By Michael Richardson as told to Allison Goldstein
“Fasting helps you build the trust and confidence that you can be resilient no matter what life throws at you.”
My name is Michael Richardson. I live north of the Bay Area in Fairfield, CA. I’m 39 years old, and I’m a physician, husband, and father.
I have two daughters, now 2 and 4 years old. When my wife was pregnant with our first, I ate everything with her: lots of Italian food, pasta, just anything she craved. As a result, I gained just as much weight as she did, but of course I wasn’t the one having the baby. By the time Zoe came into the world, I was 245 lbs.
Unlocking My “Better Self” Through Fasting
Around that time, a friend recommended Peter Attia’s podcast, The Drive, and what I learned there motivated me to try some time-restricted feeding. I started off with one meal a day, and within a year I lost 60 lbs. Then my wife got pregnant again, and this time, fasting enabled me to maintain that new weight even when I was making less healthy choices at mealtimes (I certainly wasn’t going to deprive my pregnant wife!).
After the birth of our second daughter, I began experimenting with longer fasts like 40 and 72 hours. I lost another 23 lbs—driving my weight all the way down to 162 lbs—but with these longer fasts, I unlocked new benefits that went beyond weight loss: I started experiencing higher levels of energy and mental clarity. Because I was more focused, I was improving as a father, husband, and employee. Skipping breakfast had given me the time to get stuff done around the house; now I finally had the energy to tackle all those chores. My whole motivation changed: It was no longer about weight loss, it was about being a better version of myself.
Fasting for Mental Health
The other thing about fasting that really surprised me is how emotionally attuned you become to yourself—you can see where your patterns come from. So much of what we perceive as hunger is actually emotion.
I recently lost my mom, and fasting saved me from using food to numb or distract myself. Instead, I had to really feel my feelings. And I survived it. It’s just like getting through a fast—it helps you build the trust and confidence that you can be resilient no matter what life throws at you.
Here’s how I exercise: I work out pretty much every day. After the weekend or days when I’ve eaten more than one meal, I incorporate extra HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and use that energy to build muscle. Doing those big workouts helps kick me into ketosis a bit quicker, too.
Then, when I’m on day two or three of a longer fast, I’ll focus on mobility and balance and do yoga or Pilates. It’s also a great time to incorporate more meditation. I’ve found that I have the best mental clarity after fasting for a while.
Of course, I get regular strength work picking up my daughters and hoisting them onto my shoulders!
Here’s my favorite Fast Breaker: My favorite fast breaker is blackened shrimp and cheesy cauliflower grits! My family is from Louisiana, so I enjoy creating low-carb versions of Cajun dishes.
These three changes contributed the most to my fasting success:
Change 1: Getting the most out of ketosis. On Monday, I start with a big workout to kick off the 36- or 40-hour fast I use to “reset” after the weekend. That helps me get into ketosis faster. Then, I eat pretty low carb on Tuesday night in order to maximize that ketosis zone while I’m still in it.
Change 2: Building my community. We had a nanny who saw “before” pictures of me around our house and wanted to know how I’d lost all that weight. So I told her and she took up fasting, which led to us becoming fasting buddies. I’ve gotten our kids’ godparents into it, too. It’s great to have that sense of community because some days are challenging, and that’s when you need the support.
Change 3: Prioritizing the people who matter. Fasting definitely helps me be a better father and a more engaged partner. I can get up now and get my kids ready for school, put the laundry away, and basically be “superdad.” But if my wife wants to go on a date, then I want to take her on a date. She matters to me, so I am going to eat dinner and spend that time with her; I can fast another time.
As a physician, I really try to meet people where they are. Everybody’s focused on what they’re eating and how much, but for me, I find that it’s easier to focus on the “when.” Can you concentrate on eating three meals a day, no snacking? Sure you can. The next question then is: Can you skip a meal or shorten the window of time when you eat your meals? You’ve taken the first step, so now the next one won’t seem so scary. That’s how I try to talk about fasting.