My longest fast

Also my first serious fast. I did one for 3 days in college because I wanted to prove a point to a friend (with no diagnosed medical problems) who was convinced she would pass out if she didn’t eat every 2-3 hours. I noticed then that after day 2, hunger went away. The same thing happened this time.

Day one was a normal day. I got hungry a few times, ignored it, and powered through. The hunger didn’t come back worse each time, it just came and went at about the same level. Apparently, if you exercise on day 1 and deplete your blood glucose, you start burning fat faster. I’ll try that next time. Day two must have been the beginning of ketosis because my mouth tasted bizarre, like fake sugar, and I was constantly thirsty. I still got hungry, but less so than on day one.

Days 3-6 were fantastic. I never have energy like that when I eat food. I felt more focused and clear-minded. I didn’t get groggy in the afternoons. I wasn’t hungry. I lost about 1.5-2 lbs a day throughout. This was mostly water weight. I’ve been off the fast now for nearly a week, but I haven’t regained all of the weight. I’m still 2-3 lbs lighter than when I started, which is about how much fat loss I had expected.

One question I do have about fasting to lower insulin resistance is how many times or how long the fasts have to be to show stable changes to the body’s set weight? Theoretically, the body has a set-point for weight which gets nudged higher as insulin resistance builds. But when insulin resistance goes down, does this set-point decrease as well? Is it harder to decrease it than increase it?

After the science, my second favorite thing about fasting to lose weight and improve health is its simplicity. It appeals greatly to the sloth in me to be told that 95% of weight loss depends on diet (and only 5% on exercise). It is wonderful not to have to cook. Or clean up after meals. Or think about what to eat. Or shop for it. Modified versions with “eating windows” are simple too: eat 1-2 meals between these hours and never at any other time in between. How easy is that?

Another thing I love about this diet: I have enough fat stores to see me through a week-long backpacking trip. How wonderful not to have to pack anything to eat. Or a trip to one of these tropical islands with over water bungalows and exactly one severely overpriced restaurant. I can go for week-long vacations and never have to worry about eating! I’ve never before been so pleased about my fat stores. Finally, they’re useful for something.


My solution to “chub rub”

If you have no idea what that term means, good. You can continue reading in morbid fascination or cut your losses now. This post was inspired by a similar one from a blog I follow.

Okay. It’s not similar. My solution is a bit different and doesn’t involve anything that can make anyone any money. What’s that? Fasting. A friend recently recommended The Obesity Code, and I finished reading it within 3 days. It’s written with the repetitive lilt of a science popularizer, but the content explains the strident mantra of the “Fat Acceptance” movement, that diets don’t work. While it’s true generally that your body adapts to any increase or decrease in caloric intake by increasing or decreasing energy expenditure, that just means that diets in the traditional sense of the word (i.e., caloric restriction) don’t work. But intermittent fasting does. The book cites only research done on humans, and on significant numbers of humans. Fasting has been shown in study after study to have a variety of health benefits, including lowering insulin resistance and yes, weight loss. Plus, it’s the simplest diet I’ve ever heard of. Having a chub rub problem? Don’t eat food until your thighs no longer touch. I’ll include a link at the end for those interested in trying intermittent fasting.

I find this interesting because I’ve subscribed to a variety of myths about metabolism and weight loss which have been busted by this book. Here’s a sample:

“You should always eat breakfast” — this is based on a survey of people who achieved long-term weight loss but is only a correlation (no proven causal link).

“You should eat many small meals and snacks throughout the day to boost metabolism” — there’s no evidence that this boosts metabolism more than having fewer larger meals, and there is clear evidence that this eating pattern contributes to insulin resistance (which causes fat gain).

“If you fast you’ll go into starvation mode and/or destroy your metabolism” — actually the opposite is true. Metabolism goes up during a fast. Note that this is different from caloric restriction: in that case metabolism does go down to adjust to for lowered intake. In the case of fasting, the body switches to burning fuel reserves (fat) instead.

This wasn’t meant to be a glib response. I’ve had the chub rub problem myself and used to buy in to the learned helplessness of fat acceptance. While I’m new to fasting, I have tried the Atkins approach (or generally low carb, high fat / ketogenic approach) with success, losing about 16% of my body weight last year. I don’t get chub rub anymore. Definitely a cheaper, simpler solution!


Intermittent fasting for beginners

Fasting myths

La Maison des Cariatides

Or, my first Michelin starred restaurant experience.

I had a long debate with myself about whether it would be worthwhile to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. For me, it was always going to be about the food and nothing else, as long as the “else” wasn’t so atrocious as to be a distraction (think of the decor or service at the average authentic Chinese restaurant run by average authentic Chinese people). In the end I let it boil down to a simple test which you can try at home. Blindfolded, can you tell what color gummy bear you’re eating? If not, the experience probably won’t be worthwhile for you because your palate can’t tell anyway. If you’d be just as happy at KFC, why bother paying extra?

Here are some pictures from my experience at La Maison des Cariatides. It’s housed in what looks to be a centuries old building with statues at the second floor and carved bust detailing in the window arches.

This appetizer was not on the menu. Deep fried cheese with a sweet and sour sauce.

The 4 unopened eggs were not for eating. N asked. This one tasted like a creamy bacon mousse.

The sauce on this scallop was made from roasted hay. It enhanced the flavor of the scallop without overpowering.

Neither of us knew beforehand what “Ris de veau” was. The texture reminded me of brain, but it turns out to be glands. I don’t think I’ve had glands before. It seems the grilled part extends deeper than just the surface, and of course, the grilled part is my favorite part.

This might not look like much, and it might not be fancy, but these are the best creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes I have had in my life. They’re probably 50% butter by volume.

See this nice waitress offering us a cheese course? I had some of every cheese. If you do that in France they consider you a glutton. Whatever. Worth it.

The first time I recall enjoying anise flavor. The dust is an anise powder on a white chocolate wafer. Which the grapefruit sorbet wore like a little hat. The refreshing fantasy of every summertime beachgoer.

The presentation on second dessert seemed haphazard to me, but I was just so pleased no one was trying to get me to eat flowers or foam that I didn’t mind so much. The cigar looking bit had this smoked flavor.

This wasn’t on the menu either: a bonus 3rd dessert of Paris-Brest.

Overall, an amazing first experience at a Michelin starred restaurant. I thought it would be more formal and stuffy than it was. I didn’t notice anyone wearing anything dressy. The atmosphere was upscale but comfortable. Perhaps because this was in France, not the U.S. — but other patrons seemed to be there just as a regular meal: not a special celebration or event. I’m told that it’s not nearly as common for the average French person to indulge in a sit-down restaurant meal as it is here: that if they do, it’s going to be seriously about the food and not about getting full fast. So in that vein, that probably means there are not as many “mid-range” restaurants between quick kabob type places and places like this.

I loved that there was serious care and consideration put into every dish, but no push to challenge or over-decorate. The dishes were whimsical, but no one expected me to eat ants from a skull.

Would I do it again? Sure, in a heartbeat. This experience has also inspired me to avoid mediocre dining experiences, if only to save up for places like this instead.

What’s in my purse


I remember reading articles in magazines where famous women would empty out their purses for magazines and talk about the contents. They probably got paid to pimp certain brands and products. I understand that I’m not famous and no one cares what’s in my purse, but I thought it’d be fun to write a post about it anyway.

  1. Phone. Okay, not really my phone. But how to take pictures of your phone with your phone? I haven’t gotten to that level of ninja yet. iPhone 6s, if you’re curious. I don’t like that the 7 has a nub camera that sticks out. Or that I have to drill my own headphone jack.
  2. Wallet. It’s not big enough for all the cards I want with me so that leads us to…
  3. Wallet addition. This holds my slightly-less-commonly used cards.
  4. Shopping sac. Yeah, the black rectangle with reindeer and trees. It’s from Monoprix and self-declares as the best shopping sac in the world.
  5. Floss. Worst feeling ever: something stuck between your teeth that you keep trying to dislodge with your tongue. But it won’t budge.
  6. Keys. The boat keychain lets me hang my keys near the door.
  7. Chapstick. Actually, I haven’t needed this in a while. Maybe I should remove it. I’m told this chapstick makes me look like I’ve been feasting on fatty pork. Attractive!
  8. Pen. I can only remember to do things if I write them on my hand. I don’t have the habit of checking notes or productivity apps, but my hand is pretty much always in plain view. Otherwise I have bigger problems.
  9. Comb. I shed like a Persian cat in summer. If I combed my hair inside the apartment my boyfriend would probably evict me.

Before you ask, I don’t have any makeup in my purse because I don’t know anything about it. I sometimes participate in studies where they pay me to apply makeup to my face and report back if I develop a rash, so I’ve decided I only wear makeup if I’m getting paid to do so. Plus, makeup doesn’t make me look cute. It makes me look like Donald Trump.

Yeah, you should quit your job

Disclaimer: I don’t have a degree in life coaching and no, you shouldn’t be taking advice from a stranger on the internet who doesn’t know you or your situation at all.

Lately several friends have asked “should I just quit my job?” They tell me they’re unfulfilled, bored, frustrated with management. I always tell them “If you can afford to, then do it.” Note: I don’t ask them if they have plans. I don’t ask what they would do instead and whether they’d make the same money. I’m just an enabler. Here’s why.

There’s a guy I knew, let’s call him Ol’ Mac. He’s the father of one of my exes. Ol’ Mac was a responsible family man with two kids, so he stayed for years at a job he hated. He woke up every morning at 5am to drive about an hour to work and would get home pretty late most nights. He hated his job so much that his wife would sometimes find him staring at his socks in the morning. When asked what he was doing he’d miserably say “I’m thinking about which one goes on which foot.” He stuck it out until his official retirement day so he could get a full pension. (Yeah, I know this isn’t sounding like a story about quitting your job. Just wait for it.)

So, you’d think he’d be delighted with retirement, right? Well, after watching golf on tv and snoozing most days for a while, Ol’ Mac began to feel bored and restless. He took on odd jobs to get him out of the house. Then word got around that he was looking to come out of retirement, and he was offered a job doing the things he liked about his old job (hands on technical stuff) with none of the parts he didn’t (bureaucratic managers who didn’t know what they were talking about). It was a more relaxed schedule: one week on, one week off. It even paid better than his old job.

What can we learn from this one anecdote? We all know that the plural of anecdote is not “evidence” but that being said, I’ve heard variations of Ol’ Mac’s story repeatedly. People quit their jobs without knowing exactly what comes next, but they figure it out. And in all cases, they’re happier than before they quit. So if you’re miserable or frustrated at your job and you live for the weekends, save money until you can live without a job for a few months, then quit. You’ll figure it out too.

How I got a Vitamix for less than $210


This deal may not work at the moment you find it because it has some moving parts, but it should recur a couple of times a year.

  1. First, you’ll need an Amex credit card with at least 5 authorized users, because step 1 involves loading the Amex Sur La Table offer onto 6 cards. The Amex Offer seems to come up a few times a year, for a $10 statement credit when you spend $50 or more at Sur La Table. Buy a $50 gift card with each of them, so you’ll be spending $240 out of pocket.
  2. Sign up for a gift registry at Sur La Table and add this Vitamix (it’s refurbished) and they’ll email you a 10% registry completion coupon after the date of your event passes. The frequent 20% off coupons don’t apply to Vitamix, but the registry completion coupon does.
  3. Wait for the Vitamix to go on sale. It’ll go down to $299.
  4. Use a shopping portal. I used BeFrugal because it had the best rate at the time. But TopCashBack is also a reliable one.

There you have it! My total with shipping and tax (which will depend on your state) was $292.60. I got a statement credits from Amex worth $60, and the portal payout was $23.02, bringing the grand total to $209.58.

Of course, this deal will still work if you want a more expensive or non-refurbished Vitamix: you’ll just need more authorized users on your Amex accounts to get the $10 off $50 offer. Something similar would also work at Williams Sonoma.

Note: The portal links above are referral links. You don’t have to use mine to sign up, but I’m grateful if you choose to do so. Thanks for reading!

Pokémon GO: tips and tricks

Tips and tricks from one week of playing, that is. Ahem. Here are my Pokémon, sorted by CP, so you can decide if you even want to take advice from me:



1. Turn off AV

AV mode looks cool because it uses your camera and places the Pokémon in the real world with you, but the downside is that it requires you to face a particular direction. This makes it awkward to play when you’re walking (believe me, I’ve walked crablike, backwards, etc) and also awkward in a moving vehicle. If you turn off AV, you can face any direction.

2. Use the Sinathrow

It makes it easier to catch Pokémon and keep them caught. I’ve tried it and it takes me fewer balls on average to catch one.

3. Spin the Pokéstops even if your bag is full

You get the 50 XP anyway, you just don’t get items.

4. Save evolutions for lucky egg time

You can do about 1 evolution per minute. You have 30 minutes of double XP when you activate a lucky egg. Instead of 15k XP, you can earn 30k if you save them up for when you have a lucky egg going. Even better if you have eggs about to hatch and you can walk around while you evolve, and get double XP for your newly hatched eggs too.

5. You *might* be able to choose what your Eevee evolves into

This Buzzfeed article says you can if you rename your Eevee before evolving. I haven’t tried it personally, but the poll results at the moment show that it’s working for 75% of people who have tried it (12% success, 4% fail, the rest haven’t tried it).

6. Wait to power up / evolve

It is tempting to evolve or power up your Pokémon as soon as you can, but from experience, I’ve gotten better results from just walking around and finding higher CP Pokémon. As you level up, the Pokémon you find will also have higher CP. For example, if you start powering up an Eevee that’s CP 10, it would cost you about 26 Eevee candies (not to mention stardust) just to get him to CP 400, but you’re likely to just find one of that CP once you level up enough. And with all the Eevee candies you’ve saved, you can evolve the higher level one!

7. Items you get at different levels

When you level up, you start seeing new items at Pokéstops:

Level 8 – Razz Berry, which are a bribe and make it easier to catch Pokémon
Level 12 – Great Ball, like a Poké Ball, but with a higher catch rate
Level 10 – Super Potion, restores HP of one Pokémon by 50 points
Level 15 – Hyper Potion, restores HP of one Pokémon by 200 points
Level 20 – Ultra Ball, like a Great Ball, but with a higher catch rate

[The following discussion of gyms becomes relevant after you reach level 5. At which point you should choose to be on Team Mystic.]

8. Cash out at gyms

You can collect 10 gold coins and 500 stardust for each Pokémon you leave defending a gym. But you can only cash out once every 21 hours. If you think you can leave Pokémon at several gyms at once without anyone getting kicked out before you can collect, feel free to wait. Where I live, gym takeovers are swift, so I collect right away. Just go to “Shop” and you’ll see the shield in the top right corner — click on it to collect your coins. Coins you can use to buy things like more Pokéballs, lucky eggs, more storage, lures, etc.

9. Leave Pokémon at gyms

You can leave a Pokémon defending a gym even if you didn’t ever train there. Look for a button in the lower left corner of your screen when you enter a gym. A gym of level N has N spots for defenders. Sometimes gyms have an empty spot. Leave someone and cash out.

10. How home gyms work

At a home team gym, you only get to pick one of your Pokémon to fight everyone defending the gym. If you win at a home gym, that doesn’t mean you get a spot. You only get the chance to leave one of your Pokémon defending the gym once the gym levels up. Even then, someone could swoop in and leave one of theirs before you do.

11. How enemy gyms work

You can choose a team of 6. If you win, (or even if you manage to beat a few of the gym defenders) the gym prestige goes down. When it goes down to 0, it becomes “unclaimed” and you can take the gym over for your team by leaving one of your Pokémon there. But if you don’t do it fast enough, again, someone else could swoop in and claim the gym, even if you were the one that ousted the last team.

For more info, AppUnwrapper has written a comprehensive post on gyms.