Recently I began what many would see as a new twist on "weight loss dieting" and something I'm now calling a "partial fast."
Why call what I've been doing a "partial fast" rather than simply refer to it as weight loss dieting? For that matter, why write a whole article about this experience when so many people have written about losing weight before?
Because, in the brief time I have been doing this partial fast, I have already discovered several interesting things about how to better manage eating and weight. More so, even people who do not wish to lose weight can benefit from knowing these things. At the very least, then, reading this article can add choices to your life.
Now for those unfamiliar with me and with Emergence, let me translate these opening sentences:
 In the past few weeks, I have been doing a weight loss diet with a new twist (something I'm now calling a "partial fast");
What interesting things have I discovered?
 That if you heal your self hate in and around what you weigh and how you eat, that it is hard to use love to motivate oneself to lose weight. But it can be done.
Want to hear more? Read on.
A Brief Review of My Early Work with Food and Weight
Before describing what I've found in more detail, let me first set the stage by describing my journey in and around food and weight, starting with the first time I "consciously witnessed my eating," a life style I now call, "conscious eating."
Actually, I began my journey in September, 2000. Not that long ago really. On that day, I remember getting up happy and eager to begin the day. In fact, I remember having one of those mornings wherein I felt as if I was accomplishing things without effort, almost as if by magic. Do you ever have these mornings? I do. Not too often, though. And because I do not often have these mornings, when I do, I literally throw myself into them.
This is exactly what I was doing that day; I was throwing myself into my writing.
What happened? After writing for several hours, I felt hungry. Almost robotically, then, I made myself some lunch. Then, as I sat down with my lunch and began to write, I noticed, for the first time in my life consciously, that I was eating my lunch in a heck of a hurry. Actually, I was eating as if I was being chased by a "mad man." I am not kidding!
Many would now ask, what's the big deal? So you noticed you were eating in a hurry. Don't a lot of people eat in a hurry?
Yes. A lot of people eat in a hurry. More people than don't, in fact. This one thing alone makes what I noticed that day important. Why? Because what I saw applies to so many people.
As for me, though, think about how my eating in a hurry contradicted everything else I was feeling that day. Remember, I didn't just say I noticed I was eating in a hurry. I said I felt like I was being chased by a mad man. More so, I felt this in the midst of one of those rare mornings wherein I was thoroughly enjoying myself and so, wanted to savor every moment.
Obviously, then, what made seeing my hurry so important was this contradiction, the discrepancy between my having a great day and feeling like I was being chased by a mad man. More so, by consciously witnessing this one instance of hurry, I had opened the door to seeing how often I felt this hurry. In fact, I realized I hurried through pretty much all my meals, so much so that I literally felt like I was being chased by a mad man. Yet there was no mad man chasing me nor did I have any other logical reasons to have been eating in such a hurry.
Very quickly, my question became, "So what was provoking my hurry?"
Here, then, is the point of that whole experience, the most important thing to emerge in me that day; my question: "What about eating made me feel like I was being chased by a mad man?"
Months later, the answer emerged in me, in a scene which had occurred at my childhood dinner table when I was seven. No surprise, really. I had known for years that a good portion of peoples' injuries in and around food and eating stem from wounding scenes they experience at their childhood dinner tables.
What was surprising though was what I realized consciously for the first time that day: that even on days wherein I had every reason to be savoring every moment, that I was so injured in and around food and eating, that I ate in a fearful hurry.
Now, for those of you schooled in behavioral and cognitive therapies, please go slow. Thus, while I'm sure the representatives of these two schools could infer much from what I've just told you as to "why" I had been hurrying, in the end, this "why" doesn't really matter. What does matter is what changed in me. What changed?
Very simply put, since I consciously witnessed that one moment of hurry, I have felt more self love in and around my eating and weight than I could ever have previously imagined, this in an area in which I had previously felt a whole heck of a lot of guilt, shame, and self hate. More important, these changes have been permanent. In other words, I have continued to feel these feelings of self love for almost two years now, this with pretty much no effort whatsoever. How? This self love has simply become my natural reaction to exploring my eating and weight. In fact, I can honestly say, I love exploring eating and weight.
What also happened was that this self love began spilling over into feelings of love toward other people as well, toward all those who also struggle in and around weight and eating. No surprise, then, that I've spent a good amount of my time these past two years exploring weight loss and gain.
Now for those interested in hearing how these explorations have turned out, they are well documented elsewhere on the site. Along with summaries of what I have discovered on these journeys, much of which contradicts what we have been told about healthy weight management. What kinds of things? For one thing, that peoples' weight is a range, not a number. In other words, while most people today refer to and are convinced that their current weight can be described with a single number, e.g. the number they see on the scale today, while this is scientifically true, it is not personally useful. Why? Because this single number fails to accurately represent the true nature of weight gain and loss. By this, I mean, if you were to track both your scale weight and your food intake say over several months, what you would find is that your weight varies in ranges somewhat disproportionately to your eating. This means the 2 oz. candy bar you eat today and the 2 pound increase you see on the scale the next morning can not possibly be simple cause and effect! Not unless the body magically manufactures mass. Yet, despite this fact, many of us, even many scientifically minded people, routinely assume this two pound weight gain does come from having eaten the two ounce candy bar, literally, a logical impossibility.
What others things have I discovered? That what we have been calling "metabolism" is more a rough measure of our personal consciousness in and around eating and activity than it is some kind of personal thermometer. What's the point? That we can vary our metabolic rate to a much greater degree than has been thought possible. Along with our feelings of fitness.
So what about the focus of this article, using partial fasts to lose weight? Let me begin by telling you something I've known for a while, the idea that all diets have one thing in common, and that this one thing is what makes diets work. What thing?
What Exactly Makes a Diet Work?
Years ago, I remember reading a government study which summarized the popular diets then in existence. It concluded two things. One, it stated that all these diets worked. Two, it said that 100% of these diets eventually failed, at least for normal folk.
Is study accurate? Yes. In fact, this study very much parallels my own findings. So what does this mean?
It means for most of us, weight loss diets do work but only temporarily. And while those with above average wills can last longer than most, eventually, even these people will go off their diets. So where does this leave us?
For most of us, it leaves us believing something that is simply not true; that it is we who fail when we cannot stay on a diet.
We do not fail. We simply have been assuming that what we know about weight loss and weight management has been enough. Obviously, it is not. What's been missing then? The thing all these diets have in common, regardless of philosophy. The thing which underlies the weight loss present in these diets. What is this thing? "Selective deprivation."
What exactly do I mean by this?
What I mean is that, all weight loss diets rely the same activity: depriving yourself of some significant amount of the foods you normally eat. Examples would be foods high in fats, foods containing processed sugars, and foods which contain processed flour. Thus, if you normally eat these foods in significant amounts and if you deprive yourself of any whole category of these foods, then unless you have been stuck at the same weight for many years, you will temporarily lose weight.
Other examples? The oldest example I know of is to deprive oneself of significant amounts of calories. And the most popular recent example? The now famous Atkin's diet wherein people deprive themselves of significant amounts of carbs.
Here again, we all know that for many people, these diets do work. And for some, the iron-willed, "I won't let this thing beat me" folk, they can even work for extended periods of time. For most of us, though, diets fail in relatively short amounts of time. Why? Because our bodies rapidly adapt to whatever we deprive ourselves of. In fact, rapid adaptation is simply part of the body's ability to self preserve. It is also what prevents these diets from doing more harm than they could do.
As it stands, though, these temporary journeys into self deprivation do not last and so, even the more severe diets will eventually fail at which point we simply return to some modicum of self sanity. So we temporarily lose weight. But at what price?
The price is, we find ourselves feeling even more self hate, the result of assuming that it is we who have failed and not the diets.
Here, then, is what I find so unacceptable about these diets; they ask us to live in an ongoing state of self hate. And iron will. So even if we do lose weight, I'm sure whatever health we may gain is offset by the unhealthy self hate we use to fuel our wills.
So what would motivate people to diet in the first place? I think it's the fact that most people, over their life times, accumulate such significant amounts of self hate in and around their eating and weight that being asked to use this hate to manage their weight seems like an improvement, a step up.
Is this true, though? To some extent, it is. And to be honest, I, too, see redirecting one's self hate toward self improvement as a step up. But not on a permanent basis. Who would actually want to live like this given an alternative anyway.
What about me and my levels of self hate?
I doubt anyone would now be surprised to learn that I, too, have lived in this state of self hate for much of my life. To wit, I've tried pretty much every popular diet there is, including low calorie diets, low sugar diets, low fat diets, and low carb diets. Did they work? Yes they did. Every one. But none for longer than a short period of time.
In the end, though, I have never been able to successfully manage my weight with dieting, even with the self hate being redirected.
Now for the shocker.
Prior to age my forty, my fight with food was to not to lose weight. It was to gain weight!
Now for those who would now comment on how they would love to have been me; to have been fighting to gain weight rather than to lose weight; let me qualify what I've just said by asking, have you ever witnessed someone you love die of anorexia? I have. My mother. When I was twenty and she was forty-eight. The scene in the hospital in which I last looked into her eyes haunts me even on good days. She was 5'7" and 70 pounds; only a barely breathing, skin covered skeleton. And were you now to be looking into my eyes, you would see them watery, this after more than thirty years.
More important, though, if you, yourself, happen to be one the more intuitive types, then you will probably be now sensing that one of the main motives fueling my desire to understand weight loss and gain is my mother's anorexia. These motives aside, my point still stands. All weight loss diets work because rely on some form of selective deprivation to cause weight loss.
Using Selective Deprivation without Self Hate
Remember what I just said about self hate? What I am presently learning is that the self hate we feel when we fail to stay on a diet is just one of the self hates present. Another is built into these diets themselves. What is it? The idea that a particular group of foods is "bad" for us. No surprise this group of foods is the one we choose to selectively deprive ourselves of.
Now think about the diets you know about and what they say about the foods they suggest we eliminate from our diets. Don't they pretty much all designate some food group as the "bad" group, the one causing our poor health?
Here then is an important idea, the idea that pretty much every popular diet labels the selected group of foods as not good for us. So let's see. What foods have we been told are not good for us.
Fats, for one. Fats cause heart disease right. Too many calories for another. Don't thin people live longer? What about processed sugars. Don't they cause all sorts of ills? And what about meats? Bad for us, yes? Or bad when red but OK when white? Or bad but only when eaten with carbs?
Oh, and speaking of carbs, what about processed flour. Bad for you? What about wheat in general. Aren't a lot of people allergic to it? How about white rice? Isn't that bad for you too? Then again, some very healthy people say don't eat the brown rice. Eat the white rice.
No meats. No eggs. No yeast. No dairy. No processed sugar. No processed flour. No chemically treated foods. No fried foods. No fast foods.
Unfortunately, what no one pays enough attention to is, if you eat nothing at all, you will feel better. Temporarily, anyway. You think I'm kidding! I'm not. In fact, I've always felt better a day or two into a fast. More on this in a moment.
Now before I raise the wrath of the more zealous, food police type people, let me avoid this topic, that of diet content, entirely, and just stay focused on my point. This point is, that for most of us, designating any food as bad is simply the way we redirect our self hate in order to lose weight. Further, what people use as the proof that this food is bad is simply the fact that we feel better when we stop eating these foods.
Of course we feel better. We lose weight. And losing weight has qualities above and beyond what we feel from eliminating a food, things like that we gain energy whenever we lose weight and lose energy whenever we gain weight. This, in fact, is one of the main reasons people who exercise feel better: they both lose and gain weight in rapid succession, and when people lose weight, they feel better. Period. A lot better in fact. Unless you have anorexia, or anything like anorexia. And then you hate yourself for being so thin.
So let's tie this together.
What people who selectively deprive themselves of a group of foods see is, that by depriving themselves of this particular food group, that they lose weight. And feel better. And feel more self worth because they are winning the war against the "bad" food. Which makes them "good" people.
Unfortunately, what they do not notice, though, is that were you to consciously compare diets, what you would find is, they are all very similar, differing mostly in what the author designates as the "bad" food or food group. Further, selectively depriving yourself of any food group you usually eat will result in a temporary weight loss.
Are they really this similar?
So does it matter which food you deprive yourself of?
Yes. But so much less than has been believed that it almost doesn't matter which food group you choose. More important, though, if you yourself want to weigh less and be more healthy overall, then you will have to come up with some way to manage your weight which does not center on self hate.
Does such a thing exist? Yes. But in order to understand this idea, you will need to learn the few natural principles which govern weight change, the main one being, selectively depriving yourself of any food or food group you normally eat will temporarily result in a weight loss. Add to this the idea that the food you deprive yourself of should vary over time, and you have the beginnings of a healthy approach to weight management, whether the focus is on weight loss or on weight gain.
This, in fact, is what I have been using to guide me in my own struggle to lose weight.
Am I losing weight?
Am I hurting myself to lose this weight?
Yes. It hurts. But I feel no self hate.
So the main question is, can you lose weight without it hurting?
But you can do it without self hate.
Now the discoveries.
Putting These Ideas into Action
I have long been able to see the beauty in managing my weight. By this I mean, I have, for a some time now, loved getting on the scale in the morning, even on days wherein I overate the day before.
Hard to believe? I can understand your disbelief. None the less, this is really how I feel now. I love knowing how much I weight.
More important, I love knowing even on days wherein I may weight more. A little anxious? Yes. But not much really. In a sense, I have reclaimed my natural curiosity about what I weight.
What makes all this even more significant though is, I feel no compulsion to know what I weigh. Thus, if I miss weighing myself, it's fine. I simply like knowing.
My worry years ago was, if I stopped hating myself in and around how I eat and how much I weight, that I would lose the very thing which I have always used to motivate myself to manage my weight.
This worry was well founded.
When I stopped hating myself in and around my weight, I gained weight. This combined with the fact that my father was given a year or less to live the end of last year and I found myself this past January 1 somehow three weight ranges heavier than I was only a year ago. And feeling very unfit.
New Years came and I made food and weight resolutions. Not unusual. A lot of people do this.
How did it go? Initially, pretty well, and as always, I began to lose weight. I even noticed myself feeling less self hate than in past years. This time, though, unlike the other times I've done weight loss diets, I managed to only keep going for less than three weeks, after which, I felt very depressed and lost.
By mid March this year, then, I was the heaviest weight I'd been in years. And the most desperate. (And for those who are picturing me fat, please know, this is not the case. Like most folk, the feeling of being too fat is mostly in my head and heart.)
What I did next will probably be of little or no surprise to most people. I got up one morning and in the shower, spoke a desperate prayer. To whom? It doesn't matter. What does matter is, I came down stairs and somehow felt this prayer answered as I effortlessly wrote something on two 3" x 5" yellow sticky notes and then stuck these notes in two places in my home.
"If I want to be happy and fit, I must stop hurting myself with food."
One note went on the refrigerator. The other I posted right in front of where I write.
I then sat and almost effortlessly planned my weight loss.
I would use what I have learned about managing my weight to lose weight, beginning with some form of selective deprivation.
At first, I thought about what has at times for me been a misuse of a spiritual method; I considered doing a fast. Even as I considered this, though, I ruled it out as I could clearly see, my motives were not loving. Fasts are for cleansing the body and soul. Hating oneself into a lower weight range is in no way a part of cleansing anything.
I then considered all the things I had previously done to selectively deprive myself, beginning with calories.
Calories? Hell, no. The last thing I need after growing up with the mother I had is to consciously choose to once again become my own "food police." No. Calories would not be what I deprive myself of, at least not as the focal point.
How about "fat?" That has worked many times for me.
Here again, I ruled this out. Why? Because I've already done this one several times and because the newness which used to inspire me has long been lost in the many painful life experiences I had doing these diets.
Next I considered the Atkin's Diet. After all, I had used this diet several times in the past to lose weight. Unfortunately, doing it had also stressed my kidneys to the point wherein, for me, at least, I will never again consider this diet as an ongoing way to manage my weight. Why? Because doing this caused my kidney functioning to become dangerously poor. How can I be so sure? Because my kidney functioning improved only when I stopped punishing myself with no carbs as a way of life.
Am I saying people should not use the Atkin's Diet?
I can only speak for me. I followed this diet for most of two years, and for the most part, I liked a lot about it. But because it adversely affected my health as based on repeated blood tests before, during, and after, I have serious reservations as to my ever doing it again. Would I recommend it to others? Actually, yes. But only as useful, short term way to selectively deprive yourself for the purpose of losing weight. Even then, should you do it, I would strongly urge you to do it only under a doctors care.
What else did I consider? Well, next on the list was what many people believe is the tried and true demon of weight management: sugars. All sugars? No. Only processed sugars. And here I stayed.
Now, I would venture a guess that there are few if any normal people who do not chide themselves for eating foods high in sugars, which is to say there are probably a lot of folks who would say foods high in sugar are bad for you.
With one exception.
Here, then, is where I chose to begin my diet. I chose to selectively deprive myself of all foods except fruit. And here is where my recent discoveries began.
The First Surprise: How the Body Reacts to Eating Only Fruit
As I've said, selectively depriving yourself on foods you normally eat will most times result in weight loss. Thus, I was not surprised when I began to lose weight right away.
What did surprise me, though, was that for the first time, I lost weight without rebound for three straight weight ranges before my weight loss slowed.
Now for those for whom the idea of weight ranges is new, let me briefly explain.
Peoples' weights normally vary between a high and low number, something like tides vary between high and low tide. Unlike tides, though, there is something very chaotic about the way weight varies. That is to say, it varies non-linearly. Thus, what you eat does not cause you to directly gain or lose weight. In fact, I once did a four day fast in which I ate no food at all for four days and yet on the morning of the third day, my weight number was up three pounds.
How can this be true? Very simply put, the body has a compensatory mechanism built in which makes our weight vary so that we feel fit. Remember, I said before, people love the feeling of losing weight. Of course, you can not keep losing weight and stay alive and so, you must also gain back weight. Where did this weight come from? It sure didn't come from the food I was eating. I wasn't eating any. And water gain? Please. I'm a normal male.
My point here is, we each have weight ranges in which we have lived for periods of time. More important, we tend to remain within these ranges regardless of what we eat in the short run, the body's way of adapting to our changing diets and a compensatory mechanism for when we get ill. Further, I have been charting my weight changes for the better part of two years now and by this time, I know where these ranges lie, at least the ones I been in during the past twenty years.
I've also used selective deprivation to lose weight several times during this two years, always seeing that when I fell into the lower weight range, my body would throw my weight back up three or so pounds the next day, similarly to the weight I regained during that four day fast wherein I ate no food at all. Except this time, it was different. This time, my body went through three weight ranges with no rebound until the fourth range.
My curiosity was definitely aroused. "What was different here?," I asked myself. And this is what I've hypothesized so far.
What was different was that the food I chose to eat largely contained simple sugars, a substance similar to what the body uses to power itself. My guess is, my body thought it was getting regular food and that the simple sugar present in the fruit was fooling it into believing it was getting regular food and converting it into simple sugar. At least for about nine days.
Of course, at that point, I hit the floor of a weight range and my body began to throw up defenses. In effect, it reacted like I was seriously ill. I had, after all, lost some twelve pounds in nine days.
Now for those of you who may be leaping to conclusions like my losing weight this rapidly was unhealthy, please hear this. There is obviously a lot more to health than losing weight. In fact, I will go out on a limb and tell you that I believe that peoples' health, and specifically, their sense of fitness, depends on their repeatedly losing and regaining weight, albeit not so rapidly except in cases wherein you want to change weight ranges.
Is what I'm saying controversial? Obviously. But compared to living a life filled with self deprecation and self hate? At the very least, I can honestly say, I now love learning to manage my body and my weight. I love it. This from a fellow whose mother died of anorexia.
The Second Surprise: I'm Not the Only One This Works For
Admittedly, I, myself, found what I've just told you hard to believe. No coincidence, though, that one of the Emergence Practitioners in my group, feeling inspired by my initial story, decided to try it for himself. The result? He reported the same initial reboundless weight loss. He also reported the same lack of self hate. And he also reported a significant weight loss, at this point, more than twenty pounds.
Is what I've just told you meant to inspire you to do the same? No, not really. In fact, for anyone now considering a partial fast based on only fruit, please, reconsider. For one thing, I know my weight ranges. So does the other fellow. For another, we have both previously done fasts and have a pretty good sense of when we are in shock from such fasts.
We are also both being assisted by medical doctors, two different doctors in fact. And we have both been getting blood tests to verify the changes happening in us.
Let me reiterate: please do not consider doing what I have just described by yourself nor before doing the work necessary to learn your body's weight ranges. Thus, what I've been describing here is not a weight loss diet per se but rather the beginnings of what I hope will be a comprehensive method of weight management which includes a sane method for losing weight. More important, though, this method focuses on ridding oneself of self hate and not on endorsing it as a sane way to live.
Finally, please note the word I used a moment ago; the word, "beginnings." Thus, I and my fellow Emergence Practitioners are presently in the midst of exploring further the effects of self hate on weight management, this in hopes we will soon have a more loving program with which we ordinary folk can manage our eating and weight. As part of this process, then, we will each be writing up our first three month's experiences, which I will then be post to the site. I plan on this happening sometime towards the end of this Summer.
Finally, please do write and share your experiences, especially with regard to fasting. By this, I mean, please write and tell me your personal experiences; how it went, what was hard, and so on. And in case you think your experience not important, I just today exchanged e-mails with a fellow who took the time to write and share with me that he recently saw finding that suggest there are six tastes, not just four. Being as taste BLocks are one of the more common food injuries, this may be quite important. And something else to keep an eye on. And learn to love.