04 January 2012

Nothing in

Well, yesterday I attempted my first fast. It was the longest I have ever (perhaps?) been without food: 36 hours. I've been curious about fasting for a while and a couple of recent things I've heard have made me even more curious. The first was over at Hunter-Gatherer about a Trappist retreat that included fasting. I think John Durant is about as godless as me, so there doesn't really have to be a spiritual component to fasting: I just liked the idea of emptying yourself. Think the hunger artist.  I've done some reading and Durant had talked about fasting as 'reseting' your metabolism, and what I've read about fasting confirms that. Lots of good things, very little potential for bad if you're healthy. It helps control blood sugar as well, something I have a growing interest in, as I think about being healthy in the long term.
On a side note, I have officially become a 'health enthusiast'. I'm not really a 'dieter'. I'm not really an 'athlete'. I like learning and reading about how the body works and how you can feel better/worse. If there's any sort of health news, I'm interested in reading it. I am also learning that a lot of health advice is theory, rather than empirical evidence, based, which makes it all the more interesting. Like eating 5 small meals instead of three big ones... It's also interesting to me the difference between the physiological and psychological effects of the things you do. And being a complex systems theory person myself (and also all about embodiment), the two are not, in my theoretical framework, unrelated...  
Remind me to write a post about how you can't be a complex systems theorist and a Deist. Something I've been thinking about: the Deist always assumes a closed system with a single, ultimate cause...

So I thought yesterday would be a good day to give it a shot, given that I had overeaten and been more sedentary over Christmas break. I say I over-ate, but only the normal things I tend to eat and only really had too much sugar (the main thing I'm trying to avoid too much of) on Christmas day and very little bad fats. The rest of the time, I was eating a lot of protein, vegetables, and whole grain carbs: museli. I've also been putting wheat germ on my rice to give me some impedance of sugar intake in my blood. Too much food is too much food, granted, but overeating 1000 kCals of apples and carrots is, in my experience, much different than 1000 kCals of cake.

I started my fast after eating on Monday night and didn't have anything after 6 or 7ish. And when I say nothing, I mean, only water. No coffee, no tea, no nothing. When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I weighed myself to see where I was: 81.5 kgs, 17.8% body fat. Wow. That's like a 66% rebound on where I was between my lowest and highest body weights last year, up more than 10 kgs since the summer. But, and this is a pretty big but, the body weight is only part of the story--the main problem with my approach last year. Although my weight is up, my body fat percentage has been steady and although I wouldn't be happy with 81 kgs last year, 20-22% of that would have been fat. And 2 kg of fat vs. 2 kg of muscle on a body are quite different. You can see the difference. Still, I would like to be closer to 78 kg with that same body fat percentage: I think that's where I am the most naturally healthy.

Although I had the sense that I wanted to eat something, I wasn't actually hungry (something I was also hoping to separate out), so I just left for work. I went about my day as normal: still riding my bike to the university, still standing at my desk. The main problem of not eating wasn't so much being hungry, but the schedule of eating. Noon came around and I had nothing to do. I was thinking about dinner too, and how I usually look forward to dinner, but there was nothing to look forward to. I would go home and... what would I do? This had nothing to do with being hungry, I realised: just the process of eating. I mark breaks with food--I stop working to eat.

At about two in the afternoon, I felt hungry for the first time, and was starting to feel like my stomach was empty. I had eaten a lot the day before at a party (well, not a lot, but enough) and so I didn't feel like I was going to have any real emptiness. I was also not drinking any tea or coffee. Only water, but by about four, I was feeling okay again. Did I have a bit of a headache? I couldn't tell. I was hoping to feel more empty than I did, but I still felt like I was full. Perhaps this was just the water I drank.

Yoko fed the kids before I got home which made things much, much easier for me. I drank some hot water and put away the dishes: they had eaten spaghetti and I was a bit incredulous. I like spaghetti: why did they have to have spaghetti TODAY of all days? Still though, I wasn't really hungry at this point, and by the time I had settled at home, I knew that I would make it the rest of the day. Sleep was what I was really looking forward to, not eating.

I had got the kids the Beauty and the Beast DVD and it came yesterday, so we watched a bit of that, gave them baths, and then had a bit of storytime before Yoko put them to bed. I got on the scale again, curious and it read 81.4kgs 15.4% body fat. Right, I remembered, the body fat indicator really depends on how much water you have in your body. The more hydrated you are, the lower the reading. It doesn't matter though: somewhere between 17.8% and 15.4% is great, so I was happy with that.

I went to bed around 9:30--a bit early for me, but not that early. I was also hoping it would give me a good night's sleep, but having drank all that water, I still had to get up at 3 to pee. I woke up again at 6 from a funky dream, and did what I shouldn't have done: ate a lot. I had an apple, bowl of muesli, whole grain toast with jam, two egg omelette with TONS of cabbage and onions, cup of coffee, and like 300 ml of milk (it's going bad, we have to drink it NOW!). Too much fibre and dairy on a small stomach, although not a bad breakfast overall, I guess. Next time, I'm going to ease out of it a bit more, I think.

I didn't weigh myself this morning: I should have, but I felt that if the number didn't make me happy it would have blown my feeling of success, so I avoided it. I got to work and per my marathon training, went for a five mile run. I was a bit worried at first (particularly in the first five minutes) that I was not going to be able to make it, but I quickly picked up and felt good. 5.02 mi 38:57 372 kCal 7:45/mi--Perfect. Those are exactly the numbers I want at this point. 3 miles tomorrow, 9 on Saturday. I put on my jeans and they felt looser that than did the day before. Less water, less everything in the body. I like that feeling quite a bit.

So I will do it again on Monday, I think. I'm going to try to do it 4 times this month and maybe have a couple of days where I do a 24 hour fast from dinner on one day to dinner on the next. We'll see. Monday should be easier, although I think I will run on the fast day rather than the day after. Play with it a bit. Of course, if I start feeling bad, I will kill it, but right now, I feel really great.