You’re clocking insane amounts of extra hours before that big product launch or from pressure from your client or boss.
How can you possibly spend the time on your body that you know you should?
The toll of those hours is a body that’s softer than you want it to be.
But you’re smart and know that, just like software projects, there’s No Silver Bullet strategy that will remove that extra weight that you’ve put on.
Ever wonder if there was a small change you could make that would deliver some results for your waistline?
Maybe there’s no silver bullet, but perhaps a bronze bullet would suffice.
The Bronze Bullet: A Weight Loss Strategy For Devs With No Time
Tell me if you’ve played this game before.
- Your weight starts creeping up because of life.
- Your pants get tight enough to be uncomfortable (maybe even causing you some lower back pain).
- Clothes shopping is super low on your priority list.
- Solution! You begin wearing your pants unbuttoned and figure “my belt is going to cover this so it’s all good.”
That was me. This solution worked, but it left me feeling a bit like my friend here.
The maddening part was that I was able to exercise three times a week!
Reflecting on the problem, it was clear that diet and nutrition were the big issues.
There were too many times eating out at restaurants (hey, having kids makes those quick McDonald’s trips very appealing). Too much pizza consumed at programming meetups. Too many late night snacks while hacking on my latest side project.
Too much ice cream (wait, no, there can never be too much ice cream).
Food was ruining me. I needed to find a way to make my body and food get along.
How? I decided to read the docs.
I studied biology from resources on the web. I learned about our guts and remembered all the stuff I forgot from high school. I learned new stuff they certainly weren’t teaching when I was in high school. I learned about hormones that I have no chance of naming properly.
What did I learn that helped me change?
- Refined sugar is not your friend. Unless your friends like to kick you while you’re down.
- Bread is basically sugar’s delicious older sibling. It will punch your insulin producing pancreas in the same way.
- The body’s continuous production of insulin keeps you burning sugar as fuel instead of your fat.
Knowing this stuff helped my will power a little, but habits are hard to change. And food habits are even harder to change.
There was one more thing that I learned about that wasn’t focused on what I was eating. It focused on when I was eating. This topic turned out to be my bronze bullet.
Experience told me that I shouldn’t eat that pint of ice cream at 10:30 at night, but that was the extent of my thoughts on when to eat. Ultimately, my research revealed that the biggest key to my success and my bronze bullet was fasting. Fasting is an entire framework for thinking about when to eat.
Before you check out from the potential scariness of fasting, hear this out. We’re not referring to a 40 day wandering through a desert with no food. The frequency of fasting that will impact your body is at a daily level. This kind of fasting is called intermittent fasting and has plenty of medical backing to prove its effectiveness. Let’s explore the subject to understand what you have to do to start and why it works.
Small intervals of fasting help you regulate your body and control your weight.
3 Changes To Put Your Body On a Path To Success
We eat too often. We eat so often that the natural digestion cycle gets messed up and affects our weight. This is the core problem that intermittent fasting solves. Before we get to why, let’s jump straight to how to get going because that’s probably what you’re here for anyway. What changes can you make to start intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting works by setting a window of time for yourself when you can eat. Inside that time window, you consume meals normally to get your daily calories. Outside the window, you consume nothing except water when thirsty.
Change #1: Commit to a Target Eating Window
Think about a typical day. When you wake in the morning, what time are you eating breakfast? 7AM? Earlier than that? In the late evening before you go to sleep, what’s the last thing you eat? Do you get a midnight snack? If that’s you, then your eating window would be 7AM-12AM. That’s 19 hours of a day.
For intermittent fasting to be truly impactful, you need to get that window down to 8 or fewer hours.
Considering the cultural convention is to consume breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that target of 8 hours seems impossible. And maybe it is impossible if you stick to three meals, but who said you have to stick to three meals a day?
For this change, you have to think about your body and what your ideal time window would be. I’ll use myself as an example to illustrate how to pick your window.
I’m not a morning person. I’m sluggish first thing and start hitting my stride in the late afternoon and into the evening. Because my mornings start with me lumbering out of bed, I chose to skip breakfast and set my intermittent fasting window from 12PM to 8PM. This is perfectly set to start me at lunch and comfortably get me through even a late dinner.
Change #2: Start Shrinking Your Time Window to Your Target
If you’re starting from a place where your eating window is 19 hours, then jumping straight to 8 hours will be challenging. We can use a bit of psychology to help us reach our target.
Shrink your window little by little. We’re wired to resist big change, however, people are adept at adapting to small changes.
A good place to begin may be cutting back when you’re willing to eat those late night snacks. If you’re eating all the way up to midnight, back it up to 11PM. Commit to that for at least a few days while you acclimate to the change. Your body has to adjust, but so does your mind.
When you manage to move back the time, celebrate yourself! Then set a new goal. You could push your breakfast later in the morning. You could keep reducing your evening snack time frame. Whatever you choose, you keep moving toward the target window.
Repeating this process over weeks or even months if necessary will get you to your ultimate target window where intermittent fasting can work its magic.
Change #3: Do It!
Think about the programming languages you know and get stuff done in right now. You probably got proficient by writing code and doing work.
Now, think about that programming language that you’re curious about, but have not spent any deep time using. Maybe you’re a Rubyist and fascinated with Elixir’s familiar syntax style yet functional paradigm. Reading the docs, no matter how good you are, will not make you an expert at Elixir.
In the same way, getting head knowledge about how to get healthy is not the same as actually getting healthy. So, in the words of Shia LaBeouf, “Do it! Just Do It!”
Work toward an 8 hour intermittent fasting eating window.
You can do it!
The Science of Intermittent Fasting
We jumped straight to how to start intermittent fasting, but why does it work? In this section, we’re going to settle for a simplified version with the deeper research left as an “exercise to the reader.”
A huge problem that people face is that we consume too much sugar and use it as our primary energy source. Unfortunately, with the excess of sugar that we don’t use, our bodies will transform the sugar into fat through a process called lipogenesis. We’re able to cope with the sugar by producing insulin from the pancreas. A lot of people spend life adding fat by eating too much sugar and having insulin as a dominant hormone within the body.
Too much sugar makes us fat, but that’s probably not news to you. What might be news to you is that the extra insulin in your body is preventing other hormones from doing their jobs.
Key among these other hormones is the hormone called leptin. Leptin is the hormone that controls your ability to feel full. An overabundance of insulin prevents your brain from reacting properly to the leptin signal. The result is that you overeat and forces even more fat creation.
Intermittent fasting helps break this whole cycle by bringing your insulin levels back in check1. Once your insulin levels return to a proper setting, you body can react properly to leptin and you can avoid overeating and excess fat generation.
Additionally, intermittent fasting can increase your body’s Human Growth Hormone to help you increase muscle mass and burn additional fat2.
The combination of not adding new fat and burning more fat that you currently have is what makes intermittent fasting such an effective tool.
You now know one secret to changing your body with little work. Changing your life may be little more than adjusting when you eat.
Are you ready to start?
I like to help developers be equipped to be physically and mentally healthy. What are the big things that you struggle with to stay healthy? Let me know! I’m happy to help support you on your journey. Feel free to message me on Twitter.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, would you mind sharing it on Twitter or your favorite social media so that others have the chance to learn something too? Thanks for reading!
Learn more about Python and other software topics
You can join my newsletter and get access to other useful topics to help you learn more about software development. I hope you'll join up!