This space normally features conservative political commentary. But something big happened in my life that has nothing to do with politics and I wanted to share it.
On January 16 of this year, I went out for dinner with some friends. And, that night, I found the bottom under a bunch of shrimp and grits, and a huge slab of carrot cake.
Before dinner my costume barely fits. Afterwards, these buttons deserved a medal. I felt bad – physically and emotionally. My health was off track and I knew it. And I resolved to make a change.
Oh, I had tried to lose weight before. I was a fat kid and a bigger adult, hovering between 250 and 275 pounds for years. I once reduced my weight to 220 pounds and told people the secret was “run further, eat less”.
But the weight has returned. It’s always like that. You can’t get away with it. In my experience, 95% of it depends on your diet, although I have started walking at least 45 minutes a day this year (if you haven’t studied the concept of a “Shultz’s hour”, I highly recommend it).
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I had tried other diets with short-lived success. I went down to 194 pounds in 2017 and then saw the scale climb steadily to 233 pounds in the morning after dinner in January. Stress, anxiety, social pressures, and boredom (more than actual hunger) made me eat all the time and I could feel myself coming back to where I had started.
But then I started devouring something else: nutritional information. At 43, I didn’t know about squatting on food, insulin, sugar, ketones, glycogen, carbs, etc. But I decided to finally learn, and my research resulted in several articles and books on intermittent fasting.
The idea seemed crazy at first. How many times had I gone eight hours without eating, let alone 16, 24 or 36? I could probably count them on two hands. But I learned that fasting is not a fad: humans have fasted for millennia.
Today we are bombarded with eating tips. Eat more meals to maintain your metabolism. Eat this or that style and watch the pounds drop. Eat bars. Drink shakes. The common thread running through all diet advice is to eat. Eat all the time!
Our ancient ancestors did not eat constantly. They feasted and fasted, not because a book told them to, but because food shortage demanded it. I started to wonder: were they right?
I have now read several books on the subject of Dr Jason Fung and others who have calmly and clinically made the case for intermittent fasting and consuming whole, unprocessed foods.
It was 55 books ago. I have lost weight every week since Jan 18th (water weight goes down first and quickly) and my body fat has dropped from 26.5% to 16.2%. I hit plateaus every now and then, but just kept going, still confident the schedule would work.
And he did. I’ve never been lighter, healthier, or more in control of my body than right now.
I started by abstaining from food for 16 hours and eating for an eight hour window. Basically I skipped breakfast and then had lunch and dinner. It wasn’t too hard, although the first few days my brain screamed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? “
Over time I went down to six, then four, and now, most days, a one hour meal window (the One Meal a Day method). Think of it like weightlifting – you have to develop your abilities.
When my dining window is closed, I drink water (regular and sparkling), coffee and tea. No artificial flavors or sweeteners. You get used to it, believe me. Seltzer water with lime wedges has become my go-to. I try to eat between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day, separating my meals at least three hours from bedtime.
As I took control of my clock, I also finally and fully admitted something that I had known for a while but was ashamed to say: I’m addicted to sugar. I mostly stopped eating it a few years ago, but I regularly fell off the wagon. Carrot cake is a hell of a drug, let me tell you.
This cart turned into a murder cart on the run up a steep hill, crushing every attempt to lose weight and keep it off. I now understand addiction; some researchers think sugar is as bad as illegal drugs.
It’s hard to admit ignorance, and even harder to admit addiction. I’ve learned a valuable lesson: It doesn’t make you weak to admit these things. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength in getting to know yourself, growing up and overcoming challenges.
I am addicted to sugar. I don’t want a cookie; I want 10 cookies. But I eventually took a stand against the sugar and processed food bombardment we face on a daily basis, and it has been nothing short of a personal miracle (it’s exponentially more difficult for parents, because having kids puts you in more contact with a whole bunch of garbage (food that no one needs).
For good measure, I also killed off the sugar substitutes, as they made my cravings worse. When I had moderate my sugar intake before, I simply replaced it with artificial sweeteners. But it made me want more candy. Everyone finally fell for it, and I was no exception.
I don’t skimp on food during my meal window, but I don’t binge. Hunger is not a problem; I eat until I am full. My backyard hens lay a lot of eggs and I cook them with meat, cheese, vegetables and whatever else I can think of. Make sure you’re getting enough fat and salt, as both are essential for good health.
Fasting methods abound, and my advice is to experiment and find the one that best suits your life. Do your homework. And, like our ancestors, take the feasting part as seriously as you take the fast. Really enjoy your meals instead of mindlessly eating.
A good friend joined me on this trip and having a partner has helped me tremendously. He has lost 35 pounds since January. We share everything about our food, our meal windows, our obstacles and even our bathroom schedules. Like most trips, this one is more fun with a partner for the ride.
There are benefits beyond weight loss, like improved mental clarity, improved gut health, reduced inflammation, and improved skin tone. Your energy level will skyrocket, contrary to what you might think.
And you will receive the gift of time. Fasting added productive hours to my day that I would otherwise have spent eating, planning to eat, or going around the kitchen for a handful of this or that. Seriously, count the number of times you eat something in a day. You will be amazed.
If you read this space regularly, you know that I often challenge the narratives. Intermittent fasting has drawn a backlash in me because it challenges conventional wisdom about diet and nutrition. I like to zigzag when everyone is zipping.
It also appeals to my belief in the old wisdom of the land. I remember my grandmother telling me that “snacks will ruin your dinner!” How right she was.
I’m not a doctor and you should call yours before doing anything. But I think we have a health care crisis because of our diet. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease – all can be attributed in part to our Western diet.
Earlier this month, after having tweeted about my intermittent fasting diet to a CNN viewer who asked me about my weight loss, The Courier Journal suggested that I share my experience here. I know I am not alone in this challenge and I hope you will share your thoughts and experiences. Send me an email or a tweet and I will answer you with pleasure.
I love to hear the fasting stories of others. Despite our disparate backgrounds, you begin to recognize yourself in others and realize that we are all fighting similar battles.
If you’ve been looking for answers for years, like me, I implore you to research intermittent fasting. You won’t be worse off for wear, and you might rediscover something old that could make a huge difference in your life today.
Scott Jennings is a Republican Councilor, CNN Political Contributor, and a Partner of RunSwitch Public Relations. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.