Intro To Fasting Part III: Fasting Is A Skill, Not A Diet

Last summer I began my experimentation with fasting which I am continuing this Spring, this is part three in my series on this topic. Recap: Part I and part II.

After six months of fasting experimentation, I have come to the conclusion that fasting is not a diet, it is a skill. Specifically: It is a time management skill (with some biological adaptation thrown in there somewhere). The more you practice fasting, the more your body adapts, the better you get at it and the easier it gets. Like any other skill, there are tips and tricks to get better.

Time-Box Your Fasts

Plan for success. Avoid doing fasts during times where you know you are going to have team dinners or family holidays. Peer pressure is going to be the #1 killer of your fast, I avoid the problem by keeping my fasts clear of these obligations. I put my longer fasts on my calendar as blocks with target weights I want to achieve during that period and avoid taking meetings or lunches that will require me to eat during those weeks.

Fast In Sprints / Recharge Your Self-Control

Fasting requires significant self-control. The good news is that self control recharges over time. However, if you attempt to fast week after week, your self-control is going to dwindle over time. For this reason, I find that fasting in “Sprints” with several weeks in between is the optimal way to do it. This gives me time to recharge my motivation and plan to be successful the next time around.

As Your Body Adapts, Fasting Gets Easier

6 months ago, a 24 hour fast would have caused me to fall over dead (I am exaggerating). I remember having issues with being light-headed and getting headaches when I first began. Doesn’t happen anymore. After some practice, I am now regularly doing 24, 36, 48 hour fasts and beyond without concern. The difference is that I have learned what to expect, how to schedule my time and my body has adapted to these eating patterns by becoming more efficient with calories / shrinking stomach effect.





Thoughts On Fasting: Part II – Recap of First 8 Day Fast

This is part II of my series on the topics of Fasting and Intermittent Fasting. Read part I over here.

Recap On My First 8-Day Fast

I just finished my first 8 day fast. It was very successful. My total body weight dropped by ~14 lbs.  Later in this blog post I will share some of my calculations around this topic, especially relating to what percent of this drop was actually water.

I hesitate to call this a “true fast” because after the first 4 days, I found myself getting run down and ate a snack so in that sense I “cheated.” In fact, I ended up “cheating” 3 times during my fast on a regular pattern. Regardless of this, the results were excellent.

Based on the lessons I have learned, I will by modifying my approach to allow for semi-regular eating breaks. Even with an occasional meal, I lost an impressive amount of weight while maintaining a quite healthy energy and focus level.

First 8-day Fast Recap

  • Starting weight: 256.6
  • Starting date: Friday, February 2nd – Saturday, February 10th
  • Low Body Weight: 242.4
  • Total weight change: Roughly 14 lbs
  • Ran twice
  • Cheated three times

Here is a table of my data. Technically, I began fasting the Thursday night before I began tracking this fast (Feb 1st):

Discussion on Body Water vs. Fat Lost

When it comes to measuring progress, body water is a potential source of confusion in a number of ways. For example, within the first three days, I dumped over 6 lbs of weight which couldn’t possibly have been all fat. After the initial losses, my losses averaged around 1.5 – 2lbs per day.

As a 250+ lb adult male with some muscle mass, I have estimated using online calculators that I naturally burn anywhere from 2,000 to 2,300 calories per day by just sitting, walking, thinking and working. A single lb of body fat contains 3,500 calories. That means by not eating, I should have expected to burn roughly .75 lbs of fat per day through regular activity.

So what explains the 1.5lbs to 2lbs per day number? The answer could only be “water,” especially after the first three days of fasting, when the body rids itself of stored glycogen (which tends to hold onto a lot of water) and transition to true Ketosis.

Based on my research, an adult male body is anywhere from 60-70% water by mass. This can vary based on salt intake. 1 lb of water is roughly 16 oz. Therefore, it seems that each pound of body fat lost must also result in a similar amount of water being removed from the system.

Sources I have seen online claim that adipose tissue is 10% water, I am unable to reconcile those numbers with what I am observing. As near as I am able to see, for each pound of body fat lost, I am losing a nearly equivalent amount of water weight. This is phenomenally good news.

Are You As Fat As You Think You Are?

After my initial calculations above and observing how much weight I measured every day, I feel like I have discovered something that is quite useful: People may not be as fat as they think they are. By this I mean, if you seem to be 60lbs overweight, 30 of those lbs may well be water. This makes the overall velocity of weight loss much faster than one might think when it comes to pure fasting.

I have often seen references to body water being a big factor, but I have never seen anyone explicitly writing the words: If you lose 1lb of fat, you also lose 1lb of water for a total loss of 2lbs. If my progress at this rate continues, it gives me a lot of hope that I can lose weight much faster than expected.

What to Eat While Fasting

Though I mostly did not eat anything, I did intake a multivitamin and mineral supplements on a regular basis. I also began adding Bone Broth and Brewers Yeast in small quantities. Both have very low calories but also provide protein and other building blocks that are good to have in your system.

If you are drinking caffeine, you will get depleted on minerals and electrolytes (which I believe results in the light-headedness effects I experienced). Thus the need to supplement.  Bone Broth I found to be very satisfying, the richer the better, while having very few calories. A cup of rich broth felt like eating an entire meal.

I will be doing a follow-on fast to this one in coming weeks and writing another blog about my experience with that.



Eating Less Is Significantly Harder Than Not Eating

It is my personal experience that diets focusing on eating less or eating “healthy food” are significantly more difficult to stay on than simple fasting.

What I found to my surprise in my experiments with fasting is that I simply don’t get hungry anymore. Light-headed sometimes, but I can resolve that by eating micronutrients and occasionally a cup of bone broth. I might feel somewhat stirred to eat when surrounded by food, but the urge is completely manageable…unless I take one bite. Once I taste the slice of pizza or other food, I immediately spiral out of control into binge or compulsive eating.

This is why I feel sorry for people who attempt to regulate their calorie intake through self-control. If you eat anything, you are constantly testing your animal instincts. It is only a matter of time before the same mechanisms (a spike in insulin, mouth saliva and appetite) take over and take the decision to eat out of your hands. Millions of years of evolution seem to have tuned us to take full advantage whenever we discover an opportunity to feast.

Fasting solves this problem. The only way to win the game is not to play.


Thoughts on Fasting – Part I (Getting Started)

The above picture is me at 18 years old winning a natural bodybuilding competition in Western MA. That was years ago. I weighed about 185. Now I am 35. I am sharing this photo to demonstrate that I have some experience when it comes to the topic of diet and exercise.

After years of high stress, travel and desk jobs programming computers, my weight ballooned to 285 (100 lbs overweight!). With the addition of my young son last year, I began to lose hope that I might ever return to a normal body mass. To make matters worse, once I hit 30+ I noticed a distinct slow-down in my metabolism which made many of the techniques which I used to employ to drop weight less effective.


How I Used To Lose Weight

The 18 year old me, pictured above, had spent the previous 12-16 weeks eating nothing but meat and vegetables as well as protein shakes while also wrestling for the Amherst High-school team 5 days per week. I also engaged in regular cardiovascular and weight training. The amount of work and self-control required to lose weight using these methods was significant. It was also expensive and time consuming.

After attempting to lose weight “the old way” on several occasions, I began to realize that these techniques were simply not compatible with my current life and work schedule. I needed something that was cheap, effective, healthy and realistic.

Intermittent Fasting To The Rescue

Out of exhasperation, I began researching for something more potent to use to change my body composition. This research lead me to Intermittent Fasting. Last summer (2017), I embarked on my first experiment. I began eating two small meals per day, once at 1pm and another meal at 7pm. Gradually, I began to include 24-hour fasts once or twice a week until finally I migrated to multiple back-to-back 24-hour fasts, eating one meal per day.

The results were spectacular and immediate. I dropped 22 lbs in two months and have kept it off since. If you are unfamiliar with Intermittent Fasting, the idea is to time your meals to ensure your body spends more time in a “fasting” state than in a “fed” state. There are many tactics and strategies employed by people which you can find by researching online, I won’t detail them fully here.

After two months of Intermittent Fasting, I noticed something odd. Either through lax practices or adaptation – The weight losses stopped. Even 36 hour fasts did not seem to produce the results they once had. Things got busy so I stopped Intermittent Fasting, vowing to revisit it in the future.

Doubling Down On Intermittent Fasting 

This January I began Intermittent Fasting again and noticed the same phenomenon: It simply wasn’t working anymore. It wasn’t necessarily that the fasting was problematic (I now find it easy to do), it was that I simply can’t trust myself to regulate my eating. If food is put into my hands, my animal instincts take over and I inevitably over-eat and regain anything I had lost. I also felt that my body had adapted to fasting and become more efficient with calories, causing the results to decline.

As a result, I have decided to double-down on fasting by embarking on a series of protracted fasts. When I say “Protracted,” I mean “Greater than 7 days.” After doing research about other people’s experiences, the potential medical downsides and ways to avoid common pitfalls, I decided to test my first 8 day fast.

I am currently in the 5th day of this fast and have seen my bodyweight from from 256.6 down to 245 already. As a result, I have decided I am going to extend this fast out past 8 days, perhaps as long as 30-40 days. Simply put: This is the year I am going to return to a healthy weight.

In coming weeks, I am going to be going into more detail about protracted fasts and how to manage them while still maintaining health.

Stay tuned.



Tiny AI Devices Invade The Maker Moment

The Xpider by Maker Collider featuring a camera equipped with a hardware accelerated neuron memory chip for rapid image recognition

The tiny white orb-shaped robot scuttled across the carpet, it’s flashing headlamp illuminating the floor before it. “It can recognize faces,” said the hardware engineer in charge of implementing the compact internals of the Xpider. “We are working on a software layer to make it easy to drag-and-drop commands using the onboard neural network engine.

As I have toured the world attending hardware conferences and Maker Faires, the theme of providing small edge devices with more intelligence has grown stronger with each passing month. More and more inventive developers and teams seem to be working on solving the next big problem facing the Maker Movement: How to make AI-enabled hardware and perceptual computing gadgets usable to a wider audience of developers.

[Read more…]

Tiny FPGAs Present Intriguing IoT AI Opportunities, Adoption Hampered By Ease-Of-Use

The new TinyFPGA A-series

Recently, the TinyFPGA series from designer Luke Valenty received coverage from the open-source hardware press. While FPGA enthusiasts rejoiced at the news of a tiny FPGA form-factor, little discussion occurred as to why a small FPGA for makers is an interesting phenomenon.

So what is so great about FPGAs and why should anyone care that they are now tiny? A few reasons, some of them quite intriguing.
[Read more…]

My new role at ARM

tl;dr: I am leaving my role at Intel’s Makers and Innovators Group to join ARM Holdings, a subsidiary of SoftBank. At ARM, I will be moving to Seattle and greatly expanding my work on global IoT and robotics ecosystems.

After four years at Intel traveling the world building a global ecosystem around the Intel Edison, Intel Curie, Intel Joule and the Arduino 101 inventor platforms, I am leaving Intel to join ARM Holdings. At ARM, I will be taking on the role of Sr. IoT Ecosystem Development Manager where I will continue my work spanning robots, drones, IoT, makers, medical devices, musical instruments, developer experience, underwater ROVs and perceptual computing (and much more).

While at Intel, I enjoyed working with the most talented hardware and software teams from around the world. I got to train tens of thousands of developers how to connect their IoT devices to the cloud at more than 60 events and helped to launch both AWS IoT and Azure IoT support for Intel Edison. I also witnessed, first hand, the astonishing expansion of IoT solutions being made possible by low-cost, open-source computing.

Why ARM? Because I am serious about working on the future of IoT and robotics. Last year, 17.7 billion chips using ARM technologies were sold. It is projected that another 100 billion ARM-based chips will sold between 2017 and 2021. That represents a huge opportunity to work with thousands of people building thousands of solutions to problems that have never been solved before. I am doubling down on my commitment to IoT; ARM seems like a wonderful place to do that.

So that’s it really, I look forward to meeting many new inventors building many new projects all around the world and finding ways to help them succeed through ecosystem development. The Internet of Things has barely even begun and I have already learned so much from so many of you out there.

Thanks again and looking forward to the next adventure, Rex St. John

Follow my IoT adventures on Twitter:

Reaching Out: A Key Habit For Ecosystem Evangelists

Hello, my name is Rex St. John and I spent the last 4 years traveling the world developing global ecosystem at Intel Mashery and Intel’s Makers and Innovators Group. As a result of my work on developer ecosystems, I have created a framework (tactics, habits, philosophies, strategies etc) for effective ecosystem development for hardware, API and cloud services.

I wanted to take a moment here share a habit that I believe every ecosystem development manager and technical evangelist should have in order to achieve maximum success in their job. Once you learn to do this and ingrain the habit on yourself, you are going to see your ecosystem development and evangelism results skyrocket!

The Habit Of Reaching Out

Ecosystem development managers and evangelists are very similar to CEOs: Their #1 job is recruiting the top talent in the industry, from all around the globe to their particular platform. As a result, great ecosystem managers should always looking to find and establish communications with the best they can get. The reason? Because you need the very best individuals and teams from around the world to use your platform so you can grow, improve and win! 

There is, however, one catch before you can achieve ecosystem nirvana: The thing that stops you from locating and developing these partners is…drum roll not having a systematic habit for automatically finding and reaching out to high-value partners on an ongoing basis! And that is what this article is here to help you learn how to do!

A few years ago, I ran across a very interesting platform extension for the Intel Edison from a new company who had posted their draft designs on Twitter. Not knowing what to do with this particular developer, I showed the project to my manager at the time (Delyn Simons of Intel Mashery). Her response? “Reach out and talk to them!”  Four years later, this particular developer was among the most productive and valuable members of the Intel Edison ecosystem and ultimately went on to produce products which made them the #1 seller of the platform in their particular geographic region.

In my experience, 85% of the time that I have located a developer, partner or small team who I considered to be in the top 5% of the industry, I found that I was the only person from any company that partner was talking with directly. Let me repeat this jaw-dropping statistic: Most of the very top talent out there in the wild has little, if any, direct internal support, relationship or contact with the hardware, software or cloud platform companies on which they rely. 

Once you realize the extreme leverage and value a single top partner can deliver to your organization, this statistic becomes even more fascinating. I have seen situations where a single partner, even a very small team, was absolutely critical to the success of a platform or plugged a gap which was impossible for anyone else to fill. I have seen a small team, with one project, deliver millions of dollars in value to other customers in the space of a few months for only a few thousand dollars in direct spend.

All that power and more can be yours for free…but only if you reach out. 
[Read more…]

The Memoirs of the Mashquatch

The infamous Mashquatch

Today I wrapped up my last day at Intel. After numerous Maker Faires and what feels like hundreds of hackathons and workshops, I thought I would  summarize what happened in a blog post while I can still remember it.

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Last Day @ Intel

After three+ years doing internet of things all over the world and training developers at 60+ hackathons, workshops, roadshows and Maker Faires I am ending my stint at Intel to work on much bigger (internet of) things and turning in my badge and very well used MacBook.