Thursday, October 21

Intermittant Sanity

When I first began serious lowcarb -- devoid of much info about nutrition or what ought to qualify as 'real food' vs. 'that will probably kill you too' but at least it was low on carbohydrates -- I wanted to try Intermittant Fasting.

I had protein requirements, at the time. As I mentioned in Don't Have A Cow, Man!, they were pretty significant. And as I sadly concluded in IF only I could do IF and still get enough protein, it just wasn't working for me trying to do "induction" and at the same time get "enough" nutrients and at the same time only eat once a day.

Over the last few years I've been through so many variants I'm totally losing track. High protein! High fat! Carb Cycling! VLC! ZC! LC with fruit! with grains! with legumes! Go Team Go!

All of these work for people. Nearly every imaginable variant of eating plan appears to be working for at least someone, and often many someones, and often those someones have lost a LOT of weight and have kept it off a long time and their health markers are great -- so who can argue with success?

Yet I think it's safe to say if any of those truly worked for me in the LONG run, I'd be somewhere different today. Well, wait. I don't mean that I've been perfect with something and it failed -- that wouldn't be fair to say, ok, I utterly suck as the poster child for "consistency" when it comes to good eating, and I cannot fairly represent ANY eating plan as a result. But clearly nothing was eternally right for me.

SOME of these things like mostly-meat/eggs/cheese VLC worked really *well* for a period of time at least. I felt fantastic on VLC and lost a lot of weight and felt strong and everything was just rocking. Until suddenly I didn't feel ok let alone good anymore, and couldn't do it at all without my body feeling like if I didn't eat carbs within minutes it would be a disaster.

Weight lifting would stop abruptly, mid-move, when my body suddenly said my battery was on E, although sometimes it would stop and I would burst into tears, feeling literally panicked. I honestly thought I had some inexplicable emotional problem for awhile. I searched for any possible internal emotion to connect to that, and of course, I found it -- see, confirmation bias works in psychology not just science! Hey, this super-morbidly-obese person DOES have a few things that cause them great emotion related to their body; gee, who knew? (Oh brother.)

I finally realized this was my body's reaction to a sense of huge immediate crisis, I mean perceived as nearly life and death. Maybe in the wild of history when we were running from that predator once upon a time, it really WAS that degree of issue: find a solution within 10 seconds or you'll die from your body, never mind the tiger.

I tend to ignore my body. I'm sure that is somehow related to my size, or maybe that gradually caused it. I tend to put off eating, even peeing, or even realizing I have some kind of ache or pain, until it is SO severe it's ridiculous. Whatever I am doing, I am utterly focused on that, and if that is my plan (write code for this file, lift this weight), almost nothing else even comes into my conscious awareness if it does not support that goal. If I am actually trying to do something "despite anything else" that's even more pronounced. My kid will walk into my room and say, "Mom, you're bouncing. Go pee!" I won't have even NOTICED if I'm doing something that takes focus.

So that means I ignored the feelings of growing panic when I was lifting and abruptly ran TOTALLY out of energy, and finally I burst into tears, which DID get my attention and make me stop!

It was at least a year before I realized that I should have recognized this pattern. When I was a kid, my dad (just a little passive/aggressive) used to tickle me, and I'd beg him to stop and he wouldn't -- it was more abuse than play from my perspective -- and sometimes to the point of making me pee my pants, then he'd be all mad and disgusted with me. (To this day I cannot abide ANY degree of tickling. None. Violence will follow almost immediately if it does not stop on command. I mean I'm a complete freak about it, sigh.) So after enough of that, I would struggle until I couldn't struggle anymore, and then at some feeling of crisis, my body would just burst into bawling all at once. Although this also pissed him off, it had the immediate effect of solving the problem I couldn't solve with physical strength or pleading.

Once I realized the previous weightlifting sudden-bawling was a crisis-response, it was a long time later by then, but the next time I spent some time lifting (just a few weeks) I paid attention, and I felt it coming then--once I knew that "working hard" when you're "working out" does not mean "ignoring all obstacles for the goal." If the obstacle is your body telling you that you may die if you don't stop, that's one worth listening to. :-)

I feel like it's time for me to get back to that and see what is needed with carbs or fats or protein or _______ to make serious lifting possible for me. I really love it.

Back to my original point. A good deal of what works for you isn't just what makes you healthier on paper or during the moments you do it, it's what you can LIVE WITH long enough to accomplish something more enduring.

I was remembering the other day how I was told as a kid, "Come out of the rain before you catch a cold!"

If rain gave you illness, showers and swimming would kill us all. This is one of the zillion myths we grow up with. Maybe having a poor immune system and standing in cold rain long enough to lower your body temp a lot is bad, fine. That is not rain's fault. Rain on its own is mostly harmless and even warm in some climates.

That got me thinking on what other no-brainer myths I might be living with all the time. Sorting through a surprisingly long list of possibilities, I came up with this particular dilemma, which I worked over in my head for awhile:

1. Allegedly the body can only hold protein for 3 hours. After which it eats YOU (goes catabolic). This is behind the old weight thing about eating every 3 hours, even if it means waking up in the middle of the night.

By 'natural inclination' I have spent most of my life eating once a day, at night -- this resulted in weight gain in some settings (my initial huge gain came that way) and a simple no-weight-loss in others (much of my life, despite being huge) -- so I am always trying to fight against this natural tendency to just not want to deal with food much.

I have often told myself I should give IF a real try now, a few years later, given it would simply my food life so radically (since everything I eat I have to cook or prep). But then I think, "But wait, no! That's what made me gain weight, that never helped me lose weight, and I don't want my body eating my muscles!"

2. But what little research I've read about related to intermittant fasting shows that it works surprisingly well for many and it does not appear to drain people of their muscle and vital organs at advanced pace, as #1 makes it seem like would be the case.

So does your body 'start eating itself' at 3:01 from last bite? Or does it not? Or does it do so, but to such a small degree it doesn't matter? Or are there other facets of brief-duration fasting that compensate for this? Is it like worrying about some free-radicals from foods while ignoring that NOT eating them has vastly worse consequences for you?

Edited to add:
A great post addressing these questions, I found a few hours after this post, here:
I'm really enjoying that blog.

I thought about all this a little more. I would eat once a day and then I was REALLY hungry when that finally arrived. So I'd eat a bunch of gluten-stuffed, bad-oils-stuffed something like 'whole wheat pasta with just some (corn) oil and vinegar and herbs' and wonder why I wanted to eat a truckload of it or why it never seemed to help (my protein-starved 300-500# frame). Or I'd just eat fast-food instead, which at least gave me some protein, but added fructose-stuffed big drinks, massive sodium and sometimes enough MSG to fry my brain as a food of its own.

So in thinking about this, I think it's fair to say that I canNOT say that my 'eating once a day' in the past qualifies in ANY way as the "intermittant fasting" that is recommended by some people in the paleo/lowcarb fields.

My kid and I just spent 10 days staying somewhere else while our bathroom was under reconstruction. For dysfunctional former-family living-space reasons I will not bore you with, we had no options but frozen food we could nuke (that was the least of our misery). I was kinda mad about that, but it was only supposed to be 6 days, which gradually became 10 days, and I figured what the heck, I'll live. At this point, we don't have much money, but we are back home, the good food I had evolved into new lifeforms while I was gone, we have some stuff in the freezer, and I told her I am only buying basically meat/eggs/produce a little dairy. Nothing makes me want 'real food' more than not being able to have it!!

So humorously, I spent a good deal of time fantasizing about 'real food' (in particular MEAT) and wanting to come up with a 'plan' to carry out for maybe a month, just to see what the results might be if I actually did:

1. Intermittant fasting (say, a 3-hr window for food once a day in the evening)
2. Supplementation (need to keep that up)
3. Focus on decent water intake (instead of diet soda)
4. Doing a little working out, slow to start, again.

I'm not so much looking for pounds lost because just dropping carbs will do a lot of that, and if I start lifting again that will add some of it. I'm more looking to see, after a month of this, how I feel at the end of it. I'd like to answer questions for myself like:

1. Is IF feasible for me for appetite reasons?
2. Is IF feasible for me for schedule reasons?
3. Is IF feasible for me for the-teen's-food reasons?
4. What kind of protein/fat/carb intake can I have off that eating window? You can only eat so much at a time... and
5. Is the intake I can have enough to keep me functioning well, keep me from cravings, keep me decently fortified?

My kid (daughter R, 14) has issues eating at school. She is doing this with me. We concluded that maybe rather than eating once a day, we should eat twice a day: once around 7am, protein+fat so hopefully she can last through school and not be too tempted by their 100-deadly-fried-grain foods, and then we'd eat again around 7pm.

We talked about food options. She loves salad and needs less protein than I do. So we thought, "protein and fats for breakfast" so she'd be full and satiated and hopefully would stay full-enough through the day; we'd pack her a bottle of water and some nut/cheese snacks in her packback.

And then for dinner, a BIG salad, with diced chicken and hard boiled egg and homemade blue cheese dressing. Yes I realize this is cheese/dairy and very caloric, but it's damn tasty. It will give her the veggies she loves and some meat. Plus some kind of plain meat-thing for me (simple small burger patty or something) so I get a little more protein/calories in than her if needed. Water, no soda (maybe a rare diet-soda treat but in general, just water).

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that she's also moving to a split sleep schedule. Around 11:45pm to 6am, and 3:45pm-6:45pm. So she will get up, food is fairly close to that, and she has several hours awake that it should last her, and then another sleep cycle. She simply cannot seem to deal with sleeping at an hour to get her anywhere enough sleep--like me (maybe because of growing up with me), she just is not remotely sleepy at that point--but she is weary after school and can nap. So this "two sleep and two food times" a day is part of a single-plan.

It would be helpful to me to have some ideas though. Do any of you guys do IF?

If so, what all -- and how much -- do you eat during your window (and what is that)?

What about eating twice a day? (7am/7pm) Is that too often to count/matter?

What about coffee/teas with cream? This is 'food' not drink, right?

What about target quantities and ratios for protein/fat/carbs -- do these change with IF?

Even from those who don't do IF, ideas are welcome!

Our official experiment is 4 weeks, starts Saturday October 23, 2010 and is ended Saturday November 20. She leaves for Maui the next day so it's good timing for her.

Any advice is appreciated. Now I wish I'd paid more attention to this subject over the years when it has flown by. I wasn't doing it, so I didn't really follow the info about it, darn it!



ItsTheWooo2 said...

I am totally the same way with the blinders and focus thing. I totally know what you are saying. Computer people, mechanical people like you and I are often this way. It's rather common from what I can see with people who are inclined toward being solvers and builders and having good technical skills and talents. Also tends to cluster with social apathy/failure/disability. Sorta like a dash of autism.

In my case, my intense focus and problem solving/building/constructing tendencies have helped me resolve my weight problem. It allows me to stay focused on my objective, to remain rational and not get swayed by irrelevant distractions (organic, fruit, veggies, grains, low fat high protein low protein high carb juicing veganism vegetarianism). From what I can see, "normal" people find it quite difficult to ignore irrelevant data because they view the world and eating in a sorta emotional way... they will follow plans which feel good emotionally ("lets not eat animals yay" and "lets save mother earth with organic veggies weee") but have little to do with science and the reality of what works for the body on a mechanical level. I am fairly immune to things which don't work on a mechanical level. I find it very easy to focus on my goal and ignore everything else, I wear blinders when I am interested in something.
It's actually shown in studies people with anorexia nervosa have may traits in common with autistics - they have trouble "set shifting" which is to say they cannot shift their attention from one task to another easily and stay "glued" on their objective. They are less emotional and do not have normal impulse/whim/feeling like ordinary people. Dietary control and via extension weight control is actually much easier with a more robotic, more internalized, less social sort of mind.
The issue you seem to have is that you don't seem to enjoy anything you do long enough to stay focused on it. This is another finding in anorexia nervosa studies (and probably holds true for successful dieters as well)... the people with anorexia nervosa often get a hedonistic perverse pleasure from self starvation and from "focusing" on their rules and rituals and weight. This is similar to how autistic children find it extremely pleasurable and exciting to stack toys in size order and to collect tons of facts about train schedules or what have you. Their focus is not without reward - they are focused BECAUSE they are getting such an intense internal high from the focus behavior. Speaking as a dieter, yes, it gives me pleasure to do it, I feel great feedback and reward by focusing in this way and achieving my goal.
Which, really, all of this is quite a long winded way of saying that you need to find a way of eating that is pleasurable and rewarding enough for you to remain focused on it. You can focus via will for short periods of time but ultimately you will lose the motivation and do something else unless you get a continuous feedback and a high from it. Results are a great motivator, perhaps you are not seeing result, or perhaps you need to be more in tune to your body and the way you feel so that you are cognizant of the results (results which then act as a reinforcer to drive your focus).
You have the perfect, ideal sort of mind to lose weight. You just are not aware of the reinforcer - or are not feeling it - so that your hyperfocus -with-mental-blinders thing is not kicking in.

PJ said...

ItsTheWooo2 -- thanks, some great food for thought there. I didn't know that about the anorexia stuff. My teen tells me I am anorexic regularly. It is a great deal easier for me to not eat at all, than to eat well, and I can easily skip eating for a day or two without much griping (although I have come to see that about 3 days later, I will eat everything in sight, when that happens).

I've spent much of the last 3.5 years not on plan at all, which is the sitch with my weight IMO. I'm not sure of the reason for that not being on plan--probably several--but I like the idea that in part, the feedback loop is broken. Probably so -- I am very driven about anything I do 'on purpose' and easily frustrated if I don't see results and tend to either "do something else" then or just abandon it entirely. I do very well then just don't do it at all. I don't have any in-betweens.

(I did have a long period of not being able to do VLC without feeling like I was gonna die -- my body wouldn't tolerate it -- but every carb source I ate just sent me face down into more of it. After quite some time of hyper-nutrient supplementation, I seem to be able to 'do' VLC again.)

I always thought it was a side-effect of having the bad luck to be almost ridiculously good at nearly everything I tried as a kid. You know... sports, music, academic stuff, if I had an interest, it would just come to me so fast, my daily-practicing friends just *hated* that they could work their ass off for a week and I could occasionally bother with it briefly, and awhile later, I'd be significantly better than they. I loved tests (probably a sign of insanity lol). I think it had this kinda nasty side effect where I didn't well learn to do anything more than sprint. Real intense when I had an interest and when I could see the result of that interest. The minute there wasn't sufficient result, I shrugged and walked away to do something else. Perhaps this is just more a character-wide issue that also happens to crop up with my eating.

I hadn't really thought about that. Thanks for that spark of insight. I'm not sure of the next logical step to make something practical of it, but I think you might be on to something there.


Gina said...

I also have some weight problems. But I am trying hard to eat natural and a lot of veggies...not too many fruits because it makes me hungry.

Anonymous said...

I have been all over every low carb diet out there for almost 11 years. I managed to do great and lose tons and keep it off a few years. After that have been slowly gaining in the resulting years. There seriously is not a low carb plan out there I have not tried. I totally get the feeling you are talking about btw.

I recently found my solution and it even explained to me why i kept falling of low carb after so long and why I just couldn't be successful again. It has nothing to do with IF but I wanted to share regardless because I have been trying for almost 7 years to get back to where I was as a fit healthy low carber and I just have failed and failed after my initial few years success.

The book is" mastering leptin"by Byron Richards. It has given me so much more understanding!!!!

Anonymous said...

what happens when anorexic food challenged people actualy have children call social services

Anonymous said...

I don't think the two meals separated by 12 hours qualifies as IF. You really need the 16+ hour uninterrupted fasting window for it to be IF, which means an 8 hour eating window. I'd try that first. And conversely, you need to consistently eat well during that 8 hour window, two or three meals, it shouldn't matter as long as you don't go much OVER that 16 hour fasting window and set yourself up for a binge. Break your fast around noon, then have dinner around 7:30 so you're done by 8. In a previous post you mentioned your daughter is rarely hungry in the morning so that should work for her too.

If you want to try compressing it more than that, then try that AFTER you've succeeded with 8/16 for a few weeks, and then try a smaller eating window once a week. If you want to succeed, follow the protocol and don't push the envelope on this until you have succeeded at the basic plan. And don't change a bunch of other stuff at the same time. I get the feeling you tend to turn your entire life upside down when you try something new... that's not sustainable.

Mark said...

Great post. Keep up the good work.

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