If IF Works, Why FI?

I first heard about IF in the BBC programme, Trust Me I’m a Doctor, hosted by Michael Mosley. It changed me forever. IF. It is something so simple and free! Proponents of Intermittent Fasting (IF) have no products to sell to us, there is no buck for them at the end of it. It is not a “you-beaut” low fat diet fad that will see us sign up to an expensive weight loss programme that limits our daily calorie intake with a menu that is professionally prepared by an expert dietitian. No, it is absolutely free. Mosley promoted a 5:2 method, eat “normally” for five days and restrict our daily calorie intake to 500 for women or 600 for men for the following two days. Did I say simple? That was in 2015, he could still get away with being “sexist”. Today, we don’t even know who is male or female, maybe some can be male and female at the time of their choosing. Anyway, I was too lazy to figure out what would equate to 600 calories a day. It is too hard for me if I need to weigh and measure what I eat. So, I chose the 16:8 method instead. Fast for 16 hours and limit my eating time to the remaining 8 hours of the day. Although it was only a small group that did the trial, Michael Mosley found that those who were on IF during that short period of 12 weeks reduced both their blood sugar level and LDL cholesterol. My dear father lost a limb to Type 2 diabetes. Pa suffered from cardiovascular problems too – his mobility was terribly reduced by the mini strokes he suffered after his recovery from the first stroke, a major one that left him briefly paralysed. I didn’t want these hereditary defects to cut me down if there are options to reduce the risks. I want to avoid being bed-ridden like Pa was in the last two years of his life. I dislike taking drugs – long-term use of any drug will have its side effects. If IF can do it for me, then it will be a life-changing lifestyle for me. And it has been life-changing. The moon face I had, well, that’s gone. I hated it from my 40’s right through to my late-50’s but it wouldn’t go away. A round and bloated face accentuated my slit eyes and made them appear even more beady. Any cartoonist would have happily picked my face as the perfect example to illustrate the typical China-man. I think you’ll know what I mean, you won’t need me to dig out an old photo to show you. Goodbye, moon face. Goodbye, beer belly. I didn’t have a ginormous gut but it was ugly enough to turn anyone off. A small beer gut would not be revolting if I had a Thor-like stature to hide it. My wardrobe was therefore limited to loose clothing only. During the prime of my life, I could not wear body-hugging muscle-fit shirts. I looked like a perennial footballer except the ball was under my shirt. Well, I am pleased to report that IF has got rid of the ball – the bump that made me look ridiculously pregnant has finally gone. I am now able to walk into my office looking a million bucks – a svelte bloke in slim-fit long-sleeved Lululemon top with long-flowing hair blowing in the wind.

Rob said I look young, for my age. Urghh, he didn’t have to add those last three words. If I dyed my hair black, I still cannot hide my age these days. My unruly facial hair below my chin has turned all white. Never mind, those looking at me from behind will still be fooled by my gait, posture and slim body with a BMI of 22. Folks, it is no challenge really. IF is so simple I can’t understand what the fuss is about. I can’t understand why many people think it is too hard to start or to stay the course. Some say I’m foolish to miss out on breakfast, it being “the most important meal of the day.” One doctor even briefly sowed doubts in my mind by saying the science doesn’t prove it – sure, fasting may work in the lab for rats only. But, I knew better. I had read up on Dr Yoshinori Ohsumi’s work, not that I can fully understand the science he promulgated to win the 2016 Noble Prize for Physiology or Medicine. All I needed to understand was that we need to let our body rest when our body clock requires us to. When we rest, our stomach should be relatively empty to allow our digestive system to also rest. The mantra, eat regularly but in small amounts, is no good if it means we eat all the time.

For most of my life, I lived that way. I ate regularly even after a full meal. I loved to snack – an ice-cream cone, peanuts or Smiths crisps during TV time after dinner. TV viewing was a nightly habit before Netflix became a norm. These days, free-to-air TV time takes up 30 minutes of my life, if that. I can’t see how the TV channels can survive for much longer at this rate. Who watches TV these days? It’s all about HBO, Disney, Stan and Netflix. After a movie, it wasn’t unusual for me to cook myself a packet of duck-flavoured instant noodles or partake in The Mrs’ very wonderful “pei dun choak” or “century egg and pork mince rice porridge”. There was never ever a moment when the larder was empty – a cup of hot milky Milo was my “nightcap” if the fridge was bare. Otherwise, Chinatown was only a few minutes away and a Pizza Hut delivery even more effortless with a simple phone call. It has been four years since I started IF. I don’t count my daily calories because I don’t know how to. I can’t be bothered to figure out how many calories is in a piece of beef rendang or a handful of my favourite Garuda roasted groundnuts. My regime is easy going, I eat as much as I like within the 8 hours my clock allows me to eat. Yes, I do keep to the clock in the Zero app I have in my phone. The Zero app is free too, so adhering to this discipline is free. No membership fees, no specially formulated diet for me. When a thing is free, it cannot be tainted by the evils of money. There is nothing for the merchants to sell to us. No money to be made, no ulterior motive. It is truly practised for our own health and well-being. Fasting activates autophagy after 16 hours and that encourages cell regeneration and therefore promotes better health. Cell regeneration equates to slowing down the ageing process. I hope I got that right, Dr Ohsumi. Well, I hope you got it right too, Dr Ohsumi.

I have been doing IF for 4 years. The Zero app has given me a lot of medals. I don’t see why they need to reward their users for their personal achievements. We don’t need this extra incentive! Rob, a work colleague of mine has started to practise IF also. This is his 4th week. A little blip compared to my 4 years. But take a look at him today! The transformation in his physical appearance is no small blip; it is massive! He looks amazingly good today compared with a mere 3 months ago. I now call him the Italian Stallion at work. I think he appreciates it – there is a bit of Rocky Balboa in every Italian who is fit, strong and virile. He used to look a bit on the unhealthy side and owned a huge double chin which detracted from his otherwise good looks. I could have sworn that Rob did not have a neck when he came for his first job interview. I saw him walk into my office with a laboured gait after struggling up a short flight of steps. I had to wait for him to collect his breath before he could speak. He left a faint hint of an ashtray in the air after the interview. For a weekend surfer, he looked weakened and was surprisingly unfit. But, that was many moons ago. Look at him 3 months ago – he was still without a neck and his smile was unintentionally turned into a smug due to his puffy cheeks. Just prior to starting IF, he changed his eating habits. No more beer, sweets, sugar and wheat carbs. For an Italian to say no to a mountain of pasta and pizza for dinner would have been difficult but so far, he has stuck to his new discipline. Daily 2-3 km walks have become more enjoyable as the routine sets in. Today, he looks a lot younger; his face is radiant with a healthy glow. His sagging jowls have incredibly disappeared enabling his smiles to flash sweetly with sincerity. His eyes are no longer buried by fat around his eye bags, and they are free to reveal the inner warmth and kindness of his soul. I seriously think he needs to change his whole wardrobe. His clothes don’t fit him so well now. Today, he would not look out of place queueing to get in to a rave party for uni students. Yeah, he has shaven years off his age and his newfound youthfulness now happily bears the mark of a reborn man whose confidence and assuredness will deliver him more rewards than the improved health and fitness he has already gained. Rob, you are a wonderful role model for those who harbour any doubts that IF works. I am so pleased to see the huge improvements you have made to your own well-being. You are such a big inspiration to everyone around you. I suspect our work colleagues will be thinking they want to achieve the weight loss that you have made and the health benefits you have gained. Please continue to make them jealous!

Rob has a healthy glow and exudes a picture of health

Fuh, the YouTuber who calls himself Penang AA Cook, is a food lover. Yet, he has managed to lose 8kg since he learned about IF from one of our chats 2 years ago. He shares many photos of the food he cooks at home. I have to say it is amazing he has lost weight rather than put on weight, the amount of rich food he eats daily. Fuh practises fasting, he reckons dieting is a lot less effective. Those who diet tend to gain back their weight because the sacrifice is too much to bear for an extended period. People don’t want to miss out on the foods they enjoy. With IF, we can still enjoy the food we like without gaining weight. https://youtube.com/channel/UC5KMJTeAcBI-0mzea9tN1qA

Fuh, looking a lot less full after IF

If IF works so well, why have some people around me jettisoned their resolve to continue? Some are so cynical they do not even make an attempt to fast even though they can’t hide their body fat. A niece has been the most disappointing. Having lost some 20 kg, she inexplicably stopped IF and her weight has crept back up to over 85 kg. It won’t surprise me if she went back up to her original weight of 99 kg. She tells us she fasts intermittently (FI). So my question is if IF works, why FI?

Tennis with Murray?

The Morning After

I woke up feeling somewhat blithe about life. Finally, it sinks in, I am truly a senior citizen. There is no longer the need for any pretentious actions or words to please others. It is exhilarating. The air smells fresher, cleaner, intoxicating. I can be myself, warts and all. I can look into the mirror and be comfortable with the ugly reflection of a sixty-one-year-old bloke. Who cares what others think? So what if they frown at my behaviour? Be it childish, selfish, impulsive or even irrational. So long as we are not abusive, repulsive or dismissive of other people’s rights, we have every right to be honest with ourselves and therefore with them, right? Writing has been a catharsis for me. Past demons have since not returned and I am more apt in keeping my emotions in check now. I can be blithely ignorant of societal norms, be who I want to be and not be subjected to restrictive rules that try to mould me into someone different. In actual fact, I have shown little regard for unsolicited opinions for much of my adult life. Maybe, that is the unintended benefit of being my own boss in my own business for almost thirty years. I am indifferent to what people say about me. “Be silent! You’re truculent.” Even today, I am described as argumentative, provocative, even annoying. Unintended consequences, perhaps, for being honest and direct or foolish. I rather prefer to call a spade a spade – after determining it is a spade – there’s no need to beat around the bush. After all, I am not in politics and I see being political as being untrue to myself.

All I said was a spade is a spade!

But, who am I kidding? I forget I have someone in my life who I refer to as The Mrs, she who must be obeyed unless I fancy an “eventful” day or week. My uncontrolled sneeze from a Spring allergy roused The Mrs from her deep sleep. That woke me up too. Time to get ready for work. And then it dawns on me, it is Saturday today! I can continue with my dream. It’s reassuring to note that ageing has not interfered with both the ionotropic receptors and metabotropic GABA receptors that inhibit me from acting out my dreams during REM phase of deep sleep. It is these receptors that prevent us from physically moving during our dreams. If either receptor is blocked, The Mrs might very well wake up totally bruised by my kungfu kicks and Superman punches which I execute with perfection in my dreams. Unfortunately, she will not get the opportunity to experience my stupendous sexual prowess which I repeatedly exhibit in my dreams. The difference between reality and dreams sometimes is opportunity. Other times, it is our physical impairment that limits us from our full potential. Having gotten a year older – a silly notion, since ageing is a daily occurrence – I woke up with a renewed resolution to improve my physical fitness, and as silly as it may sound, the incentive comes from the sudden enthusiasm to gain a better physique rather than a quest to demonstrate to The Mrs the prowess I possess in my dreams. Dinner finished late last night, breaking my fast of sixteen hours will be at 1.15pm today. Whilst indulging in a strong cup of black coffee, my Kiwi friend directs my attention to an article in the Weekend Australian. “Hey bro, 61 is the new 41!” John is a real nice guy who recently retired as a GP. He is the bloke who inspired me to go out and buy a floral shirt. A rare breed, he refused to charge those patients who couldn’t afford his fees. The newspaper article is about an international study of mortality. Singapore, three days ago, emerged as the world’s most competitive economy. It is also ranked number one in life expectancy. For me, that is incongruous, intense competition leads to stress which usually means a blight on life expectancy. Australia is ranked 12 in life expectancy (82.4 years) and 14 in healthy life expectancy (70.4 years). This means that since 1990, my life expectancy has increased 5.5 years but of this increase, four years has been in “health-adjusted” life expectancy. So, what’s the point of living longer but in less than full health?

The Weekend Australian Oct 12-13, 2019

As I dwell on the prospect of enjoying only nine more years of healthy life, my eldest son uncannily shares with me a podcast about Ben Greenfield’s top basic and ancestral anti-ageing tactics. Greenfield talks about lobsters with the capability to prevent the shrinking of the telomeres, thereby slowing down ageing. Lobsters can live for hundreds of years by producing an enzyme called telomerase that acts to constantly fix the bits of the telomere that are lost with each cell division. Similarly the humming bird doesn’t die as early as we expect as they can produce their own endogenous antioxidants. Their internal degradation is slow even though they have extremely high metabolism. The immortal jellyfish is called that because it can live forever; the sexually mature jellyfish has the ability to revert to an immature one using a cell development process called cell transdifferentiation which transforms differentiated cells into new cells. Greenfield recommends a multi model approach to slow down the ageing process, after analysing societies that show a high concentration of centenarians. These are his twelve rules. The 13th is mine.

1. Don’t smoke. Avoid air pollution. Clean up the air around you. Outfit your home with an air filtration system. Air pollution has been linked in epidemiological studies to increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Reduce cortisol or stress hormones by adding plants that exude polyphenols to your environment.

2. High intake of wild herbs, bitter plants and spices e.g. Kale, Turmeric, Dandelion. These provide a hormesis response when taking things that, in large amounts are bad for us can actually help us in small amounts. Read Eating On The Wild Side by Jo Robinson.

3. Avoid processed packaged foods, they usually contain sugar and vegetable oil which wreck our blood sugar level, and inflammation (CRP level).

4. Consume legumes. Purple potato and taro. Select lowest glycemic index (GI) foods that are slow-release carbohydrates.

5. Exercise. Use standing work stations, walk as much as possible and casually lift things during the day, avoid sitting down. Going to the gym should be an option, we ought to get enough exercise during our normal day engaging in low level activity.

6. Social physical interaction. Eat at the dinner table with family. Mingle with friends. Chat and laugh.

7. One drink a day for females, two for males. Gin or vodka mixed with bitters. Bitters are packed with immune boosters, help suppress appetite, ease indigestion and help detox the liver. Non-herbicide wine is also beneficial as it is high in antioxidants.

8. Calorie restriction, e.g. Intermittent Fasting. Daily 14-16 hour fast. Cellular autophagy occurs when the body is deprived of food during fasting. Read The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo.

9. Purpose of existence. We must be able to have a single succinct statement of our purpose in life. What makes our day fly past? Do things that make us forget to eat and poo.

10. Avoid stress. Breathe. Learn to breathe to control stress.

11. Spiritual discipline. Meditation, silence, solitude, prayer. Or writing a simple daily journal of three things that you are grateful for.

12. Engage in sex. When your body knows you’re trying to make babies on a regular basis, it will realise your organs need to be healthy, robust and virile. Nature doesn’t keep living organisms around for a long time unless it knows it is useful for the propagation of the species.

13. Eat slowly. This allows you to digest the food you eat properly. An indirect benefit from this is we consume a lot less given the same time to eat. My mother is the perfect example; a slow eater and therefore eats till she is only 70% full.

This is the morning after. Now I am ready for the final phase of my life.

So, Sow, Sew And Show

Ah Beng has been away for over a month. The pumpkin seeds he smuggled into Penang have sprouted, he told me he planned to sow them a few weeks ago. He is eager to show the young men in today’s world, culinary knowledge is superior to carnal knowledge. Not only is he the gourmet cook, he is also the gourmet farmer. Sow it, grow it, throw it in a pan. Then, show it and crow about it. He is the epitome of the modern day urban hero. The paragon of the modern man. Move aside, metrosexuals. Move aside, spornosexuals. The spornosexual’s reign did not last long. Most of us cannot persist with the punishing and rigorous gym work required to sculpt our bodies into those of sports stars and porno stars. Too much effort! We don’t have the discipline. Ah Beng has an unfair advantage already, he is naturally tanned, and never requires a shave, there is no body hair for him to worry about. He is slim built, an early follower of the IF gurus in my chatgroup. Fasting intermittently, his belly no longer overhangs from his belt. He is an ardent tennis player, enthusiastically during the weekend. And, of course I imagine he also contorts his body like a yogi but I do not have access to his bedroom where he professes to perform. I have seen his Tai Chi moves, he isn’t quite as lethal as the Drunken Master, he may appear drunken only, after a long session with his favourite Yamazaki whiskey. Yet, he’s still the best candidate amongst the sixty year olds in my group to be crowned the Urban Hero. The Urban Hero is the new modern man who embodies all the sexy charm of the late 20th century metrosexual, such as window shopping with the spouse and the must-have muscular, tough, lean and mean features of the 21st century spornosexual, and adding to that, an irresistible acreage lifestyle in a groovy hobby farm with a you-beaut state of the art commercial kitchen.

The Urban Hero also knows how to sew, skills learned when he was a Metrosexual. I still haven’t figured out why Ah Beng is itching to do some stitching. Why would the ability to sew be relevant to the Urban Hero? Does it enhance his sex appeal to the ladies? Maybe it ties in with today’s conversation about the environment and climate change. Reduce our carbon print. An old suit becomes new again with fresh buttons. Becoming green is a prerequisite for being taken seriously, it seems. He is still very much moisturised and teeth-whitened, well informed of everything under the sun, and stylish in his smart casuals. He is well-versed in the fine arts, fine wines and fine foods. It’s not cheesy to admit he knows all there is to know about cheese. He no longer calls himself Ah Beng, but I still do because I have known him since his childhood days. His appreciation for music, cinema, drama, interior design, even garden designs still raise eyebrows. He is the latest version of cool, I suspect he owns a guide book on how to be suave. Just like a James or a Bond, he is now known with an Anglo monosyllabic name. Calling himself Ah Beng just wouldn’t cut it anymore. Can I chip in and call him Beckham? Or Ronaldo? With the right name, his demonic sex appeal will break many hearts.

Hey Ah Beng, you have been in Penang now for four weeks. That means four weeks without the discipline of IF. Do you remember IF, Intermittent Fasting? Or has IF evolved into Intermittent Feasting, Incessant Feeding, Intoxicated Frenzy? How many kgs have you put on since your arrival at the island of Incredible Food? After all, Penang holds the enviable title of Street Food Paradise, doesn’t it? Too many durian excursions? Excuses, excuses. You sow the seeds, now show us a selfie.

IF Stalls By The Food Stalls

Penang, my birthplace, is still a street food paradise. Once upon a time, its beautiful pristine beaches and unrivalled leisurely tropical lifestyle made it the Pearl of the Orient. Today, there are many cities that vie for that title. Shanghai with its old French Quarters, Hong Kong, Manila, Saigon, Goa, Colombo in Sri Lanka all have reasons to claim to be The Pearl in Asia. Why the pearl? What makes a pearl beautiful, valuable and sought after? Is it the rarity of a natural pearl? Pearl divers purportedly are saying they are almost extinct. Its value is dependent upon the size, shape, colour, surface quality and nacre quality. Even before the Middle Ages, pearls were cherished for their beauty and rarity. Eventually, pearls symbolised power, most European royalty and aristocracy were often painted wearing pearls. Even Christianity used pearls as an attribute for chastity and purity. In the 17th century, the Dutch master Vermeer loved painting his subjects with pearls to depict wealth and power. Arguably the most famous pearl isn’t Penang, but the pearl worn by the girl in The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

But, what’s indisputable about Penang is it is still the street food paradise of the world. I arrived in Penang with a cocky confidence of a very disciplined Intermittent Fasting practitioner. During a recent three week holiday in Europe, I travelled from London via Amsterdam and Copenhagen to St Petersburg. Much of that holiday was enjoyed in the Viking Jupiter, a luxury cruise ship that presented the most delectable meals from breakfast to late suppers. Yet, this IF guy was resolute right through, never did I waiver or submit to the temptations from the ship’s kitchens. The strict regime of IF was so important to me that nothing and no one could weaken my discipline. I observe IF strictly for health reasons. After 18 months, I no longer have a weight problem and neither do I have a waistline to worry about. To the constant chagrin of my fellow travellers, their teasing and harmless mocking could not tease me out of my cabin to join them for breakfast.

When I arrived in Penang three nights ago, I was absolutely confident I would continue with my IF routine. Fasting for 16 hours leaving a window of 8 hours to eat, isn’t punishing when it is so beneficial for my health. It’s a lifestyle that I’m now totally accustomed to and in fact, enjoy. Importantly, I feel good and I look spritely for my age. Many of my friends and even friends’ friends have declared that they too are giving IF a try. This alone has made me feel good, that I have imparted something good to others. Prior to IF, I did not think there was anything I know in health matters that I could promulgate and share, let alone influence.

But I got to admit my self belief in my rock-solid absolutely unshakeable willpower was irrational. It took a mere 24 hours to shatter the mirror in my mind. We often look at the mirror and don’t see a true reflection of ourselves. Either we are too critical and we blame the devil for it or we are too lenient and we see the angel that we are not. I have lost my swagger. I have lost that absolute belief in myself. Penang broke me. It broke my will well before it was time to break my fast. There are simply too many amazing food stalls here that dish out the most delicious temptations that somehow my steely resolve cannot fight. Last night, a mere morsel of Penang Hokkien Mee was enough to render me a mere mortal. IF stalls whilst the food stalls of Penang are near me.

Intermittent Fasting: Time Restricted Eating

Why do I practise IF if it’s so difficult to follow, and when so many good folk around me oppose it?

I have been an IF practitioner for over 18 months. A very disciplined one, I didn’t stop my 16:8 fast even during my three week holiday recently in Europe. The cruise ship Viking Jupiter’s amazing supply of exquisite culinary cuisine and abundance of wine, glorious breakfasts and desserts couldn’t break my resolve; I didn’t break my fasts prematurely. The good uncomprehending and incredulous folk around me exhorted, “You’ve paid for it, this is expensive food you’re missing out on! What a waste! You can fast after your holiday!” Yes, I’ve paid for my holiday but I don’t need to pay more for it with my health, I whispered inside my mind. I was too polite to come up with such a retort, I only resorted to flash a smile. They must think I’m such an idiot. So I kept telling myself I’m just a local idiotes ( old Greek word).

There are a few versions of IF. I follow the 16:8, fast for 16 hours leaving a window of 8 continuous hours to enjoy my healthy diet. Does anyone really need more than 8 hours to consume the food that they want? Hunter gatherers in neolithic times inform me otherwise. They were very unlike us, unspecialised in any field but needed to be adept in every task to survive. There was no agriculture, therefore little consumption of carbohydrates and sugars that are so bad for us. They didn’t lead a sedentary lifestyle, most of us are desk bound specialists in our jobs. Taxi drivers, truckies, pilots all sit on their bums when they work.

It’s now 11.40 am. My last meal finished at 7.45 last night. In another 5 min, I can break fast and have my breakfast. I’ve been up since 8 this morning. It’s Sunday, my day of rest. I got up and had a full mug of warm water. My body needed to be rehydrated, it appreciated that mug. It’s the second day of winter, so it’s a bit cold. I went out to say hello to my four chooks. They don’t have to fast, so I fed them some seeds and grain. Organic ones I hope so I’ll have organic eggs. The coop was filthy, these chooks aren’t toilet trained, so today’s my turn to be their toilet cleaner. Aah, the Zero app which I use to record my daily IF history just flashed the message that I’ve reached my goal of 16 hours. But I’m not hungry, so I’ll continue writing. After the chook poo’s been transferred to the compost bin and floor of the coop flushed clean, I walked to my neighbour’s garden via the side gate that we share, to say hello to my fish. They think the koi belongs to them now that they are in their pond. I shan’t argue, since I know they are mine. Hello, my beautiful koi, you give me so much joy. I spent the next hour cleaning the pond and flushed out the waste from the water filter system. The waste is collected and becomes a wonderful source of fertiliser for my neighbour’s veggie patch and flower beds. It’s a fresh morning, so I didn’t linger to enjoy their garden. My sons are yoga enthusiasts, they popped into my mind, so I came back inside and did some simple yoga stretches. I saluted to the sun even though it didn’t appear this morning. I did the dog pose, almost as easily as Murray does it. Murray isn’t my dog but he adores me like a best friend would.

Lunch will be at 1pm. It will be a gathering of a big family. Which means lunch won’t start at 1. I’m still not hungry, will make myself a cup of black coffee. Apparently it’s ok to have black coffee when fasting, without sugar or milk, it doesn’t add calories and glucose that require our body to burn off. The idea is to let the body burn off the glycogen in the body so that it gets to burn off some of the fat stored. IF is a great way to slim down. I weighed 74kg before I started IF, now I’m consistently at 69-70 kg. During my three week holiday, the glutton, no, gourmand in me added 1.2 kg but that was soon lost after a 19.9 hour fast when I got home. My BMI has been hovering around 21.9 for a long while. A niece in Miri was over 99 kg three months ago after decades of failed diets; today she is a gorgeous youthful 81.9 kg woman on IF. Her friends now ask for her secret.

My niece, before IF
Three months with IF
Six months with IF

Yum! Ok I’ll share a secret with you. That first cup of black coffee for the day tastes amazing! When the body has been deprived of food and drinks for so long, that first sip or that first morsel tastes simply divine. It’s as if my body is thankful and it’s its way of showing great appreciation when it enjoys that first taste sensation. It’s 12.49 pm, I should stop here and make my way to lunch. The yumcha will be awesome!

It’s now 4.15 pm. Lunch was delicious! The bill was only $164, for 20 of us, meaning most of us were 70% full, did not over indulge. After that we went to a sister’s house for afternoon tea. There, I ate a bit more of her Macadamia tart than I should, so I’m feeling a bit full. It’s not a nice feeling, this feeling of satiety. My body has gotten accustomed to a “clean system”, it no longer welcomes the feeling of over eating, that sense of heaviness and fullness inside. Tonight’s dinner will be light, maybe some veggies, an omelette and some fruits to close my 8 hour window. I may even close it after 6 hours. That will allow me to have a breakfast of rolled oats drizzled with pure honey, with mixed dried fruit tomorrow. I’m looking forward to that!

Twelve months with IF

I’m encouraged by a recent study published by The British Journal of Nutrition which shows that fasting not only helps reduce the incidence of strokes but also helps the body repair the damaged tissues caused from a stroke. Subjects who participated in the above mentioned study were able to clear triglycerides from their blood more quickly than the control group. Triglycerides drive up the LDL-P. The higher the LDL-P, the more they will penetrate the endothelial membrane causing plaque buildup. It’s the burst plaque that causes strokes if they travel to the brain and restrict/block blood flow to it. The fasting group’s systolic blood pressure reduced by 9% compared to the control group. The lowering of pressure on the arteries is good news, it may reduce the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. Research also finds that fasting supports neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons and neuronal connections after a stroke.

Apart from the early benefits of rapid weight loss and shrinking bellies, IF may deliver other more important health benefits such as lowering risks of diabetes, heart disease and therefore offer us a longer healthier life. Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the 2016 Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, for his discovery that fasting enhances the process of autophagy. It clears out old, unwanted cellular materials and proteins, especially weak or damaged cells, and also stimulates the production of growth hormones which enables cell regeneration. When autophagy does not take place frequently, our body accumulates a variety of weak cellular material and proteins which show up starkly in Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons and even cancers. With autophagy, levels of 1GF1 marker of various cancers decreased. To induce autophagy, we need low liver glycogen which is usually achieved only after 16-20 hours of fasting.

Another benefit from fasting is mental alertness and clarity. When our body is deprived of food, it goes into a state of heightened awareness and sharpened senses. The now retired UFC champion, Georges St-Pierre attributed his faster reflex to IF. According to the journal Neuroscience, from an evolutionary perspective, “those individuals whose brains functioned best during periods of resource scarcity would be the most successful in meeting the challenges (of survival)”. IF also increases the production of a molecule known as BDNF, improving synaptic plasticity, thereby increasing the brain’s ability to resist ageing.

Apart from regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet, IF is also a great tool to help fight against diabetes. Recent studies suggested that IF enhances the regeneration of pancreatic cells, helps reduce insulin resistance which in turn keeps blood sugar levels under control. But, the science lags behind the fad. Therefore, responsible doctors continue to refrain from recommending IF to combat specific illnesses even though IF has gone mainstream. Having turned 60, I can’t afford to wait for studies to prove the benefits of IF. I know it’s benefiting me, I feel good, I feel I look good too, having lost that fat belly.

Another big benefit of fasting can be had if we go into ketosis. Ketosis is only achieved when our body, having burned up glycogen, starts burning fat for energy instead, producing ketones. Ketones unlike glucose, does not affect our insulin levels. The presence of ketones is evidence of the body regenerating itself, which protects against ageing and disease. Glucose buildup in our brain causes brain cells to die, leading to Alzheimer’s. Through ketogenesis, the body can produce ketone bodies that provide a source of energy that the brain can utilise. Being in ketosis reliably reduces blood glucose and insulin levels, i.e. reduces Type 2 Diabetes. When we reduce our blood glucose levels, insulin typically falls, and the HDL/triglyceride ratio usually improves, reducing the risk of heart disease. As the incidence of diseases reduces, we gain a prolonged healthy life.

One big caveat: People with eating disorders should not fast. It will have unintended consequences,  disrupting hard-won efforts to maintain a regular eating pattern. Please do not sue me for this article or bombard me with criticisms for any inaccuracies. I am not a professional in the medical field, merely an uneducated urghhling in the field of medicine and science, who has been asked to share his IF experience.

Ship Happens: Travelling With Old People

As my cruise holiday approaches the final destination, I cannot but feel a need to be reflective after many days of being purposefully circumspective. This is my first holiday since I turned 60, suddenly the senior citizens are no longer “they” to me, they have become “us”.

The Captain’s welcome speech informed me that one day’s cruise is equivalent to a gain of one pound in weight. It took my slowing brain three attempts to work out that I would gain 5 kg in ten days. My personal challenge of only bringing slim-fit tight pants with me suddenly appeared foolish.

At lunch on the first day, I overheard a loud Asian woman sharing her story with a companion about how she and her 85 year-old husband almost missed their flight. They overslept, failed to hear their alarm go off, or maybe they forgot to set it, or maybe they set it to pm instead of am? The taxi was blaring away in the wee hours, late to fetch them to the airport. She had to shake her husband to wake him up. He was all shaken up, and in the taxi, he told her he had forgotten to bring his reading glasses with him. That’s alright, darling, you will just have to forgo reading when we are at sea. They got into the plane breathless, hardly had time to buckle up before the plane took off. Phew, that was intense. As she started to relax, she shook her husband and abruptly asked him, did you remember to put on your dentures?!

I met an American couple on the second day. From Denver, Colorado she replied when asked where they come from. It would have sufficed, I am sure to just say from Denver. Is there another Denver somewhere else? Her husband, a substantial man with a substantial weight, returned to our table with an Espresso ice-cream cone in one hand, and a sorbet in the other. Realising that I was looking at his busy hands, he exclaimed convincingly that is why God made us with two hands. They had joined the cruise from Barcelona, three weeks ago. Ah, he would have been a skinny man then, I calculated.

Last night was Beatles Night, which meant a packed theatre. I got into the theatre late, when Yesterday was being sung and lights turned low. The lyrics suddenly hit me, hard.

I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

Suddenly, I hit something hard. I am now an old man, and had walked right into a pillar, either it was too dark for my eyes or was I watching the new fab four and not what I was walking into. Much like an iRobot vacuum cleaner, I crashed onto the pillar blindly, took a step back, and continued away from the pillar without fuss. Now I need a place to hide away. Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Tonight, the ship sailed into Stockholm. The pool was empty, everyone was at the deck level to admire the cobalt Baltic sea lapping at the shore of Statsgården and the nearby 13th century Gamla Stan, or Old Town. Great! I took the opportunity to enjoy a luxurious time alone in a luxurious setting, hopping from the hot spa to the steam room, and from the steam room to the Snow Grotto, a room covered with real snow. All that luxury, all for me to enjoy on my own. Then back to the Steam room. There, Rasputin came into my thoughts, and so did the Romanovs. I felt immense gratitude that we are so lucky to live in the 21st century with all the luxury and conveniences that we enjoy. It was only a hundred years ago, when Tsar Nicholas II ruled Russia. Could he and his family, with all that pomp and riches, have imagined such luxury that we ordinary folk now almost take for granted? My introspection in the Snow Grotto was disturbed by another substantial man of substantial weight. Another old American. Ok, enough of Rasputin, let me drive him out of my mind, empty my mind. I focused on the soft meditative music instead. Suddenly, an uncontrolled fart blew loudly. Not me, the old American with substantial weight chirped with a mismatched squeaky voice. Yeah, sure.

In the change room, whilst drying myself after taking the cold bucket challenge, a much older man, walked in from one of the shower cubicles. Ghostly white in his white robe, he looked much too frail and pale. There were warning signs pasted everywhere, deterring those pregnant or with heart conditions or are immune compromised from enjoying these facilities. He didn’t belong there. I didn’t like his ghostly looks, so I hurriedly left the room. Outside, a gorgeous lanky Swedish masseuse asked me if there was anyone left in the room. I nodded. She knocked at the door, opened it a little and called out: Mr Joseph, Mr Joseph, are you in there? Mr Joseph? No reply. She told me he’s late for his appointment. So, I walked back in to hurry him along. Anyway, this is not a blog about ghost stories…. so I shall not continue.

Oh, let me tell you about the old Welsh woman, she is quite tall but far from skinny. She had noticed I never turned up for breakfast. So, she asked me why. I told her I practise IF, Intermittent Fasting. No! No! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you must not miss it! Besides, you’ve paid for it, so enjoy it, you’re on holiday! A really kind caring woman, this old Welsh woman. I did not bother telling her about the many potential benefits of IF. Animal research has successfully linked IF to improved heart health, brain health, reduced Type 2 diabetes, reduced risks of cancers, and definitely will result in weight loss and reduced body fat. I could also have informed her about the 2016 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Yoshinori Ohsumi for discovering the benefits IF provide in enhancing the process of autophagy. But, she said I look a bit like Rasputin, so I avoided sounding like a fake healer.

She said I looked like Rasputin

I am totally unqualified, an illiterate in the field of Physiology, best I keep quiet. But I can profess with total confidence one definite benefit of IF is it allows me to ask for packed lunches, everywhere, without guilt. I quite often approach the kitchen and tell them I am fasting, and will miss breakfast and lunch. Oh, yes, I know, it is Ramadan, I fast too! A cook said. And then I get to pack a big lunch, for free. Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?! Anyway, one afternoon, I was sharing a lift with this kind caring old Welsh woman when she suddenly sneezed. A middle button of her dress popped off and landed next to my right shoe. She casually bent down (with some difficulty), picked up her button and stared blankly at the door of the lift. She never bothered me again about missing breakfast.

The old Welsh woman has an older sister travelling with her. She calls her Older Sis. Older Sis has had a bad fall once, and three missteps so far during their holiday. After following in the footsteps of Rasputin in Yusupov Palace, she had another misstep. I offered a helping hand and told her of my observation, that she tended to be doing something such as closing her bag or putting on her scarf whilst she was walking. Older people should focus on one thing at a time, right? Older Sis was rummaging through her handbag whilst walking towards a terminal after our Peterhof Gardens visit when the old Welsh woman asked her what she was looking for in her handbag. My sunglasses, I think I may have left them in the bus, Older Sis exclaimed with some dismay. A few of us looked across at her, and burst out laughing uncontrollably. Older Sis peered at us with a baffled look, through her sunnies.

This is the penultimate night in this cruise ship, my ninth night. After dinner, I was at the lifts, failing repeatedly to scan my ship card to activate the lifts. Suddenly, it hit me. All I need do is press the arrow up button. Cruise ships do not have access controlled security lifts! Oh no. This local idiotes (an old Greek word that does not mean idiot) from Australia has become an old urghhling too.

It’s easy to gain a pound a day