Food was life. I was the fat kid that loved cake that 50 Cent rapped about. I was lucky because Mom and Dad both knew how to throw down in the kitchen, and I mean serious Top Chef-style, but the amateur home edition.
Growing up, I had the best of both Eastern and Western foods. Perhaps that’s too broad of an area to cover, so let me get more specific for ya.
My parents are from the Fiji Islands but have roots in India. I was born in the Bay Area. From the East, I devoured delicious aromatic spiced curries, insanely flavored veggies, and the softest, freshest roti’s imaginable.
From the West, I gorged on the American classics like corn dogs, macaroni cheese, T.V. dinners, Capri Suns, Lunchables, Fried Chicken, Pizza and Dunkaroos to name a few. Although these types of foods, are no longer part of my life today, they will always hold a nostalgic place in my high fructose corn syrupy past.
Today I wanted to share:
- A few stories about my past food addiction. Trust me, it’s entertaining.
- Veganism and why I stopped
- What is intermittent fasting and the effects of Keto and the Carnivore diets
- Why I made the dramatic shift into eating once a day and what I’ve learned
A brief history in my past with food
Being active, and quite possibly my genetic makeup, are what saved me from being an obese youth. If it wasn’t for my affinity for basketball and working out, I probably would have developed a few tires around the waist.
The East Indian food prepared by my parents was delicious, but I still yearned for the heroin-like high of Twinkies, double-stuffed Oreos, and strawberry Pop-Tarts.
A routine weekly trip to the grocery store had me feeling like I was in Willy Wonka’s factory. My mother didn’t mind her perpetually ravenous boy dropping packaged, processed, and hydrogenated foods into the cart like it was the last supper. Looking back, the cream-filled pies and brightly colored and thoughtfully packaged junk food was too much to handle. I gave in constantly.
Refining the palette
In my early teens til’ about 25, I was all about that champagne and Indiana Jones lifestyle. I graduated from Toaster Strudels to Sushi. I was ever so fond of Uni. I was more adventurous with food. I enjoyed fine dining and devoured dishes from cuisines all over the world.
I was a full-blown foodie, a student of french gastronomy, and a pleasure seeker guided by the tongue. I’d read yelp reviews like I was studying for the MCAT.
Not only did I indulge at restaurants but my passion stretched into the kitchen. I would buy premium ingredients, cook up a storm daily, and exclusively watched food shows.
I’d purchase the best-smoked salmon money could buy. I had a relationship with my butcher. Not sexual relations mind you, I just bought my meat there. I was even particular about olive oils.
Yes, I loved food and it loved me more. It was like one of those beautiful lifetime vocational partnerships — like Dinero and Scorsese.
The late and great Anthony Bourdain had a show on the travel channel called No Reservations. I was hooked. I watched with glee as he traveled the world and told stories of different cultures through their kitchens and into our hearts. He made food more than just a means to an end.
It was an introduction to how people from around the world took pride in what they cooked. Whether it’s a simple taco, Neapolitan pizza, a bowl of piping hot pho, or the perfect daal, food not only provides sustenance but also provides glimpses into the larger tapestry of another culture’s past lineage.
While I was on this journey with food, the gym was always a loyal companion. My family joined 24-hour fitness when I was 13. My friend Garrett and I were obsessed with jumping higher so we exhaustively worked out calves. I wanted to be just like MJ, but that’s a different story for another day.
At 14, I got my first job at a gym. I learned about the body, it’s mechanics, and was introduced to the world of protein powders, brown rice and boiled chicken, and generally an industry that promoted body dysmorphia. Luckily, I wasn’t as obsessed as others but was still ill-informed about nutrition. I thought I was being healthy when in reality, I was indulging in artificial sweeteners, sugars, and nutrients.
In my late twenties, I immersed myself in the world of mindfulness and spirituality. It has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. If you care to learn more, below are a few articles that illustrate this, as well as my blog.
As a result of this awakening into self-awareness, compassion was a natural byproduct. With that came the change in beliefs about animal protein. I engrossed myself in Veganism.
I did Veganism the “right” way. I followed many health experts in the arena, abstained from the packaged bullshit soy products, and opted to cook everything I consumed.
For a few years I was on a completely plant-based diet. The immediate result was weight loss, more clarity, and energy. I am glad that I immersed myself into this new way of eating because it made me look at plants, our earth, and overall health, differently.
I created plant-based recipes on YouTube, attended vegan festivals, and was committed to the vegan cause. However, this came at the expense of my health. The overall benefits of a vegan diet lasted for a solid 6 months.
The aftermath was:
- Binging on sugar
- Going to the bathroom (fiber overload) constantly
- Feeling fatigued regularly
I’m sure there are people out there that thrive on a vegan diet. More power to you! For me, it will be reserved as a cleansing diet that I’ll take advantage of on a needed basis.
I found myself craving meat and would at times eat in secret. I felt bad like I was having an affair with a piece of chicken, while the lonely carrot in the fridge was weeping in perpetual sorrow.
In short, I wasn’t fully satiated while on a plant-based diet. My mental clarity was later fogged and I ignored my mind and body and continued to carry on with a philosophy that I let consume my life.
I’m at peace with suffering and understand it’s a by-product of life. Other than the times when I am a guest at someone’s house, I pay the extra dollar for farm-fresh, pasture-raised, and grass-fed meat and vegetables. I’d rather pay the Farmer than the Pharma, so spending a little bit more now is better long-term. Food, like real estate, is an investment in my future.
During this time when I made shifts into eating, I also started intermittent fasting. It was the beginning of something beautiful. Fasting is nothing new. It has been a part of human survival, religious practices, and modern medicine for millennia.
I did some research on the topic and was intrigued. However, I’ve always been someone that has to test out these methods on myself before I consider them valid or not.
What is intermittent fasting
“The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” — Benjamin Franklin
Also referred to as IF or time-restricted eating, intermittent fasting is the controlled voluntary abstinence from food. Dr. Jason Fung coined the term. Although fasting is as ancient as the Egyptians, if not older, it has struck a chord with medical professionals, those in the health sector, and others that are generally looking for alternative measures outside the conventional system to heal themselves.
Technically, we fast every day. We fast while we sleep. Breakfast, also known as breaking your fast, is essentially the first meal you eat after a period of not eating.
Intermittent fasting is when you extend the fasting period a little longer. The most popular method is 16/8. This is where you go 16 hours a day without a meal and reserve your eating window to 8 hours.
If you think about it, you are only skipping one meal and eating a later lunch. Many of us may be unconsciously fasting already, but if you do it consciously and consistently, there are many benefits.
Some experts will advise true fasting is when you consume nothing but water until your first meal, but if you’re like me and coffee is life, you will make an exception. I am contemplating changing my middle name to Peet’s.
I tried intermittent fasting on and off and noticed benefits, but did not stick to it. Although I had the discipline to go without food, the types of food I was eating was still something that needed to be addressed a little bit more deeply.
My wife, her health struggles, and our combined growth
Around the end of September 2019, I had to rush my wife to the hospital. She had intense stomach pains, experienced shortness of breath, and had an abnormally high heartbeat (100 to 150 BPM). When in the emergency room, the doctors ran every test they could. According to them she was healthy.
This pattern continued for months. Constant and sudden emergency room visits, thousands of dollars spent, and not a single clue on what was wrong.
When we did go to her primary care physician. Without as much as a 2-minute checkup, he convinced her it was anxiety and prescribed Xanax, a highly addictive pharmaceutical that if taken regularly, can cause death if suddenly discontinued. We were confused.
We led an active lifestyle, ate adequately healthy, and made meditation a daily practice. However, during this time, we had a long commute into San Francisco, worked tirelessly for our day jobs, ate whatever free lunches our jobs offered, took care of her elderly grandparents, and started a spice business. My heart was in anguish because I couldn’t do anything to help her, except watch her suffer.
Luckily, my wife was trained in holistic nutrition, functional medicine, and holds a masters degree in health education. She knew exactly what to do. She hired functional medicine and naturopath doctors, took the appropriate tests, found out exactly what was ailing her (H.Pylori, SIBO, Candida Albicans) and read every piece of scientific literature on the ailments, and embarked on the arduous road of healing.
Although understanding the diagnosis was helpful, it was only the beginning. Treatment was another journey in and of itself.
In short, there were many restless nights, an overall feeling of exhaustion, and at times loss of hope because nothing was working as quickly as we had planned.
She went back to a mostly plant-based diet, but that caused her more pain, mainly due to the fact that Candida in particular, feeds on carbohydrates.
She tried a Keto diet, but would still cause her stomach pains. We didn’t know if it was the meat, fat, or vegetables.
She read the following books and had profound insights that changed her outlook completely.
- The Carnivore Code, by Paul Saladino
- Nourishing Traditions, by Sandy Fallon
- The Carnivore Diet, by Shawn Baker
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price
She has currently been on the carnivore diet, eating animal meats, and raw goat dairy for only 2 months and it’s the first time she feels like she’s healing. She gained the weight she had lost, has more energy, and is slowly eradicating the symptoms that caused her so much pain.
Eating once a day
After being a witness to her struggle, I re-evaluated my own health and decided to get a thorough examination from our Naturopathic doctor. I did a comprehensive blood panel and took a food allergy test. I was in overall good health, but as it turned out, I also had Candida Albicans and many of the foods that I consumed regularly were no bueno for my body. My symptoms were nowhere near what my wife experienced, but it did raise concerns for my doctor and myself.
Here are a few screenshots from my food allergy test from US Biotek Laboratories.
As it turns out, eggs, ginger, oats, wheat, and white rice have some of the highest markers on my test, which means they produce inflammation in my body but not enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction, which is what conventional doctors only test for.
Over time, a buildup of low-level inflammation can cause autoimmune and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. My doctor did advise me that these markers could go down with time but not until my bacteria is fully eradicated. The only way to eradicate the bacteria is to stay away from these foods.
I wasn’t aware of my problems.
Growing up, many times I felt like crap after a meal, but I normalized this. I accepted that at times, you just feel like shit when you eat something.
It wasn’t until I got older and received insight from my wife, doctors, and my own research that I understood that food is meant to give you energy. I know this is obvious, but I didn’t pay attention to the obvious. I don’t think many of us do. I’ve forgiven myself and know that it’s never too late to become a better version of myself.
I am an extreme skeptic. I take what people say for face value and conduct my own research before believing anything.
The day after my allergy test, I decided to cook chicken curry with ginger, and boy did I pay for it that evening. I was sneezing and extremely congested, which I had always mistaken for as environmental allergies.
My doctor advised me to refrain from the foods that have the highest markers on the scale for the next 2 months. This pretty much includes anything that crosses into the III and IV categories. I decided to take it a step further and combine the research I conducted and practiced with fasting as part of this 8-week experiment to improved health.
Below I share my setbacks and successes. Please be warned that everything I share is 100% anecdotal. These are the results of my experience. Although it’s common knowledge, there is no one size fits all for health, but I know assessing and fine-tuning what works and what doesn’t, helps us to live an optimal life.
If something doesn’t work, try something different.
What I ate
Just a recap, for 2 months I ate one meal a day. I cut out cow dairy, gluten, oats, ginger, eggs, refined sugar, and rice. My diet resembled a Keto Paleolithic diet that consisted mostly of meat, vegetables, raw goat dairy, and nuts. The only liquids I consumed were water and coffee.
Below are some images of the meals I ate. Follow Swamy’s Kitchen on Instagram for more delicious examples of a low carbohydrate diet.
As you can see from the pictures on Instagram, a low carbohydrate diet can still be delicious. Every meal had meat and veggies. Instead of using olive oil, I used beef tallow, duck fat, or lard.
The problems I encountered eating once a day
Fasting wasn’t all raindrops and roses. The first week was uncomfortable because I’ve been accustomed to eating three square meals a day. Some problems I encountered were:
- Sugar cravings
- Hunger pangs
- Trouble sleeping
- Mild headaches
Now you might be thinking, why the hell did he keep going on and putting himself through this torture?! After all, no one is putting a gun to my head. I continued because I’ve found that everything that’s good in life comes with suffering and sacrifice.
I fought through these symptoms and almost noticed a feeling of being high or drunk. Perhaps it was my body eating my fat storage, but it was oddly euphoric. The above problems were short-lived. After a week, I started to feel the benefits.
The benefits I’ve gained from eating once a day
More energy — This is the single biggest change in my life. I can’t sleep more than 5–6 hours a day. Although 8 hours is the medical consensus, my eyes open bright and early and I have long and sustained energy throughout the day without cravings.
Food tastes better — I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed eating this much. A simple handful of roasted nuts tastes like heaven. A pan-seared ribeye steak is a damn near-religious experience.
I don’t need as much food as I thought — I’ve grown up with the idea that you need 3 square meals a day and snacks in between to function. Fasting has taught me that eating less and in a time-restricted window is actually more. The food that I do eat is better digested and better utilized now.
I haven’t gotten sick — This could be purely coincidence, but it’s also common sense. Because I eat less, the body has more energy freed up to repair itself instead of constantly digesting a constant stream of food. Fasting causes the body to induce autophagy, which in essence in your body’s vacuum cleaner. It cleans out old cells, and replaces them with healthier ones.
Mental clarity — I’m retaining more information, feel more creative, and am sharper! I’m finding my voice with writing and the words are flowing as smooth as Crisco. Writing 2000+ words in a single sitting is becoming more commonplace in my life these days.
I look better and feel lighter — I weigh less and I am more cut and vascular. I measured my body fat % for a few weeks and saw a drop in fat percentage while increasing my lean body mass.
I get fuller, faster — I feel more than satiated with small amounts of food. Somehow fasting has strengthened the communication that tells the brain when the stomach is full. Fasting also changes your body’s hunger response. See this great resource from the Diet Doctor.
Bowel movements have improved — I’m not trying to gross you out but I’ve been told as you get older, a good bowel movement is like falling in love. Mine are quite beautiful, much fuller, and less in quantity, which helps during the quarantine; hoarding toilet paper isn’t a necessity anymore. I hope you’re not in the middle of a meal while reading this 🙂.
I appreciate eating out — I used to be a food snob. I was an elitist, ego-filled douchebag that didn’t have enough stomachs to fill my precious little pie hole. Miraculously, that has changed. I view food is sustenance only. Quality food that’s nutrient-dense trumps everything. The occasional meal with family and friends is amazing because I don’t go out that often, so when anyone cooks for me it’s like the second coming of Christ!
I don’t worry about food as much — I still enjoy good food, but my views on what food is, have changed. I consume food consciously now. I eat to keep energy levels at optimum levels. I value myself like an Enzo Ferrari. Only super high octane in this temple.
Whether or not you have underlying health conditions, please consult with your doctor and use your own judgment before experimenting with fasting.
I decided to go on this journey because I saw what my wife went through and also what those around me are currently going through. Those that I love will face lots of issues in the future if they don’t change. Problems like inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure to name a few are preventable but many rather succumb to conformity and comfort, instead of changing their current eating and lifestyle habits.
It’s hard to change, but it is necessary if you want to live a vibrant life during old age. We must hold ourselves accountable because no one else will. We are guaranteed one life and how we choose to live it is on us. Be strong and make the appropriate changes towards better health. YOU ARE WORTH IT!