The following is an interview with Kim and Ryan Smith, authors of a wonderful book on intermittent fasting for weight loss.
Kevin: Okay, my name is Kevin Furey with kevinfurey.com. and I have with me Kim and Ryan Smith, also known as the Super Shrinking Smiths. They are the authors of a book called Unbelievable Freedom: How We Transformed Our Health and Happiness With Intermittent Fasting. We’re going to talk about that book. We’re going to talk about their story. But, before we get there, this is a book that’s profound. This is a powerful book. It’s filled with lots of emotion. There’s pain, frustration, anxiety, shame and fear, but it has a happy ending and there’s a quote that I took from the book and I kind of wanted to address upfront before we got into your story, but the statement is, “We’re basking in the glow of freedom. Can you talk about that?
Kim: Yeah. I think that freedom is the overarching theme of the transformation that we’ve made. So, it is a direct reference to the weight loss and the renewed freedom around food and to eat in a way that we consider to be normal and unrestricted and joyful, and satisfying for us. But also, freedom from a lot of the mental and emotional baggage that we carried, some of which was related to food and daily grappling with how to eat and weight gain and all of that. So, the title of the book Unbelievable Freedom is twofold. The unbelievable part has to do with people’s reaction to our photographs, the change in our appearance. Not just weight, but the entire change in our appearance and people perceiving us as more youthful and happier looking, and more free. And then the freedom part is everything else that I just said.
Kevin: So, you read my mind because I was going to ask you about the title of the book Unbelievable Freedom, because when I got done reading the book, I felt like I’d been binge watching TV for like 48 hours and I just put the book down and looked at the title and said, “That’s unbelievable.” So, I was curious about how you came up with the title. Did you write a lot of tiles? How did that come about?
Ryan: We did talk about a lot of titles. We struggled to come up with just the right one and I don’t remember exactly how we came up with that. But once we did it just felt right. It seems to capture everything we wanted to convey about our story. You know, the reactions we have from other people have always been that people can’t believe that the two sets of pictures are us and freedom captures everything we were looking for all that time. So, it seems right. It seems like it was always meant to be called that and it’s hard to remember the struggle to come up with the title at this point.
Kevin: Well, you’re absolutely right. I was sharing your book with someone and I showed them the cover and they’re like, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I said no. No, that’s true. So, all right. Well, thank you for that. Let’s go ahead and hear your story.
Kim: You just want me to give my synopsis?
Kevin: Let’s just start from the early years and you can go back and forth if you’d like or however you want to do it.
Kim: All right? Well, you know, we tried in telling the separate portion of our stories, the first chapters of the book, that talk about our lives before we met to tell our separate versions of things. And I was emphatic about the fact that food has not been a theme of struggle for my whole life, but struggle generally has been. Most of that was emotional in nature. Just being an anxious child and being vaguely unsettled and insecure all my life and making a lot of choices through my teen years and young adulthood that that kind of made things even more difficult for me. In terms of having been divorced when I was quite young with two small children, having financial problems, and instability of that sort. But the food was not something I had a good relationship with. I don’t think I used food in the right way, but the weight part of it, the weight consequence didn’t come until later. So, when Ryan and I start to tell our shared story that’s when the book goes into kind of telling the same story from two perspectives. And that’s when the weight piece of it came into it for me. So, I’d like to say that I’m grateful that my weight problem became as serious as it did because it’s the best way that I have a visual to share with people about where I was and where I am now. It’s hard otherwise to really explain how I’ve been set free by the way that I feel inside now. I consider myself to be pretty fearless about the way that I live my life, now. I feel free of anxiety and free of worry about judgment, free of self-criticism, free of a lot of things that really held me back. And so, the weight piece of it is the tangible piece that I could talk about in this book and can show people in photographs. But it’s a lot, it’s a lot more than that and I continue to try to write about the inner part of it. So, we can talk I guess, as we go forward about weight milestones and some of that but that’s the overview from for my story.
Kevin: Let me ask you, before we get your early years. And the reason I want to talk about this for a little bit is because I think the emotional anchors are really important to talk about and you talked about your anxiety at a young age and the dreaded phys-ed class. I think that’s really important because I grew up with six other brothers. There were never any issues with regard to you know, fitness or physicality or any of those things. We grew up in the Midwest and we did what families with six boys and all our friends had, you know, big families too and so we were always really active but we never would have given a thought to that person, like you, that had these type of feelings over phys-ed class.
Kim: I think the stereotype of a child that really dreaded phys-ed would be a child that was overweight and was concerned about changing up in the locker room or was afraid of the physical activity calling attention to the weight problem. I think I was a was a kind of a small and scrawny kid and but I think phys-ed just epitomized everything. I think I used field day as another example in the in the book of times when I felt like everyone’s going to look at me. Everyone’s going to watch me and I won’t be able to perform this task even for field day, that’s for fun. There are still physical aspects of those tasks and people will see me not perform these things well, and then they will know that I’m inadequate or inferior somehow. So, I just had a whole bunch of dread of the entire ordeal and tried to come up with ways to get out of it and around it. And when I got to high school, they had different units where you could do these individual sports like golf and I tried to do those things over the team sports because then I didn’t have the pressure of letting the team down which was even worse. But I really, I think I’ve done work in the last couple of years to work through these limiting beliefs, that there’s somehow something wrong with me because I actually can do a lot of the physical things that I was afraid of. It was more mental than anything. There wasn’t anything, I don’t have any physical limitations. There’s nothing wrong with my body and there’s nothing that keeps me from doing those things except that I was afraid.
Kevin: So, it seems like there was some uncertainty which sort of led to a lack of confidence which then led to fear.
Kim: For sure.
Kevin: Okay, Ryan.
Ryan: Well, I think I had a more traditional fat kid story than Kim did. In my first few years I was very thin. I have vague memories of being a small child and people being concerned about how skinny I was. And then somewhere around age 8 probably, I started to gain weight. I don’t remember a particular reason why that started to happen. It was around that time I started having some physical pain in my hip and spine and went through some testing. Eventually it turned out I was diagnosed with something called ankylosing spondylitis that I’ve dealt with over the years that caused some physical pain and discomfort. I think that was probably the start of putting on the weight and then emotional factors came into that as well. So, by the time I was in middle school and then on through high school, I was I was overweight and that was a central part of my identity really during that time. I think I used food for comfort and I used it to pass the time. I used it very mindlessly and spent a lot of time just sort of waiting for that to not be an issue but not really doing anything to change it. And it wasn’t really until I was almost 30 years old before, you know something rattled my cage enough to make a difference. But even that was just a continuation of the roller coaster. I’ve lost weight, significant amounts of weight twice, and was on the way to regaining that when we discovered intermittent fasting. So, I think that’s the story that a lot of people relate to you know. The idea of the constant struggle. It was difficult for me when we were writing the book to keep the timeline straight of pounds gained and pounds lost and the number of diets that I’ve tried and you know, small starts of losing a few pounds here and then regaining more. So, I think that’s a story that a lot of people sort of connect to and it’s where our story was a little different. It was a lifelong struggle for me and came later for Kim. But now, you know, the freedom part of our title comes into play for me because I think with fasting, I feel like I’m freer than I’ve ever been. I’m free of a lot of the rules that set me up to fail before so I feel like I have the answer that I was looking for, for a long time.
Kevin: So, when you mention the emotional image issues as a youngster were those just normal things that you were going through just like everybody else does or was there something more than that?
Ryan: Well, I think it probably was more than the typical. I mean I was a very shy kid. That was always part of the way people described me. I was I telling my students now, I teach high school, and whenever I ask students to give speeches or to speak in front of the class, there are a lot of kids that are very stressed out about that. And I tell them that as a kid I was also easily stressed out by that situation, that I always turned red in front of a group and my voice would quiver and was just a very anxious kid, and I think I perceived it as shy. I didn’t realize that it was probably a diagnosable anxiety, but that was definitely there. and I think I thought it was just a personality defect. I think I just used food to kind of cover that up. Deal with that. And it became this snowball effect where the larger I got the more anxious I felt and that was the best coping strategy I knew at the time. It really wasn’t until much later probably in the last couple of years that I really started to figure out that, “Wait, that was anxiety.” That’s what that is, because I was used to hearing other people talk about being anxious. You know, I’ve been in many meetings about students who have been diagnosed with anxiety and it didn’t really occur to me. That’s what that was. I didn’t have the words for it at the time.
Kevin: So, when you were in high school, were you aware that you were using food to deal with that anxiety?
Ryan: Yeah. I think so. I think I knew that it was easy. That eating was easier than being uncomfortable. It was a good excuse to not put myself out there and do other kinds of things. But again, I don’t think I had the labels for it. I think I thought, well, I’m fat and that’s the way it is and I if I ever took it off then life would really begin at that point. I had a lot of expectations about when, you know, when I wasn’t heavy anymore, everything would be great. And I think in that sense there was a big disconnect between what came first, you know. The stressed-out feelings and then the food or vice versa. I think I was still sorting that out.
Kim & Ryan Meet
Kevin: So, then you & Kim met in college and had a relationship that progressed quickly.
Ryan: We actually met around age 30. We were both in master’s degree programs. I was already teaching at that time, and she was getting a master’s degree. I went back to get a master’s degree in counselor ed and we had a class in common and we met in that class.
Kevin: Okay. And so, when you met neither one of you had any real issues, so to speak, that you were talking about between each other with regard to food.
Kim: With regard to food, no. I mean, I only had been divorced for a couple of years when I met Ryan. I wasn’t on the hunt to get remarried. But I mean I was young I was 29 with two little kids. So, I was open to that and I’d been working on myself the way you know divorced women will and felt like I was in a pretty good place. Ryan had recently, you know lost over a hundred pounds. He was a vegetarian at the time. I thought that was like pretty exotic and exciting and you know, he was a bachelor. He knew how to cook and do things, cook meals for me. And so, it wasn’t very long after we knew each other that he met my children and everybody quickly bonded and it just seemed the thing to do. He wanted a family and I had one already and so we just jumped into the whole marriage and family thing.
Kevin: Okay. So, then after a while, food started to enter the picture in a little bigger way.
Kim: Sure did.
Weight Off – Weight On
Ryan: I think when we met, that was the first time I’d taken off major weight. I lost a hundred and twenty pounds shortly before I met Kim and I think I had a very naive notion that I had fixed it. That once I took it off that was it, when I finally committed myself to taking that weight off. It actually came off pretty quickly and pretty easily. I had been diagnosed as diabetic and that was the fear factor that pushed me to do it and I turned all that around really quickly. And so, when we got married, I thought I had that all figured out. I didn’t expect it to be a problem. When I started to relax the way I was eating and started to eat some things that are sort of outside my plan at that point, I naively thought that I could get away with that. That somehow it wouldn’t matter and weight started to come back on. That was a rude awakening for me. I didn’t expect it. I somehow thought once would do it and it would be permanent and when it turned out not to be the case that caused a lot of stress and anger on my part that filtered out into other parts of our life.
Kevin: Yes, that was the “hiding in plain sight” period of your life. And okay. You know the anger part, I mean that really resonates with me because I mean, I can see how you became pressured and how you lost so much weight and how you thought that you had that handled and that wasn’t going to be part of your life anymore. And then all of a sudden it started creeping back into your life.
Ryan: And isn’t that what the world kind of tells us anyway. It’s like we are set up to believe that you know, that, that’s all it takes. If you can fit into a certain kind of clothes or you have a certain look that you know, that’s all it is that you know, the diet industry is all revolving around that idea. You know, if you just buy the right thing you figure it out follow the right rules. Lists. And I think it’s a big lie and I definitely found that out the hard way twice. You know, it still took me a while to figure that out. It’s not you know, starting to catch on when I regained it, but I lost it again and still had those sort of fantasy feelings of okay, now I did it. You know the first time, no, that wasn’t it. But the second time I have it figured out and that wasn’t it either. So, it was just a real process of finding the right fit. Finding the way to be, and the way to live, and the way to eat that wasn’t a temporary game that I was playing with myself.
Kevin: Right. Okay, Kim, let’s talk about that person called fat mom.
Kim: The provocatively titled fat mom. Yes. I know it’s hard for me sometimes because I feel like the use of the word fat is hurtful to women or mothers who are still obese, who read that, and it might strike to the heart of them. It might seem insensitive for me now that my weight is in a normal range to say that. But it really is the best way that I can characterize that chapter of my life. And a lot of my happiest memories are going to be from that time. I mean, that’s the time when my children were growing up and I don’t get a do-over on that. So, they did have the fat mom and fat mom was a persona that was focused on them, that wanted to do whatever I needed to do for them and take care of them and put them first. I don’t think I role modeled great self-care and I have to, you know, wrestle with that a little bit. But yeah, I mean, it’s the years that I put myself last and it showed. I mean, I don’t think my habits were wildly different than they’d been in my 20s, but metabolically, I was a decade older and had a less forgiving metabolism. There was a lot of stress during that time and sharing custody of two children with my former husband who was remarried and he had a new family. And there were differences in the way that we had things running in our household versus their household. Lots of transportation and shuttling children back and forth which was stressful on us and stressful on the children. You know, my book is out there. So, there’s no secret of the fact we tried to have a baby. That was a stressful process and one that we’re 100% at peace with, that worked out the way that it was meant to. But at the time it was stressful. There were financial stressors. I had significant career disruptions and disappointments. It was just… it was the best of times it was the worst of times. I mean truly, I have so many cherished memories from that phase but it was – it was tough. And so yeah, fat mom. I really wasn’t sure if I should title that chapter that way and I ultimately went with my gut and said, to me, that is the way. That’s my truth. That was my reality of that phase of my life. That I was a mom first, and I just happened to be a fat mom. Which doesn’t mean I was a bad mom or a bad person. But that was my truth then and the way that this journey has gone for us with the weight loss. It really coincided with the children growing and departing and being brand new empty nesters right at this time, when we have finally gotten this on track and we’re vigilant about it. We’re never going to say we have this all solved and now we can just relax. There’s no more magical thinking about how this works with taking care of your body. It’s an everyday stewardship that you have to take seriously and we will.
Kevin: Well, I really appreciate the candor and the transparency in that chapter because it was a heavy, heavy chapter. You were very candid and you talk about the size 22W Lee Riders.
Kim: I have them still.
Kevin: You didn’t just mention them one time.
Kim: That was my every day uniform. I have those great big jeans and when we were filmed for a documentary that aired in South Korea, they had me hold them up and stand behind them and I am half the size of those jeans now, but I keep them as a symbol.
My Comrades Betrayed
Kevin: I’m going to read you a quote that has to do with something you said right at the beginning of the section that we just talked about and about the title of the chapter Fat Mom. And this is a quote that I just had, I had to stop reading the book at this point and just sort of digest this. You said, “There’s a bit of a sense of having betrayed other women who are still heavy, those who had been my comrades so to speak.”
Kim: Yeah, I still feel that. I still feel that and we talked a lot because of our roles here having been in the weight trenches together and yet separately, that there are parts of the struggle that are gender specific and parts that aren’t. I think most of it is a universal experience. If you’re a person that’s living in a body that you don’t feel represents you or that you don’t feel you can get free of but a lot of the stuff with clothing and bathing suits and trying to get a dress for some special occasion. This is like something where there are the women that have it under control whether they fight to keep their weight down or they’re just naturally blessed to keep their weight down. There are the women that are not heavy and the ones that are and the ones that understand each other’s reality and there’s an understanding there. There’s a way people meet each other’s eye and they think, “You know. I get you and you get me and you know.” Now I feel like I go to yoga class and people see me and probably assume, oh you’ve never had a problem with your weight because they see the size that I am now and the way that I can do yoga and they think, “Well, you’re just like one of those blessed people.” And I feel sometimes I’m getting this. It’s getting better. But I mean definitely in the first months I felt like I always needed to self-disclose to people and say, you know, I used to be 90 pounds heavier. Like I’d always be telling people, please understand. I know the struggle. I’ve been there I get where you’re at. So, it’s an identity crisis of sorts. It’s an identity shift, whatever that was, that survivor’s guilt or whatever that was is changing and getting better. But it’s strange. I do feel like I know both worlds on the one hand. I will never forget what that was like. On another hand, I’m going further and further into this identity where I feel like this is the real me. This is my real body. This is the body I was meant to live in and would have if I had taken better care of myself because my body had all the capability to be what it is now, then, if I had had different tools and different mindset. So, I feel like I do understand. I can imagine now what this would have been like if I was sitting here and I was 45 and I’d never been more than five or ten pounds overweight. I can picture that path but it isn’t the path that I chose. And so, I sit here now, knowing this life and also knowing what was and I have such a big heart for people who are still there because just a few years ago I thought this is my reality forever. Like, I’ll just go to my grave and never not be in this body because I couldn’t figure it out at that point. And so, I’m grateful for the freedom and I’m trying. The reason we’re having this conversation with you is because we’re trying to spread the message to people that if you feel like there’s no hope there is hope.
Kevin: Would it be accurate to say that statement is more from the lens of compassion than anything else?
Kim: Yes. It would be accurate.
Kevin: All right, Ryan, let’s talk about primal directions. You gained the weight, you lost the weight and you gained the weight again, and now you’re going to try to fix it again.
Ryan: Yeah, after Kim and I got married I started gaining it back and I gained it all back and then some and then history repeated itself. I got a second round of diabetes diagnosis. My blood sugar was high again and just like the first time that scared me and motivated me. But this time I decided to go low carb and kind of indulge a fascination I’d had for a while with you know, primal ancestral eating sort of patterns. And again, as soon as I adopted that and stuck with it the weight came right off. It was very easy. I lost a hundred and twenty pounds again and was sort of embracing that life, but it did start to come back as soon as the novelty of a new way wore off. The rules started to feel more like rules. I would start to deviate from those and trick myself into thinking it didn’t have consequence and I think I had regained about 35 or 40 pounds somewhere in that ballpark when I started to panic, you know. I was starting to realize that this is going to be round three in my future and it was around that time that fasting came along and I think we figured it out for good. But yeah, I definitely recognized at that point that any kind of method I use that had rules, that was packaged, that was too much of a diet. It just wasn’t going to end up working for me long term.
Kevin: Well at that point in the book if I hadn’t been really locked in already, you said something that really locked me in. You said, “We were no longer partners in crime with are codependent eating patterns. This was uncharted territory in our marriage.” And I read that I’m like, oh my gosh. Now what?
Ryan: Yeah. It was, it was a weird time because we, you know, until quite recently we didn’t eat the same way ever. I was usually trying to lose weight one way or another and Kim wasn’t usually on board with that. So, we had a lot of years where I was doing one thing and she was doing another when I was eating paleo or primal. We just had meals where there were parts of it I would eat and parts that I would reject. We ate at the same table but you know the plates didn’t look the same. It wasn’t a shared joyous food experience but it worked reasonably well. I mean we figured that out in a way that got us by day to day but I don’t think it’s the way you know families are supposed to eat together.
Kevin: And then Kim, when Ryan started losing weight with paleo, then you got on board with the program.
Kim: Eventually. You know, I went through a period of resentment that he was taking off weight so easily and you know I said I wanted him to be successful at that because of the medical consequences of you know, diabetes. A diabetes scare is a scare for everyone so I did want him to get it together, but that’s the thing. A lot of people have said. Well you two have had success with this way of life because you’re together and because you can support each other and it’s definitely good that we support each other. But it’s something you have to do by yourself like you’re living no matter what kind of relationship you have. You’re living your life and deciding what you do and don’t put in your mouth to eat every day. So eventually, I, for a lot of reasons just decided it was time for me to try to do something and put myself out there for risk of failure to go on a diet again. That’s when I started to eat the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet which is really a mostly low carb diet where you keep your carbohydrates to one meal and in some ways, it was a good precursor for the way that I eat now. I had success with it and lost almost 50 pounds. I didn’t have a goal weight so I felt like, hey, I never thought I’d get off any weight. So, after losing 50 pounds I kind of went back to my old habits and the weight started to come on right before I started intermittent fasting. I was regaining weight really rapidly. I gained 17 pounds inside of I don’t know, it was less than three months. Maybe it was two months in a matter of weeks. I gained like 17 pounds and that was when my daughter was getting ready to graduate from high school and that’s when we found Delay Don’t Deny.
Kevin: So, it’s interesting how the codependency worked for you when you’re gaining weight together, but it doesn’t work the same way when you’re taking it off.
Kim: It’s a real cause for resentment on the part of the person who’s getting it together when the partner in crime cleans up their act and you don’t have anyone to indulge with. It’s fine when two people eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at night but if the second person isn’t going to eat the other half, then you have to eat the whole pint by yourself so that it’s gone by morning. And that sort of thing was what I was dealing with during those months. There’s also pictures of the brief phase when he had taken all the weight off and I hadn’t taken any off. I didn’t like those pictures at all. Those are worse than pictures when we were both heavy because it just wasn’t fair that I was still heavy and he was not
Kevin: Okay, so Ryan, then you came across a book of Dr. Herring’s.
Ryan: Right at some point, it was a long time ago, how I came across that was while searching for diets. I used to spend a lot of time just Googling different diets and I discovered that book online. It was free as a pdf online. A very short book, an easy, accessible read and I read it and thought it sounded hard. I thought it sounded a little nuts; but also so simple I sort of liked the idea of it. I did try it for about a day. It was a colossal failure at the time. I wasn’t ready for that. I don’t think.
Kevin: At least you gave it a good shot! 24 hours. That’s funny!
From Failure To Fasting
Ryan: A few hours. I gave it a few hours which is true of a lot of diets that I’ve tried over the years. So that was a failure and then it went on the back shelf somewhere. I don’t think we ever really thought much about it at all. It did come up, fasting, a little bit came up in paleo circles. So, when I was eating low carb, I sort of thought about fasting. I knew it was a concept I was a little interested in. But I had lost the weight without doing that and I like to eat so it didn’t really cross my mind to try it but it was really Kim, rediscovering the concept through Gin’s book that led to us actually doing it for real. When we started doing it for real, it suddenly seemed doable and accessible and it didn’t seem so extreme. We just did not have those troubles that I had with my one brief attempt all those years earlier.
Kevin: Kim, then you found Gin’s book. What’s the name of that?
Kim: Delay, Don’t Deny – Living An Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. It’s was May of 2017. The book had been in publication just under six months. She published the book December 31st, 2016. I found the book five months later. I found it on Pinterest just by I think, a stroke of kismet, and I just feel like it clicked for me right away. It’s something I’ve been criticized for. It’s a criticism of our book from those who choose to criticize. It’s like we made it all sound like it was just so easy and it clicked into place so easily. But it really did. I’m not apologetic about that because we had struggled with various other ways of eating and trying things and this was the plan for us and I think a lot of people like us. We didn’t have the exact same issues with food, but we both had issues with food and there’s something about fasting. The best way to get hungry all day is to just keep eating all day. The body just runs on all that quick fuel and ask for more and more and if you have obsessive thoughts around food, you will just spend your entire day trying to figure out what to eat next. Fasting interrupts that whole process by just making one decision. I’m not going to eat until X o’clock, two o’clock, four o’clock, six o’clock, today. There’s some hunger in the beginning and you adapt to that and then it pretty much goes away. I’m almost never hungry during the day now, but there’s no decisions to make, there’s no obsessing on food. There’s just living life. I think for many, many, many, people who have had problems with diets and weight and food, this is their answer. Versus just the next diet to come along to figure out how to spend your points or how to divide things up into little containers and how to pack all your food to carry around with you. This is something radical and simple that was the Holy Grail. And it’s about to be two years next month in May that I’ve been doing it. I’m more convinced than ever that this is my answer.
Kevin: So, you came across the book. You read the book. It clicked in your mind, you identified with it. And then did you both start together on this or how did it work?
Ryan: She started first and decided that it was a logical sequel to doing the carbohydrate addicts diet. She just would not eat during the day and would eat one meal at night. I was a little skeptical still. Mostly because the Paleo thing had worked for me and I was more focused on maybe getting back to that. But I decided to give it a whirl because it seemed to be a possibility that we would actually eat the same way, and eat the same meals at the same time. And so, I started too. I was a little nervous at first. I think I had some paleo guilt. I didn’t want to admit that, that wasn’t the right way. But I pretty quickly started to get excited about the things I could eat again, you know. To eat a hamburger in a bun. You know, that was pretty wild at the time for me to bring that back in. Then I quickly figured out I could do that. The weight came off pretty easily, the weight I regained had come right back off. But this time I didn’t feel like I was constantly fighting against rules. I didn’t feel like I was always cheating or about to cheat or thinking about cheating. It just was easy. It felt like it was supposed to be that way and a lot of the things that I liked about paleo I still had. I liked the idea of feeling like I was playing to the way the body is supposed to be. I felt like this is evolutionarily sound, if that’s a concept. I don’t know I made that up I guess. But I felt like this is the way the human animal was designed to eat.
Kevin: Yeah, you mentioned that you were conflicted when you started and that’s understandable because you’d done the vegetarian diet, then the paleo diet and the other things and you looked at a lot of different things so you didn’t have everything sorted of out yet.
Ryan: Right, but what I figured out from this is that, I think, and I don’t know if this is true for everybody, who has weight issues, but I think for me, losing weight is really easy. I think if I gained weight back now, I think I could take it off pretty easily with any number of diets. But for me, it’s about the maintenance. It’s about the mental state that it puts me in. It’s about… can I do this long term? It’s about… do I feel like a normal person when I’m doing it, or do I feel more like a science experiment as far as the physical act of taking off the weight? I know I can do that a number of ways. I’ve already shown I can do that. But until now, I’ve never really felt like this is going to stick. Like this is actually practical. Will it last me a lifetime? That’s what’s new and what’s freeing about the fasting for me.
Kevin: It seems like you both have a control button now that you can turn and you’re in control of your life. I’m going to read a quote. “With the noise and negativity of eating out of the way, our collective strength and our ability to create an intentional life began shining through. That is how this book was born.”
Kim: Truth. That’s exactly it. I say this has been a transformation for me from the cellular to the spiritual from the metabolism to the mindset. I think that most of the work that needed to be done was mental, emotional and spiritual work. The fasting just provides this foundation. I mean, I believe the fasting is spiritual. That’s part of my evolving message. But the things that are happening in the physical body, in your actual physical tangible body during the fast, you know, this is the science of the clean fasting that Gin promotes. I’m not a science guru, but you know the way the hunger hormone feedback loops change, and what keeping insulin levels low during the day do for you. it just creates the underpinning for all the rest of the work that you need to do as a sugar addict. I was always on a sugar roller coaster and it’s like you cannot do the kind of mental and emotional work you need to do on yourself when you’re always on a sugar spike. Always on a sugar crash… always irritable… always distracted. You just can’t work on yourself the way that you need to do. And for me, I had an absolute perfect storm of fasting coming into my life when I was really committed to personal growth. I had made some decisions after my grandmother’s death to work on myself. My children were grown up. I was approaching the empty nest. I was at a phase of life to do it. All these things came together to take me from mired in struggle to poster girl for contentment over the course of just a just a handful of years.
Kevin: The word that struck me the most there was create. That you’re able to, in my mind create a new life. I have to ask you. Before intermittent fasting, did you ever feel like you’re the victims? Did you have a mentality like that?
Kim: Yes, absolutely. Life was just happening to us and it was good that we were together because it was happening to us together and we weren’t alone as we were slogging along and suffering through. We were, and it’s really how you frame it. Even the things that were happening. Like, Ryan’s teaching position got eliminated and it was about a big paper mill shut down. It had nothing to do with his teaching performance, but it still at the time felt like well, there’s one more thing that happens to us. This doesn’t work out that doesn’t work out. The other thing doesn’t work out. Nothing works out for us. I think again, like I say, I’m writing another book. Self-pity as a worldview as a habit of mind and as a habit of spirit is really a big part of my story. I never hated myself because I was too pathetic to hate. I felt so sorry for myself all the time that it really made it impossible for me to do anything else. And so, it’s really been shifting out. I now think of self-pity as the anti-gratitude. I’ve been practicing gratitude intentionally. The only thing I’ve been systematic about longer than intermittent fasting is practicing gratitude, and I now look at self-pity the way that I lived it before, as the opposite of that. Feeling sorry for yourself is the opposite of feeling grateful for what you have because you’re only focused on everything that you don’t have. So yes, victim mentality is a fair thing to say.
Ryan: Yeah, I think that I can agree with that. I think I spent a lot of time feeling like being overweight was just this big cross to bear. I felt very somewhat unique and alone in it. And I think I played into it a lot. I think that’s why I thought, if I just wasn’t fat, I’d suddenly be just deliriously happy all the time because it was just a way of preventing myself from confronting other things. It was a way of not taking responsibility for anything. If I just said it was about being fat. Then I didn’t have to try. Taking it off has just sort of opened me up to maybe seeing what I could have been or what things could have been like if I’d never gained weight in the first place. I can see that and feel that now and the longer I go on with this particular journey, the more I see that I don’t need to erase everything that happened before that. That’s all just part of it and I can appreciate where I’m at now. You know more for having gone through that.
Delay, Don’t Deny
Kevin: Okay. Let’s talk about intermittent fasting and what you guys do and why other people may want to consider it.
Kim: Well, we live Delay, Don’t Deny. I always want to have an opportunity to say this to somebody who may be familiar with intermittent fasting as a general concept but not familiar with Delay, Don’t Deny. It is a clean fasting protocol which is kind of Gin’s term for it, which means we don’t do cream and sugar sweeteners in coffee and tea during the fast. We don’t do broth. We don’t do any of the things that some fasting protocols allow. It’s water, black coffee, black or green tea. No sweeteners, no flavors, and that’s all, with the idea of keeping insulin as low as possible for as much of the day as possible except when you’re in your eating window, and when you’re in your eating window you eat whatever you want. Which is a tricky thing for a lot of people. People who see my results photo and say, “Do you watch what you eat or do you eat what you want?”, and I say yes. Yes. I eat what I want but not indiscriminately. I’m intentional about creating a plan to eat that is mostly physically satisfying and nutritionally dense and also has my recommended daily allowance of joy. Which means I eat squares of dark chocolate. I eat full fat yogurt with good quality honey, and I things like that that are enjoyable but I don’t eat a lot of processed junk and that’s by choice. The plan, as it’s laid out in the book, doesn’t forbid that. I don’t need it because it reminds me of the old days and I increasingly just plain don’t want it. That’s the thing about taking good care of your body as it actually can distinguish between food and edible food-like substances. So that’s how we eat. Ryan eats in a shorter window than I do. I eat in a four or five-hour window every day. He often is eating in two hours or less. He waits till he gets home from the workday, which is sometimes 4:30 or 5:00 o’clock by the time he comes home, but we eat the same meals. We eat big varied meals that involve whatever we want but we watch what we eat and that’s what we do. We do it seven days a week. We don’t take weekends off. People ask, “What about cheat days?” There are no cheat days. The only way to cheat is not to fast. And why would we not fast because we enjoy it and we feel like it’s the secret of all our success.
Kevin: Okay, so let’s back up just a little bit and just sort of give a very fundamental definition of what intermittent fasting is. You referred to windows and when you eat. Let’s just give people a very fundamental definition of what intermittent fasting is.
Kim: Sure. The intermittent part is, I laugh now and I say what else is there? You can’t fast forever but intermittent means you fast and then you don’t and then you fast then you don’t. For some people that may involve several days of fasting but we do a very simple daily eating window. In a 24-hour period, outside the eating window, we’re fasting. It’s like I just described, water, black coffee, black or green tea. When we’re in the eating window, normally, there’s no restrictions on that. And so, if I have a five-hour eating window then I’m fasting for 19 out of a 24-hour period.
Kevin: Let’s put some hours on that that would help people envision it a little bit better.
A Sample Day
Ryan: Okay. I can give you sort of a sample of a day for me. I would I get up early in the 4:30 range to go to work. I don’t eat anything in the morning. I drink black coffee and I drink water throughout the day. I usually get home around 4 p.m. Which is about 12 hours after waking up and that’s usually when I would eat something. I would eat a snack around 4:00. Usually crackers and cheese, nuts, hummus, something like that. But it could be whatever you want to eat. It just happens to be what I tend to do and within an hour or so after eating that appetizer type snack I’ll eat dinner. All food groups. As much as I want. We usually have dessert and I would typically close the window by 6:00 or 6:30. So for me an average day has about a two and a half hour eating window, but it varies from day to day. On a weekend I might open a little earlier, between 2:00 to 6:00 or something like that. So that’s the freedom part of it. You can move the window around a little bit if you need to and you just eat within the window. I think it sounds very loose and sort of hard to wrap your brain around if you’re very stuck in diet thinking. If you’re really stuck in the idea of give me a food plan and measure out the cottage cheese and tell me how many nuts and people do ask us those questions. I understand those questions because there were plenty of days when that’s all I wanted too. I think that’s why part Dr. Herrings book didn’t resonate with me. The first time around because I wanted something more specific. But when you start to eat this way and you eat after an extended fast, your body starts to figure it out and it becomes easier and it becomes more intuitive and the rules are virtually non-existent. It’s just about when you eat. Within that window you can eat, I often say, like a person. I don’t reject things because I have to. If I’m at a barbecue I eat what’s there. If I’m at a birthday party I eat the cake. That’s pretty new for me. And that is freedom. That’s something new and it works and it’s good.
Kevin: When I got to the part about intermittent fasting in the book, when Kim was talking about it, you made me laugh because you talked about breaking the fast with cream in your coffee. It was something that I really appreciated because the humanity of what you are doing. Obviously, you’ve moved on from that, but did either you have any other stumbling blocks initially?
Ryan: I think when I first started, my biggest stumbling block was just letting go of all the stuff in my head about how you were supposed to lose weight. I think I worried initially that it would be harmful even though I didn’t really believe it would be or I wouldn’t have done it. But there was still a part of me that worried about what will this do to my blood sugar? I had those worries. Dr. Herring talks a lot about compensatory overeating and says when you first start fasting you might eat a ton when you open the window. And that it’s okay and you should just let that happen. And it will sort itself out. Initially I thought well, that’s a little too free. I thought that sounded kind of ludicrous and I had a hard time with that when I did start. Initially I did probably eat more than I needed when I opened the window and some of that was probably physical and some of it probably emotional. It was like being on a little bit of a bender after being deprived, but it did sort itself out. I found that the way my stomach received the food was different and I wasn’t as interested as I had been before. So, I think we do find that it was easy. We did find that it was easy and we tell people that it’s easy and I think overall it can be pretty easy.
Kim: I’m in the camp of people and far from alone in this camp, in the Delay Don’t Deny community who were doing what we now call dirty fast. Which is a term that offends some people who do a different fasting protocol, who think we’re looking down on the way they fast. But I mean, I have many days when I wouldn’t have anything but coffee and cream until noon. And as soon as I switched to black coffee, I immediately, overnight, first day, second day, noticed a distinct drop in hunger cravings just from not having cream. And I didn’t take sugar in my coffee. All I took was cream in my coffee. Cutting that out, per her book, instantly made a difference for me. And there’s many, many, people who feel that way. And so, we are waving a banner for the clean fast. And it’s not trying to say the way we fast is better than the way you fast. We’re saying we’ve done it your way and there really is a difference. Theoretically it’s because even the small amounts of fat and protein in cream in your coffee is still stimulating an insulin response from your body. When you take that away and keep the insulin low, you finally get that appetite correction that comes from the low insulin state. So, I knew within days. I was telling people this is magic. It felt magic and I felt as good that first summer clean fasting as I’ve ever felt in my life or since. I wish I could get that back. I don’t have as much body fat to burn I guess but that first summer, I was walking on clouds. I’ve never felt better and I still am just so grateful for that whole experience. It wasn’t just easy. It was joyful. It was fun. I loved every day. It was like being part of something amazing and exciting that was like an experiment. That was my own my own body transforming.
Kevin: The foods that you choose now, what I’m hearing from both of you is that you eat all categories, but you’re not prone to jump into a lot of sugar and high carbohydrate things. Would you say that’s a result your body reaching that state of autophagy where it starts to burn fat and not sugar and your sugar cravings are reduced?
My Body Tells Me What To Eat
Kim: I think yes, and I think I can’t deny that there was a piece of me that was trying to emulate what Gin Stephens does. You know, she’s very transparent in her community online about what she personally eats. But now the way that I eat is exactly what I feel like my body wants. It doesn’t have to agree with what anybody’s nutritional beliefs or standards are and I eat a lot of starchy vegetables, a lot of root vegetables, potato, sweet potato, every day. I feel like I need to have that kind of thing to be satisfied. I eat a lot of fat. Butter… olive oil…a whole ripe avocado, by myself every day. If I could have one, it’s hard to get a ripe avocado in Maine. We struggle with our avocados. Lots of nuts. Some people would say, “How do you eat that many nuts and that much nut butter and keep your weight down?” But that’s what my body wants. A lot of full fat dairy but not much meat. I eat less meat than I ever have and it’s not because I’ve decided I need to cut meat out for health. My body just doesn’t want it. I just get a lot of days when I don’t feel like eating any meat so I don’t. The same thing goes for refined sugar a lot of days. I don’t eat any, not because I think that it will make me fat because I just don’t want any. I eat what I want but I do watch it. You know, I could eat a whole bag of pita chips if you let me. I could eat the whole bag of nuts if you let me, so I watch what I eat but not with an iron fist if that makes sense.
Kevin: What advice would you give to people who want to jump into this and try it because there are some issues with hunger and dizziness and things like that that people can experience when they start down this path initially.
Experiment – Observe
Ryan: I think that what I would say, and what I’ve said to a lot of people in my real day-to-day life who ask me about it is; I would urge people to just recognize how much we have been lied to by the diet industry and conventional fitness industry. Just really take a step back and think about the human body with a higher degree of common sense. You know, I still have people occasionally say to me. “Well, you’re starving yourself because you don’t eat breakfast and you’ll eat up your muscle.” and some of those ideas. But it just doesn’t make sense to me now, and I’m surprised it ever did. I think that our bodies are designed to do more than what the conventional food industry would lead us to believe. I think everyone needs to step back from that a little bit and give fasting a chance to work. I do think some people have problems with dizziness or they have some symptoms but a lot of those symptoms are transitory. That is the body sorting it out and when you get through that initial phase it gets better. I also think some people, when they start to fast think they’re fasting well, but they’re still chained by a lot of diet thinking and the biggest thing people can do to move themselves forward whether they’re taking off pounds quickly or not is to get out of the diet mental state get out of that mentality. It’s destructive and it’s lies.
Give Yourself 30 Days
Kim: I would give the same advice. I always tell people. Give 30 days to clean fasting. I don’t know anyone who’s done 30 days of consistent clean fasting who turns back. There are people who have wobbles, but you know, I see people in the community who have a severe underlying insulin resistance and they’ve been clean fasting for months and they haven’t lost any weight or they’ve lost a small amount but they say they feel so good. I know this is good for my body. I know this is healing me and I’m not going to turn back even if the scale or my clothes are not moving downward at the rate that I would like because it’s it is such a mindset shift into that. This is a health practice for life. And if you need to lose 50 pounds, and you know you can, because you’ve lost 50 pounds and regained it before that, yeah, you can take it off quickly. But what’s the point if you didn’t fix anything. People say, “If it takes me five years to lose 50 pounds, oh, well, hopefully I have 20, 30, 40, years to live.” So, what’s five years doing this? It takes you out of the short-term thinking of just trying to get the quick fix and really believing that they’re giving their body a gift, that they’re healing it. Really the fast every day is holding a sacred space for your body to say I’m going to get out of your way. If you have a wound that you want healed, you know, you keep it clean. You keep it dry, but you don’t have to make that wound heal. Your body will do it and your body will heal itself metabolically and systemically, if you can just allow it the resources to do that. And that is, don’t feed it every couple of hours because digestion is a hugely taxing energy drain on your system. By keeping your body out of constant digestion mode, you’re holding a space for it to do what it needs to do to rejuvenate itself and repair itself and turn over its cells. That’s why it’s anti-aging, that’s why it’s going to prove to be for longevity. That’s why it’s going to prove to have cognitive benefits for people because the constant eating, no matter what you’re eating, that food is a blessing, but you don’t need to eat it every two hours. Put it aside and stay out of your body’s way for a while.
Kevin: I know some people drink salt water during their fast and supposedly it doesn’t break the fast. What’s your opinion of that?
Kim: We don’t use it. The people that do two and three day fasts need a little more. I went through a phase of carrying pink Himalayan salt around with me and if I felt a little hungry or a little wobbly or head-achy I’d take a pinch of pink salt on my tongue. But most days I don’t need it. I think when you get into a really healthy space and you eat every day, most healthy people don’t need it. But yeah, it is a tool some people swear by it.
Kevin: And it doesn’t break the fast right?
Kim: Nope. It doesn’t break the clean fast. No.
Kevin: Very good. Well, the interesting thing with all of this, I think fundamentally, is, that when it comes down to it, what you’ve done is, you’ve created new habits with how you relate to food and how you eat and all you’ve done is replaced your old habits with your new habits.
Kim: Overridden. We’ve overridden the bad habits. Yes.
Kevin: Alright. Kim and Ryan, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate this. This is great. Thank you.
Kim: Thank you for reading the book so closely Kevin. We appreciate it.
Kevin: You’re welcome.
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