illness hitting full bore).  I'm active and getting more so as my head and the weather have improved.  My knowledge of things fitness and nutrition is advancing daily.  I've fully acknowledged that I can't continue to walk around at 300 plus pounds without repercussions for much longer (more to come on THIS topic later) and I'm going to have to make serious changes if I want to be around for the long haul. I've also acknowledged that I do NOT have a good relationship with food and perhaps never will and it's going to be necessary for me to find ways to insure that I'm eating more for health than pleasure.  Following the 80/20 rule is probably a good place to start for me.  What's the 80/20 rule?  It's the idea if one eats healthy 80% of the time while allowing for some indulgences 20% of the time, weight will not only be lost but maintained once the desired loss results are achieved.  Of course, I'm planning to be stricter than that but having some leeway if you go out to dinner or a birthday party, things along those lines, will mentally provide me with the necessary mindset to continue working towards my goals without building frustrations.  Essentially, I'm trying to set myself up for as much success as possible while reducing the chance of mental fatigue.  As mentioned in the previous post I'm also planning to continue studying and incorporating more fasting into daily life because it makes me feel good.  There are also a lot of foods I'll be looking at eliminating because it's become apparent how they affect not just my health, but my daily energy and mind function.  

I got really hungry searching for this picture..
There are many things to learn and many things to try.  Sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a little difficult but there is much information available to help if you know where to look.  I'm currently putting together another entry that will give some names and sites I frequent for questions and education that I'm hoping will be posted in the next month.  However, I think a good place to begin for many people is to simply question ones self about whether they believe the choices they're making are good ones.  Some are easy; should I have the piece of cake or the fruit salad.  Others are more difficult; should I have the baked chicken or the steamed fish.  (Seriously, if you're a beginner and not working with a dietitian or other nutrition professional, just pat yourself on the back for making those your two choices.)  When you get to the point of counting nutrients those decisions will become much more clear but if you're reading this post, my assumption is you're not there yet and frankly, neither am I.  Making large changes is a process and you're not going to figure everything out in a day, not matter what the 3 AM infomercials tell you.  Check in with your Dr, sign up with a nutrition professional, find a plan you think will work for you, or even create your own if you think you can, and work to follow it.  Admit to yourself when you fail and then continue moving forward.  The journey will be long and arduous but you, and me too, will be better for it in the long run.  
One meal, One day, One month, One year at a time, we improve.

Please feel free to comment with your weight or health journey, no matter where you are on it.  I'm hoping to revisit this post a year from now to see where myself, and perhaps others are in the process.          


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rough Week Part 1

For a host of reasons, the past couple weeks have been a bit rough.  While I'm not going to get into everything that's taken place, there were two events worth mentioning here.  The first is a less than stellar appointment at the Dr's office a week ago.  The second is the reason that appointment was necessary in the first place; the beginning stages of the worst cold I've had in years.  The Dr visit and following may be a little more in-depth so I'll come back to that; plus at the moment the cold is front of mind seeing as how I'm still fighting it.

Boy, I miss dairy..
There are a variety of reasons one can get sick.  Sure, it generally comes down to some bug that's in the air or spread though direct contact but many are preventable if we work at keeping our immune system strong. One way to do that is through diet, exercise, and recovery (see how I brought that around?)  I managed to get two good lift days and a light cardio day in last week but the reality is my diet hasn't been as quality or as strict as it should be and adding in more weekly training days is past due.  It's true that I've taken steps to change; the addition of regular servings of greens and avocado as well as monitoring my evening snacks, but the reality is those were simply OK first steps and it's time to take the next.  What exactly that's going to be I'm unsure.  Clearly, insuring that I'm not consuming more calories than I'm expending is most important but I'm also at the point where my desire to understand not just how certain foods react when ingested, but how they react to MY specific body when ingested.  As an example; I can no longer consume much in the way of dairy without side effects so I've basically cut out milk and cheese all together.  I still have small amounts of butter but when it comes to other dairy I either don't touch it or on special occasions I do so with the acknowledgement there will be consequences (Sweet Frog can be sooo worth is, no lie).  What I'm thinking about doing now is trying to figure out and understand if there are other foods that affect me, positively or negatively, as clearly as dairy, that I've either never noticed or ignored.  How do I feel after eating red meat? How do I feel after eating chicken or fish?  Sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes?  Kale vs spinach? There may be no discernible difference between some or any of these without further testing but I'm not going to know until I try.  It will also have the added benefit of keeping the subject of nutrition interesting for me, something that's never happened.

Another addition I'm contemplating is intermittent fasting.  Now, it seems as though there is a lot of debate surrounding this particular subject (as there seems to be with most things nutrition and training) and I honestly do not know enough about the science to debate or even discuss the truths and falsehoods.  My consideration of the idea has absolutely nothing to do with fast weight loss or joining a fad. Instead, it comes from personal experience.  I have a tendency to skip meals throughout the day and then eat too much in the evening; unfortunately a not uncommon trait, especially among the overweight.  It's a trait I'm much more aware of now and as such, a situation I try to avoid.  However, I've also found that if I can fast for anything over 15 hours, I feel great.  I mean, I feel really, really great!  I've mentioned to my wife on numerous occasions how aware and full of energy I feel when I get into the late hours of fasting, whether done intentionally or not.  It's an idea that I plan to further research because clearly I don't wish to kill my training sessions before I even put my shoes on but it;s also something I believe could have benefits not just in the weight loss department but on other health factors as well.

Maine Sunshine feels wonderful but doesn't provide everything needed.

Together with monitoring and fasting, I'm also looking at specific foods I need to consume nutrient wise as well as additional supplementation.  Now, when it comes to supplements consideration of their name should be a good indicator that they're not made to sustain (though I don't think everyone understands that) but to, "supplement" ones diet.  Currently I take a multi because I don't consume all the vitamins and minerals I should in my diet and I take Vitamin D because I'm on the low side, which I was informed is not abnormal for people who live this far north due to the limited sun and sun strength.  I'm looking to add some additional supplements such as garlic for my immune system (I generally take it during cough and cold season and was NOT on it when I caught the current nastiness) and a probiotic because I'm pretty sure my gut bacteria is off. However, I have no plans to take anything without some indicator that there are benefits for doing so. Marketing hocus pocus, "testimonials" and branding are NOT going to work in this house because there's more than enough information available to make informed decisions.

So here are some examples of where and how I'm planning to further my diet and nutrition plans.  They may not be perfect but what's kind of exciting for me is the idea that I'm not just following a plan because I'm being told to but that I actually feel as though I'm gaining some understanding of what and how my body is reacting to and processing the food I feed it with.  For me that's an important part of not just being on a diet but of creating life changes.  And they're going to be needed sooner rather than later because after my visit with the doctor a week ago, it was made clear that consequences for not altering my life style are fast approaching.