Creeping Delusions and Feasting Reflexes: Why Diets Fail

What I am about to write is unorthodox. People reading this will be able to cite research, case studies, books and studies citing all sides of the debate. For this reason, it is particularly unhelpful to rely exclusively on research for guidance on how to actually lose a significant amount of body weight if you belong to a certain class of people.

I believe that studies are helpful for guiding nutrition decisions when fasting – how to ensure that you intake critical vitamins, minerals and resources while fasting so as not to damage your body – But for the ultimate truth of how to do this, I believe you need to blend science, personal experience and psychology to succeed. I also believe that advice that works for some people fails for others.

My wife and her family are from Taiwan. I have observed that they tend to be much thinner, naturally eat less and consistently make better decisions about how much to eat as well as the kinds of food they eat. This could be any combination of culture, environmental conditions and genetics. Regardless of why this is the case – Taiwanese people tend to be thinner than Americans.

On my side of my family, there are several people closely related to me who suffer from intense food cravings, lack of self control around portioning (which also manifested itself in workaholism, hyper success orientation and excess weight gain). These people, like me, struggle to control their weight.

My suspicion is that you have inherited a set of specific traits, most weight loss advice is going to fail for you, as it has for me.

For this reason, what I have written about fasting is not going to make sense to a large part of the human population. If you have a genetic, environmental and cultural disposition and moderating your behavior, maintaining a reasonable weight does not require extreme approaches. The idea of going on intensive fasts will not compute.

On the other hand, if you know exactly what I am talking about, maybe this is for you. If you find yourself simply unable to control your food intake, if you find that you tend to switch automatically into a sort of animal feasting mode when eating, I suspect strongly that we may share a genetic trait that encourages automatic eating.

In my own experience I have observed two key elements to over eaters which work together to prevent progress: Creeping Self Delusion and Feasting Reflexes. I will explain.

Creeping Self Delusion is a powerful psychological tool we use to mask our unhappiness. If one day you look in the mirror and notice that you are 70lb+ overweight, you may begin to work to create a reality where being severely overweight is not a big problem. You will start telling yourself stories and modifying your behavior. Maybe going to the gym makes you feel uncomfortable due to fear of being judged, so you stop going (I don’t have time for that anymore I am too busy, says your brain). Then your favorite clothes stop fitting so you begin wearing baggy clothes. People stop inviting your places because you dress like shit. You also stop getting promoted because perhaps your personal charisma has fallen. You start hanging out with people like yourself who have fallen into the same trap (we are just misunderstood geniuses, everyone else is wrong).

This is a deadly trap because you justify yourself into a corner and can’t get out.

Creeping Self Delusion eats away all dietary and exercise gains over time. Maybe you start out on the Atkins Diet. After three days you have a craving for a slice of pizza so you eat one (it’s just one slice not a big deal). Pretty soon you are making more and more exceptions. Three weeks later you get on a scale and weigh exactly the same (dieting doesn’t work, I am too busy for this I don’t have time).

The effects of creeping Self Delusion are by far the biggest challenge faced by people attempting to lose weight: No matter what you do, creeping Delusion will stalk your progress and try to divert you from positive behaviors.

There is a scene in the movie Sin City where the brutal freelance mercenary Marv sets out to find and kill an agile, sociopathic cannibal named Kevin played by Elijah Woods. In their first encounter, Kevin is able to dance around Marv and get the better of him with his superior speed and reflexes. In their second encounter, Marv solves the problem by handcuffing Kevin to his own arm and says:” Lets see you hop around now!” Before beating him into a pulp. This is the attitude needed to overcome Creeping Self Delusion – Eliminate all of the variables that allow you to tell stories about why you haven’t reached your goals. Once your brain has nowhere to go, then and only then can you make progress. Remove the wiggle room, solve the problem.

One of the reasons fasting has been exceptionally valuable for me is it imposes only a single simple rule: Don’t eat. Diets that involve complex food preparation, portioning impose huge additional time and effort burdens on you. Make this simple to make it work: Start testing 18, 24 hour fasts and then work up towards three days and longer. The delusions will tell you that you are starving and can’t focus, they are wrong, push through it.

The next thief of progress in diet is what I call the Feasting Reflex. I have never seen anyone write this down before, but I have observed obese people from my family as well as myself on some occasions slipping into a mode of automatic eating. These people get a single taste of their drug of choice – nachos, salty pizza – and they lose their minds and flip into a pattern of overconsumption. Before you know it, they have eaten an entire large pizza by themselves. There is something genetic going on there, not everyone does this.

This is an incredibly disruptive trait to have. If this is you, a normal diet is not going to work.

For people who have genuine food control problems, most diets are akin to quitting smoking or alcoholism by only smoking one cigarette or taking one drink per day- They put temptation in your hands. The second you have a bad day or slip, one cigarette becomes ten and one drink becomes 14.

If you have problematic eating, what you need to reset your body is not temperance (moderation) – you need to quit cold turkey for a period of time.

Fasting removed the Feasting  Reflex problem for me. At some point, any diet that involves constantly teasing yourself with food is going to suffer speed bumps. The stop that is to reduce the temptation altogether. Let’s see you hop around now!



Thoughts On Fasting Part IV – I Lost 40 lbs in Two Months, Now I Want Answers

This is part IV of my series on the topics of Fasting and Intermittent Fasting. Read: Part I, Part. II, Part III for more info.

This blog is going to be a change of pace from the last three, where I mostly covered my background, my journey to fasting, my initial results and some details around my most recent 8 day fast.

This time, I am shifting to something a little darker.

Specifically, after losing 40+lbs in a very short period of time, I am increasingly curious about the following question: Why on earth has no one (aside from a few errant academic studies) told me about fasting before?

Based on the results I am seeing and my personal experience to date: Fasting is the most effective weight loss tool ever. Fasting is cheap, easy, relatively effortless, requires little self control, doesn’t force me to eat food I don’t like and has left me feeling more energetic than I would have expected. 

I have studied exercise, nutrition and weight lifting for my entire life. I have spent thousands of hours in the gym. I have read many books, studies, bodybuilding magazines, encyclopedias, gone to Crossfit, tried the Atkins diet, tested various kinds of protein powders and supplements – you name it – without seeing results remotely like what I am experiencing right now.

I am actually bewildered.

If this is the miracle weight loss cure that I am experiencing, why aren’t there fasting workshops touring the country 24/7, 365? Why isn’t Oprah on screen touting her latest fasting plan? Why isn’t fasting on the front page of every weight-loss and exercise forum on earth?

This fasting shit works.

If anything, fasting has been smeared and stigmatized. This is disappointing because the positive effects I have had are frankly life-changing. The only references to fasting in popular culture dismiss it as “starving” or conflate it with eating disorders such as bulimia. This is completely false and easily disproven with minor research on the history of fasting.

On some level, I am actually somewhat angry that I did not find out about this approach sooner. I want more people like me out there to know that there is a tool like this that gets amazing results, almost instantly. This works, if you have as much trouble losing weight as I have had, you should really give it a try.


Intro To Fasting Part III: Intermittent Fasting In A Nutshell

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.

Before I go further into “Water Fasting” or “Broth Fasting” aka – “Just not eating for days on end to lose weight,” I wanted to spend some more time on the process of getting into fasting in the first place.

The Skill of Fasting

I believe that fasting is actually a skill – If you are an overweight, standard American like myself, you are so used to overeating that weaning yourself off of this habit might take some practice, it did for me. The more you practice fasting – first for 8, 16, 24 and 36 hours – the more your body will get used to the process and the easier it will be, the better a time you will have easing into the most effective kind of fasting that lasts for several days on end.

Principals of Intermittent Fasting

This article got me into Intermittent Fasting in a big way. Go read it. I won’t rewrite the whole thing but the highlights are as follows:

  • IF is not a diet, it is an eating strategy
  • By prolonging the gaps between meals, the IF-practicioner hopes to lengthen the time the body spends burning it’s reserved fat sources
  • There are many strategies that can be used to implement intermittent fasting ranging from 18, 24 hour and longer

My initial exploration with Intermittent Fasting began with shifting to eating at 1pm and 7pm every day. This created an 18-hour fasting period from dinner the prior day and lunch the next day during which my body burned stored fat.

Initially I was afflicted with some headaches and light-headedness but eventually this passed, especially after the first week. I believe it was quite helpful to get used to fasting in this way before I could attempt the longer fasts I have been doing more recently.



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.

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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.
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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. 
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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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