What the hell? Why not?: Intermittent Fasting

I looked at myself in the mirror a few weeks ago and only saw two abs peeking out of an otherwise flabby torso. Being that I’m from Los Angeles and therefore shallow, I launched into a panic. “Something’s gotta give,” I told myself.

Was the answer returning to the keto diet? Nah. As it turns out, I eat a lot of sandwiches and I just can’t sustain a diet that doesn’t allow me to eat an occasional cheese danish. Was the answer to reel in the beer intake? Well… No. There’s a lot of good reasons for that one, but no.

A couple of friends suggested intermittent fasting to me, and I thought it would be too hard given my varying late-night shifts, so initially I shrugged that one off. Also, I can be kind of a douchebag when I’m hungry, and I thought I’d just be starving and a dick (more than usual) all the time. Then more and more of the research I was doing pointed to its efficacy (I use the term “research” loosely here – I watch a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of articles about health and fitness in my free time), so I opted to eat for an eight hour window each day and essentially just drink water (and maybe an alcoholic beverage or four) the remaining 16 hours.

When you fast for that long, your body produces similar amounts of ketones (the chemical produced by your liver that aid in metabolizing fatty acids) as it would if you were on the kind of semi-commital version of the keto diet I was on, and you can still eat pretty much whatever. When I wake up, I also have a cup of black coffee with unsalted butter and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which kicks up the ketones another notch. Most of the videos I’ve seen with strict keto advocates have a segment where they mutter something like, “Yeah, I guess you could just skip breakfast and achieve similar levels of ketosis, BUT” and then they go on to support their high-fat, low-carb diets.

I hit a tipping point and I’ve been doing this for a little over two weeks now. The first few days were rough, but after day three or four I settled into a comfortable space. My calorie consumption has stayed largely the same, though I admit it’s harder to cram a lot of food into an eight hour window without feeling like a fatass.

I’m fairly physically active, so I was concerned I’d see a dip in my energy and/or willingness to exercise, but I haven’t had that experience. I was also concerned that I’d be constantly dwelling on my hunger, but that hasn’t happened either. Ultimately, this shit isn’t that hard AND I’ve seen awesome results. I’m back to six visible abs (granted I still have a small belly, but fuck you, I love beer), and all I had to do was change the schedule of my consumption. And since it’s such an easy solution, I can actually see this being sustainable long-term.

For the sake of mentioning it, I did see an article that said skipping breakfast was bad because you ended up eating more at lunch. BUT they said that you’re only likely to eat about 20% more at lunch, so if your lunch and usual breakfast are the same size, you’re still eating less calories in the day. So… Whatevs.

Will I eventually get bored of this or read about how this is killing me in fun new ways? Maybe. But for now it’s working, so I’m sticking with it.  

Oink Oink

002bI was not fit when I was younger. I spent a lot of time playing video games and eating as much junkfood as my mother would allow (turned out to be a fair amount). I have always used food as a source of comfort, in spite of the overeating being the route cause of many of my insecurities.

At one point I mused, “I would love to take tap dancing lessons!” My aunt looked at me, then looked at my dad and said, “Don’t you think he’s a little big for tap?”

In 5th grade, there was a group of kids that called me “Oink Oink.” Yeah I know – it’s a really offensive name for a 10 year old! It’s so offensive that I’m 29 years old and I still base my body image on what people used to call me when I was 10.

One time we were playing ball tag together and one of them tried running by me to prove he was faster, so I clothes-lined him. To his credit, he was running really fast, which made it all the more satisfying when I stuck my arm out and dropped him like a sack of overly-cocky, organic Yukon gold potatoes.

“HA! I got you!” I yelled victoriously. Caught up in the triumph of the moment, I wound up, threw the ball at him as hard as I could, and missed (because I was a fat, and fat kids are bad at sports). When I finally confronted another kid about the nickname, he heard about this incident, and sheepishly said it was a compliment because cops are sometimes called pigs, and police officers deserve our respect.

Middle school rolled around and I grew neither taller nor thinner. The more I got made fun of, the more appealing it sounded to stay inside, and snack and play video games and watch movies. Food and television never called me fat (at least not directly), but I’m sure that watching the ripped abs and chiseled upper bodies of the super heroes I loved watching on TV or playing in video games didn’t do wonders for my self esteem.

My dad spent weekends with me running around a track, trying harder than me to get my mile time below ten minutes. I huffed and puffed my way around the track, and finally got to 10 minutes and 12 seconds, and was thrilled with my progress.

Luckily, I was great at math, so when I moved to a new school halfway through eighth grade, I had to be shipped off to the high school for sixth period because the middle school didn’t have the math class I was supposed to be in. Add that to the weight issues, the thick glasses, the budding cystic acne, and the fact that I was deathly allergic to the grass on the field where the mile run was timed, it made me a real hit come recess.

At high school registration, I was told that the Naval Junior Reserve Office Training Corps (NJROTC) could take the place of my mandatory Physical Education class. Sure, we were required to actually exercise once a week, but the rest would be taken up by studying, marching, and uniform inspections. One hour a week sounded manageable.

NJROTC and Dance Dance Revolution turned my life around (and around and around). They allowed me the chance to find a love for fitness, but the self-loathing I developed in my childhood is really what keeps me moving. If you’re struggling with your weight, try truly hating the way you look – it’s done wonders for me.