What Happens When You Change Habits in an Extreme Fashion?

Image from Flickr.

Earlier this week, I had an experience which dramatically changed my habits and I thought I would share the experience with you all. It was not the first time I have done this, and each time I turn my senses on 1000% and tune into my psyche and body for the reactions.

Why did I do this? In this case, and the previous case too, it was for health reasons. I am working with a functional medicine practitioner and told her that I am willing to try anything and to not be afraid of prescribing what many others would consider extreme.

What is extreme? Extreme to you can be much different than to me; it is very individualized. Being a biohacker, I like to say that I am very adaptable and can change my habits on a dime. I don’t know if it’s a skill, but it’s definitely a mindset and an ability to let go of anything at any time. Still, going through these exercises of change can redefine extreme each time, and sometimes unexpectedly.

My first experience was fall last year when I embarked on an anti-fungal diet. This diet was extremely restrictive. It eliminated all carbs and sugar of *all* sources. Well almost all; I could eat nuts which has highest carb content of allowable foods. Measuring out 100g of carbs of cashews, it turned out to be a huge bowl of cashews! It also had restrictions on certain vegetables and meats due to some potential offending potential: toxins, pesticides, allergies. No processed foods for sure, no alcohol. I was to stay on this diet for 2 months.

When I started this diet, I was training for the Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC). It was a bad idea. Without carbs, I could not adequately recover from my successively building workouts. I was approaching hurting myself to break through to the end. And a huge bowl full of cashews at ~100g of carbs was not enough. 6 weeks into the diet, I quit the diet to make it through the RKC weekend. My energy and performance came roaring back through introduction of sweet potatoes; thankfully I stopped the diet before I hurt myself. I sailed through the certification weekend.

But then I went back on the diet the week after. It was another interesting, if not grueling, 2 months of extreme restriction.

Why grueling? I had to status down my training and only do the minimal, definitely no high metabolics. Working out is an integral part of my life and so I had to restructure my goals to accommodate.

My food change showed some interesting feelings. I was hyper aware of the habits I had built up. When cooking, I would always move efficiently through the kitchen moving from refrigerator to sink to stove and oven. In the first week I found myself stopping myself constantly as I was mindlessly reaching, through habit, for ingredients and seasonings. In my diet, I could not have everything I used to eat in a meal! For example, I would always wash a bowl of berries to eat after; I found myself constantly reaching for them as I moved quickly to prepare a meal. I also had an expectation in my taste buds and body for the berries. This had to be suppressed but it always lingered there in the back of my mind as I reminded my hand to *not* reach for them in the refrigerator. I also had to increase my nut intake which was something I ate sparingly. In my quest to balance my Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio, I removed all sources of Omega 6 oils which included nuts.

It took a few weeks but then things settled into new patterns. Until then, these habits were so strong I could feel their pull. I’d sometimes detach and just see my body go through these motions which I had to change. It was very strange at times.

The most recent exercise was after a certain treatment that was ZYTO driven and involved shining an IR laser through a specially formulated vial. This induced a detox reaction in the body to help remove toxins a little bit faster. After this treatment, I am supposed to restrict myself for 25 hours, not only on diet but also the use of electronic devices of all kinds as well as exposure to electromagnetic radiation like WIFI. I even asked about my landline telephone; could I use that? They were not sure – how many people have landlines these days (apparently only me haha!)? What about a Kindle? Nope. Even on airplane mode, nope.

The diet part was not so difficult. It was only 25 hours of eating in a certain way. No big deal. The electronic device restriction was another matter entirely.

The first time I did this, I did it on a Friday afternoon. It was the suggested time to do this as not much usually happens on Friday afternoons, and you can busy yourself in other ways on Saturday morning until the 25 hours is reached.

This time I forgot about the Friday afternoon scheduling and made an appointment to do this on a Tuesday late morning. Whoops.

In today’s world, our lives are bound so tightly to our devices. It is exceeding hard to fully disconnect. I took a deep breath and put my iPhone on airplane mode and sat it in its charger. I could not tap on my Mac nor iPad. During the day I actually did walk over mindlessly – another habit in action! – and tapped my Mac on to see if any incoming messages or emails had arrived. Within seconds I realized what I was doing and moved away from my work area.

My mind raced for occupation – what else could I do now? It was not recommended to watch TV; apparently I had to be at least 8 feet away from the TV if I watched. I could read, but the bulk of my books now are stuck on my Kindle. Whoops – can’t turn on my Kindle to continue reading what I was reading before! I made my way to my pile of physical books and picked one to read.

How interesting is reading a real physical book these days. I found myself focusing exclusively on this one book which is something I realized I didn’t do so much with a Kindle. Due to the easy availability of many books there, I realized I could do what I normally do which is to hop from book to book if I got bored. Reading induced ADD at its best!

What else could I do to bide my time? I took breaks from reading and got on the floor to practice some movement from time to time. I’d also lie on the floor to release my iliacus while lying on a massage ball and read at the same time. I had a book stand so propped the book up on tables and also a high kitchen counter where I could stand and read, and do cross crawling (a vestibular system stimulating exercise movement).

It was super hard staying away from the iPhone. Being mid-week I knew there were people trying to get hold of me for some reason or another. Eventually I relented and sparingly I would tap open my iPhone, glance quickly at my messages, type some quick replies, and then quickly close the phone and put it on airplane mode again. I did alert my wife that I had to be iPhone free for 25 hours although I wonder how she would have gotten hold of me. My landline sat there but I didn’t see it ring. The following morning I had to turn on my phone briefly to alert a person whom I was meeting with that I had arrived, but then quickly went into airplane mode. I had hoped that proximity and the super short duration would not violate the rules of the ZYTO/IR laser treatment.

Ultimately it seemed enough. Later that afternoon after the treatment, I felt an immense tiredness, which can be attributed to a large detox happening, and me expending extra resources to get rid of the resulting release of toxins.

Still, I felt the overwhelming interconnection of our devices to our daily activities. Given that messaging and email is a main mode of communication, I could not participate in that and given it was midweek, there were a lot of important things happening. I also keep a running To-Do list on my iPhone but now I had to get a piece of paper and pen to jot down all these things I could not get done because I could not access my devices or computer. I had to find a physical book to read- thankfully I still have many around! And forget about catching up on some movie or videos; need something else to spend my time on. It was an amazingly strong pull I felt many times each hour. The deeply ingrained habit of tapping on my iPhone to look at even the alerts many times during the day was something that kept emerging throughout the 25 hours.

In either case, diet or this ZYTO/IR Laser treatment, I focused on the end goal. The importance of either was very high and my desire to do this to improve my health was strong. I also relied on my own personal training to know how to let go of these ingrained habits, and to detach and sit back to observe them helped tremendously.