Monday, July 31, 2017

My August Diet

So here’s the game plan for August:  I’m going to do the intermittent fasting from 11AM-7PM Monday through Saturday, giving my body a day to rest on Sunday.  I’m cutting out refined sugar including artificial sweeteners and alcohol for the next 31 days.  I’m giving myself a 31-day window because I believe that small goals are more attainable.

I know that hard core Atkins, Keto, and Paleo folks would tell me to cut out all forms of carbs as well, but I draw the line at refined sugar….for now.  I will do a compromise and switch to whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and Ezekiel bread for the white stuff, but let’s not get crazy here.  This is my experiment so I get to make the rules.

Allowed Foods:

Meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee, tea, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sprouted bread.

Not Allowed:

Alcohol, white sugar, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, agave, cake, pie, pastries, donuts, candy, energy bars, Kind Bars, Slim Fast shakes, chocolate, ice cream, sugary cereals, muffins

I’m curious to see how this is going to go.  I hope I can do this.

Intermittent Fasting

I had first heard of intermittent fasting last year.  I’ve tried the 5:2 fast, which lets you eat normally for five days and 2 days out of the week you only eat 500 calories.  Jimmy Kimmel went on Howard Stern and talked about using this method to lose all of his weight.  He doesn’t even exercise.  Then I tried the Eat Stop Eat method by Brad Pilon which uses nonconsecutive 24 hour fasts.  Using this method, you would end up eating 1 meal a day if say, your fast was from 7:00 PM Monday night to 7:00 PM Tuesday night.  Then there is my favorite and the one that I am currently using, the 8/16 fast made popular by Lean Gains author Martin Berkhan.  For this fast you would basically eat during an 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours.  For me, this would mean skipping breakfast and eating my meals between the hours of 11 AM and 7 PM. 

The science of intermittent fasting fascinated me and made a lot of sense.  Calorie restriction had slowed my metabolism down trying to get me back to my pre-programmed set point, but intermittent fasting isn’t calorie restriction.  When your body is in a fasted state it needs to burn energy for fuel and the first thing it reaches for is the sugar from the food you’ve eaten and the glucose stores in your liver and muscle.  Sugar is like the cash in your wallet and fat is the money in your savings account.   After about 12 hours of fasting your body starts to reach into your fat stores to burn for fuel.  On the other hand, when you have the traditional healthy breakfast in the morning thinking that you’re doing to “healthy” thing to speed up your metabolism, you’re ending your fast mode and now you’re in fed mode.  Whatever food you’re eating is getting used for energy fuel and there’s not really a need to dip into your fat stores.  Why touch your savings when there’s cash in your pocket?  Also, since you’re eating normally during your eating window your body isn’t signaling that you’re being calorie restricted and your metabolism isn’t slowed down.

I have to say that after really getting into intermittent fasting I infinitely prefer it to calorie restriction.  Mentally, I don’t feel guilty for eating during my eating window because I feel like I’ve earned my meals.  I also like using my body’s natural hunger cues and cravings to guide my eating during the day and not having to really think about what I’m eating because I’m not focusing on calorie restriction.  Mentally and emotionally it’s very freeing.

The good news is that in the two weeks that I’ve been intermittent fasting, I haven’t gained any weight even though I’ve indulged a lot in the desserts that I never allowed myself to have while counting calories.  So that’s where the no sugar and alcohol August comes into play.  This is my own personal baby step, body experiment to see if my body wants me to be the weight that it is or if my own indulgent behavior is keeping me at this weight.  If I can get down to 130 pounds just by intermittent fasting and cutting out sugar and alcohol, then I’ll know that it’s possible and I’ve just been selfish and lazy.  If by the end of the month I don’t see a significant change, then I’ll take that as a sign that by continuing to diet, I’m just deluding myself with the phantom hope of thinness and that I’m making myself and those around me miserable.

Calorie Counting

I want to know if I can ever be skinny again.  I’m starting to wonder if this is as good as it gets and that changing my body is beyond my control.  About 4 months ago I started counting calories.  I liked this approach because it appealed to my common sense, everything in moderation, ideal of eating.  I didn’t want to cut out entire food groups because that didn’t seem balanced or sustainable.  I liked the idea that you can have the cookie if you balanced your diet like a bank account.  I got that from Bethenny Frankel’s The Skinny Girl Rules.  So I downloaded the calorie tracking app MyFitness Pal onto my iphone and got to tracking. 

I started off around 1500 calories and at first I lost about 2 pounds in 2 weeks.  The calorie cutting was working!  But, alas the weekends were my downfall.  While I was at work, it was easy to be strict on myself because of the office structure, but on the weekends I either was giving in to the pizza that the kids begged for or indulged in cocktails while eating out with friends.  I also realized that unless you are eating pre-packaged foods, or are measuring everything, it’s really hard to guestimate how many calories you’re actually eating.  Also, I started wondering, is a calorie a calorie?  If I eat the same amount of calories from an apple that I would eat from a piece of chocolate, does my body process the calories the same or differently?  If it’s the same, then I’d rather eat the chocolate than waste it on the apple.  After, all it’s just about math right?  So, my first mistake was eating the things that could be easily quantifiable.  Processed, packaged foods were the easiest to track since I could scan the barcodes on my app.  Fast food chains also were loaded into the app so I could easily pull up the exact amount of calories in a fast food burger and fries easier than a home cooked casserole. 

Did I mention that I was hungry all the time and the thoughts of food pretty much occupied my every waking thought?  Also, I started to lose interest in cooking for my family because what’s the fun in cooking when you can’t eat it with them if you’ve gone over your calories for the day?  Another thing I noticed was that I ended up eating more of something than I really wanted to because it’s easier to track an entire item that you’ve put in your tracker than just taking a bite and moving on.  How do you track a bite of something?

I later read articles about gut health and how fruits and vegetables actually DO matter, duh, and that fiber is important for not only keeping you regular, but it also keeps you from absorbing and digesting all the calories you’ve consumed.  So I started eating more fruits and vegetables and I did see that my stomach looked a lot flatter and less bloated.

But, despite the fact that I was tracking my meals and losing some weight, my body would just snap back to my starting weight at the slightest provocation.  I was getting the feeling that my body had a pre-determined set point and it would let me dip below that or even sometimes go above it, but on a normal day of eating would just settle back to that pre-determined point.  I also had the suspicion that my metabolism was slowing down as a result of the calorie restriction.  To confirm my fears, I had my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) tested and it showed that in order to lose weight, I would have to eat around 1300 calories every day for the rest of my life.  Kill me now.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Why I'm Doing This

I think that dieting has become my new hobby.  At least that's what my husband tells me.  I've tried counting points, counting calories, mindful eating, protein shakes, natural weight loss supplements,  shots of apple cider vinegar, and intermittent fasting.  I bought an Apple watch to help track my steps, that is also linked to the MyFitness app on my iPhone to show how active I've been each day and I even went out and bought one of those cool scales with metal sensors that you step on that tells you what your weight, BMI,  fat, water, and bone density percentage is.  I was tired of wondering if weight lost or gained was just water weight.

But, since I love food enormously and seems to equate food with everything good and pleasant in life, I am constantly derailed by the feeling that by dieting I am missing out on one of the great pleasures in life.  I wish I could be one of those people who forgot to eat, or just didn't really think about it that much.  I am always thinking about it.  When I wake up in the morning the first thing I think about is that first cup of coffee with cream.  I anticipate the familiar warmth of the mug in my hand and the welcomed jolt of caffein that lets me know that this is the start of the new day with endless opportunities for self discovery and personal growth.

While I'm at work, I love to plan the dinner I would like to make for my family.  I love serving them home cooked meals.  It's my way of showing love.  I've never been able to be one of those women who plan a weekly menu because I can't eat something unless I'm legitimately craving it at the time I'm cooking it.  Weird I know.  But, I am also vain and am worried that after 3 pregnancies, hormone changes, and the inevitability of aging that comes to all women, that I will somehow be less worthy of love if I "let myself go."  I know that this is a horrible reason to diet, but I know that I'm probably not alone.  It's just one of those things that women never admit to each other, like forgetting your kids birthday.  It's just not spoken about.  I could be politically correct and say that I'm doing it for health reasons, but I'm directly in the middle of a healthy weight for my BMI and body fat percentage.  I also want to prove to myself that I can actually lower my weight since all my previous attempts have been failures.  So, as a last ditch effort to see if manipulated eating will somehow manipulate my body fat percentage I am on a month long experiment to see how my body responds when I eliminate added sugars and alcohol.  I hope I don't die.

Feel the Burn

Let me just put this out there right now…I hate exercise.   I know that some people love it, my sister and husband included, but I...