This is Chapter 2 of a 5-part narrative where I revisit my search of optimum health through diet, and how I found it in animal foods. It’s not meant to abide to a particular group or “movement”, nor is it meant to preach.
What it does emphasize is the value of good quality meat for hormonal health and strength, and how deliberate food/calorie restriction is counter productive to happiness and fitness.
In chapter 2, I recount how my habit of intermittently fasting led me to develop an eating disorder.
German translations provided by Anina.
The time from 2017 – 2018 is still a haze. I think the if there’s anything worse than not eating, it’s eating under stress or fright. Because of the psychological pressure and fear of being subjected to the textbook of a doctor, I chose to eat alone. In the first few months after the summer of 2016:
- I’d skip breakfast altogether and opt for a mug or two coffee; I’d then lift weights under the influence of caffeine.
- I’d break my fast with a late lunch (3 P.M) of whatever lean meat my mother had cooked for the day, and a big bowl of guacamole made from 3-4 avocadoes (to show that I was eating my greens, and also because I was subconsciously craving animal fat).
- Before they could eat dinner, I’d woof down my second meal (around 6 P.M), which was usually a bowl of salad and canned fish.
The digestive problems that keto had cured, resurfaced. In a few weeks I was starting to get immensely bloated, to the point where my stomach was distending after the first meal – I suspected the avocados. With my second meal down the hatch before the first even had the chance to digest, I was obviously crapping heaps the next morning.
My weight gradually started to drop, and although I was starving, I liked what I saw in the mirror as all the diarrhea and indigestion got my abdominal muscles and veins to pop – the hunger and fear had begun to drive me delusional.
Another lipid panel was done in a couple months, and my cholesterol numbers had returned to “slightly above normal”; great, I was allowed a little more leeway in terms of eggs and red meat.
But my digestive issues from the cramped eating window had made me say “fuck it” and opt for just one meal a day.
With just a mug or two of coffee in the morning, this one meal was typically eaten at 5 P.M:
- A serving of meat that was anywhere between 500 – 700g.
- A big bowl of salad made from a base of leafy greens (predominantly spinach); as my energy declined and cravings went up, so did the size of my salads. I started adding nuts (walnuts, macadamia, almonds), peanut butter, berries, cheese, oils, spices, peppers, hell – even Maca powder, Goji berries and cacao nibs.
I was so famished by meal time, that I’d built a whole ritual around it: starting with extended meditation to “calm down”, nibbling on a measured bowl of nuts, then eating the whole salad before moving onto the meat when my belly was full of fiber.
I was clearly not digesting or absorbing any of the protein from the meat (agreed, it was too little for an active man of 182 cm anyway) with all the anti-nutrients I was consuming, as I dropped down to 55 KG from 65 KG in the span of less than a year. I’d sometimes sneak in an extra couple fried eggs fried in butter, or some butter with keto bread, but for the most part – it was a salad big enough for a calf.
- I was still lifting weights, but not really progressing.
- My skin started to get dry and flaky and was losing its natural color.
- My hair was decreasing in volume and had lost its natural curls and waves; I automatically felt the desire to cut it short, which was strange considering I’d liked my hair long all my life. Consider it my body preserving energy.
- I was sitting out in the desert heat of 50+ degrees centigrade every summer afternoon, because I was cold. My skin naturally grew darker – almost a greyish-black.
- I was still very productive and sharp when it came to work (thanks to all the stress hormones my body was releasing in response to deprivation) but had to stand all day to prevent myself from falling asleep.
- After a meal with my belly distended, I’d watch videos of the 10k+ calorie challenge kind – that only promote and stem from eating disorders. Another telltale sign of deep-reaching starvation.
I realized that things were going wrong, but there wasn’t much I could do with it at the time. Any attempts at arguing with my family would have ended in them forcing me to eat “normally” again, but I was too far down the rabbit hole.
I presumed I was still low carb but looking back at the size of those salads, I’d bet probably not. I had also begun to take joy in my increasingly emaciated, gaunt figure in the mirror.
My mental balance was so far off, that I convinced myself that all my uneasiness was part of a spiritual discovery I was undergoing. No doubt – the delusions caused by a hungry mind and body had impaired my reasoning.
In search of peace, I dove deeper into my spiritual/religious study and lost myself in it outside work. The details are perhaps for another time and place, but to sum it up:
- I had begun extending my fasts to 1-2 days;
- I ceased interaction with everyone outside of business associates; I stayed to myself in my room from 7 A.M to 8 P.M, working, before calling it a day. I had zero interest in socializing and my testosterone was at an all-time low.
- I couldn’t stand the noise of music, movies and games (except for the ones I had to work with) anymore since they made me irritable; I disconnected from all media for more than a year.
- I took special interest preparing healthy, low carb alternatives to pastries and fast food for the family. I would not partake, but the whole act of cooking/baking, smelling the food and watching them eat gave me a weird sense of satisfaction.
- I gradually decreased the amount of meat I was eating and at one point, was eating as little as 100 – 200g of meat a day, filling the rest of my shrunken stomach with greens. For certain periods of time, I’d give up meat altogether.
My family of course noticed my deteriorating health and expressed worry – but I was quick to shoo those away.
By the end of 2017 I’d undergone a complete change in personality and character. I was no longer the same person, and my starving brain was quickly considering the option of giving it all up, retreating to adopt the life of a monk, and dying in the process.
I’d started looking up monasteries that would accept me, and for the first time, decided to find a place to move to.
My decline in health reached a new low when I woke up one morning to find my legs swollen to the size of an elephant’s. It was a weird sight – a skinny upper body, with the legs of an obese individual.
There was obviously some kind of edema going on – I had cut back on the salt a long time back, and I felt that it was in part caused by protein deprivation, coupled with all the psychological and physical stress I was subjecting my body to.
I refused to let anyone at home see the boots I’d developed, and pretty much replaced my shorts with joggers until my mother finally took notice. I told her the truth – I needed more meat, and she made sure that there was enough meat and eggs for me to eat henceforth.
- My body couldn’t stand the sight of another vegetable; with meat being served in abundance, I naturally gravitated to eating just meat and eggs.
- It felt like the blood in my veins had started to flow again, and my edema disappeared in a matter of days
- My digestion was much better than on the salads; I no longer felt bloated, but was having several bouts of diarrhea during the initial months of meat-only; the color of my stools was green – the result of all that spinach and salads clogging up my insides. I took it as bacterial die off, which it sure was in hindsight.
- I started looking up cultures and traditions that have lived off an all-meat diet. To my surprise, I discovered there was an entire “zero carb” community of people doing it now, never mind the Eskimos and Inuits who have lived off animal foods for generations.
- I learned of Owsley “The Bear” Stanley, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, and the success stories of people who’d turned their lives around.
But by then, I was too exhausted to get back into the research and science I was so passionate about a year ago. I’d already accepted dying, would have not eaten at all given the choice, and was now only concerned with doing the bare minimum.
While I was not oblivious to the need for high animal fat on a carnivorous diet, I liked that the lack of fat was making me appear even more dry and skinny (although I didn’t realize then, I was actually PSMF-ing some days of the week). I was still stubbornly sticking to my one meal a day, and so still chronically undereating.
Interestingly, I began preparing more animal protein-based dishes for the family instead of sweets. I didn’t partake, so obviously was feeding them what I craved.
My health deteriorated even further as I began to lose the ability to properly digest meat or any food for that matter. Of course, in the absence of fat, protein absorption becomes a problem. I naturally started cooking my meat less and less, found my digestion improve in turn, but still – given the amount I was eating – it wasn’t enough to help me gain back strength or weight.
The solitary work experience I’d racked up between 2015 and 2018 had earned me a job in one of Germany’s top big budget gaming companies as a writer. I was asked to fly in for an interview in the summer of 2018, which I had to do via Bombay due to travel visa restrictions.
The job confirmation came, and I chose to wait the next three months of work visa prep out in my family’s home in Bombay.
Weighing my lowest, 48 – 49 KG, this was also when my “religious/spiritual pursuit” took a new turn as I found myself exploring the more deprived areas of Bombay’s streets. Strangely, the intense hunger that I’d learned to ignore had manifested into a desire to feed those who couldn’t afford a meal.
And boy, how I fed them.
- Now India’s poverty is no foreign subject, and for the underprivileged, meat is a luxury.
- I would roam the streets searching for someone who looked like they hadn’t eaten for days – the maimed, blind, drunk, drugged – and offer to buy them food instead of alms.
- If they agreed, which most did of course, I’d ask them the choice of meat they’d want to eat – mutton (goat meat), chicken, or eggs (if it was still early in the day); these being the most common types of animal protein available to the middle class family.
- I’d then walk to the nearest restaurant I could find and order the largest meat dish they had; sure, these came with plenty of rice and bread, but I was more concerned with feeding them meat enough to last another couple of days.
It was as if my body was trying to buy the meat for myself, only for me to ignore it and watch someone else eat it instead. Eventually, a culmination of my experiences out there led me to:
- Give up meat altogether. I knew I needed animal protein, so I decided to live on a diet of eggs and ghee for the rest of my days. Once a day, I ate 16 eggs fried sunny side up in ghee (more of which I’d eat by the spoonful) and left it at that.
- Give up sleeping on a bed. This was something I‘d been considering for long, given its benefits on posture, back strength and restful sleep; at the time I probably thought I was inflicting more self-harm, when really, it was one of the rare good choices I’d made in those three years.
I continued eating my 16 eggs with ghee for the rest of my stay in Bombay; I lost the strength to lift even the lightest dumbbells (15 KG) and opted for morning runs and a few pullups/pushups instead. My routine then was:
- Wake up at 4 AM, and then head out the door for a 45-minute run + pushup + pullup session.
- Head back home by 6 AM and work from 7 AM till 12 PM on my final few freelance commitments. From 12 – 2, I was out roaming the streets in search of people to feed.
- By 3 I was back, finding a way to delay my meal to somehow “earn” it, before nibbling at my food from 5 PM to 6 PM over a book. I knew I was eating too little, so I ate it slower to have it last longer.
- By 8 PM, I was dead to the world.
Towards the end of my stay in Bombay things were starting to get scary; I noticed my left leg starting to swell every now and then, and I wanted a nap after every afternoon street-side excursion. I was so skinny, that sleeping on the floor hurt my bones.
The Frankfurt Road to Recovery: Prologue
Obviously not in the right frame of mind and not expecting it to be cold in September (Bombay was going through a spell of post-monsoon heat at the time), I walked into Frankfurt in 2018 with just a hoodie, joggers and jeans to keep warm.
It was fine for a week, then the autumn rain and cold hit – and hot damn was I freezing. I could barely sit at a bus stop because of how the cold seats would pierce through my bony butt.
During my exploration of the city, I’d stopped by St. Aposteln which maintained a boutique of secondhand wear for the underprivileged; the Pastoral Advisor Doly Kadavil, Sr. Bettina and the others took pity on my shivering frame and gave me some warm clothing to keep me going till my first paycheck.
I had only 500 Euros in my pocket and was too proud to ask my family for more; the money instead, I decided to keep for my eggs and butter diet, plus any emergencies that might crop up.
- Though honestly, the butter/ghee was substituted by packaged (inflammatory) lard that I found to be common in Frankfurt.
- The eggs were also of the cheapest variety; not free range or organic.
In the meantime, I was doing excellent at work, I was told. I was brimming with ideas, leading the visual design of a new project, and was staying on the ball 8 hours a day. I had also started frequenting a university of Theology then, and would stop by there between 6 and 9 PM after work, before returning home to my only meal at 10.
In the mornings, I was doing the usual assortment of sprints, pushups and pullups.
I remember a distinct point in time where after swallowing an egg yolk (which I relished up until then, since I was craving animal fat so much), I had this deep sensation of “sick” all the way down in my gut; the poor quality eggs had caught up to me, and my insides were starting to give me trouble again:
- I noticed an intense thirst developing throughout the day of fasting that wasn’t there before; it was unquenchable.
- This was in part due to the tap water where I was staying, which felt off minerally, so I opted for store bought mineral water instead. That in itself was a saga, as certain brands of water seemed to increase my thirst rather than quench it – I set out experimenting to find the right balance of minerals.
- I settled on sparkling water, which seemed to soothe and fill my stomach during the day of fasting. Apollinaris, Gerolsteiner and Selters were the only brands that gave me the most relief, in exactly that order – I didn’t understand it then, but it’s probably because of the high sodium and mineral content in them that made me feel better. The carbonation also helped with feeling full.
- Even so, my insides would sometimes “itch” during the day as I waited till my next meal; it wasn’t hunger, but all I knew was that my body was asking for something acidic. I resorted to drinking Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) with my water, and on really bad days, even straight up.
- I kept up my habit of walking a lot, and my face was getting puffier; it seemed like a mixture of a mineral imbalance (from all the excess carbonated water I was drinking to dull the hunger) and chronically elevated cortisol made worse by walking on an empty tank.
The itch had turned unbearable, and I’d said enough is enough – somewhere around November, 2018, I walked into a store one Saturday morning after a run and bought half a kilo of ground meat (a mix of lamb and beef); I ate it raw.
Continued in Chapter 3…