Julian Whitaker’s The Mini-Fast Diet

I’m sure there as many reasons for dieting as there are dieters. I diet because walking, particularly hiking, is the joy of my life, my favorite way to enjoy Nature, and I don’t want to carry any extra weight up the trail with me. That’s particularly true as I get older.

If you really want other reasons to diet, you should read Julian Whitaker’s The Mini-Fast Diet where he makes clear the many possible health hazards of being overweight. While these reasons may have provided added motivation for me to lose weight, I still want to lose weight mainly because it makes it easier for me to keep birding and to keep hiking where I love to hike. If I’m going to carry an extra 20 pounds, I’d prefer it be an extra 20 pounds of camera equipment, not 20 pounds of fat.

Whitaker offers a number of scientific reasons why he considers the mini-fast diet the most effective way to lose fat. I found them personally convincing, but the reality is that this kind of diet fits me better than any other diet I’ve read. I’ve never particularly liked breakfast and skipped it, or limited myself to a glass of juice, a piece of toast, and a cup or two of coffee all the way through college and beyond. It was only as I approached middle age and started to gain weight that others convinced me that it was healthier to eat breakfast and taper off the rest of the day. In reality, I probably just added the extra calories of breakfast to the rest of the day because I wasn’t going to sacrifice my favorite meal of the day, dinner, so that I could enjoy a bowl of Cheerios with fruit in the morning.

I also like the simplicity of Whitaker’s Mini-Fast Diet, as shown here:

Morning Exercise
6: 00 a.m. Wake up.
6: 15 a.m. Drink a cup of coffee, tea, or water.
6: 30 a.m. Wog (walk/ jog) for 45 minutes. If desired, take Ketosis Essentials.
7: 15 a.m. Shower, dress, go to work.
10: 00 a.m. Have coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverage but no food. If desired, take another dose of Ketosis Essentials.
12: 00 p.m. Eat lunch. If desired, take Metabolic Essentials.
3: 30 p.m. Have a snack and/ or beverage of your choice.
7: 30 p.m. Eat dinner. If desired, take another dose of Metabolic Essentials.
10: 30 p.m. Go to bed.

This works particularly well for me because it already mirrors my schedule. I’ve worked out every morning for quite a while now. I doubt, however, that I would have been able to follow it when I was teaching. I would have had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to follow that schedule and that would never have happened in a million years. All I have to do now is skip my breakfast before working out. Oh, yeah, and give up the doughnuts I used to feel that I’d earned by working out for an hour and a half.

Of course, part of what I’m doing is eliminating the calories that I would normally have gotten from eating breakfast. (Not to mention the after-the-gym snack.) So, I ought to lose weight if I’m following a reasonable diet otherwise; i.e. if I don’t stuff myself as soon as the mini-fast is over. I’ve gone back to tracking my diet and exercise on Lose It! so I can see how many calories I’m under what they say I need to maintain to lose two pounds a week (which never happened before when I used the program.)

Here’s Whitaker’s rationale for the min-fast with exercise stated as succinctly as possible:

The mini-fast with exercise takes advantage of the natural fast you undertake every night. Let’s say that you finish dinner at 8: 00 p.m. By the time you get up at 6: 00 or 7: 00 the next morning, you will have fasted for 10 to 11 hours. At that point, your body is beginning to deplete the glycogen that was deposited in your liver and muscles from the carbohydrates you ate at your evening meal. Even if you didn’t exercise but put off breakfast and continued to fast until noon, you would be whittling down your glycogen stores and beginning to rely on fat for energy. But when you exercise in the morning— while still in this fasting state— you rev up your engine. You blow through your remaining glycogen and go straight into burning fat. And until you eat, you will remain in that fat-burning state. As you can see, omitting breakfast and exercising does much more than reducing a meal’s worth of calories or exercising alone.

and here’s is list of the reasons why he thinks it is effective:

Cuts daily caloric intake by skipping a meal
Reduces the need for calorie counting and making difficult food decisions throughout the day
Switches you into the fat-burning mode and keeps you there for hours
Curbs appetite by triggering ketosis and eliminating blood sugar swings Allows you to eat what you want— within reason— for the rest of the day
Improves underlying risk factors such as insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress, and “turns on” antiaging genes

I’ve only been on the diet for three days but so far I’m finding it relatively easy to follow, certainly easier than any other diet I’ve tried.

I suspect, however, that it will end up being a weekday kind of diet because Leslie and I have several favorite breakfast spots that neither of us wants to give up. Of course, if Mike emailed and wanted to meet over breakfast mid-week, I’d instantly drop the diet for the day. I’m not going to be shoehorned into a diet that doesn’t fit my needs.

I’ll let you know if I lose two inches off my belly or if I drop to my goal of 170 pounds in the future. Heck, I might even mention it if I manage to drop consistently below 180 pounds, something I haven’t been able to do for over twenty years now. I’m not planning on ever dropping to my high school weight of 155 ever again, though.

It Doesn’t Get Any Easier

Although I enjoyed my recent trip to Sunrise with Leslie and Hao, I had a hard time keeping up with them. For the first time I can remember, I seemed to have trouble getting enough oxygen. Perhaps I got a small taste of what it must feel like to have a serious case of COPD. Worst of all, I felt pretty bad after I reached the car. Although I probably could’ve driven home, I let Leslie drive to the restaurant to be safe.

I didn’t have my oximeter with me, so I couldn’t actually measure any oxygen deficiency, but I did use my iPhone to measure my resting heart rate and for the next two hours it was well above my normal resting heart rate – almost as high as when I’m walking around the track at the YMCA. Physiological stress also measured sky-high. It was unnerving at best. At one point I wondered if I was having a heart attack.

Strangely, I’d been to my pulmonary doctor the week before for my annual visit, and my lungs had tested better than they did the previous year, particularly lung capacity. Since I’d done the exact same hike the year before without any negative side effects, I was left wondering why I had had them this year. I may never know the exact reason, but I was a more worried than I might have been because I’d planned on spending the rest of the week on Mount Rainier with Dawn and her family. I didn’t want to feel that way for 5 days in a row.

Luckily, we started the week at lower altitudes, and I was able to hike the first two days without any particular symptoms. My heart rate returned to its normal resting rate within a reasonable time after each hike, and I never felt particularly short of breath though I felt like I’d had a good workout and had to slow down several times to avoid exhausting myself. But those are all fairly normal reactions to hiking in the mountains.

We returned to Sunrise on Thursday to hike almost exactly the same hike, though it was a bit shorter. I made sure to wear cooler clothes, exchanged my backpack for a lighter fanny pack, wore shoes instead of boots, and shed several pounds of camera gear. I suspect we might have hiked up the hill a little slower, though speed always seems relative. Anyway, I didn’t have any of the symptoms I’d had five days before. I checked my pulse and it returned to near normal almost instantly. In less than an hour I felt as good as I did before I started the hike, at least if I ignored some minor stiffness in my back and legs.

Considering that my second trip went well, I suppose I could just write off the first trip as an anomaly, but, unfortunately, that’s not in my nature. Since cutting my weight back on the second trip helped, I decided to try again to lose more weight. I have managed to lose 14 lbs since last summer, but I actually lost nearly 20 lbs before I managed to regain 6 lbs.

I was never really happy about the weight loss, though. I’m not sure I lost any weight off my stomach, the only place I really wanted to lose it. Unfortunately, it seemed to come off everywhere but my stomach, which, in my mind, made my stomach look even bigger than it did before, even though my pants didn’t confirm that impression.

Luckily, I haven’t abandoned the workouts that helped me lose weight earlier. No, I’ve just been eating more than I did when I was consciously losing weight and I haven’t been tracking what I eat. I’m still working out at least five days a week, mostly at the YMCA unless the sun entices me to walk outside instead.

Meanwhile while reading a health article I found a link to a Rodale book entitled The Mini-Fast Diet which appealed to me. It claimed that exercising while fasting causes fat to be burned. Its premises certainly appealed to me, and because I’m more likely to follow through on a diet when I make it known to others, I thought I’d discuss some of the ideas in the book in another blog entry.

Mt Rainier’s Sunrise

Leslie and I spent much of last week up on Mount Rainier. On Saturday we took Ted and Leslie’s friend Hao

Hao and Leslie

who’s visiting from Shanghai to Sunrise because it’s undoubtably the most spectacular spot in Western Washington.

We were rewarded with a bright, sunny, surprisingly hot, day on the mountain.

Mount Rainier

The Indian Paintbrush,

Indian Paintbrush



along with many other flowers covered the meadows, even outnumbering the visitors.

Apparently in Hao’s honor we were greeted by local residents, like this Hoary Marmot.

Hoary Marmot

We ended up making the full loop around the mountain, even managing a stop at one of Leslie’s favorite viewpoints, Box Canyon,

 Box Canyon

before ending our day at the Wild Berry Restaurant in Ashford.

Beautiful weather, stunning views, strenuous exercise, great food, and good company. Days don’t get any better than this.

Burrowing Owls

Although I still have good shots from the Malheur trip I haven’t posted, I’m thinking it’s time to move on, not that I haven’t already done so here in my real life. By now, the trip seems like a distant memory not an immediate part of my life. I’m always slightly amused by authors who talk about “living in the moment” because as far as I’ve determined the only way to write about anything that has actually happened is to write about the past. In fact, if you’re not careful it seems like blogging can keep you from living in the present.

Anyway, another highlight of the trip, another first, was finally locating a Burrowing Owl, something I’ve heard about for years but have never been able to find. This time a waitress at the Narrows Cafe told me where to find a burrow. I was both skeptical and optimistic because her description was so detailed that I was sure I could find the spot. I drove to the described place, got out of my car and walked along the road for about a quarter of a mile, not finding a thing.

It was only after I turned back to go to the car that I felt a pair of eyes across the road looking at me. At first I thought it was just another prairie dog, but a quick look through the 400mm lens confirmed it was my first ever Burrowing Owl.

Burrowing Owl

Since it was late and the light was quickly fading, I decided to go back the next day with my 500mm lens and doubler. Unfortunately, this time the owl seemed determined to ignore me and I never could capture that awesome stare

Burrowing Owl

even though I got a better shot of its feathers.

This shot, though, probably best illustrates why I’ve had such a hard time finding them with just a vague description of their burrow. Our army would do well to borrow this for their desert camouflage.

Burrowing Owl

This may well turn out to be the year of the owl for me, a bird I’ve never had very good luck finding in the past.