January 6th, 2021
My stomach churns. Maybe it’s the ice cream cone I had for breakfast. Or the breakfast burrito I had mid-morning chased by a cup of coffee and a little extra creamer. It certainly couldn’t be the cup of queso and half a bag of corn chips I ate for lunch. Maybe it’s the pang of anxiety caused by the bathroom scale telling me the bitter truth. My poor diet and sedentary lifestyle have pushed my adiposity north of 300 pounds.
Nah, it’s the queso.
A Little About Me
I’ve been overweight since I was 17. In my mid-20s, while hovering around 250 pounds, I hiked, worked out, lost some weight, got married, started a family, and started a new career. Then I got divorced, left my career, lost my mother, both grandmothers, and several close friends, all in about four years. Eating brought comfort, and I gained the weight I lost and then some.
In 2010, I met the love of my life and returned to school to prepare for another career change. I parked my truck, canceled my auto insurance, and rode everywhere via bicycle to save money. I rode to and from my children’s school, the grocery store, and the 23-miles between home and the college campus several days per week. I averaged 150–175 miles per week and could cover the distance from home to campus in just under an hour. I should have lost a lot of weight and been super lean. But my diet didn’t change. Instead, it got worse on the basis that I justified the calories I ate on the fact that I was burning 4,000 calories per day. Two double cheeseburgers and a large fries? Why not? I’ve earned it!
It was no surprise, then, that despite the 175-miles pedaled every week, I was gaining weight, albeit slowly. Then, I graduated, changed jobs, and stopped riding. That’s when my weight stopped creeping and broke into a full sprint. And I stopped doing anything about it until now.
As of January 6th, 2021, I’m 39 years old, 6′ 1″, and 319 pounds. My waist circumference is 56″. I’ve indulged in the Standard American Diet in excess for as long as I can remember — fatty, ultra-processed foods laden with added sugar and salt. The meal I summarized at the beginning of this article is not fiction. It is also not an uncommon “meal” for millions of Americans. You may cast judgment on me. But at least I’m doing something about it.
I went on a diet again. Like millions of Americans, I have tried — and failed — at dieting many times before. However, this time is truly different. This time, and for the first time, I changed the number of calories I eat and the quality and frequency. I’ve read compelling evidence regarding combining intermittent fasting with the Paleo diet. So that’s how I started.
The human body utilizes carbohydrates for short-term energy needs. However, we are perfectly adapted to endure for 24 hours or longer without food. In fact, it is beneficial for us to abstain from eating for extended periods. More on that here: https://renovaiv.com/intermittent-fasting-paleolithic-solution-to-a-modern-problem/
I fasted for 17 hours on my first day, which was a mistake. Until now, my diet has consisted of primarily refined carbohydrates from ultra-processed foods. I have effectively trained my body to utilize only quick-burning refined carbohydrates for all my energy needs. All the excess was converted and stored as fat. Now I need to train my body to seamlessly switch from utilizing carbohydrates to utilizing the fat I’ve saved up for 23 years.
At the time, it was hard to believe anyone would voluntarily abstain from food for more than 12 hours. I couldn’t focus. My stomach wouldn’t let me. After just 12 hours, the rumbling from my stomach was so distracting that I couldn’t get any work done. So, for the remainder of the week, I opted to fast for just 14 hours per day to give my body a chance to learn its new routine. The following week, I increased my fasting time to 16 hours. The week after that, I started 18:6 fasting — fasting for 18 hours with an eating window of 6 hours. By the fourth week, I had successfully transitioned to fasting for 19 hours with a 5-hour eating window.
Within those four weeks, I had also slowly weened myself off of all processed foods and maintained a strict 1,500 calorie per day diet. I’ve been eating only whole foods — fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meat — and dairy on a minimal basis in place of processed foods. I’ve loosely followed the Paleo/Whole30 diet with a few exceptions. The Paleo diet strictly forbids dairy. However, there is enough well-researched evidence to suggest that high-quality cheese may be beneficial in limited quantities. So, I enjoy about an ounce of cheese per week.
After four weeks of fasting and significantly reducing calories, I lost 19 pounds and passed a major milestone. For the first time in four years, I weighed less than 300 lbs!
I also noted several unanticipated but very positive changes in addition to losing weight. According to Fitbit, my average resting heart rate decreased from 76 to 56 beats per minute. My average sleep score has risen from 82 to 89.
The following four weeks, I lost another 11 pounds for a total of 30 pounds. During that time, I gave up the last of my processed food vices — flavored coffee creamer.
The key to intermittent fasting is lowering insulin levels. Among other things, insulin tells the body when to utilize carbs for energy or convert them to fat for later use. Research tells me that once insulin is triggered, ketosis stops, and the body stops utilizing fat altogether. My coffee creamer, with 15 grams of insulin-spiking refined sugar per serving, was prematurely ending my fast. So I switched to black coffee.
During my second month on my new diet, I quit taking my blood pressure medication. This was done under strict medical supervision and only after I could demonstrate that I no longer needed it. One week off of my medicine, I’m happy to say that my BP has only improved. That will save me $10 per month.
Until recently, I was also taking medication to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Three to four times per week, I would wake up in the middle of the night choking on stomach acid. I quit taking that medication in January when I changed my diet and haven’t had an episode since. That will save me $50 per month.
I’ve also noticed that my right knee, which used to be achy, crunchy, and creaky, has remedied itself within the last two months. And my left shoulder, which has ached periodically due to a work-related injury from 13 years ago, no longer hurts. So, I guess that I’ll save money on Ibuprofen every few months.
By the end of week 8, I was consistently fasting for 20 hours per day.
To counter the effects of fasting (i.e. hunger), I drink a LOT of water and tea. Before beginning intermittent fasting, I researched nearly every possible aspect, including fluid intake. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend that men consume 125 ounces daily. They suggest drinking more during warmer months or when exercising. Now I keep a 32oz bottle of water on my nightstand that I drink within 5 minutes of waking up. That’s followed by my morning cup of black coffee (16–20oz) about 45 minutes later. Throughout the morning, I drink three to four 20oz cups of herbal or decaffeinated tea and another 32oz bottle of water before my first meal of the day. During the afternoon and evening, I sip another 32oz of water and occasionally drink another 20oz cup of tea before bed. On average, I drink 160–200oz of fluids per day. And, yes, I have to go to the bathroom a lot.
What about hyponatremia?
Hyponatremia is the dilution of sodium in the body. Sodium is an electrolyte that helps regulate the amount of water that is in and around your cells. Too little sodium causes cells to expand and swell, which leads to other health problems, including death. Death is annoying. Dying would interfere with most of my plans. So, I consulted my healthcare provider, who said I would be fine since all 160–200oz is spread out over a 14-hour period. She also reassured me that my kidneys would not, in fact, explode.
That’s my story so far. I’m overcoming 27 years of unintentionally bad habits, relearning proper nutrition, committing to a permanent change in lifestyle, and sharing it with you. If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll continue the journey with me. If you’re overweight and ready to make a change, lose weight, get into shape, and live a healthier life so that you can spend more time with your family, we can help.