The Great Fast Adventure

As an avid reader of Mark’s Daily Apple, I have been transitioning my family into the Primal/Paleo lifestyle for about seven months now.  I have been raising my newborn primarily Primal since he could start eating solids.  Why?  Because as it turns out, babies lack an enzyme that would otherwise enable them to digest grains.  So feeding your baby grains from day 1 of solids is completely ludicrous!  No wonder they sleep so well when someone dumps a big bowl of oatmeal down their throat – their little bodies are struggling to digest the stuff!  In addition, we have noticed little Jake being healthier and more resilient to colds than ALL of his daycare counterparts.

As for us adults in the family, we noticed some wonderful changes when we started Primal.  My husband’s high blood pressure disappeared.  Overnight.  Strange GI problems disappeared.  We slept great and awoke with no symptoms of tiredness.

The one problem that I couldn’t shake was any weight loss.  Initally, I lost a few pounds, but found myself plateauing again.  When I first studied the Primal, I was under the assumption based on everything I read that calories were kind of inconsequential.  When you control the transport of fatty acids into the fat cells by eliminating excess glucose in the blood stream, you don’t have to worry about the ramifications of the traditional 2,000-calorie “sugar burner” diet.

Turns out, even without the excessive glucose, calories eaten still come into play at the end of the day.  One of Mark Sisson’s suggestions?  Try Intermittent Fasting.

Now, Intermittent Fasting (IF) can be different things to different people.  But there is one key concept to approaching IF, and it is being on a Fat-burning diet as opposed to your traditional sugar-burning diet.  Did you know the body has two fuel gages?  Problem is, the sugar-burning fat gage (which uses a diet that follows the USDA’s 2,000 calorie diet laden with grains, beans and even sugars) has its immediate limitations.  You body can only use (Read more information in Mark Sisson’s Article “What it means to be fat-adapted“) a finite amount of glycogen and when it burns up, your body will be screaming for more, and more and more.  And if you’re a sugar-burner, guess what?  All that exercise only makes you eat more – I mean, your body is a well-designed machine and it’s not stupid.  It will replace those lost calories!

As a fat-burner, you would be eating primally, which means protein, healthy fats and plenty of veggies with the occasional fruit.  Restricting sugars, banishing all grains and beans will keep your Glycemic Index stable enough to control your insulin.  And there’s the key.  Long-term insulin control.

With long-term insulin control, you will notice your true hunger takes on a completely different form.  You may not be hungry – TRULY hungry until late in the day.  When was the last time you felt hungry?  DO you ACTUALLY know what it feels like?

Step one for me was to eat a normal Primal/Paleo dinner the night before and get up in the morning, teach my fitness class and go to my day job.  Water and few sips of coffee.  Work, but take no full meals.  If I felt a small hunger, water, maybe a handful of macadamia nuts.  I went this way until about 3 pm without actually FEELING hunger.  When hunger came, it felt like a raw grumbling deep down in my stomach – and the feeling came from my stomach not my head saying “Gee that Snickers bar looks good” – No, it came from my stomach saying “FEED ME SEYMOUR.  FEED ME SOON!”

I drank more water and tried to hold on until I could get home and eat a good dinner.  My stomach was a little smaller and I was riding a small fasting high, so I didn’t need a huge portion at dinner.  And if I wanted, a lovely square of 72% Ghirardelli chocolate.

I proceeded a week this way and lost 4 pounds in a week.  Likely the most I had ever lost.  And you know what?  I didn’t want to eat that much.  It’s dawned on me that the more I ate over time, the more it spurned my body to eat in general. (A good resource to understand Adiposity 101 is Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It”)

As I mentioned, Intermittent Fasting can be structured differently for different people and what their life needs.  I find my body does not like to eat until later in the day, so I pratice what Mark Sisson calls “Condensed Window Fasting”.  Some people thrive off of 1 day fast, 2 days regular eating (Alternating Day Fast).  What’s the point of all this?  The point is, the human body is not well-adapted to be eating as often as modern humans living in a word of heavily marketed and smartly designed food that gives maximum targeting to pleasure centers of the brain (salt, fat, sugar!!)  We were designed to have periodic times of fasting (hunting for the kill could sometimes take days and the tribe subsists on vegetables, followed by a time of feast with meat from the kill.  When our bodies are optimized by fasting, as it turns out, it allows our bodies to rest and repair as well by turning on certain genes that would not be turned on if your body were busy digesting and breaking down new food.

I remember asking my Dad one time how he was losing weight.  He simply shrugged and said “I don’t eat so much anymore.”  Leave it to my Dad to state it so simply.  But understanding the big picture – How this works and WHY this works are keys to how weight loss can work for you, too.

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Challenge: Week 1 – Ditch the grains

Challenge for your first week: Ditch the grains in your diet.

No wheat, rice, corn, oatmeal or anything that is categorized as a grain.  Target your favorite proteins to fill up: eggs, chicken, beef, fish.  No tofu. 

Get off the bread an start to really listen to your body.  Notice if your sleep improves.  Notice if Blood pressure or other Gastrointestical issues clear up.  Keep a journal and make a note of it.