The Hungry Ghost and Intermittent Fasting

I believe the ‘hungry ghost’ comes out of the rich tapestry of Hindu mythology. Hungry ghosts are mythical beings with small mouth and big bellies that can never be satisfied not matter how much they eat or drink and are condemned to eternal hunger.

This mythological creature could serve as a good metaphor for greed or power – but it can also serve my current need: to describe myself at the moment.

Something has happened to the person who started this blog and maintained it for 7 years and the person who writes these words now cannot find him.

The weight that was originally lost has all come back. Am I 262.2 or 262.4 today? Little matter if I’m off by 2/10ths of a pound – it is the journey from 207 – my weight when I had my appendix out – and now 55 lbs. heavier that occurred in an almost unbroken sequence of consistent weight gain since that time.

My physician says the two are unconnected. He might very well be right, but it is more that he is incurious as to if there might be a connection – and sees weight gain from his perspective as thin and athletic as a moral failing than anything that might have to do with something outside my control.

I have also noticed that more foods tend to ‘disagree with me’ in was I’ve never experienced before. Most notably, I’ve found that shortly after a normal meal I have a greater tendency to need to run to the restroom.

Funny – I’ve done a cursory Internet search and found a site that I wouldn’t call credible without way more research – but here’s a quote that is not a bad fit for how I feel:

without the appendix the patient would be more prone to low cellular energy (which can lead to everything from fatigue to cancer), poor digestion, weight gain, over eating, increased hunger cravings, opportunistic infections of the intestinal track that spread to other parts of the body (dandruff, asthma, vaginal yeast, acne, rashes, thrush, sinusitis, ear infections etc), fertility issues, PMS and an entire collection of seemingly unrelated diseases.

Being a guy, the PMS is unlikely, though I have been bitchy as of late.

It *is* looking as if the appendix does have a use – and this function I no longer have might (or might not) be wreaking havoc on my efforts to restart my diet – or even stop the continuing weight gain.

So looking back on this guy who lost all that weight and kept a good portion of it off: he had an appendix – I don’t.

This might mean if I have any chance of stopping the steady increase in weight and – happy happy joy joy – find the ability to lose it all again, I will have to come up with some new tricks.

I mean – at the moment I don’t even know *IF* low carb works for me anymore!

Perhaps I need to begin at the beginning: the notion of hunger itself. It’s changed somehow, subtly, over time. There’s been more junk food – probably because there’s been less cooking – and I believe there’s been less cooking because I’ve lost some of the joy in eating. It’s as if only tarted-up junk food is the only way to make food a pleasure. My energy levels are also in the crapper and that does not help compel a guy out of the house 12 hours a day with work and commute to eagerly rush home to cook up some low carb delight when I can grab whatever crap is available in the fridge.

It’s a complicated problem – a ‘multivariate problem’ for the folks that like big words. Lots of variables. There’s what i eat, when I eat, how much I eat, the carbs in what I eat, my lack of exercise, the knee pain that makes exercise tough – and the whole misnomer that exercise has some caloric equivalent where I can go on a treadmill for a half hour to zero out a cookie.

The whole of nutrition science is a conjecture competition where each group puts up its crappy theory based on suspect research and anecdotal evidence then calls each other names and insults their spouses and pets.

A pox on all their houses. I’m in this alone.

So starting at the beginning means starting at hunger – and starting at hunger means being hungry; craving things I ought not have, and just ‘being’ with this feeling rather than it overtaking me. It means listening to the little trope of a devil on my shoulder whispering that now is the time to eat – the requisite angel on the other shoulder has not shown up – it’s probably tucking away a value meal at McDonald’s.

I woke up late and only had black coffee and decided that today I would eat nothing. Just one day. By far the vast majority of humankind have had to deal with a day without food. I wanted to do it and just watch what I felt.

As I was hungry on my way to work I didn’t have long to experience the desire. I didn’t ignore it nor did I embrace it – I just sayed with it, like a smelly hobo on a bus where the stench and its impact would rise and fall as time proceeded.

While I began to feel odd by about 2pm, the weirdness began to up the ante around 4. My daughter had called and there was water in the basement at home, which meant some sort of misadventure was about to ruin my evening…wait – why was I not eating? What kind of STUPID idea was not eating? I have PLENTY of stupid ideas – what – another one?

I tried to find some solace in looking up ‘intermittent fasting’ and you know what? Reputable sites like Scientific American and The Atlantic Monthly discussed it as something that is not a kooky as it first sounds.

Regrettably for our forebears, we were designed to go hungry for periods – we just weren’t designed to like it.

Soon interruptions and phone calls distracted me, and after the passing of the things needed to be done that pass for my job came to a halt for a few moment I thought to have more coffee. I thought it might be foolish to have more black coffee on an empty stomach, but I’ve been good at giving in to foolish thoughts lately – as the woman at the McDonald’s checkout can attest to.

As I neared the end of the day I began to think: what would I do if offered food at home? Announcing that I was fasting for the day would not cut it unless I wanted to be ridiculed – and I didn’t. Then, as if someone had run up to me with an urgent message, I heard a voice say: “you go all day today without eating and tomorrow you can have all the pizza you want!”. Imagine the voice sounding like Roger Rabbit’s – that is a fair description.

We all have these competing thoughts and are really only sane when we understand that there are many of us inside us. Giving identities to this cast of characters is an act of insight – not insanity.

Roger’s voice disappeared as the workday wore down. I made it through the day and now it was time for the most dangerous part – the commute. While it’s not fashionable to admit, I do have a great affection for McDonald’s as of late and it’s been the bane of my existence when it comes to my diet. With a long commute ahead of me and little chance of a low carb meal waiting for me when I get home – our schedules simply too chaotic for such pleasantries, popping in at Mc’Ds was an easy fix – that’s got to stop.

It didn’t tug at me today. Actually, going the whole day without eating was easier than I thought it would be. Not easy, but easier.

When I came home one daughter wanted to bake brownies and the other wanted a drive to the mall to return something. I thought the mall trip was safer at the moment so I chose that – and waited in the car while she did her business. As I drove there I thought of mentioning to her what I was doing then stopped myself: I wanted this to be my secret. It would be somehow cheapened and tarnished if it was told.

I *did* begin t feel somewhat woozy for a moment as I waited but then the feeling passed.

At home, I helped my younger one with her school brownies. Honestly: sweets are not my downfall. It was uneventful.

It was sometime around 9:30pm when I gave in. I had a ‘cheese sandwich’ – a slice of bread with cheese, mayonnaise, and a lot of romaine lettuce. This was followed up with a hot dog on a bun. And that was about it.

I had gone 18 hours without eating, or 14 waking hours.

I wouldn’t call it a success – but it wasn’t exactly a failure, either. I woke up earlier than usual the next day. Interesting, since I’ve been having a hard time getting up early lately.

This proved nothing, but perhaps this – whatever it was – is in some form worth pursuing.

7 thoughts on “The Hungry Ghost and Intermittent Fasting

  1. We are leading duplicate lives. My wife asked me if I had written this article.
    I am ready to just be happy with my returned girth and just enjoy life.
    Cya at McD’S

    1. I understand completely, Kyle. I sometimes wish that I was given 6 months to live. I’d leave the doctor’s, buy stretch pants, a carton of cigarettes, and binge-watch Netflix while downing Martinis.

      Instead, I try to wean myself off of recreational eating while you have all the fun.

      Paint me jealous.

  2. In comments on a blog post couple people mentioned a low dose naltroxene for controlling overeating
    “Dr. Richard Bernstein, the diabetes specialist, recommended in his book several protocols for conquering overeating and compulsive carb binging, including low-dose naltrexone among them, and Byetta, if I recall correctly. They may not be magic bullets, but if someone like Bernstein has tried them clinically that means there is help available (somewhere, at least).”

  3. Think I might go see a local Ideal Protein Diet center. Have been looking around, trying
    to find something that might work that I can stick to. I have been yoyoing for 10 years on low carb.
    Now it just will not come off no matter what I do.

  4. In my 30’s–with a bad relationship issue and two small children, I stopped eating (perhaps I thought I would die?)–I drank coffee all day (decaf), cooked food for the family and slept in the backyard during the day getting a good tan. I lost 55 pounds in 5 or 6 weeks. Of course my teeth got wobbly and my hair fell out. But I went from a very snug size 18 to a very loose size 6 in a very short time. And stayed thin for many many years—12? No baggy excess skin. I was just thin.

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