On Knowing Too Much

I’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting (fasting for sixteen hours then eating within an eight hour window) over the last couple of weeks. I thought it was going great. I felt good, I rarely felt hungry outside of the eight hour window, I had plenty of energy and I was sleeping well … until I started listening to podcasts and reading articles about how intermittent fasting isn’t good for women. Hearing all of the horror stories about persistent acne, disordered eating, smashed up hormones and adrenals and other ‘side effects’ freaked me out.

(Image via ninapaley.com)

All of a sudden, little things started to turn into bigger, more sinister things. The pimple that appeared out of the blue became an omen that my hormones are out of whack and I am going to get acne that would never go away. The bad night’s sleep due to nightmares when I usually sleep well and rarely have nightmares equals stressed out adrenals. Not losing any weight from fasting – not that I really care about weight loss – equals a screwed up metabolism. A rare headache … something fishy is going on here.

When you start paying attention to what you eat and how it affects you, you notice the tiniest changes within yourself. The problem is that sometimes the cause of the change isn’t always clear.

Is it the fasting, or did I accidentally ingest some gluten when I went out for dinner? Am I just tired from work? Pushing it too hard at CrossFit? Am I being slowly poisoned because I drank tap water when I ran out of spring water? Is it because I can’t afford to eat 100% organic and I have been eating more vegetables, thus more pesticides, herbicides and who knows what else?

It’s very easy to over-complicate these kinds of things. Instead of listening to other people’s stories, I’m getting back to basics, listening to my body and doing what it tells me to do. Thankfully, there have been no more pimples, nightmares or headaches. I’m staying away from the scales because I don’t want this to turn into an exercise in weight loss. I eat when I’m hungry, and it just so happens I am usually only hungry in the eight hour window. If I am hungry in the sixteen hour fasting period, I eat. I stop when I’m not hungry anymore.

Trial and error. What works for me might not work for you. Experiment, document, research and explore, then do it all over again until you find what works, what is true for you.

What experiments have you undertaken to improve your health? What is your truth? I’d love to hear about it!

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Food for thought.

Thinking about food is important, experiencing food is crucial.

Hayley and I both write (and think) a lot about the health benefits of foods, we follow contemporary research and are endlessly experimenting with diet and exercise.  But thinking about food is only one side of the equation.  It means absolutely nothing if you don’t pay attention to how the food you are eating makes you feel. Experiencing the effects of foods and feeding that information back through a reflective loop is how you figure out a diet that allows optimum performance across all domains the majority of the time.

 

The aim is not to find a perfect diet, write it down and stick to it. That would be pointless. Everything is in a consistent state of change and trying to stick to a rigid diet plan will only yield temporary results (because it feels restrictive). It becomes too stressful to maintain, and in turn is bad for your health (stress wreaks havoc on your hormones). 

 

The aim is to practice body awareness, where the process is the product.  The process is experimenting with different foods and considering the effects they have on your body.  The product is choosing foods that don’t make you feel like shit.  Over time these choices will become instinctual, and most probably be the foods you need to maintain good health.

 

The interesting aspect of improving health is the exponential growth of self learning.  By cleaning up your diet you’ll most likely improve your clarity of thought and your ability to focus.  And when it comes down to it, that’s what learning is; focus and commitment to what you are doing as you are doing it.  As side effect, you might experience improved and longer sustained energy, you might save time, become more efficient in your work, improve your memory, learn faster, grow stronger, live longer, be happier.  No guarantees, but maybe?

 

Heightened awareness of your eating habits has beneficial side effects too.  Initially you may become aware of how your body feels, then through practice you may quieten your mind enough to experience everything as it is happening. It takes a little courage to let yourself be so vulnerable, but the rewards outweigh the effort. Engagement in life is the true goal.

 

To get started, consider this; Where does what you know come from? What was the last thing you read?

 

One final note; The internet is full of shady characters, don’t believe everything you read, formulate your own opinions.

 

If you’d like some recommended reading on any of these topics leave a comment.
Tyson