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Experiment Log No. 20 — Intermittent Fasting

In this experiment I try an intermittent fasting protocol for 30 days. Original post here.

The Terms

Experiment began April 27 and ends May 26. Every day I will restrict my food intake to an 8-hour period, roughly between 12 noon and 8pm. The exact period isn’t crucial, but I am aiming for a 16-hour fasted period between eating periods.

I am tracking weight, body composition and caloric consumption, which I will update here once a week or so.

The experiment has ended. Final Conclusions:

The thirty days went by rather quickly, and I think it’s because it felt quite normal after the initial 10-day adjustment period. I am still eating the same way for the most part. I still don’t eat till noon, but I don’t worry so much about not eating after 8pm. I don’t usually want to anyway.

I kept my calories at a moderate deficit, maybe 300 under maintenance on average. I lost a hard-to-determine amount of weight. I started at 192 and weighed 186 when I ended. Then I overate moderately for two days and suddenly was back up to 190. This morning I weighed myself and I was 185. So I have no idea, but I have visibly lost bodyfat and I feel good.

Other than not eating until noon there wasn’t much of an adjustment from my normal routine, but it really changed my relationship to the sensation of hunger, because every single day I encountered an empty stomach feeling and didn’t eat. This was extremely empowering to me, to discover that I have full control over what I eat and when. Without really having thought about it, I guess I had always felt that the sensation of hunger could not be argued with. It was too painful and uncomfortable to miss a meal.

But this turned out to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Hunger pangs are totally bearable and hardly bother me. And suddenly, there’s no struggle to refrain from eating. Restricting calories (to cut weight, for example) isn’t a battle between willpower and temptation, it’s just a simple decision that’s easy to fulfill. I was keeping to about 2100 calories a day, and tracking everything I ate in an app, so I learned how to compensate for the inevitable excessive meals. If I knew I was going to go out to eat later, I would simply eat less during the day.

My portion sizes have become naturally smaller. I eat slower, and get a lot more enjoyment out of everything I eat. I feel like I’m really eating to live for the first time. Mealtimes used to be a kind of three-times-daily indulgence. I expected to be entertained and gratified by it every single time. But now I primarily want to fuel my body, and let the delicious, entertaining meals happen when they happen. I still get plenty of opportunities to indulge every week, and they’re much more enjoyable because they come with no guilt because I know that I’m not overeating on the balance.

Now, about fasting itself — I’m not sure the fasted state is anything special. Over the course of the experiment I began to believe that intermittent fasting is mostly just a way of simplifying the task of eating fewer calories than normal. I don’t believe there are special fat-burning properties of not having eaten for 8 or more hours. I could be wrong, but that is the position taken by the majority of fitness-minded people in the online communities I’m a part of, and for now I agree with them.

There is certainly something powerful about learning how to refrain from eating, and that alone is a reason enough to fast. But I think the physiological benefits of fasting protocols come from the resulting caloric restriction (and carb-cycling, if you’re doing that, as you would with the Leangains protocol.)

So where am I now that it’s over? Not quite sure, and so far I’m following a slightly less strict version of the same protocol. I’m about to start a new weight program, and will be watching calories and macronutrient intake, and almost certainly fasting until noon.

This was an excellent experiment and I’d recommend looking into fasting, with all the usual warnings and caveats.


The Log

Day 1: April 27/2015

It’s 2pm. Not eating until noon was no problem at all. I’m not surprised it was easy, but it made me realize that all of the times I did eat in the morning, it was only out of habit. I had a few hunger pangs, but noticed how quickly these went away. I always viewed hunger pangs as some kind of emergency signal your body was sending, like physical pain, but not that seems ridiculous. They go away so quickly.

I ate a fairly sizable lunch (of solid food) clocking in at about 750 calories. Afterward, it felt like I’d eaten too much. Tomorrow I’ll probably just have a cup of soylent for my first meal.

It’s too early to determine much else.

10pm: well I ended up over on calories, partly because of my large first meal. But it surprised me how easy it was to eat 2000 calories over 8 hours. Although I overate just before 8 my stomach feels empty now for some reason. It may be a false alarm. I’ll see when I try to go to sleep.

All in all, this is not much of an adjustment. But it really does make it hard to eat WAY too many calories.


Day 2: April 28/2015

The day went well except for two blunders.

1) I had a beer after 8. It was maybe 8:45, so not a big deal in itself. More concerning is that I totally didn’t even think of it. In fact, I was talking about how I don’t consume calories after 8pm as I was drinking it.

2) I had a terrible time sleeping, I think because I drank too much coffee — I’m constantly flirting with my upper limit for caffeine during the workday. I love coffee, but if I drink too much I just can’t sleep, and that’s what happened. I woke up at midnight after sleeping about an hour, and couldn’t sleep, so I watched a whole season of Portlandia on Netflix. By 4am I was desperate to fall asleep, so I ate something, and it helped. I knew this would break my fast but I would rather do that then get no sleep.


Day 4: April 30/2015

I overate a bit yesterday, by about the number of calories I had when I was up late the other night (it was after midnight so I counted them towards Day 3.)

I’m becoming really interested in sensations of hunger, and what happens to me when I feel them. I’ve found two patterns so far:

1) That these cravings immediately make me feel like I’m justified in taking a break from work. This feeling of having “earned” a break is there even when I’ve accomplished almost nothing.

2) The cravings can give me an intense desire for food, but they really don’t last very long. Maybe less than one minute.

The overall theme is that hunger pangs are irregular, untrustworthy signals that make it seem (very temporarily) like you need to do something. I like that I am learning to ignore them. Ignoring them is not tantamount to ignoring the body’s needs. I still get all the calories I need and a balanced diet.

Also: Noticing that my workout is really hard today. I really didn’t want to do it, but I did. It felt long, almost unfair. This may be from the fasted state but I think it’s more likely that I’m still affected by my terrible sleep the other night.

Conversely, my 20-minute meditation was over well before I expected, and I experienced relatively little distraction.

5:30pm — definitely feeling groggy in a way I seldom do. Too soon to tell whether this still the effects of sleep deprivation, or related to the fast — it could also be the antihistamine I took. I’m not going to take one tomorrow.


Day 5: May 1

I am tired again today. And this grogginess is not imaginary, because I am having trouble reading in a way I normally don’t.

I now think the cause is eating too much before bed. The last two days I’ve been delaying the beginning of my fast to 8:30 and even 9:00, and I’m eating a huge meal at that time (because I was trying to make sure I wasn’t going to bed already hungry.) Apparently eating before bed can disrupt sleep, and my sleep has definitely been shitty the last three nights. The first night was when I couldn’t sleep at all, and the last two nights have been fitful. And this is coming off the heels of two weeks of VERY good sleep.

I’ll definitely eat a smaller meal at the end of the day.

Note: Libido also seems lower

Note: I am also noticing a dilation of time. This could be a coincidence, because I think there have only been three times this has happened, but I have been surprised at how little time passed while I was working. Of course, the other day, my meditation went by really quickly, and my workout went by really slowly. Right now I’m working, and I’m really surprised that it’s only 10:20. My internal clock is usually right on the money, and I figured it was probably 11:00.

Note: I’m finding it hard to eat larger portions. This is good, because I’m used to stupidly large portions of food for dinner.

11:15am: Feeling kind of fidgety, and still dopey. Went for a run and stopped about 1km into it. It just didn’t feel like I should be exercising at all. I could have pushed myself, but it seemed like that would be almost sadistic. Still not sure if I made the right choice.

2pm: Had a huge lunch and then basically gave up on work for the rest of the day. Had a nap and read a bit.

5pm: I’m reading about John Berardi’s experience with several different fasting protocols, and he said he felt like crap for the first 10 days or so on the 16-8 protocol, which is the type of fast I’m doing. Apparently an adjustment period is normal. But I’m still suspicious that the fasting itself is the cause. The only difference between what I’m doing and my normal routine is that I don’t have a cup of soylent just after my coffee at 7am. I don’t see how that would make such a big difference. I am quite certain at this point that the cause of my catatonia it is the three consecutive bad sleeps (probably) caused by eating too much too close to bedtime.

5:32pm: Just about decided to abort the experiment. I really like how I had been feeling the last few weeks, and I want to feel that way again. Calm, optimistic, wakeful and mindful. Right now I’m dull, despairing, and oblivious to the interests of others. I am certain I went for a walk to the forks not 48 hours ago, filled with compassion for my fellow beings. Now they seem like robots to me, because I too am a robot. I cannot locate empathy, but I still have a rational understanding of what it is. For a good seventeen minutes I was excited about quitting. But I think I’m going to continue. I was excited to come back to the computer and type this, but I don’t remember why. I am pretty sure I had an insightful thought I wanted to share, but if it ever existed it’s now gone. I think I have been sitting here at the keyboard for a long time, I don’t remember.

5:44pm: I’m still here at the keyboard; I have just been staring at my hands. I’m off to the grocery store to get some vegetables. Are these relevant details? I don’t know. Only you know.

5:51pm: Ok, actually getting out of the chair now…

6:03pm: Aborted the grocery trip when I didn’t feel comfortable driving. I didn’t really need groceries anyway, I just needed to feel like I was accomplishing something. I left my car three blocks from my building and may not remember that. Instead of going to the grocery store I will go for a walk. As I type I’m aware that I spaced out last time I typed an entry, and sort of got stuck at the keyboard. I think I have learned not to do that any more. I feel like a crappy Artificial Intelligence: all algorithms and no wisdom.

Bah! I don’t want to go for a walk either. The thought makes me self-conscious. A person needs a bit of self-confidence to go for a walk. I am way too in my head to do anything like that. Bah! I’ll try it anyway. With headphones and sunglasses.


Day 6: May 2

Wow, yesterday went a little sideways. I did end up eating too much again last night, just out of habit, and I did have a fitful sleep again. But I feel much better today. I’m a little tired, but not dull and slow like I was.

I felt better and better as the day went on. My friend had a barbecue for the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, and I knew I would consume a lot of calories that day. I only had two cups of Soylent between 12 and 6pm, and felt pretty awesome during that time and not hungry at all.

I ate a ton at the barbecue, and totally forgot to stop eating at 8pm (there was beer and snack food everywhere). I probably ate until about 10pm. Oh well.

On Monday I’m going to take my vitals and post where I’m at so far. Weight has not changed much, but I have visibly lost some midsection fat. I haven’t calculated caloric intake average (my goal is 2200/day) but I suspect I’m a little over.


Day 8: May 4

I ate a smaller dinner last night, and slept much better. Definitely learned my lesson there.

9:22am: Today I still feel a bit tired. Not sure if this is just what it feels like to fast in the mornings, or if it’s a kind of adjustment period. I am not looking forward to my workout (at 11:30). Exercise seems like a drag when I think about it, which is unusual for me. Before the experiment I was quite excited to go running or to my lifting.

Note: Libido has returned to almost normal.

2:31pm: I went for a run (even though I was scheduled to do strength training today) but it went normally. I didn’t hit any kind of wall like the other day. Still, I am kind of tired, which is strange for me. For about a year now (since I started experimenting with soylent) I seldom feel tired until the very end of the day.


Day 9: May 5

I have zero interest in working out. This dread of exercise is by far the worse part at this point. I switched out my bodyweight training yesterday for running because I just didn’t want to do it. Now it’s time again to do it and I just don’t want to. The thought of doing a single chinup makes me want to fall asleep. I’m not really that tired anymore, but there is a really obvious vacuum of motivation here when it comes to training. Normally I’m motivated by my desire to do a good job of it, to get stronger, but right now I don’t expect to do a good job of it. I don’t feel strong.

I’m not sure what to do about this. I could just go off strength training altogether, and run every day, but I don’t want to do that and I probably would lose muscle. I can force myself through it, but then I’m back to hating exercise again, and that’s a bad place to be. What’s so upsetting about this is that I had found a good groove with exercise, and now I don’t have it any more.

My decision today is to workout mid-afternoon, a couple of hours after eating. I’m hoping I’ll better about doing it then.

Best case scenario is that this motivation lapse is part of the “adjustment” period I’ve been hearing about about.


Day 10: May 6

Still tired this morning. Today is Day 10, which I hope means the adjustment period is coming to an end. I’ve heard 8 to 10 days, or 10 to 14 days, or “a couple of weeks” as estimates.

As far as quantitative changes to my body it’s too early to tell. I’m 189 this morning, and my first weigh-in was 192, but I fluctuate a lot. I have definitely lost a few pounds. I can see that I have lost bodyfat. There’s more definition in my back and midsection, although when I measured myself the measurements were exactly the same.

And the thought of working out still makes me sick. It’s the last thing on earth I want to do. I ended up not doing it in the afternoon yesterday. I’m going to do it today at the regular time (11:30-12) no matter what it’s like, and come to it with an attitude of gaining strength and discipline. It may be mostly psychological at this point.

But the fatigue is definitely real. I am having trouble reading in the morning, and I stay a bit dull all day. I also feel less confident, which I suppose might have something to do with being successfully intimidated by my own training routine.

The good news:

The fasting part itself — restricting my eating time — feels good and empowering. I like that my urges for food don’t get to decide my day, and that I don’t let them interrupt my work. I think this is a useful skill to have. I didn’t realize how much I let my food urges push me around. I am eating more reasonable portion sizes and they feel like enough.


Day 13: May 9

Well! Things have changed. I feel pretty damn good now. The fatigue has gone almost entirely. Two afternoons ago, I noticed that I wasn’t really tired, even though I had been in the morning. And yesterday and today, I’ve felt fine. My desire to exercise has returned, which is the most important litmus test. In fact, I’m considering going from a home-based bodyweight routine to a more conventional barbell routine at a local gym. We’ll see what happens, but the fact that the idea attracts me at all demonstrates the shift in my attitude over the past two days.

I have lost weight. I was 188.4 lbs yesterday. I don’t know if I have lost strength — my strength routine has kind of fallen apart over the last two weeks, and it’s still up in the air as to how I’m going to continue. Even though I was especially cranky for a while, my dislike of the Start Bodyweight program remains even now that I feel better. I don’t enjoy the exercises (except for chinups and pushups) and the progression is awkward. So I want to switch to something else. I feel an urge to finally learn the big powerlifting movements: squats, deadlifts, bench presses and overhead presses. (Note: I still think Start Bodyweight is a great program, I just don’t happen to enjoy it.)

Anyway, this is quite thrilling. Suddenly fasting seems workable long-term. The “adjustment period” seems to be a real thing.


Day 16: May 12

Things continue to cruise along. My energy levels are about normal again, and my enthusiasm towards training might be even higher than when I started. I am very comfortable with this routine and will probably continue some form of it after the 30 days.

I have strayed outside the bounds of my 8-hour window a few times recently. One night I was having crazy dreams (which happens sometimes when I have low blood sugar) so I woke up and ate something. This ended up creating a caloric surplus. There was also a night when I went to a poker game after 8 and ate a bunch of chips. I’m trying to keep my typical daily calories at about 2000, with the idea that I’ll overeat once a week and average about 2200-2300 per day over the course of a week.

I became a bit alarmed when I realized that I was letting my boundaries get a bit ragged, but so far I don’t think it’s a big deal. A prominent opinion among online fitness people is that intermittent fasting is beneficial primarily because it results in you restricting calories overall and exercising more discipline around food and training, not because there is anything special happening during the fasted state. I am starting to suspect this is the case, but I don’t know.

That’s kind of beside the point though, because it is working for me in a lot of ways, regardless of the mechanism. I like that it has taught me to think of food as fuel, and that I have learned how to go without food for a period of time.

Day 21: May 17

Three weeks in, doing well, and not much to report. This often happens with a successful experiment — things kind of normalize and I stop noticing new changes. I was down six pounds altogether, but suddenly it’s only four. I did overeat (as planned ) two days in a row, but that shouldn’t account for it. I’m guessing it’s normal weight fluctuation.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to continue tracking calories after I’m finished, and probably will continue not to eat before noon (or after 8). I use an app called MyFitnessPal to track all of my caloric intake and weight measurements. I like deciding how many calories to eat before I start eating. I am eating smaller portions than most of my adult life and it feels a lot better. I am eating slower and enjoying it more.


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Jeanette Pennels May 4, 2015 at 3:04 am

Very interesting, especially as my husband has just said “I don’t want any dinner tonight”. Usually I panic and say ” you have got to eat”. However that means do I need to cook for myself or will a peanut butter and banana sandwich suffice.

We are in our early eighties and I love to cook. We are not well, have every ache and pain under the sun. Plus angina him, overweight me. Is it to late to eat on demand.

Some 40 years ago one man in the office said he had trained himself to only eat breakfast and dinner and I couldn’t imagine how he could do that. I look forward to reading your further postings.

Regards Jeanette Pennels

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 9:17 am

I remember reading about monks who would only eat until noon and stop. I couldn’t imagine that at the time, but anything seems possible now.

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steven May 5, 2015 at 5:17 am

As a returning student to a 10 day vipassana course, I wasn’t to eat after midday. Breakfast was 7am, lunch 11am, so vey similar.

I thought I would struggle, but was absolutely fine.

Though it may have had something to do with the very large spoonfuls of peanut butter and sunflower seeds I consumed.

High fat food is a great quasher of hunger.

And an empty stomach is a gift for one who is meditating 14 hours a day.

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Jake Kuyser May 4, 2015 at 3:51 am

I did a similar experiment with If and wrote about it if you’re interested. I didn’t find it to be the holy grail of diets it’s supposed to be. https://jakekuyser.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/is-intermittent-fasting-if-bad-for-me/

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Bob May 4, 2015 at 6:41 am

I have worked with fasting over the past few decades so I appreciate your little experiment. All of my fasting has been multi-day rather than your 16:8 protocol. What I have found is that hunger sensations (the desire to eat) decrease dramatically about 3 days into a fast. In fact, I might say they stop altogether. Energy varies from day to day, but if you can just accept things as they are, fasting can have both physical and spiritual benefits.

I also have a friend (he is the person that got me interested in fasting in the first place) who has, for as long as I have known him, maintained a practice of fasting one day a week combined with periodic week-long fasts. He is now in his mid-80s and still going strong.

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 9:18 am

I am noticing my hunger pangs become less frequent and less intense.

There does seem to be indicators that there’s a relationship between fasting and longevity. I hope they do more human trials.

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Mike May 30, 2015 at 10:46 pm

I’ve been fasting one day a week for a little over a year, usually 24 hours, sometimes 30-36. The longest I’ve fasted has been 60 hours (so, 2 and a half days), and I’m curious about trying longer fasts but for whatever reason I haven’t done it yet.

I think my coworkers thought it was weird at first, and maybe they still do, but now they take it in stride—they’ll check if it’s my fast day before inviting me to lunch.

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LennStar May 4, 2015 at 7:32 am

“Although I overate just before 8 my stomach feels empty now for some reason. It may be a false alarm.”
Not also, but because. A big part of feeling hungry comes from the volume of your stomach. If you eat much, you inflate it much. BUT when it deflates, that sends hunger signals. For me it takes about 2 hours for this hunger attack to go away (=normal hungry) after I was overstuffed.

And you definitely should NOT eat big portions just before going to bed (or anything just before sleeping). I thought that was common knowledge. Its one of the few things everyone is sure about. Because if you do the rumbling of your stomach (figurativly mostly, but not always ^^) keeps you either awake or prevents you getting a good sleep.

There is a saying about eating: “Breakfast like a Emperor, lunch like a king, supper like a beggar”. Of course that is from the time you need a lot of energy from the morning on.
I was never a breakfast person, mostly dont eat anything in the morning or only a little snack at 10-11am before I eat at 12am and then again supper at 6:30pm. So basically doing your diet for years ;)

If you feel bad somehow in the morning you could try to change the rythm to breakfast and supper. But I think it was the sleep in your case. I’m a definite victim of feeling bad if I had less then 7 hours just once. Three nights? Oh dear. Wouldnt want to drive a car then, too. Or walk. Just lying down is barely OK.

But what I miss is the difference between HUNGER and APPETITE. These are two completely different things. If you cant differentiate between those two you are frankly not able to say anything useful about diets.
The hunger is the basic empty rumbling in your stomach that makes you eat fast. Appetite is the craving for whatever, mostly sweets.
A body trained to eat at 8am will get hungry at 8am – the stomach will produce acid and so on. That goes away after a few days not eating at that time.
Appetite can be the body saying you it wants/needs something specific. Like something out of this green salad or just now a huge lump of fat in this sausage. Mostly its sugar, not least because we are so used to getting it all the time. Can easily be influenced by smells or bodily conditions. Just ask pregnant woman.

You can easily feel hungry and crave anything (appetite) or vice versa. You should only (continue) to eat if you have at least a basic feeling of both or your body will control you and get up 3 times in the morning to eat something sweet even if you just had a big breakfast.

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 9:20 am

I have definitely learned my lesson about large portions before bed. I had a much smaller dinner last night and slept quite well.

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LennStar May 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Good to hear that ^^ The very few occassions I eat much before going to bed I have always regretted it. Not counting new years day, there you cant sleep with all the bangs anyway :P

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Joanne May 4, 2015 at 10:08 am

I’ve naturally eaten in this manner my entire adult life, and eat only when hungry. Fats and sugars (with each or every other meal) are essential for delivering satisfaction and a sense of satiation, so don’t skimp on those. It’s also helpful to eat the food type that your gut/ mind craves. Better to address a craving (in moderation) at the start, than to let it intensify and vehemently cave in at the 7.59pm cutoff. Good luck and I hope you enjoy this dietary habit!

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 2:45 pm

People talk about these specific food cravings, for salty, or sweet foods, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that. I generally eat about 50/30/20 carb/fat/protein and I cover my micronutrients pretty well.

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Brie May 4, 2015 at 11:07 am

I have recently started a weekly two-day fast and it has changed my life. I have experienced many of the benefits you mentioned in this piece: increased energy, weight loss, curbed cravings, greater satiety when I do eat, general enhanced gratitude for the taste of food and the experience of social eating. Interestingly, when I’m not fasting, I’m also eating two liquid meals a day, which I find simplifies my lifestyle quite a bit.

I’ve heard great things on the Michael Mosley PBS special on fasting. Here’s a link if you haven’t heard of it: http://video.pbs.org/program/michael-mosley/. It’s on my list of things to watch this week! Thanks for another introspective, thoughtful piece. Long time reader, first time commenter. ;)

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 2:39 pm

I did watch this doc before I began, but I’d like to see it again now that I’m in the middle of it. It’s well-made and I trust Mosley.

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Neels May 4, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Very interesting and valuable indeed!

I have been on an IF regime for a number of years and I cannot sing its praises enough.
Here’s my formula: I dont count calories (ever) and if it so happens that I eat something outside my 13h00 to 20h00 feeding window I dont punish myself. Some days I do overeat and other days under. I try to have one full day of fast per week (normally after an overeat supper). For me it’s not a diet or experiment its simply turned into a way of life.

I have tons of energy and cannot even think of going back to the “normal” 3 meals a day. I am 56 years old, I see myself as fairly muscular and my bodyfat stays under 10%. (I can do 50+ pushups and 20+ pull-ups). I experience the same body shape and function that I had in my twenties. So I do believe in the anti-aging contribution of the IF portion of the formula.

The most important factors for success are still
1. What you eat – I do Paleo/Banting/ low carb-high fat
2. How you move your body – I do high intensity resistance bodyweight training every morning. (10 to 15 minutes only). Always focus on muscle retention/building, especially beyond 40.

So my suggestion to anybody is to find the right balance of 1. and 2. above that suits your body type, character, motivation, etc and combine it with IF.
And enjoy a healthy, energetic life way beyond your youthful years.

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Appreciate the veteran advice Neels. Not eating until afternoon is feeling more and more natural to me. We’ll see if it stays that way.

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Ryan May 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Very interesting, I’ve been considering this before and look forward to following your progress. Do you think there is any reason not to transition gradually instead of going cold turkey?

For example first focus on not eating after 8pm, and next gradually push back the first meal of the day. I wonder if that would lead to the same place but without the 10 days of feeling like crap?

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David Cain May 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm

I’m not sure. I find it simpler just to dive in. At this point I don’t know exactly why I feel crappy — whether it’s the fasting or the lack of sleep.

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Dawid Wiacek May 4, 2015 at 5:46 pm

I’ve commented on your blog entries before, and wish to reiterate how refreshing it is to read about someone so self-aware, so reasonable, so open-minded, and so transparent about his life journey. You even mention the effect of this experiment on your libido! I wonder (and this is a personal question, so I don’t demand an answer) how this blog has affected your personal and romantic relationships. In some ways, I am drawn to your human-ness. You seem very real. Down to earth. But if I were a potential mate, I might have second thoughts about striking up a conversation at the bar with you — lest our lives become the stuff of your blog (though as a geographically distant reader, I would be curious to read about it!)… Anyway, keep up the awesome experiments! Best, Dawid

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David Cain May 5, 2015 at 9:41 am

You may have noticed that I am careful to keep relationship specifics out of the blog. When I refer to an event in my life involving other people, I think of what it would be like to read it. I think the biggest effect has been that people in my life get a much bigger dose of what’s going on inside my head than they do in everyday life, where I’m fairly reserved. I have gotten the sense sometimes that people are occasionally taken aback by something they learn about me through my writing. This, I think, is an unavoidable effect of being candid with one’s thoughts — if we knew everything our friends were thinking about we’d probably be at least a bit surprised. I just happen to find it easier to be candid with my thoughts when I’m writing than speaking to people.

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Dawid Wiacek May 5, 2015 at 10:22 am

And we — the readers — love you for it. Take care, DW ;-)

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Beth May 5, 2015 at 5:07 am

David, I always enjoy your experiments. I have also experimented with IF. My schedule is eating between 5 AM and 1 PM and I workout after 1 PM (depending upon what time I get home from work). I go to bed between 8 and 9 PM. It feels good to go to bed with an empty stomach. I usually follow the breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper philosophy anyway. Workout wise I just do what I feel like-depends on my energy level. I have been able to maintain my weight without any problems. I do this once a week.


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David Cain May 5, 2015 at 9:44 am

One day I may try the king-prince-pauper thing. It doesn’t appeal to me — I seem to get more done during the early part of the day when I’m not eating — but maybe it would once I tried it.

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David May 5, 2015 at 7:00 am

I’ve flirted with the idea of a fasting diet myself, not for weight loss but for general well-being and to kick the habit of eating out of boredom. I find it interesting that you seem not to have followed the feeding times exactly, yet still say you “visibly lost some midsection fat” – that’s actually impressive. I look forward to reading your updates, but I found it a bit worrying how your Day 5 went!

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David Cain May 5, 2015 at 9:46 am

I feel much better now. I think it was just the culmination of several days of poor sleep. As for the feeding times, I don’t think the exact times are important. The idea is to give your body a break from food long enough that it begins to use fat stores.

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Elena May 5, 2015 at 10:37 am

You’ve gotten me thinking more about my own eating habits and tendencies. I usually don’t eat between 8pm and 11am or sometimes noon, because eating too close to bed interferes with my sleep (drinking does, too–especially alcohol) and I’m not usually hungry first thing in the morning. On nights that I stay up late for a performance or days that I have to get up extra early for field work (or days when I have BOTH field work and performance!), the routine gets disrupted and I end up paying for it over several days with poor sleep, low energy, etc. Fortunately this doesn’t happen very frequently! I’ve also noticed that hunger can feel pleasurable to me, like right now I am aware of being hungry and looking forward to breakfast, and not feeling urgency to remove the sensation. Also, sitting with this feeling of hunger seems a bit like sitting with an itch–in this case, from many chigger bites I got yesterday in the field. Hard to do at first, but the sensation does fade. Can’t say the enduring the itch is pleasurable, though!

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Dwight Oliver Monteith May 6, 2015 at 11:52 am

“The fasting part itself — restricting my eating time — feels good and empowering. I like that my urges for food don’t get to decide my day, and that I don’t let them interrupt my work. I think this is a useful skill to have. I didn’t realize how much I let my food urges push me around. I am eating more reasonable portion sizes and they feel like enough.”

I agree–a useful skill, indeed! Glad this part is going well. Do you think that attempting to exercise at a low blood sugar level might be affecting your enthusiasm for it? I know I’d find it nearly impossible.

Rooting for you! :)

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Elena May 6, 2015 at 11:55 am

Oops! Sorry, that last comment was from me! Not Dwight. :P -Elena

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Chops May 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Hi David, I think this a great experiment and has motivated me to start fasting at lunch for the last two days. I have a very busy schedule and taking an hour to have lunch has made my day more hectic – thus freeing up this hour has de-stressed my workday somewhat.

I think I was concerned because of the unwritten rule that “you have to eat lunch,” that has been drilled into me since childhood, but you mentioning how we should challenge these assumptions made me give it a try.

I’ve also experienced some additional irritability and lack of sleeping quality so far (which might just be placebo effect from reading your log?)

No matter what the outcome, thanks for helping all your readers challenge the assumptions we take for granted across all the aspects of our lives.

– Chops

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Mike Lieman May 6, 2015 at 10:25 pm

You wrote, “The fasting part itself — restricting my eating time — feels good and empowering. I like that my urges for food don’t get to decide my day…”

I had an issue that resulted in a maladaptive ‘grazing’ pattern, that adopting a 16/8 Intermittent Fasting schedule ( lunch at noon; dinner between 6 and 7 ) combined with daily monitoring of my weight change using a moving average has helped me to lose and maintain about 130 lbs in the past 1240 days.

My grandmother used to say, “If you eat that now, you’ll spoil your appetite for dinner”, and once again she was right all along…

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LennStar May 8, 2015 at 3:41 am

As Elena aka Twight ;) said, I would also think your aversion to workout is coming from you losing weight / being low on blood sugar. Dont forget that for the body this looks like an emergency time if you already lost several ponds of fat. In an energy you dont do things that are not necessary.

You may want to increase your calories. For a man of your weight and muscles 2200 calories should barely cover the minimum (if at all), and you are a active person. So maybe you are losing fat too fast and such creating the body-emergency. The 5-2 diet works because on 5 days you dont eat less then you need, only on 2 days, and such creating no starving situation. “Normal” diets dont work because you do them with having a lower caloric intake then you need the whole time, such causing the yoyo-effect.
And you could try to switch the workout to afternoon, when you have eat something.

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Sebastian May 13, 2015 at 9:32 am

David, remember to take photos, for yourself I mean. I’m quite sure you’ll be impressed when the experiment is over.

You motivate a lot to do such an experiment myself. The problems I have are this:
– when i’m stressed a lot I can’t handle not eating sweets/cookies
– I haven’t invested in electronic food scale yet
– somedays I wake up at 5:30am. I can’t handle not eating till noon.
– I have to see some doctors about that but I think I might have problems working out fasted. I’ve used to have serious vision/headache problems when ‘giving it all’ at the pool a year ago. 2 weeks ago I’ve had another ‘episode’ while doing nothing :(. An episode for me means that I have vision problems and then I have headache and vomits for the rest of the day.

Should I worry?

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Laetitia September 6, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Sebastian – regarding your vision problems – do you get a blank spot that transforms to a shimmering halo that expands with vision returning in the middle until the halo has moved out past your peripheral vision (maybe over a period of about 20 minutes)? If yes, it would probably be a migraine aura. I’m fortunate in that mine are not usually accompanied by the headache (particularly if I suspect I might verge on one and take a painkiller as soon as I get the warning lights) but sometimes I get the nausea and really tired afterwards, necessitating I lie down. I find that I’m more likely to get them when I have not had ‘enough’ sleep combined with being dehydrated.

As for calorie counting, I also use MyFitnessPal and to begin with used an old set of mechanical kitchen scales that only marked down to 20 g. I still managed to lose weight. I now have a set of electronic kitchen scales that measure to the gram. I like that by doing this I have learnt a lot more about nutrition in the foods I eat – I have enough sense to not blow my calorie budget on chocolate biscuits but to opt for healthier options. :)

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LennStar May 18, 2015 at 3:43 pm

@a simple, flat electronic food scale does not cost much, maybe you even get one for $10 (new) or nothing (ask and look around, even if you just test it for 2 weeks ;)).

@weight fluctuation:
That one is probably higher then you think. Just been at the toilet and wearing only a pyjama might mean more then 2kg less then fully clothed after a meal.
Easiest way I think is to take the weight look in the morning, after everthing is done but before eating.

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