Monday, March 29, 2021

Belated End of Year Check-In

 I neglected my end-of-year check-in this year. So here it is, three months late. Here's the chart for the weight. Weight is a crummy metric for Metabolic Syndrome: it's analogous to cholesterol -- we rely on it because it's easy, and gives us a spurious but scientific-feeling accuracy. You can see the major contours below, though: I lost weight steadily from May 2017 to August 2018, going from 220 to 150; then I gained back ten pounds; for the two years thereafter I've held pretty steady at 160.

Below is the graph of my waist measurement over the same time (sorry, I don't know enough about the charts and PNG formats to get the scales to look the same: but they really are over the same period of time)

From this you get a better picture of what the changes in weight meant, and what I was trying to do. The year I gained ten pounds, I did it deliberately, and I did it without increasing my waist measurement, which I've been able to hold pretty steady in the 33" to 34" range. Waist measurement is fussy and inaccurate and frustrating, but it's actually a direct measurement of what I was most eager to do: reduce my visceral fat. So the ten pounds I gained was mostly muscle mass: something devoutly to be wished. Not because it's decorative, but because muscle means you can get up off the floor and carry groceries, etc.; and because it provides an excellent glucose sink for people (like me, like at least half the American population) that have difficulty managing glucose in a healthy way. The glucose that doesn't end up in your muscles lands in your liver, and the liver has to flail about trying to store it in various generally unhealthy ways.

The attentive reader will see that over the past year and a half I've tried repeatedly to bring my waist down another inch or two, with no success whatever. (That's where the blue line, which describes my intention, goes jagged, as I revise it over and over.) I had thought the same strategy I used for my original weight loss would work again: why wouldn't it?

Well, it wouldn't because within a week or two of cutting down my calorie intake, I would find myself binge-eating, just like the bad old days. God knows I don't want to start that up again. It was during one of these binge-prone periods that I had my blood lipids done, which showed a mild deterioration, and inspired my doctor to urge statins, and made me take the project of further reducing my visceral fat, and improving my metabolic health, more seriously. (Yes, yes, I know that cholesterol is a crappy metric for metabolic health, but it's not totally irrelevant, either. A happy liver just doesn't crank out that much cholesterol.) Hence the reduction of saturated fat -- the switch from the nightly hamburger and ice cream to herring and turkey (which is going fine!) Hence also the time-restricted feeding, also going fine, with a quite roomy ten- or eleven-hour feeding window: the idea of that is making sure that my insulin actually has time to fall for a reasonable amount of time. (Calling thirteen or fourteen hours a "fast" seems a bit overblown to me. "Not snacking" seems nearer the mark. But it makes sense that if you want to burn fat you'll have to stop flashing the "don't burn any fat! we've got sugar to burn!" signal at some point; i.e. let your insulin levels fall.)

And also I'm interested in real fasting, fasting for a day or two or three -- partly because of the the autophagy and senescent-cell-clearance speculation, which is fascinating but not really settled health science yet, and partly because it seems at least possible that it works for burning fat without lowering metabolism, which in real-life terms, may mean without kicking off binge-eating.

I'm interested too for what you might loosely call spiritual, or psychological, reasons: I've been hagridden by obsessive attention to food all my life, and I long to shake loose of it. I have never, in 63 years on the planet, gone a full 24 hours without food. This seems rather immature to me: not because I think I should have the will power -- I don't believe I will ever have any more will power than I have right now, or that I have, or should have, particularly more or less than anyone else -- but because I'd like to practice managing my endocrine reactions better. I would be a better person if I didn't get cranky and unreasonable at missing a meal, or at even the prospect of missing a meal. And I think with practice I might get a handle on that.

So that's the current project. Still pushing to get that waist/hip ratio down to 90%. And tomorrow is the next fast: 24 hours this time. (Or put another way, skipping lunch and dinner.) Wish me luck!


Sabine said...

Your dedication and perseverance is really impressive!

I have done proper fasting a few times in my life. The first time as a guinea pig for my then bf, a medical student. We, in our early 20s then, fasted for 16 days, i.e. only water, herbal tea and 2 l very diluted vegetable juice/day. On day one, we did the prep stuff you do for coloscopy (clearing out the intestines helps to not feel hunger pangs) and he regularly took blood samples and bp measurements to check for whatever he was researching at the time.
During that time, I had three major exams and did really well. I also went swimming and cycling and partying (sans alcohol) as before and apart from needing to wrap up more and sleeping much less, I do not remember anything negative. Weight loss was dramatic, 1.5 kg on average per day. BUT absolutely NOT sustainable, in fact the weight was back up within a month after the fast. The bf did his paper on exactly that with his hypothesis since confirmed by many others - that such rapid weight loss over a period of >5 days basically mimicks starvation to the metabolism and once it is over, the body goes into overdrive to recover. You need to be a saint to stop that.

I did a few more fasts since but either as prep for surgery (3 days max) or as part of some protest in a group (anti Pershing, anti nuke, that kind of stuff).
It's certainly an experience, whatever the reasoning behind it. I would recommend a good check up beforehand though. The last time I attempted it, my liver values went sky high and in response my cholesterol as well - temporarily. Could be anecdotal but there are some caveats, esp. with prexisting conditions.

We usually have at least one day/week without dinner, for no particular reason, it just sort of happened because we can be too lazy. On these days, we just make tea and maybe nibble on a cracker but most times, we are too busy doing stuff or watching stuff etc.

Have a look at caloric restriction (CR) and time-restricted eating (TRE) in

Dale said...

Wow, an average of 1.5 kg per day? That's crazy! But yeah, fasting kicks the growth hormone etc. way up, and you really should gain most of that weight back. If I were trying to lose weight with the longer fasting, I think I'd aim to gain back three pounds for every four I dropped: something like that. (I'm not actually anxious to lose any more weight at all, at this point, per se; but I am interested in clearing as much visceral fat as I can, and recycling damaged cells & proteins. My guess is that if I do that successfully I'll end up five or ten pounds lighter, but that would just be a side effect.)

I would love to get to such ease with eating and fasting that it was possible for me to accidentally miss a meal! You might even call that my end-goal, here. I'm tired of being insulin's bitch :-)

Moria said...

Hey Dale,
I note I've been deeply confused about what kinds of information do / don't interest you, so I will be brief, leaving it to you to ask if you want to know more.
I have done several fasts of 7 to 14 days, where "fasting" means only water -- no medications, no tea, just water.
I'm aware with some "schools" of health that include fasting, such as natural hygiene, which defines fasting as only water with COMPLETE REST. I'm aware of lots of lore about fasting, as well as a book I recommend and a medically-supervised fasting center (which publishes their research). These are folks with tons of experience.
A bit of lore you might want to consider is that hunger goes away after one reaches full ketosis / full conversion to using energy available from the body. This takes about 2 days for women and about 3 days for men.
And absolutely one of my motivations is to have my body do deeper housecleaning than it can do when I'm eating.