One month ago today I embarked on a new way of life...a new way of healthy living, not only for weight loss but also to slow down (and maybe even reverse) the effects of aging.
I don't often do extremely personal posts, but my new discovery has totally revolutionized my thinking and I so want to share it so others can benefit from it too! And if you are like I have been for the past 50ish years, making a New Year's Resolution to get healthier/lose weight, this may just be the information you need to get a new lease on life like I have.
A little of my own story...
I am 62 years old and ever since my teenage years, I've always been overweight. I can remember in high school gym class being embarrassed because in the gymnastics unit only those girls who weighed under 140 could do the uneven parallel bars. At about 150 lbs. then and 5' 8" tall (I thought I was REALLY FAT!), that left me out...although I was scared to do the unevens anyway, still I would have rather it had been my choice.
All through college and into young adulthood, I gradually got heavier and heavier. Having 4 children didn't help the weight situation any...I held onto at least 10 extra pounds after each pregnancy. I exercised plenty...going to all kinds of fitness classes and doing a lot of running on my own. I'd get really restrictive with my calorie intake for awhile and several times I lost lots of weight, but as soon as I let up just a little the weight began to come back and then I'd give up again. I tried Weight Watchers a couple of times and plenty of diets of my own making...all based on less calories and more exercise. Each one worked, for awhile, but none of them were sustainable over a lifetime. And each time my diet yo-yoed once again, a few more pounds packed on.
An endless cycle, impossible to break for a lifetime.
Then in 2015 I was diagnosed out-of-the-blue with Stage 3 rectal cancer. Surgery was scheduled for 6 months out, but in those 6 months I would undergo several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. My surgeon insisted the surgery would have a much better success rate if I could get down to 185 lbs....talk about motivating! An unsuccessful surgery would mean I would have to wear a "bag" for the rest of my life (doable but certainly NOT desirable!). At well over 200 lbs. (at that point, who's counting???) and I had my work cut out for me while undergoing the toughest physical test of my life as chemo and radiation were certainly no walk in the park. And it didn't help that the oncology team did not want me losing weight on purpose, so there was always that tug-of-war going on between my highly-regarded surgeon and the oncologists. But the "bag" was a very powerful motivator and by the time my surgery rolled around I had lost the weight.
Even though the tumor-removal surgery was successful, I knew I would have an ileostomy bag for at least several weeks until everything healed and then it would be reversed. While those 12 weeks following surgery were horrible in many ways and that detestable bag was yucky to deal with, the weight literally fell off me in an almost scary way. Besides the fact that the food I ate was dispelled before it even hit my large intestine so it wasn't in my GI tract very long, I had no appetite and I could not tolerate many foods. My mainstay, and what I basically lived on for those 12 weeks, was ice cream. I fell in love with ice cream, which I could easily afford to do calorie-wise as my weight continued to tumble to a low of 132 lbs. (I hadn't weighed that little since junior high school, I don't think!). I can remember asking my oncologist how to stop the weight loss...it really was a bit scary as I felt out-of-control. I was thin, even skinny, but certainly not healthy!
I needn't have been worried. Soon after the ileostomy was reversed and the bag came off (praise God!), my appetite returned with a vengeance and the weight began to creep back on. At first I was thankful, because 132 lbs. is way too skinny for me and I needed a few more pounds to make me look and feel good. But the creeping didn't stop in the mid-140s where I've always wanted to be...once that weight snowball got to rolling, it got momentum until I began looking like Frosty again. Ice cream was no longer my friend...but I just couldn't give it up.
Fast-forward about 2 1/2 years to this past Thanksgiving:
Kim and I had just returned from a 2-week trip to Brazil and our guide Nicolas sent me these photos. Seriously...was I really that FAT again??? Ugh. Reality hit me in the face and my eyes filled with tears just looking at the pictures. I couldn't believe I had let myself get back to this. And, like I always have, I decided that "after the holidays" I would get back on the weight-loss wagon big time.
My younger brother Mark, who just turned 52, was home from Texas for Thanksgiving, and we all noticed how trim and fit he looked. A US Marine for life, Mark has never been really heavy and has generally kept in good military shape, but he also loves to eat and admitted that he didn't feel good when his uniforms were tight and uncomfortable to wear. I began picking his brain and he was eager to share his new-found lifetime routine for health.
I'd heard the term, but had no idea how it really worked. Mark shared how his simple routine of fasting 24 hours once a week had allowed him to lose 30 lbs. since August almost effortlessly. On his eating days he ate low carbs and high fat (high fat???) but didn't stress over it, just tried to be sensible. No extra working out (he's always worked out anyway), just adding in a 24-hour fast once a week.
Mark shared with me a few YouTube videos from some of the big names in the Fasting for Health community...Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Sten Ekberg, and Dr. Ken Berry (to name a few...there are lots more and oodles of videos) to give me the basics and help me get started. What did I have to lose??? (Actually...a LOT of weight that was dragging me down both physically and emotionally!)
I watched a few videos, but the doctor that really made me understand things was Dr. Jason Fung. He is a kidney doctor from Canada who treats patients with advanced kidney disease, almost always caused by type 2 diabetes. He was frustrated as he treated patients they never got better, and decided that the medical community needed to start treating the cause of type-2 diabetes (which is too much insulin in the blood which leads to insulin resistance) to really make a difference in people's lives. So he began researching and discovered that the real culprit of obesity is too much blood insulin and the answer is to lower blood insulin.
God created the human body as an amazingly intricate system that works wonderfully if we fuel it correctly! Unfortunately, over the past 50 years or so, our culture has taught us to do exactly the opposite of what we should be doing to let our bodies operate efficiently as God intended them. What raises insulin and keeps it high? Carbohydrates of all kinds (yes, even whole grain "healthy" carbs) raises our insulin levels and eating several times a day never allows our insulin to drop back down. Insulin triggers fat storage...so by eating too many carbs and constantly snacking, we are telling our body to continually store fat.
In a nutshell...it's all about our insulin levels. When we allow them to get low, our body switches to using stored fat for fuel. So no snacking, watch your carbs, and add in some fasting here and there.
It makes perfect sense to me! Think about our ancestors, like people in the Bible...you know they did not eat every 2 hours (as recommended by many diets) or even 3 meals a day. They probably only had 1 meal a day, and not every day. There were times of famine when they surely missed several days of meals. But God created our bodies to be able to handle those times...that's why our body stores fat to begin with, to get us through those times without food. We are not "starving"...actually, we are just allowing our bodies to do what they are designed to do. The longest recorded fast was, get this, 382 days by a 27-year-old man in 1973. NO FOOD, only water and vitamins, for over a year! It was medically supervised and that man has basically maintained his new weight of 180 (down from 456 pounds before he started).
I read that every pound of fat you carry will sustain your normal body functions for 2 days. So 50 lbs. of fat will sustain for 100 days, over 3 months! I'm not into doing anything that extreme, but we all need to get over the idea that missing a meal is "starving" ourselves. And actually, after your body adjusts, you don't even feel hungry and have more energy and more mental clarity (both of which I could use a lot more of!)
So...on December 2, 2019, the Monday after Thanksgiving, Kim and I began our own intermittent fasting protocol. We are doing a 24-hour fast each Monday and Friday, beginning after breakfast on Monday (we love our bacon-and-egg breakfast, which is a golden meal on this plan...gotta love a "diet" that encourages bacon!) and ending with breakfast on Tuesdays. Same schedule on Fridays. I've extended a few of my fasts to 30-48 hours, haven't yet gone longer than 48 hours. But I plan to add in a 72-hour fast sometime this month.
The great thing about the schedule is that it's completely flexible. If we've got special plans for one of our normal fasting days, we just switch up and do it a different day. If we have a special event that involves birthday cake or other high-carb splurges, a 24-hour (or longer) fast totally gets us back on track. Completely compatible and adjustable to life!
A few advantages (there are more!) of intermittent fasting lifestyle:
1. It's absolutely totally FREE...nothing to buy or join!
2. Flexibility of schedule to allow for life's happenings
3. Completely natural...allowing our bodies to do what God designed them to do
4. Exercise is totally optional! Exercise is good for fitness, but negligibly helpful in weight loss.
5. Time-saving....no meal planning, food to buy, prep, clean-up on fasting days
6. So many other health benefits besides weight loss...mental clarity, energy, cell regeneration, increasing human growth hormone, reduction of inflamation, just to name a few.
7. It's so EASY!!! The first fast is a little challenging, but it's mind over matter...if you're like me, you mostly eat out of habit rather than actual hunger. And once you get rid of the dietary carbs, those "hunger" cravings go away. Trust me...it's really TRUE!
So there you have it! My results so far: in 1 month I've released (not "lost" as I never intend to "find" them again!) 24.6 pounds and almost 4" off my belly (which is where my body loves to store fat!). I feel great!!! And I actually look forward to my fasting days! Kim has also lost about 20 pounds, I'm guessing, but he's not so scale-focused as I am and has only weighed once.
If you are interested and want more info...as you can see by my too-long post, I am convinced this is the answer to controlling my weight that I've been searching for for 50 years...email me and I'll help you get started (I'm certainly still learning myself!) I am passionate about this new way of life, and so grateful to my brother for introducing me to it. As of now, Kim and I are both on board, as well as my sister Barb and her husband John, and my other sister Maria is just now beginning to do it too. We are so very thankful for...
...a new lease on life.