Group Writing: Intermittent Fasting

 

I just stepped on the scale. I weigh 295 pounds. That probably sounds like a lot to you, but it sounds like a minor victory for me. For several years, I have weighed over 300 pounds. I have had a lot of health issues over the last 30 years that have led to my being fat. The history doesn’t matter much, but another recent physical challenge had me ready to consider new measures. One measure that I have heard can sometimes “reset” the metabolism is fasting.

I had already been thinking about fasting when someone posted formulae in the PIT for calculating one’s basic metabolic rate (BMR). This is, according to the site where it was referenced, the absolute bare necessity for doing things like breathing and maintaining a heartbeat. Here are the formulae:

  • For men= 65 + (6.2 *(multiply by) weight in lbs) + ( 12.7 * height in inches) – ( 6.8 * age in years)
  • For women = 655+ ( 4.3 * weight in lbs) + ( 4.3 * height in inches) – (4.7 * age in years)

As an example, say that you have a twenty-one-year-old man who is six-foot-one and 165 pounds. His BMR is: 65 + (6.2 * 165) + (12.7 * 73) – (6.8 * 21) = 1872.3 calories per day. If he is active, he’ll use a lot more calories.

Then there was me. 2457.4 was the number I came up with. Obviously, the number of calories needed per day goes up with height and weight, but down with age. Also obviously, if you don’t meet your minimum for the day, you’ll burn stored energy in the way of fat or protein or whatever the body can get its hands on. And if there’s nothing left to burn, you die. I am not in any danger of having nothing left to burn at the current time. But looking at that number, I thought, do I even eat that much per day?

(Narrator: Well, he certainly wasn’t losing weight before, was he?)

As I had said, I had been considering fasting already, and thought it might help reset my metabolism. The problem with fasting is that I am part of a household. I am also the primary cook in the household. That could make something like a three-day fast difficult, especially if I am cooking for my wife. I went back to the Internet to read more on fasting and found that there are several kinds. Particularly, there are at least three forms of what is called “intermittent fasting.”

The first form might have multi-day fasts, like what I had initially been thinking about doing. There are some religious fasts like this.

A second form, or schedule, of intermittent fasting that I found might have food every other day. So, it would be one day of fasting, the next of eating, the next of fasting again, etc.

The third intermittent fasting schedule was a daily schedule where the hours of eating were restricted followed by a fast. To a certain extent, we do this anyway, it’s just that the hours of fasting are usually when we sleep, perhaps for six or eight hours, and then we might eat for most of the remaining hours of the day with three meals and maybe a snack or two. It is why our first meal of the day is called breakfast, since we are breaking our fast. But the intermittent fasting schedule was much more like what Muslims go through during Ramadan. The fast isn’t just six or eight hours, but most of the day, such as 12 or 16 hours.

This last form of intermittent fasting was something I could do without inconveniencing my wife. I decided I would fast for 16 hours per day and allow myself to eat only within an eight-hour period each day. Due to my wife’s sometimes unpredictable schedule availability for supper, the schedule I set was to be allowed to eat between 1 and 9 p.m. I started about three weeks ago.

If one thinks about it, most people probably usually eat over at least 12 hours per day. Maybe they have breakfast at 7 a.m. Even if they catch an early dinner at 6 p.m., by the time they’re done, it has been about 12 hours since they started breakfast. For some people, it is even more hours per day. For me, I never slept much at one time. Fifteen minutes here, two hours there, so my eating schedule was open 24 hours per day.

(Narrator: And this was why he wasn’t losing weight.)

When one cuts down to only eating within eight hours each day, the first thing I found was that it is difficult to have more than two full meals in the allotted time. One might manage a snack in between the two, but the body needs digestion time, and one soon runs out of one’s eight hours. At the same time, I also started paying a bit more attention to the calories I was consuming. Once I started paying attention, I realized that I had probably been getting a whole passel of calories before as I grazed for 24 hours per day. Now, eating it all within eight hours, it is difficult to even consume 2,000 calories. And that is about right for a man to consume to lose weight.

On the first week, I lost six pounds. As with most diets or regimens that help reduce inflammation, I suspect a lot of that was from water. The subsequent two weeks, I have averaged two pounds per week. That will likely slow down as time goes on. My BMR is dropping with the weight. I’m already down to a BMR of below 2,400 calories per day. Yet, if I can even lose one pound per week, in a couple of years, I could be down to a reasonable weight.

I’m not counting my chickens before they’re hatched, but I’m also not planning on buying new clothes for a while, just in case I go down a size or four in the next couple of years.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Thanks! Especially for the BMR calculation. I’m 5′-6″ and trying to keep my weight under 143 pounds, and am inactive because of spinal issues. I’ve been looking for some accurate calorie input numbers, and you supplied them.

    • #1
  2. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    I’m going to have to revisit this method. I was doing well on it and have succeeded in permanently shrinking my eating window. Time to go back.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):
    . . .and am inactive because of spinal issues.

    The “another recent physical challenge” for me was a problem with the leg. Enough pain was involved that I wasn’t walking around as much, and I was worrying that I would put on even more weight. Now the leg is better, and I’ve lost ten pounds. Life is good.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    A great start, Arahant! Keep it going!

    • #4
  5. B. W. Wooster Member
    B. W. Wooster
    @HenryV

    Excellent information.  I work out every morning (except election day in Virginia :)).  I am about 5′-10″ and had a target weight of 172 lbs when I started at the gym a couple years ago.  My weight when I started was about 200 lbs. I hit 172 early this year.  Since then, my weight has crept back up to 180 or so – which I believe is due to my shift to strength training.  

    I too have a recent interest in intermittent fasting.  I skip breakfast on M-W-F and of late have tried to go 20 hrs on  Wednesdays.  That is proving challenging because of the workouts and keeping my mind sharp during the workday (engineering – so desk time, emails, calculations). Still, the more I think of it, I believe the fasting route is beneficial on multiple levels.

    One last word.  I listened to the Art of Manliness podcast entitled, “Why We Get Sick“.  It was a really terrific insight on insulin-resistance and the havoc it creates in the body.  I really highly recommend a listen.  I plan to pick up a copy of the book that was discussed as well.  Good stuff.

     

    • #5
  6. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    I’ve been doing various forms of intermittent fasting for a couple of years. I started out with an eight-hour eating window, along with a no-snacking rule, which basically meant I ate lunch and dinner every day but nothing else. More recently, I’ve switched to a one-meal-a-day (OMAD) approach. I do relax the rules on weekends, but during the work week I don’t eat anything at all until dinner, and that’s it.

    I have been surprised by how easy intermittent fasting is, at least for me. My body very quickly adjusted, and I don’t feel hungry at all during the day. Honestly, the thought of eating three meals a day, every day, doesn’t even appeal to me anymore; it sounds ludicrously extravagant and gluttonous.

    I do find that I don’t lose weight unless I also try consciously to limit my caloric intake. But that actually isn’t very hard to do on the OMAD approach. A thousand calories might not sound much for a whole day, but if you’re eating it all as one meal, it’s plenty. At the moment I’m not really trying very hard to lose weight (having already lost 30 pounds), but just doing OMAD by itself has been a relatively effortless way to maintain my weight where it is.

    • #6
  7. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Beautiful!

    I started a program that I kind of made up, and it has worked great for me.

    Started in June, and made a chart that spread out over 4 months, 12 tranches of 10 days each.

    I mostly wanted to lose weight, but I also wanted to actually try some things I talk about a lot but don’t do habitually, mostly out of weakness of character, mixed with laziness. I thought this summer I would keep a chart to shame myself into sticking to my agreement with myself.

    So as not to program in defeat, I gave myself a bail option. Whatever I started doing, I had to continue for at least the 10 days. If I hated it, or didn’t think it was worth it, then I could drop that thing, but only at the start of the next tranche.  I could also add things as I got more enthusiastic, but had to remember not to go too crazy because whatever it was, I had to keep it up for at least the next 10 days.

    The un-violatable things – these had to continue across the whole 120 days, were:

    Only eat food I prepared myself (within reason). Mostly this meant no restaurants.

    Only eat food made from ingredients, nothing “prepared”- and as fresh as possible.

    No sugar, no grain. (Ala Vinnie Tortorich.)

    No alcohol. (This was way easier than I thought – I ordinarily can put away a sturdy portion regularly.)

    And, critically, the fasting. I had read that the human body is not designed to eat three squares a day; it has all kinds of complicated systems working in there to accommodate a sporadic diet. We dampen those systems, and throw our bodies into distress, by feeding too regularly. This leads to the sugar imbalances that make so many people fall apart if they can’t eat something every few hours.  A healthy person should be able to skip a day of eating any time, and 3 days occasionally without falling apart. At least that was my theory.

    So my routine was:

    M-F, only eat anything between 3 and 9 pm. (Coffee and tea are fine.)

    At least two days out of each tranche, eat nothing – skip that day’s 3-9.

    At least once a month (one of the three tranches), fast for at least 3 days.

    I selected the days as randomly as I could, though sometimes they would coincide with days I noticed I was out of perishable food anyway, so today would be good.  Also, any time I had to fly, that was a good day to fast – airplane snacks and food is pretty easy to skip.

    It was much less difficult than I thought. I went from 238 down to 200 -205, where things stabilized for the final month.  I am now gearing up for another month-long push to see if I can get down to around 190, then stay there for the rest of my life (I’m 65).  This push will involve adding some kettle bell stuff, and more calisthenics, see if that makes a difference. I’m heading back to Germany for Christmas, and I’d like the customs guys to give me the thumbs-up (I made two trips during the 120 days, and I’m sure they were monitoring my progress).

    You could do anything, but the other things I made myself do every day, trying to establish them as habits, were:

    1. Practice German for at least an hour.
    2. Do something to make myself sweat for at least a half-hour. (Rode my bike a lot.)
    3. Meditate for at least 20 minutes (used Headspace).
    4. Do Yoga every day (Sun Salutation x 12, and some other stuff -nothing religious, for me it’s just stretching, with a good breathing technique).
    5. Take a cold shower or bath every day, at least ten minutes.

    Those were every day for the 120.  Other things I added as I went along were:

    1. Floss every morning and water pik every night.
    2. Treat a toenail fungus issue I have had for years, because it requires an application of apple cider vinegar every day for 6 months or more, which I have never had the discipline to do). TMI I know – but it’s working great!
    3. Practice Matt Furey’s “Combat Conditioning” 3 calisthenic exercises every day. (Google it.)
    4. Practice Wim Hof’s breathing technique every day, including 3 breath holds. (I routinely would achieve 3 minutes +, several times over 4 minutes.)

    It was a great summer, and I was much happier to welcome 65 last week at 205  instead of 240.  Good luck, man!

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    I have been surprised by how easy intermittent fasting is, at least for me.

    Same here. But don’t tell my wife. She thinks it would be hard, so look at all my willpower. 😉

    • #8
  9. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Respect.

    Doing an unpleasant thing every day for a very real but long-term gain is hard. I’m sympathetic to those who can’t bring themselves to try, but I have enormous respect for those of you who do. Well done!

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):
    It was a great summer, and I was much happier to welcome 65 last week at 205  instead of 240.

    Fantastic. Glad to hear that.

    • #10
  11. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    I have been surprised by how easy intermittent fasting is, at least for me.

    Same here. But don’t tell my wife. She thinks it would be hard, so look at all my willpower. 😉

    I prefer to call it discipline. The one thing I realize when I intermittent fast is how much I eat when I’m not hungry. It also makes the food taste better when I finally do eat. I also notice I eat less. I’d suggest limiting your sugar and processed food intake if you want to loss weight but intermittent fasting is a great way of discipling your diet. Best of luck Arahant.

    • #11
  12. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Respect.

    Doing an unpleasant thing every day for a very real but long-term gain is hard. I’m sympathetic to those who can’t bring themselves to try, but I have enormous respect for those of you who do. Well done!

    Agree, but intermittent fasting isn’t one of those unpleasant things, as it turns out.  I have more energy and much less hunger for snacks on a program similar to Arahant’s that is also low carb and high fat, i.e., modified keto.  Eating two meals a day also gives you more time.  If I didn’t have other people’s needs to consider, I’d use a smaller window than 8 hours, but 8 hours works, too.  

    Insulin resistance is a huge health problem, and it’s good to get off that treadmill.  Too bad public health officials are so quiet about our actual health problems and what we  might do about them.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    thelonious (View Comment):
    The one thing I realize when I intermittent fast is how much I eat when I’m not hungry.

    Yes, that was one of my great realizations. I want to get up from my desk and take a walk and stretch? I usually wind up in the kitchen. “Oh, look, a piece of cheese!” My snacks are lasting a lot longer these days.

    thelonious (View Comment):
    I’d suggest limiting your sugar and processed food intake if you want to lose weight. . .

    That’s not very high in the first place. I’m allergic to too many things, so if I want processed foods, I have to do the processing myself to ensure nothing untoward gets in. And I am losing weight.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Sandy (View Comment):
    Insulin resistance is a huge health problem, and it’s good to get off that treadmill.  Too bad public health officials are so quiet about our actual health problems and what we  might do about them.

    Amen and amen!

    • #14
  15. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    The problem with limiting my eating to an eight-hour window is that I get so hungry, especially when the weather turns cold. I can be constantly hungry some days. That becomes unpleasant. I’ve changed my diet to deal with the serious blood sugar crashes I began experiencing last November, and that has helped, but still need to plan regular eating throughout the day and figure out how to manage my dinners so that I’m not starving by 8:00 pm. I’d rather go without that evening snack, but sometimes, I have to have it.  But I have a vague goal of a 12-hour break from eating, and that is easy to do if I can skip the late evening emergency snack. 

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):
    The problem with limiting my eating to an eight-hour window is that I get so hungry, especially when the weather turns cold.

    You have to go with what works for you.

    • #16
  17. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    My sisters each lost a significant amount of weight by fasting. Several years later they’ve settled into OMAD and it works well for them.

    Eating was always a struggle between my husband and me; he considered it The Most Important Thing Ever, while it bores me; I’ve only eaten when hungry (and sometimes not even then). A couple of years ago he wanted to lose 20 lbs to get ready for knee replacements and researched fasting.

    Typical to course, a spreadsheet was involved, an app, and a Lot of talking that bored me to tears. He started, and was very pleased with the results.  I finally listened to him explain it to someone; I told him: so basically, you’re skipping breakfast? For this you need a spread sheet and an app? That’s what I’ve been doing my entire life. (I think an invisible eyeroll was also involved)

    He’s lost the 20 lbs and has had not trouble keeping the weight off. Got both knee replacements and he looks great.

    One thing he shared that was revelatory (to him); previously, he thought hunger was a near -fatal condition that required immediate attention. He’s learned that if he ignores it, it wanes and he can put off eating for hours (which is what I do). He also finds himself clearer headed a work.

    Good luck with your weight loss. There’s been a few times in my life when I had to focus to drop some excess lbs; at those times I tell myself: nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

    • #17
  18. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    double post

    • #18
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Annefy (View Comment):
    One thing he shared that was revelatory (to him); previously, he thought hunger was a near -fatal condition that required immediate attention. He’s learned that if he ignores it, it wanes and he can put off eating for hours (which is what I do). He also finds himself clearer headed a work.

    The last is not a surprise. The blood isn’t all working on digesting food, so he has some to spare for his brain. As for hunger being a near-fatal condition, that has never been the case with me. As I said above, I’m realizing how much I was grazing before. That seems to have been the real problem.

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I’m sort of surprised by how many folks here have been trying this or know someone who has. It doesn’t seem like I have seen anyone talking about it here before.

    • #20
  21. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    The problem with limiting my eating to an eight-hour window is that I get so hungry, especially when the weather turns cold. I can be constantly hungry some days. That becomes unpleasant. I’ve changed my diet to deal with the serious blood sugar crashes I began experiencing last November, and that has helped, but still need to plan regular eating throughout the day and figure out how to manage my dinners so that I’m not starving by 8:00 pm. I’d rather go without that evening snack, but sometimes, I have to have it. But I have a vague goal of a 12-hour break from eating, and that is easy to do if I can skip the late evening emergency snack.

    I believe that’s why adding fat for satiation and severely lowering carbs to keep blood sugar in range are typically needed, but if you have gone into an insulin-resistant state it takes some serious consistency since you will tend always to be hungry until you are less resistant.  I agree that the late evening snack can be a difficulty, and if my grandchildren are sitting around eating popcorn, it’s impossible!  I find that the desire for that snack is removed if I retire early to the second floor since I have no desire to eat while reading or working–or maybe I’m  just too lazy to go back downstairs–but watching a movie or TV is a different story. 

    • #21
  22. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    I have been surprised by how easy intermittent fasting is, at least for me. My body very quickly adjusted, and I don’t feel hungry at all during the day. Honestly, the thought of eating three meals a day, every day, doesn’t even appeal to me anymore; it sounds ludicrously extravagant and gluttonous.

    When I was young my dad once mentioned that he never ate breakfast. At the time I thought it strange. How could one not eat breakfast? For about a year now, I haven’t been hungry in the morning and understand my dad a bit better. I usually make it to 1130 or 1200 before eating.

    • #22
  23. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’m sort of surprised by how many folks here have been trying this or know someone who has. It doesn’t seem like I have seen anyone talking about it here before.

    Ace at Ace of Spades HQ did a big post on intermittent fasting a number years ago but I too haven’t seen it discussed here.

    • #23
  24. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):
    One thing he shared that was revelatory (to him); previously, he thought hunger was a near -fatal condition that required immediate attention. He’s learned that if he ignores it, it wanes and he can put off eating for hours (which is what I do). He also finds himself clearer headed a work.

    The last is not a surprise. The blood isn’t all working on digesting food, so he has some to spare for his brain. As for hunger being a near-fatal condition, that has never been the case with me. As I said above, I’m realizing how much I was grazing before. That seems to have been the real problem.

    What JY calls “eating as a hobby”.

    • #24
  25. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’m sort of surprised by how many folks here have been trying this or know someone who has. It doesn’t seem like I have seen anyone talking about it here before.

    Ace at Ace of Spades HQ did a big post on intermittent fasting a number years ago but I too haven’t seen it discussed here.

    Claire did a post many years ago about diet, and fasting was explored there.

    • #25
  26. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Do you all know about the little gift of resistant starch?  Some starchy foods, such as dried beans and green bananas, contain a lot of starch that resists digestion and does not raise blood sugar and also happens to feed gut bacteria.  Others, like white potatoes and rice can be turned into resistant starch–yay!  If you cook them ahead of time, let them cool, and then reheat them, their starch changes its form.   You can read about this on the Hopkins  website.  What is Resistant Starch? – The Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes (hopkinsdiabetesinfo.org)

    • #26
  27. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Beautiful!

    I started a program that I kind of made up, and it has worked great for me.

    Started in June, and made a chart that spread out over 4 months, 12 tranches of 10 days each.

    I mostly wanted to lose weight, but I also wanted to actually try some things I talk about a lot but don’t do habitually, mostly out of weakness of character, mixed with laziness. I thought this summer I would keep a chart to shame myself into sticking to my agreement with myself.

    So as not to program in defeat, I gave myself a bail option. Whatever I started doing, I had to continue for at least the 10 days. If I hated it, or didn’t think it was worth it, then I could drop that thing, but only at the start of the next tranche. I could also add things as I got more enthusiastic, but had to remember not to go too crazy because whatever it was, I had to keep it up for at least the next 10 days.

    The un-violatable things – these had to continue across the whole 120 days, were:

    Only eat food I prepared myself (within reason). Mostly this meant no restaurants.

    Only eat food made from ingredients, nothing “prepared”- and as fresh as possible.

    No sugar, no grain. (Ala Vinnie Tortorich.)

    No alcohol. (This was way easier than I thought – I ordinarily can put away a sturdy portion regularly.)

    And, critically, the fasting. I had read that the human body is not designed to eat three squares a day; it has all kinds of complicated systems working in there to accommodate a sporadic diet. We dampen those systems, and throw our bodies into distress, by feeding too regularly. This leads to the sugar imbalances that make so many people fall apart if they can’t eat something every few hours. A healthy person should be able to skip a day of eating any time, and 3 days occasionally without falling apart. At least that was my theory.

    So my routine was:

    M-F, only eat anything between 3 and 9 pm. (Coffee and tea are fine.)

    At least two days out of each tranche, eat nothing – skip that day’s 3-9.

    At least once a month (one of the three tranches), fast for at least 3 days.

    I selected the days as randomly as I could, though sometimes they would coincide with days I noticed I was out of perishable food anyway, so today would be good. Also, any time I had to fly, that was a good day to fast – airplane snacks and food is pretty easy to skip.

    I’m copying this comment into my notes to try this.

    • #27
  28. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Fasting helps,  expecially at plateaus.  I’m down from 235 to 170 at age 74.

    The wife (hiatal hernia, reflux, degenerative disk disease, lymphedema, knee cartilage gone), over a period of about 3 years, is down from 360+ to 220 and still going.

    We both are conscientious calorie counters.  Sue 1100 me 1400.

    • #28
  29. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Sandy (View Comment):

    Do you all know about the little gift of resistant starch? Some starchy foods, such as dried beans and green bananas, contain a lot of starch that resists digestion and does not raise blood sugar and also happens to feed gut bacteria. Others, like white potatoes and rice can be turned into resistant starch–yay! If you cook them ahead of time, let them cool, and then reheat them, their starch changes its form. You can read about this on the Hopkins website. What is Resistant Starch? – The Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes (hopkinsdiabetesinfo.org)

    Correction: The starch changes its form when cooled.  When re-heated it keeps its resistant form.

    • #29
  30. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Sandy (View Comment):
    Do you all know about the little gift of resistant starch?

    I do now. Tyvm, Sandy.

    • #30
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