Finally Able to Fast Again! Intermittent Fasting: 4 Weeks to the Day After Completion of 25-day Fast.
I have been struggling for the past few weeks to get back into a consistent rhythm with ADF, IF (Alternate Day Fasting, Intermittent Fasting). I expected that within 2 weeks after my EF (Extended Fast), which I completed on September 4th, that I’d have enough discipline to jump right back in to IF. As usual, I was pushing myself too hard and had too-harsh, not-so-realistic expectations; however, it was a worthwhile lesson to learn—that I need more time after an EF to bounce back and recover. I have been enthusiastically savouring the dining experiences of the past 2 weeks, and not just because of the recent EF! During the pandemic, I felt deprived of my usual culinary experiences with which I normally spoil myself once every week or two! Being near enough to Colorado Springs and great restaurants — which are now open — has been a treat I relish! Since I have to drive over an hour into CoSpr for acupuncture each week, I might as well take advantage of the dining options available to me, too! Eating out is even more of a treat now that I eschew carbs and desserts. It has become less of a food reward, and more of a getting-the-hell-out-of-the-house-and-being-around-other-humans reward!
Four weeks out and still no sugar cravings! WhooEffingHoo! Over the course of these last four weeks, my appetite has surged and receded. I found myself overeating and over-drinking at times, (I believe it results from the long fast). Even though I initially had no desire whatsoever to eat too much, I found myself a bit gluttonous after Week 2 of my Re-feed. I maintained a LCHF/Keto food intake, though. While I had dealt with feelings of food deprivation prior to the EF, I had not applied that to boozy drinks and wine! Consequently, I am now working on moderating the cocktails when I dine out. This occurrence is like a wave, too. I drank too much for a week, and then my craving mellowed. The same thing happened with food cravings and the feeling of deprivation a few months ago. I learned that I must remind myself that I can always have more wine “later” and that I don’t have to drink an entire bottle with my meal! It’s hard because I like wine and cocktails!
Cortisol levels spike at the beginning of a fast, (I can’t recall how many hours into the fast that cortisol levels begin to increase), and I believe that’s what happened to me this afternoon, after lunchtime: I became shaky, agitated, and felt anxiety building for no reason. Although I had some stuff going on, it wasn’t enough to cause me anxiety. It was as though the anxiety and agitation were born within my body and grew outward into a full-blown emotional and mental state of anxiousness. I felt shaky—as though I had low blood sugar and became physically and mentally agitated. I recognized what was going on and held some inner conversations about quitting my fast over a two-hour period. Acknowledging that I did not want to eat in the hyped-up state I was in, (it would neither solve the problem nor make me feel well to eat while agitated would not make me), I did a round of Nadi Shodanham (yogic alternate nostril breathing) to begin the calming-down process, and went outside to do some Qigong. Both helped immensely. By the time I sat down for a TFM Zoom meeting, I felt much better. I give myself kudos for recognizing and acknowledging what was going on. A year ago, or even months ago, the heightened physical state of anxiety I felt in my body would have driven me — very literally — quite mad, and I would not have been able to cope with the nervous system uproar, resulting in eating or drinking to bring my nervous system response down to a manageable level. I was in fight-or-flight mode and this is a rare experience during fasting; especially since it did not originate from emotional stress, mental stress, or too much coffee! What a difference it made to be aware of what was going on in my body and be able to respond with healthier habits!
Post in progress!
The first week after ending a 25-day fast, I only gained back 1 lb. The three weeks following, my weight fluctuated but increased an additional 2-4 lbs, but my Smart scale informed me that this weight was equal parts water, fat, and muscle, so I didn't concern myself with the total increase, knowing they would decrease quickly once I began IF again.
This is exactly what happened when I began IFs again on Friday, 4 days ago. Since then, I've lost 5 total pounds, so back down to where I was Sept. 4, at the end of the EF. Once again, the cumulative loss is near-equal parts fat and water weight, with less muscle loss this time, due to more exercise. I've also re-fed twice during the past 5 days, and am on my last fast for this week.
At the end of the 25-day EF, I tried on a Chinese-style blouse I haven't worn since being in Australia over the winter. It was still too tight, especially around my waist and hips. I tried it on yesterday, and it was very loose!
First burger I've had in probably 15 years!!! Local bison! I took off the bun and told the waiter (the very HOT waiter!) to skip the fries! Do Americans eat this way everyday? How can one person eat an entire 16 oz. burger and a plate of fries (unless they are an athlete)? No wonder Americans are fat! I was only able to eat half the burger. I ate the remainder at dinner, with the bottom of the bun. Delicious, but a very heavy meal!
Overall, the past month has overflowed with learning experiences related to food, fasting, boozy drinks, overeating, undereating, drinking in excess, metabolism/BMR, exercise, adding carbs into my nutrition plan, fat fasting, re-feeding after an extended fast, timing of IF after EF, stress, self-compassion, and non-doing.
I still want to lose 20 lbs. of fat weight and gain at least 10 lbs. of muscle back that I have lost over a period the past 2-3 years by becoming more and more sedentary. One thing at a time! Afte this month, I am confident that my eating is back on track and that I have discovered what term of fasts work for me, as well as how to eat to optimize weight loss while still allowing for dining out and enjoying food. I've been "off" sugar for over two months, and plan to keep it that way! Honestly, at this point, I truly never want processed sugar to enter my body again--I don't miss it and it is poison to my body, not to mention sugar is killing off many in western cultures, (maybe a good thing? evolution? survival of the fittest?).
I began a 25-day Fast on August 10th, after dinner, ending on September 4th. My initial fasting goal was 21 days, but still feeling good, I decided to head toward 30 days, with a re-evaluation on Day 25. By Day 25... what can I say... I felt bored with fasting, even though I wasn’t hungry or missing certain foods or anything similar. I was merely tired of fasting, and felt as though I had accomplished what I could, and that continuing the fast would begin to either be zero-sum or have negative effects. I had stopped losing weight, though I had made so much progress emotionally, mentally, and physically. The weight-loss plateau was not discouraging, because I could tell by my clothes and in my face that my body was much thinner. It seemed if I continued to fast, I would not be helping my body or mind any longer. My BMR had decreased, and I had also observed small losses of muscle and bone density. It seemed prudent to stop while I was ahead. I accomplished several goals and perceived that the changes I had sought had manifested.
At present, I’ve regained a nominal amount of weight: 2 lbs. An equal share of water, muscle, and fat. I find it intriguing that I can sense the increase in water mass in my body after a heavy meal; the bloating and inflammation after indulgence in a boozy weekend. My mental awareness of the specific reactions that occur in my body after eating has become very acute. I have discovered distinct physical feelings in my body after eating too much or drinking too many coffee cocktails last weekend. Specifically, certain substances I ingest correlate to a unique reaction; whether a normal, healthy response, or the opposite. This phenomenon is not something new to me, but over the past year I have obstinately ignored what I was doing to my body and how what I ate affected me, except for the resultant weight gain. “Coming down” off the boozy weekend to return to LCHF/keto food choices, my body shifted again, releasing both the physical water bloat and internal physical/emotional/mental feelings of excess. Once again, observing my body’s changing processes to food intake has been interesting.
In detail, the first week immediately following the cessation of my fast looked entirely different from Week 2. Coming out of that 25-day extended fast, I still had a deeper level of awareness of my mental goings-on; I continued to sit in an inner observation mode of my body, my mind, and my heart. The inner desire to nourish all aspects of my Self enveloped me as I began to eat again. This period lasted the 7 days until I went out to eat! The leaning toward self-care didn’t end with the meal: I blame the boozy coffees! I ordered a higher protein and fat meal than I normally would have at brunch—where I usually would have indulged in waffles or pancakes coated and drowning in sugary-syrup. Truthfully, the desire for sweets departed weeks back; during the fast. I didn’t want those sugary carbs, nor did I want to feel the resultant shitty sugar-hangover I would have felt if I ate those “shitty-non-foods”. Conclusively, the problem was not the food, because I only ate 7-8 bites before feeling full and getting the rest boxed up to go. The issue became the greed for the relaxed and euphoric feeling I got from one, then two, then three, specialty coffee drinks made with bourbon, which then fired up my appetite for more bourbon, which resulted in a stop at the liquor store on the way home, which resulted in... well, here I am. Going into the weekend, I thought it would be nice to have a boozy coffee the next day and Sunday, while sticking to mainly LCHF/keto items. But brunch turned into lunch and then dinner with subsequent cocktails! Although I kept my food intake on the LCHF/keto side, I definitely ate too much and drank too much. This put me into a downward spin of berating and angry self-talk. I awoke feeling awful and wasted a day physically recovering, but it took another full day to recover emotionally and mentally.
Tips for a Successful Long Fast of 21+ Days
Tips for a gentle, slow re-feed to prevent GI upset or trouble and feel good
Upcoming Book: "Fasting: Cure Your Toxic Relationship with Food and Your Body--Finally!"
Most days were around 20 gr. carbs or less, so mainly keto eating. It came naturally, as my body craved fat and protein. I was eating whole foods: fats, proteins, and veggies, but in pureed form during the first week of my re-feed. I had a little splurge last weekend, but quickly returned to eating LCHF/keto pretty easily, as well as getting back into ketosis quickly -- as of Thursday. Even the four splurge days were low-carb, high fat, and mainly protein and veggies, excluding the coffee cocktails (wink!).
I'm finding it pretty easy to stay near 20 gr. of carbs as I'm mostly eating proteins, veggies, and fats. My body has been craving veggies, so I know I need more of those. I'll continue as-is, and add a bit more variety via scrumptious recipes so I don't get bored. I still don't have any sugar or carb cravings. I'll be dining out again tomorrow, but keeping it LCHF and moderating the boozy coffees! Ha!
After lunch yesterday, I felt terribly, horribly, awful. I didn’t eat too much until having a cup of coffee, and somehow that took me over the edge. It might have been the combination of foods. I had the same soup I’d eaten the day prior: kimchi jiggae, but this time I added a couple of eggs while I was reheating it. I only ate 3/4 of what I served myself in the bowl, and finished up with my creamy, homemade Greek yoghurt (so delicious!). I was feeling full, but wanted coffee. I believe the acidity of the coffee, spiciness of the soup, and sulphurous nature of the eggs joined to create the conditions for a perfect storm in my belly, because I began to feel what I think was indigestion. I took another pepsin/betain/gentian supplement, hoping that would help digestion. I definitely felt nausea coming on. I felt better after puking (don’t we always?!), but worn out. I had finished an amazeballs run — my first run since leaving China over a year ago!! — an hour prior; I was sure I had given my body enough time to wind down from the exertion, but perhaps that contributed as well. I really don’t know why I felt nauseous and vomitus. I drank a java in the morning, to ensure I would have energy for a run — maybe two coffees for the day was too much? That second supplement did not help and perhaps made it worse. I won’t take two again! I can only attribute it to too much spice too soon after a long fast, with the addition of eggs and coffee, and possibly eating a little too much. Obviously, I have lost my taste for kimchi and eggs for a few days! The acid-tasting irony of this temporary illness is that I had just posted earlier in the morning about how I great I felt and that I had absolutely no GI trouble after the fast! Spoke too soon and with too much hubris, I suppose!
Besides sinking back into bland foods, I will cut out the coffee after lunch, though not completely. I have a few options:
On the good side of things, my weight decreased by a half-pound since yesterday! I believe my weight is somewhat stabilized at this point, without accounting for normal fluctuations. My BMR and muscle mass continue to increase, while body fat % levels go down and water % remains the same. All good news!
Plus, I just realized that I've been fasting 15-18 hours by default because I'm sticking to my TRE protocols of 12pm-6pm (18 hours), and now 9am-6pm (15 hours)! I will start ADF protocol of 39 hours on Friday; Day 8 of my re-feed.
Views from my run up into the mountains.
The negligible amount of weight increase my scale has shown has not bothered me; it is an expected part of the fasting/rebuilding process. I love for the scale numbers to only decrease, but it is certainly not discouraging nor upsetting! Since my end-of-fast weigh-in, I have regained a touch over 1.5 pounds. Of that 1.5 lbs., fat composes 0.1 lb., 1 full pound is water, 0.37 is muscle mass, and 0.4 lbs is bone mass. My BMI increased a miniscule amount, but more importantly, my BMR and muscle mass both increased fractionally. I need some big gains on BMR and muscle mass, while the fat% continues to decrease!
On Sunday, once I downed enough salt and electrolytes, the morning headache diminished and I felt good the rest of the day. I was feeling a bit "bloaty" yesterday after lunch, but that diminished as the day passed.
I felt hungry when I went to bed last night. I also noticed a touch of hunger a few hours after dinner, which felt odd, and I kept questioning myself as to whether it was genuine hunger, digestion, or mental hunger. I stayed up an hour later than usual, and lying in bed to read, my stomach was rumbling and rowling with hunger.
I’ve had a bit of a runny nose since breaking the fast, too. Akin to allergies, but I don’t have allergies! My nose is all runny in the morning for an hour upon waking, then it just stops.
My ketone levels have dropped since Friday. I’ve been in a powerful state of ketosis (above 4) for the last week, and the numbers have decreased to just above 1 Mmol/L as of last night. 1 is still in ketosis, but it’s borderline. Admittedly, I had tsampa (Tibetan roasted barley flour cereal), for lunch yesterday; counting that in with a few servings of yoghurt added enough carbs to kick me out of ketosis, or at least dampen the effect considerably. Over the course of the past few days, my carb intake has soared — well, all my macros and kcals. have quadrupled, unsurprisingly! Saturday’s CHO amount increased by 30 g. to 47 g. of CHO, and yesterday I got up to nearly 60 g.
Today I will tone it down and add more fat. I am monitoring my tea/coffee creamer intake. Saturday, only 5 g. CHO came from soymilk and half & half. And yesterday, only 3 g. for creamers. It seems my carb intake from creamers is not as bad as I thought! Changing from dairy to soymilk last month reduced both calorie and carb intake substantially. Currently, I only add a bit of dairy in the morning if I “need” some extra creaminess, and then in my post-prandial java, I add two Tbsp. of HWC or half & half. Today I switched to coconut oil, but it appears this was unnecessary. Saturday, 30 g. carbs came from my stewed tomato and okra soup. On Sunday, Tsampa, yoghurt, veggie soups, and Chyawanprash accounted for close to 50 carb grams. Even substantially reducing yoghurt and eliminating Tsampa results in nearly 40 g. carbs total for the day. I’m hoping that I can get back into higher ketosis, since most of those carbs derive from the veggie soups, which are really helping my digestion to wake up! I’m going to try scrambled eggs and avo for brekkie to see how that feels on my tummy.
So far (digestion), so good!
Tomorrow, I’ll gently add in some meat—again in the form of a puree with pate and mousse. I’ve never made these French dishes, so I’m excited to try! I’ll also make some fish mousse. Prep is simple: saute, stew, or otherwise cook the protein; add some wine, cream, herbs, and seasonings; then blend until creamy! I can also add aspic, which is the gelee of bone broth (collagen) that firms when chilled. I already have this healthy collagen-filled broth gelee in my frig!
At present, I am considering when to begin my next ADF. My re-feeding protocol includes 39-hour ADF starting the second week of re-feeding, unless I begin this week, on Day 5-7. At this point, I still feel hungry. I will take it day-by-day and listen to the wisdom my body offers. I’d like to start on Day 6 or Day 7 at the latest, but it’s vital that I give my body adequate time to rebuild after such a long fast of 25 days. Fasting is physiologically stressful, and I want to ensure a healthy rebuild period before I attempt an EF again. I will not start another EF fast until spring-time, as it is detrimental to fast for long periods in cold weather or fall/winter months (according to TCM and Ayurveda). EF weakens Qi too much in a season where Qi is naturally diminishes because of cold weather and the slowing-down hibernation period that is wintertime.
Today begins an exciting day as I go for my first run since leaving China! I may have run a few times in Australia, but not consistently, and not enough to count for much. I don’t expect to run long or far; a full minute would be a victory after a year of sedentary couch blobbing, and actually more than that since my decline into the black hole began in late 2018.
Time to go! I just saw a white rabbit and I'm going to follow it... heeheehee! I am NOT kidding!
One of the most important aspects of Extended Fasting (EF) is the Re-feeding/Rebuilding period; in fact, I will state emphatically that it is equally important to the fasting portion of the process. What I’ve observed in myself during past EFs, and heard from others firsthand, is the tendency to forget this important fact and design a re-feeding protocol and then experience many unpleasant digestive issues by failing to recognize that the GI system settles into total hibernation—it is completely OFF. Eating too much, too often, eating foods that distress rather than nourish the system, eating from a feeling of deprivation, introducing solids and carbs back to soon... it leads to a GI meltdown, as well as an emotional meltdown and weight regain. This lack of planning comes from lack of knowledge surrounding how important a re-feeding protocol is—planning a re-feed into the fasting protocol is paramount! I’ve learned to incorporate one into my fast and I now consider the re-feeding period as an essential PART of my fast. The experts state that the period of re-feeding should equal the same time duration as the duration of the fast, or at least half. Having completed 25 days of fasting, I have laid out a 14-day re-feeding period. So far, so good. It is so, so, so important to have a gentle re-feed planned at the end of an EF, whether it’s a 5- or 7-day fast, or a much longer 21- to 30-day fast!
Thus far, I have gained a negligible amount of weight back, after ending my fast 3 days ago… which is a thrill! I’ve gained less than one pound back: .87 lbs to be exact, and half of that is water. My BMR and muscle mass are slowly increasing, which is what I want! My BMR decreased by 85 kcals during the fast; which is significant because that means 85 less kcals I can eat without gaining weight, and my BMR was already on the low side from all the dieting and weight roller coasters over my lifetime. This means I can eat up to 1383 kcals without exercise—that’s what my body needs as fuel. Then again, EF corrects metabolic imbalances, so I’m hoping I can eat more than that on a daily basis. On the other hand, I’ll continue ADF (Alternate Daily Fasts; fasting every other day), and begin on Day 5 or 6 of my re-feed, dependent upon how I feel at that point. Today, I had to go to the bathroom pretty immediately upon rising, and whatever I ate yesterday has exited my body completely, or so it felt like. Again, no diarrhea, and the stools are formed, but I feel pretty damn emptied out.
Finally, I decided on a new ADF protocol, too! The shorter fasts are more challenging for me, because the first few days of a fast are when hunger overpowers me and they are the point in the fast where it is easiest for me to throw in the towel. That’s applies to me, not everyone. I try to keep a strict 12-6pm eating window (TRE=Time-restricted Easting) and complete three 42-hour fasts per week but the combination seemed too demanding in retrospect. Over the course of this fast, I realized that perhaps they are too demanding; not caring or nourishing to either my body or soul.
42-hours fasts extend (for me personally), from 6pm on Day 1 to 12pm on Day 3. This length of fast is excellent for weight loss and any health issue that fasting can alleviate (there are many!). 36-hour fasts are difficult (again, for me personally), because that would mean eating breakfast at 6am or completely changing the fasting time and eating at weird hours. By opening my TRE window to 9am, I can eat earlier if I wish—and oftentimes I am hungry around 1030-1100 am, so I have to push myself to wait until 12 noon — or do what is most kind to myself: eat when I am hungry. I go to bed early and don’t like to be digesting when I lie down (nor is it healthy for my GI system), so I like to finish eating by 6 or 7pm at the latest. Then, I sleep peacefully and fall asleep even easier!
Both retrospectively and in looking forward, a 39-hour ADF should suit me well; physically, mentally, and emotionally! Essentially, I will eat every other day, which is simple, effective, and not overly taxing on any level. With a longer eating window of 9 hours, I will feel less “deprived” and “restricted”, both of which are much too akin to dieting. I’ll stop eating by 6 or 7pm, skip a day of eating, then return to eating when I am hungry the third day, after 900am. When I consider this protocol, I feel a sense of peace intuitively, as well as feeling confident that I can accomplish this length of fast successfully. Each success builds willpower, confidence, and new neural pathways that lead to further successes, enhanced willpower, and stronger habits from those pathways!
I have continued to measure blood ketones with my new Keto-Mojo blood glucose/ketone monitor. https://keto-mojo.com/ My body remains in a higher level of ketosis (5-6 mmol/L), which is outstanding! I haven’t been monitoring glucose, since I’m not diabetic or anything like that. I will start testing glucose again when I reintroduce carbs to see how particular foods affect me (and wine!).
Also — and quite remarkably — my blood pressure is way, way, way down! As a life-time runner and athlete, my blood pressure has always been on the low side, about 114/65 for most of my life. Over the past few years, with increasing stress and PTSD, it’s crept up and up, commensurate to weight gain. If I recall correctly, it was at an all-time high in China, unsurprisingly, about 160ish/95ish. Very high and very dangerous! In my 50s, overweight, with high blood pressure... the perfect storm of health disaster! Anyway, I took a few readings with a wrist cuff last week, and it had plummeted to less than 110/high 50s! Very low, but unsurprising given a long fast. My acupuncturist also determined that my pulse is weak, but confirmed that would accompany a long fast, so not unusual. I am very relieved that my BP is down, though. It should stay down as I continue to improve my emotional resilience and stress response, start running again, and continue fasting.
Finally, one other lesson I have learned is that I need to continue my salt and electrolyte supplementation. I felt pretty shaky yesterday afternoon, accompanied by a headache (I rarely get headaches); I was still not eating much yet, didn’t take any salt or electrolytes and got a banging headache early afternoon, and just felt unwell for a few hours. Learned that lesson! I will continue supplementing for at least another week, as I ease food back into my body. This should help lessen water regain as well!
Afternoon and Evening Update.
I had THE BEST EVER avocado for brekkie! It was THE BEST EVER because it was the first avocado--and solid food-- I've had since prior to my fast of 25 days, and my taste buds are much more sensitive. It was a luxuriously tasteful experience and it really did seem as though it was THE BEST EVER avocado I have tasted! Yum!
Delicious traditional Tibetan dish for lunch: Tibetan Tsampa with ghee (since I don't have dri* -- AKA"yak"-- butter) and homemade yoghurt (since I don't have dri yoghurt)!
I'm feeling good this evening! I don't feel over-full or a though my tummy doesn't want to digest. It seems the gentle re-feed and supplements to help digestion has paid off with a happy GI tract instead of what I've experienced in the past! This could result from various factors: I'm taking pepsin/betain, amla in the form of Ayurvedic Chyawanprash, chewing the ginger that I add to my tea, eating very small amounts of food at each meal, relaxing with 5 slow breaths before I eat, eating outside with the mountains facing me, offering gratitude for the food and fasting and health... and possibly the most important, intending that I was going to reawaken my digestive fire kindly, slowly, and gently! Plus, I prioritized salt and electrolyte intake today, so I feel MUCH better than I did yesterday!
*"Dri" is the proper term for a female yak, where (obviously), yoghurt and milk and butter come from. "Yak" refers to the male of this ox relative. Most Westerners do not know to differentiate the terms and so "yak" is used commonly, though incorrectly. FYI!!
I took 1001 photos of Yaks and Dris during my trip around Kham, Tibet in 2018!
From Traditional Chinese Medicine you learn that on a very hot day you should refrain from iced or cold drinks, because they dampen Qi (Life Energy). On a hot day or when exerteing, you drink something hot, warm, or at least room temp. The reason behind this philosophy is that ingesting a hot fluid will make you hot; thus sweaty, and as sweat condensates, your body cools.
Dinner includes Kimchi Jiggae (Korean Kimchi soup), that I made with the additions of homemeade bone broth and Chinese snow fungus, then pureed for ease of digestion. The other "soup" is creamy pan-roasted broccoli. After roasting, I sauteed it in gacon grease and ghee until the florets were soft, finishing it with fresh, homemade soy milk and cream cheese. Pureed for my tummy and served piping hot alongside my jiggae!
Nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of spicy kimchi jjigae on a 90-degree day, whilst sitting in the shade of pine trees, gazing out at the mountain ridgeline. Makes for a perfect dinner! I will cool off with a little Greek yoghurt that I made earlier!
Crappy phone, oh well. If you look you can see Turkeys!
surprised it is 2020! Holy crap when did that happen!