Moving Beautifully Through 2022: The Recovery Edition Part II*
Updated: Aug 11
[Trigger Warning: This post includes a detailed discussion about time restricted eating. If you have, or are at risk of, a mental illness that manifests through a disordered relationship with eating and food you may want to skip this article.]
There was such a lovely response to Part I of this recovery series, that I was encouraged to write this Part II. In fact, I have so much content, that I may even write a Part III. So many people I love are in recovery at the moment, that I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve been doing to help me feel better.
As regular readers know, I almost always read the primary scientific literature on a topic rather than relying on journalists and bloggers to interpret it for me. I’ve come across so many mistakes or misinterpretations of the scientific evidence that I think it’s necessary to read either primary sources or find reputable people whose content you trust.
That’s why I often give links to further reading. One of my first ports of call for scientific papers to do with health is the National Library of Medicine at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, which you can find online here.
Aren’t we lucky to be living in an age when the research from the brightest minds is available at the click of a mouse?
Wishing you an uneventful, linear and complete recovery.
Intermittent Fasting/Time Restricted Eating
I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for a while now. While IF can mean a lot of different things, most people use the term IF to mean eating only during a restricted time period every 24 hours. The most common time period being an 8 hour eating window and a 16 hour fasting window. Why would I do this to myself?
Image by Andraz Lazic.
There is a huge amount of scientific research to show the benefits of IF on almost every aspect of human health and wellness – including slowing and reversing aging. Research is currently being carried out on whether certain processes that are triggered by IF can help your body fight Covid and other viruses.
Research has even shown that IF is more successful for weight loss than calorie counting – not for any reason other than it’s simple – so people tend to stick with it for longer. There’s even some anecdotal evidence to show that certain types of IF induced weight loss can reduce or eliminate the need for excess skin removal surgery due to the triggering of autophagy (more on autophagy below). If you’re interested in IF, you can find further reading here.
Most people I know restrict their 8 hour eating window to take in lunch and dinner – the typical window being from 12 noon – 8pm. It’s more social, isn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s enough scientific evidence to show that even more health benefits can be gained by restricting the eating window to the mornings – so my own eating window is 7am – 3pm.
IF places controlled stress on the body to trigger the process called autophagy. Autophagy is the name of the process in the body that breakdowns and recycles dysfunctional, lethal and mutant biomolecules, organelles, and invading pathogens for cellular homeostasis. It’s probably the only genuine detox that you can do at home. You can find further reading here.
Graphic by: Sadafjavaidkhan, CC BY-SA 4.0
There is some uncertainty in the scientific evidence for the shortest fasting period that triggers autophagy. The science is unclear because only certain types of people were studied and triggering autophagy can depend on a number of different factors. A 16 hour fasting window is probably the earliest that autophagy can be triggered though, as I said, the science isn’t that clear.
It took me about 2 weeks to get used to IF – and now, I can say that my experience of IF is increased focus and mental clarity, weight loss and a general feeling of mental and physical lightness.
One massive caveat to IF, and this may seem obvious, is this – whether you benefit from autophagy and the other beneficial effects of IF will depend on what you eat during your eating window. If you eat 2500 calories of junk food during your eating window, then your health will suffer regardless of whether you’re doing IF.
I know it’s obvious, but there are plenty of ‘experts’ who will tell you a calorie is a calorie – without taking into account the body’s differing hormonal reactions to different food. Research shows that the most beneficial diet to eat during your eating window is a whole food, primarily plant based diet. No surprises there!
In my opinion, there’s another reason to eat a really wonderful diet during your eating window. If your body gets all the nutrients you need during your eating window, you’ll feel much less hungry during your fasting period – your body won’t be screaming at you for nutrition and you’ll be able to stick to IF relatively easily. That’s my experience anyway.
There is a supplement that purports to trigger an autophagy like process, but I haven’t read any of the scientific literature on it, so you’ll need to do that yourself if you’re interested.
There are some people who either should not do IF at all, or who should only do it under medical supervision.** IF can be very dangerous for certain people, so if you think that you’d like to give it a go, then please consult your doctor with your plan before going ahead. If your doctor agrees, then IF might be worth adding to your lifestyle.
Extreme Minimalism/Nutritious Movement
In early 2019, our couch needed replacing. It was 10 years old and looking slightly the worse for wear. We used it a lot – for movies nights, and just general lounging. It was a big couch and fit a lot of people. In the process of researching which new couch to buy, I came across two groups – the extreme minimalists and those who advocate nutritious movement. I’ve given you links, so if you’re interested you can read more about these two different, but overlapping groups.
Steve Jobs - one very famous minimalist and an advocate of going couchless. Photo taken by Dianne Walker in 1982 and used previously in Time and Life magazine.
One aspect of both of these theories intrigued me – that is – living without a lot of the furniture that we in the West assume is essential, like a couch.
Image by S. Tsuchiya.
The more I read, the more I understood that our Western lifestyle encourages decrepitude by isolating “Exercise” to specific, times in a day or week, giving us permission to be sedentary at every other time. We all now understand the problems associated with sitting for hours at a desk – and products have sprung up that purport to deal with this – like standing desks and special chairs. But, for some reason, lounging for hours on a couch, hasn’t had the same level of scrutiny.
Even most fit people are only exercising for a small percentage of their waking hours – which means that they might be sedentary for most of their day. The rest of us in the West are sedentary for much, much longer. This has a hugely negative impact on our health, wellbeing and longevity. You can read more about how horrendous a sedentary lifestyle is here.
After doing much more reading about extreme minimalism and nutritious movement, I decided to forego buying a new couch. I donated our couch to Emmaus and bought some very thick underlay, a coir rug and a very thick wool rug to go over the top. I bought Japanese floor cushions known as zabuton.
There is about a 4 -5 cm layer of cushioning on our wooden loungeroom floor. I knew that many of my friends would not like to sit on the floor and I was slightly worried about having guests around. It was early 2019. As things turned out – that wasn’t really a problem.
It's now been almost 4 years since we’ve lived without a couch – so I can give you the pros and cons based on some experience. It took about 6 months to properly become used to sitting on the floor – and that is with my Japanese cultural background. Just sitting down and standing up felt like an unreasonable effort. Try it – if it feels like an energy spend just sitting down on the floor and getting up again, it might be that you are too sedentary.
After a while though, the active sitting meant that we all become stronger, more flexible and had less aches and pains, particularly less back pain.
Another massive pro was that it freed up so much space in our loungeroom – enough space that we could all comfortably lay out yoga mats on the floor and do online yoga and other floor based exercise together. This is not something I had even considered to be a factor in 2019, but turned out to be a rather huge pro in 2020.
There are definitely some cons. The biggest con is that some guests will not want, or will not be able to, to sit on the floor. So there is no repairing to the loungeroom after dinner for a relaxing drink with those guests. There is also something quite intimate about sitting on the floor with others that the English can find a bit of a culture shock.
Another con is that you feel a bit of an outlier in the UK without a couch. People think you are bonkers. That’s something I can live with. There are many cultures in the world that do not consider a Western style couch as an essential – just as there are many cultures that sit on the floor.
One aspect of going couchless that I think it essential is to be a shoe free house. I think it would be very insanitary if you walked in the lounge room with your outdoor shoes and then expected to be able to relax on that floor. The floor you’re sitting on needs to be clean, comfortable and inviting. You should want to sit on it.
Going couchless has had a positive impact on my physical fitness. I know it’s not for everybody, but it might be something to consider if you’re looking for something new to add to your wellness toolkit.
took the feature image.
*I care about your safety! If you are thinking about doing any of the things I mention in this post, then please read the safety warnings below.
*This article is for entertainment and education purposes only. Before starting any new challenge or lifestyle change you should consult your doctor. You should not rely on this article as a substitute for professional advice and this article does not replace a health professional. If you want to try anything I mention in this article, you need to check with your doctor that you are physically and mentally safe to do so.
** There are some people who should not do intermittent fasting or who must do it under medical supervision. If you wish to do IF, then you need to consult your doctor to get the all-clear to go ahead. IF can have a negative effect on the action of certain types of medication, including medication routinely prescribed for type-2 diabetes. Without medical supervision, IF can cause problems for elite athletes. IF should not be carried out by anybody:
with, or at risk of, mental illnesses that manifest through a disordered relationship with eating and food;
with a low bodyweight or a low body fat percentage;
under 18; or
who is pregnant or breast feeding.