Angela’s AC power tool: Fast-5
Weight lost: 130 pounds
Biggest non-scale victories
- “I threw my scale away!”
- “My body is in better shape.”
- “My complexion has been amazing since I’ve been fasting.”
- “I have peace of mind.”
- “I have less turmoiled thoughts because of excess food consumption.”
- “I have a more positive outlook.”
- “I find fasting helps me to remain focused, more energetic and sorta like an athlete mentality!”
Four Pieces of Toast
Four year old Angie sits at Big Nana’s wooden table, shifting in her chair to keep her booster pillow from slipping as she sits up tall to reach her plate. A summer breeze carries the sounds of Big Nana cooking in the kitchen and fills the house with glorious smells of the day’s feasts in various stages of readiness. Almost at eye level with the tall stack of warm, buttery toast. Angie’s mouth waters as she takes the first bite. She delights at the taste the generous layer of jam delivers, giving no thought to the many hours Big Nana had spent infusing that special ingredient—love—into the berry goodness during the canning process. Two pieces of toast later, Angie feels full, but she powers through and gobbles up the excess slices.
Forty-six years passed before Angela revisited that childhood memory and connected the dots to better understand how her “full button broke.” The day four-year-old Angie sat at the table with the stack of toast unmatched to her size and appetite marked the first anniversary of the death of her grandfather. Sadness loomed in every space of Big Nana’s house in remembrance of Big Nono, their adored patriarch who had spent a lifetime showering lots and lots of love over his Italian family. At the same time, Angie’s mother lay dying in a hospital.¹ That day, Angie tried to “shove down the hurt and the sorrow and the pain” by shoving toast into her mouth.
The Antidote and the Taboo
Food, the antidote to pain, sorrow and anger throughout Angie’s childhood, brought comfort at a price: excess weight. Physical activity—tap, ballet and jazz dancing, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, and tennis—kept the damage in check at a steady 10-15 pounds over ideal as she grew. By age 14, Angie weighed 140 pounds, then during her teen years, she freed herself from food’s grip when she discovered the power of intermittent fasting (IF). Newly healthy and physically fit at 5 feet, 7 inches and 117 pounds, Angela “was looking fine!” She lived in the country and rode her bike to town and all over the place. Very gradually, she developed the coping skills to responsibly manage the social access her new physique opened.
Cultural pressure eventually intervened making Angela’s success short-lived. The taboo against IF dissuaded Angela from adopting the way of eating as a lifestyle. She placed the IF tool on the shelf, returned to her struggle with food and her tendency toward binge-eating, and once again, accumulated excess pounds. By the time she married, she weighed in at 130-138 pounds and thereafter maintained an arms-length relationship with IF as an occasional go-to rescue tool when her eating spiraled out of control. She periodically fasted to break free and to “feel like a million bucks,” but routinely acquiesced in the response to cultural warnings that “fasting is bad, bad, bad.” Angela’s weight bounced between 130 and 165 pounds.
Ascent to Crisis
Angela’s weight climbed: 165…170…180…190…200…210…220…230…240…250…260…270…280…284. At 284 pounds, she looked at the scale and cried out, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this to myself? Why? I’m literally killing myself. It’s just taking a very long time to do it.” She labored with daily activities: sitting on the bed to put on underwear and don socks with a struggle and descending stairways, one slow step at a time to minimize the pain in her knees and back. She continued eating, her default for shoving life’s pain down, and stopped stepping on the scale to avoid confronting the possibility that she weighed more than her husband. She felt out of control and didn’t know how to fix it.
Chest pain awakened Angela from sleep one winter night in 2007. Worried about a heart attack, she asked her son to call 911. When the ambulance arrived, shame overruled fear. Angela refused to allow the paramedics to carry her on a stretcher, and instead, walked down the front stairs of her house to the street. She had to consent to being lifted on a stretcher so that the paramedics could place her inside the ambulance. Throughout the ordeal, thoughts of her fat and appearance swirled around with notions about how her body would be managed in the lead up to her burial. Then two weeks later, it all happened again.
Reassured that her gallbladder caused her pain, not her heart, Angela watched what she ate for eight months while awaiting gallbladder surgery. Raw willpower helped her avoid the pain and the shame she had felt during the ambulance drama and during that time, she dropped thirty pounds, but it didn’t last. After surgery, her lifelong cycle kicked in. She started feeling the need to eat and eat and felt out of control again. She told herself, “I’m starting to get in bondage to food again. It’s only a matter of time. I’m going to die, because I have no control over the food.” Back to back ambulance rides, a dance with the grim reaper, a surgery to treat her gallbladder and a return to out-of-control eating added up to the need for a change, but fell short of the trigger that would move her to action. Angela wanted to break free from the chokehold food had on her, but she simply didn’t know how. A year later, in a moment of quiet after the storm, she would rediscover her answer.
Angela sat in her quiet time chair in the early morning and happened upon a note she’d written next to a verse in a devotional book nine years earlier. The verse read, “He said to them, ‘This kind [of unclean spirit] can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting’” (Mark 9:29). Her notation read, “only way to be released from the spirit of gluttony, once and for all!!”
Three days remained before the start of Lent, a traditional period of fasting, moderation and self-denial observed by Catholics and some other faith groups. Angela wrote her Lenten promise in a letter:
On Wednesday it is the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday the start of our spiritual journey to Easter, Your Resurrection.
I decided to write on this paper so I can keep it at the forefront of my day, to remind me of my sacrifice, my fasting “Unto You” the next 40 days.
Jesus, my life has been held in bondage for far too long. You are the shackle Breaker, the Burden Remover, the Yoke Destroyer.
These 40 days of Lent, I pray will become for me a spiritual renewal, a spiritual awakening, and a means to experience Your divine hand upon my family’s life, setting them free from the grasp of the evil one.
I set my face towards You, fasting and praying for:
changes within me. Jesus, I desire to be a Proverbs 31 Woman, totally devoted to You in all things.
Finding Her Fast-5 Tribe
Angela connected with Paula after reading a blog post Paula had written that included the words, “released from weight.” The words resonated with Angela who associated them with the ideas of breaking free, being set free and being released from bondage. Angela responded with a comment, which kindled a friendship that continues. Their online discussion led to Paula’s decision to join Angela in making a Lenten promise, so for forty days they fasted two meals per day and checked in with each other periodically to provide support, affirmation and spiritual community. After the Lenten season closed they both kept going and then later that year, Paula shared a discovery she had made doing online research. Paula introduced Angela to the work of Dr. Bert Herring, the pioneer who wrote the first book on intermittent fasting, The Fast-5 Diet and The Fast-5 Lifestyle, published in 2005. Paula told Angela, “other people eat the way we eat and it’s called intermittent fasting” and invited Angela to join a private FaceBook group she had started, The Fast-5 Diet and Lifestyle. Angela joined the group and contributed her signature humor and energy to the uniquely positive and mutually supportive community of Fast-5ers.
On December 31, 2008, Angela began sharing her weight loss and her spiritual journey through her YouTube channel, Free Spirit Haven, as a way of encouraging others to become whole and healthy. Community connection provided a powerful tool for managing cultural pushback to her appetite correction (AC)/Fast-5 lifestyle. Maintaining consistency with her AC/Fast-5 lifestyle has eliminated Angela’s historic pattern of yo yo emotions and weight and behavioral highs and lows. She now has more control in life and more resilience in dealing with negative or dysfunctional behaviors.
Living the Promise and Silencing the Naysayers
Angela fully embraced her AC/Fast-5 lifestyle and reaped the rewards she had enjoyed during her teen years: freedom from food’s bondage on her life and health. She lost 130 pounds over a four year period, a gradual loss that allowed her body to resculpt naturally.
People began stopping her in stores and asking about her transformation, “Gosh, Angela, you look amazing! How have you done it?” Every time she told people about her AC/Fast-5 lifestyle, as sure as the sun rises each morning, pushback and advice about her choices followed:
“You shouldn’t be doing that. It’s too unhealthy.”
“Is that safe?”
“Eating breakfast is important.”
“If you skip meals, your body will go into starvation mode.”
And the list goes on…
Angela responded, “You mean to tell me when I was 280 pounds and was eating out of control, I was healthy?! You never said nothing to me and now that I finally find freedom and you’re saying this is unhealthy?! Give me a break. I’m living proof that it is safe. You have been so programmed to eat three meals a day, you think breakfast is so important. Who says!?”
Exile the Scale and Embrace the Lifestyle
Hundreds of people now look to Angela for inspiration, wisdom and practical guidance as they strive to become whole and healthy. Angela’s followers count on her frankness and she doesn’t hold back. In her most recent video, Tips on Intermittent Fasting, Angela suggests something that has served her well in achieving and maintaining success, “Get the scale out of the house. Bring it to a close friend. Bring it to a neighbor.”
Angela doesn’t keep a scale in her house anymore. She no longer allows the scale to dominate her “because that scale is nasty.” She relies on the fit of her clothes as her primary barometer and on infrequent occasions might measure herself with a tape measure or go to her parents’ house to weigh herself. For Angela, the scale inflicts damage to such a degree that FaceBook group posts that spotlight a person’s intense focus on daily gains and losses triggers her. For that reason, she paces herself and maintains a healthy balance that allows her to provide support for others without becoming mired in their anxiety.
When Angela talks about the AC/Fast-5 lifestyle, she emphasizes the importance of a complete D.I.E.T. (Daily Intake of Enriched Time) package. She encourages people to make it a habit to ask themselves, “Did I Enrich Today?” and to consider physical, emotional and spiritual enrichment when answering their question.
Sage Advice, Angela!!
The question—to weigh or not to weigh?—sparks hot debate in some circles. Angela’s study of one provided a clear answer for her: Weighing occasionally serves as a minor tool among the tools she used for weight loss and now uses for weight maintenance. Does Angela’s advice hold true for everyone? No. Does it hold true for many people? Undoubtedly. The marketing mythology suggesting that a one-size-fits-all weight loss and weight maintenance regimen exists, works well to sell shakes and packaged foods and memberships, but it doesn’t work for real people seeking sustainable regimens for healthy living. Finding your sustainable regimen means conducting your own study of one and here are some resources that can help you:
The Fast-5 Diet and Lifestyle FaceBook Group: request to join the private group
Some People and Some Companies Benefit From Daily Weighing
Evidence revealing that some people benefit from daily weighing is increasing in lockstep with the growing roster of commercially available weighing apps and services—products that either cost you money or ask you to trade your privacy for a service (aka “free” apps). A 2016 USA Today article features Dori Steinberg, a weight loss and behavioral change researcher with a commercial interest in a scale-centered weight loss plan, who points to research evidence that suggests daily weighing may be optimal. The article also quotes David Levitsky, professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, who suggests that weighing daily is valuable as a habit in the same way that brushing teeth is a valuable daily habit—whoa there, buddy! Not so fast!
Saying that stepping on a scale each morning should be like brushing teeth way overstates the universal applicability of the studies’ findings. Studies that include daily weighing by design, predictably drive self-selection. You’re not going to see people who have a toxic relationship with the scale lining up to participate in a study that requires them to face a scale every day.
Most of us would probably agree that solid evidence justifies recommending daily teeth brushing to everyone. As for the classic question—to weigh or not to weigh?—we’ve come full circle. Your study of one will guide you to discover the answer that applies to you: your body and your personality living in your environment.
¹Note: Angela’s mother didn’t die in the hospital, although from a childhood developmental perspective, landmark events surrounded the circumstances of the hospitalization. A priest administered last rites, a doctor pronounced Angela’s mother to be dead, a person called the family to announce her death, then about a half hour later, a second person called to tell the family that Angela’s mother did not die. Four year old Angie thought,“Oh my God, just like Jesus, she was dead and now she’s alive!”
Years later, the same year that Angela adopted her AC/Fast-5 lifestyle, her mother again confronted death. Doctors told her mother that she had two months to live, but she’s alive and well today. Angela calls her mother “the energizer bunny!”