November 30, 2012

How Fasting and a Frugal mindset helped me achieve happiness

For over a year now, I have been preparing to enter the real world. This preparation has focused mainly on financial planning and lifestyle changes that I want to carry with me throughout my entire life. I grew up relatively poor and fat. I was sad on the SAD (Standard American Diet) diet. While there will be time for my story later (I can remember sitting in the kitchen eating spoonfuls of sugar! YUCK!), I want to explain one habit I changed in my diet and lifestyle routine that has significantly impacted the way I look, how I feel, and how I spend money.

I have been on the fitness and diet journey for a while, several years in fact. The first time I lost weight going from 270-280 (122 kg) down to 200 (+/-100 kg) in a very unhealthy manner. I lost a lot of hard earned muscle mass, but I got my first ever serious girlfriend! Yeah, we were in love, things were great. Until I started gaining weight again. The stress of a long distance relationship, typical first year of college diet, and general lack of knowledge led me down the road that most people all over the world (Im studying abroad in Spain as I write this post and I am seeing the exact same mistakes in the gym and on diets and diet knowledge that invade the fitness industry) take in regards to diet and health, buying into the next big trend. 

So, I got on the web, joined some forums, picked up a muscle and fitness mag and did what everyone does, jumped on the treadmill like an experimental mouse. In fact, as the fasting methodology is beginning to take hold coupled with my time spent living in a city with more daily activity along with my terrible history of diet and exercise I sometimes feel like I am just a mouse being used in these experiments.

Anyway, Financially this was a big mistake for me as I was spending so much money on supplements for weight loss and muscle gain. I was buying trendy diet food items like shakes and bars. Purchasing fad diet pre-boxed meals. This money could have been spent on a nice dinner date or stowed away for a future plan.

Alas, I mindlessly plugged away over training and over eating. Wasting precious time, energy, and money. When I could have been treating my taste buds a delectable fresh salad with chopped turkey breast, ingredients totaling ~$1 I was instead trying to enjoy every last bite of the $2.50 "natural" protein bar.

College budgeting was always tough because I go to school in a typical college town. Desert town in the summer with nothing to do but in the fall and spring traffic jams on the small country highway are frequent during peak social hours. Part-time jobs are seasonal, this may be a reason I turned to blogging and trying to find ways to earn money online. I remember having to forego going out with friends or buying a new whatzit because I had spent it on a textbook 3 days prior. Forced to stay at home and study or play a video game, I'd take a shower, look at myself in the mirror, and wonder why I was still fat and still struggling with money. I was a finance major, this should be easy! I keep doing what everyone tells me, eat 6 small meals, cut carbs, work this, etc. etc. 

No wonder so many of us burn out! Why do we regain weight after "dieting" and return to our old spending habits after weeks of successful planning and budgeting?

I think most of us just haven't taken the time and patience to find out what works for them by doing the research and making the necessary lifestyle changes.

This is me before I started on my final journey in weight loss to where I am now

Weighing in around 250 pounds

In the following, I'm on the very left:

In mid-november, I was making great progress at losing weight and becoming healthy again. I was taking a cross-fit class and really focusing on my diet. I was basing it all on the knowledge I had used before, the same knowledge we all probably use. But then, I hit the nightmarish plateau. This time though, I was ready. I had tried the "muscle confusion" B.S. before and had since found out it was just a sales tactic. This time, like every time, I hit the internet. Scoured the forums. Talked to my good friends in Exercise Science. How to get through it. What to do differently.

Looking back, it was destiny. I somehow got referred to Martin Berkham's website and his methodology of Intermittent Fasting. 

"Ok, I'll try it, but I dont like it. It goes against everything I've ever been told."

I was legitimately worried about going into "Starvation mode" and retaining fat being so food deprived during the day that I was going to be no fun to be around.

I was completely wrong. After 1 week, I dropped 10 pounds. The weight loss slowed, but that's because I was still making a few dietary mistakes here and there, but I stuck with it.

Here I am almost a year later before a major milestone:

 In the next few weeks, I would go on to set a new Bench max: 375# Deadlift 495# and Squat 365#

I would later implement reverse pyramid training because these ratios are way off. I am now focusing more on legs and deadlift. 

Not only has leangains worked extremely well for me, Martin's site has been one of the biggest driving forces in my reignited fervor for making Frugal Son a better resource.

My weight loss was further accelerated when I changed my diet even more. On my first year of Intermittent Fasting I was still eating a bunch of crap focusing only on method and numbers.

During my semester abroad in Spain, I injured my shoulder playing rugby. I thought this would greatly set me back, and yes, I did allow myself to binge eat and skimp on the diet just a tad. I gained some weight back, but I would later learn this was due to major glycogen depletion and overtraining. The shoulder injury was a result of going too hard, too long.

During my post injury depression the imagined weight gain drove me crazy. That's when I discovered Mark Sisson's website. After just a month of healthy, clean eating through natural food, yet with the allowance of some junk food post training (this is mostly due to the college/young person lifestyle) I'm looking better than ever before:

Weighing in at 85 kg (roughly 187 pounds)

Due to the muscle atrophy during my 3.5 week hiatus from lifting heavy and I'm still struggling with heavy bench and almost any form of Incline bench exercise. The injury has really been a blessing in disguise. I have been able to slow down and focus on building quality muscle using the Pyramid method Martin Recommends.

I may not be throwing up 375 pounds on flat bench anymore, I'm still much stronger than the other gym-rats (more like gym-mice) I'm definitely looking better than ever and feeling fantastic. Thanks to what I consider the Holy Trinity in Weight Loss and Exercise: Berkham - Sisson - Taubes. Taubes is the least important, he's like the Holy Ghost. You only hear about him once in a while and you know some stuff about him is important, but you largely pay him no mind. I respect Taubes for his (somewhat over-zealous) fight against obesity and his research skills. Sisson and Berkham are the like the Holy Father and Son ( I am not going to prioritize here)

So how does the story relate to Finance and Frugality?

Remember in my hay-day, I was chomping down on protein bars pre-workout and guzzling protein shakes with 3 raw eggs and 6 oz. of whole milk post workout?

Now, I skip both. Opting instead for an easy fast of anywhere from 12-20 hours. Drink 10g of BCAA's pre-workout. Post workout I take a fish oil and multi vitamin with plenty of salad and lean meat. On rest days I enjoy more fat heavy meats and lower carb options. 

I buy several ingredients for my salads: Tuna, Turkey, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, and nuts. Sometimes broccoli, peppers, onions, etc. 

The greens cost no more than $2 each totaling $6 and through rationing and guess work when it comes to calorie restriction, they usually last me 5-6 days depending on how frequently I eat. That's a $1 a day. We will trade that for the $2.50 vitamin bar I was previously eating.

Tuna in cans is really cheap, and I consider one small can of tuna in water to be negligible in the fact of any mercury content.

Turkey is around $6 for 2 pounds of breast filet and will last me 2-4 days depending on days I eat white fish or chicken or turkey as the main course. It's tough to say what i eat as I ultimately eat primally as possible. We can trade the lean meat and eggs for the sugar rich protein shakes.

Without getting to intensive on budgeting and number running (which probably gets boring to read anyway) 
I haven't been to the ATM to withdraw money in the last week and a half and I've still enjoyed going out to eat with friends and socializing almost every night. The point I'm making is that eating healthy and being healthy is not expensive like the madhouse the fitness industry would have you believe.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Well yes, it is. I never said it isn't! But my definition of breakfast isn't the same that multi-million dollar fast food and restaurant franchises would have you believe. My definition is the concrete term of "breaking the fast" hence: breakfast

Skipping breakfast means skipping the bacon, egg, and cheese McMuffin saving me my health, time, and money (and idling gas expenditure). The $2 coke and $3 sandwich I just skipped let me sleep in or gave me time to take my dog for a walk.

As Brad Pilon says in Eat. STOP. Eat.

"The fitness industry doesn't want you to fast, they can't bottle it up and sell it. How can they sell a habit?"

A habit that leads to naturally reduced calorie intake, better mental awareness, and the following straight from Brad Pilon's book, which I highly recommend:

In dozens of published peer reviewed scientific studies, short-term intermittent fasting has been found to have the following health benefits:
• Decreased body fat & body weight
• Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass
• Decreased blood glucose levels
• Decreased insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity
• Increased lipolysis & fat oxidation
• Increased Uncoupling Protein 3 mRNA
• Increased norepinephrine & epinephrine levels
• Increased Glucagon levels
• Increased growth hormone levels.

I never want to hear the excuse "Losing weight is expensive!"

It isn't.

I spend less than one hour in the gym and for only a few days per week. Allowing me to save time and energy. This extra time has allowed for me to pursue my passions and increase my knowledge. Im able to spend more time now doing what I want, which is figuring out a what I want to do with my life after college.

That's becoming more and more clear every day, and that's why this post exists...

I eat less food. I don't have the urge to spend $1 at the coke machine anymore. I skip the drive-thru. No more late night eating after a night of drinking with the amigos.

Not only that, during the lunch hour while everyone is clamoring to find a place to sit and eat, I'm in the library brushing up on the latest trends in utilizing Social Media for E-business, one of my current consultancy jobs.

Several resources exists to help you get a better understanding. My recent favorite is the Salk Study that took two similar groups of mice and fed each group a diet comprising of 60% calories from fat, this is like eating potato chips and ice cream for each meal! One group was allowed to eat ad libitum all day while the other group was restricted to a feeding window of 8 hours, when they were allowed to eat ad libitum. Control groups were fed a diet consisting of 16% calories from fat. Groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily and after 100 days of observation the fasted group showed better health markers and remained 28% lighter.

What are your ideas on fasting? What sort of diet choices do you make to help make the end of the month a tad bit easier? 


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