Fasting Observations

Week four has gone pretty well. I have definitely noticed a drop-off in hunger pangs now that my body is more accustomed to both the fasting days and the longer periods between meals (ie, no snacking). The first couple of weeks I will admit I was very hungry between meals and during fasting days, some days it was distracting how hungry I felt all the time.

Today is a fasting day for me (I’ll break my fast at dinner) and it’s the best one so far. I’ve felt very little hunger, and what I did feel was easily dealt with by drinking either tea, coffee, bone broth, or sparkling water. These are my go-to options, by the way, for when I feel hungry and it’s not a mealtime.

I’ll weigh in tomorrow and I’m going to try not to get my hopes up. I’ve lost 10.5 so far and that’s about the limit when I’m working on this on my own, so it would be completely expected for me to not have lost anything this week or even to have gained. I hope that’s not the case but I don’t want to get my hopes up too much because prior experience, and I have a lot of it, tells me not to. My plan, if the scale isn’t down, is to switch up my fasts and see if that helps.

Tomorrow I have an all-day meeting I need to attend for work at a Marriott (I’m also presenting). That means I’ll cross my fingers and hope there are some lunch options I can put together without refined carbs or sugar. I’ll do my best, but my understanding about this method of eating is that it’s somewhat forgiving.

This weekend we (we = my husband and I. He’s totally on the bandwagon too) did some creative problem solving. We thought* we were going to have evening plans both days, so instead of showing up famished to dinner by fasting all day one of the days, which isn’t fun, we decided to fast until lunchtime both days. Technically I guess that’s an 18-hour fast, but in the real world we just call that skipping breakfast. We skipped the same number of meals as if we’d done a 24-hour fast one of the days, but made it work with our schedule.

(*We ended up cancelling everything because my husband got bronchitis, but the intention was there!)

In other news, I took this course on FutureLearn: Body Weight: How Our Brain, Behavior and Genetics Influence Appetite and Food Choices. It’s a three-week course if you go at their pace but I completed the material in two days. Registration is, I believe, still open, btw. It was vaguely interesting but did not conclude with any recommendations or suggestions. I guess that might be implied from the title of the course, but I always hope courses will have advice on how to apply the things you learn and this one didn’t offer anything like that. The major takeaway is that it’s complicated and no one factor causes or reverses obesity. In case you didn’t know that already.

Cracking the Code

Ok, it’s been two weeks since I finished reading The Obesity Code by Jason Fung. The first week I intended to implement his program I did two days, including my first fast day, and then ended up spending 6 days with my husband in the hospital and ICU. I was not about to fast during that traumatic experience, as I needed to be alert and fully fueled to advocate for him in the medical system. I did, however, implement two of the recommendations from the book: No snacks (because there was no time for eating snacks between meals in the hospital with all the other chaos and craziness that was going on), and no artificial sweetener.

A week ago on Wednesday, after having been home for a day, I weighed in to find that I was down 5 pounds from my previous weigh-in of 225. So, last Wednesday I started at 220 for this week’s experiment.

Before I jump in, I just want to point out that getting down to 220 was a huge piece of motivation and excitement for me. I haven’t gotten down there since I got back from my vacation in February and had been trying all my usual methods and seeing no results. So that was a great place to find myself after a week of the worst stress and fear and terror of my life.

Here’s how my week went:

  • Wed: Followed Obesity Code regimen: no sugar, no sweeteners, no processed food, no snacks between meals. Upped my fat content eating avocados, olive oil, cheese, and nuts.
  • Thurs: 24-hour fast, 30 minute run (no problems running while fasting)
  • Fri: Regular Obesity Code regimen as described above on Wednesday.
  • Sat: 24-hour fast, 35 minutes of weightlifting
  • Sun: regular eating regimen as described above.
  • Mon: 36-hour fast, 30 minute run
  • Tues: regular eating regimen described above.

This morning’s weight: 216. Down 4 pounds! This is huge. I had been trying for weeks to get down to 217, my “weight I never ever want to be above” using my usual methods with zero success. This is success, finally! Obviously I need to continue my experiment, because losing 5-10 pounds on a new program then stalling out and losing no more is a very common tactic my body uses to frustrate me, so I need to see if this trend will continue or this is the extent of my success here.

Notes on my experiment:

Ditching artificial sweeteners has been a revelation to me. Previously, I was under the impression that the caffeine in coffee, if I drank it without eating any food, would give me a very unpleasant “jittery, weak & lightheaded” feeling that I didn’t like. So I would always make sure I ate something with coffee, or not have it. It turns out that the feeling I was getting wasn’t from the caffeine, it was from the sweetener. I’ve completely ditched all sweeteners – in diet soda, coffee, tea, anything. I can drink coffee now without that awful feeling I used to get if I didn’t have food with it (and sometimes even if I did). Will never go back. I’m learning to drink my coffee and tea without sweetness and it’s going…ok. Can’t say I love it but I love that I can drink it without feeling bad.

Fasting hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared. It turns out that my “all or nothing” personality makes fasting a pretty easy program to follow. I love having to make zero decisions on a fasting day. I never have to agonize over whether I can eat this or that – I already know I will not. I have several hunger-reduction tools I use: Coffee, tea, or my favorite new concoction: sparkling water with a little lemon, salt, and cider vinegar in it does wonders to curb my hunger during a 24-hour fast. Oh and broth, that’s a big one to supply sodium. My husband has been making the broth here at home from scratch.

Further on fasting, though: The 24 hour fasts are definitely going to be what I will stick with. I tried one 36-hour fast and it was a miserable experience, not a thing I intend to repeat. Starting dinner on Sunday night, I fasted until breakfast Tuesday morning. I was fine throughout the day Monday, but uncontrollably hungry Monday night and ended up having a lot of trouble sleeping due to the hunger, which left me feeling grainy and cranky on Tuesday from lack of sleep. I will stick with the 24-hour fasts from now on.

Migraines: I haven’t had one since Friday in the hospital (almost two weeks ago now), and I’m pretty sure that one was due to two days of extreme stress and no sleep. Other than that, it’s been over a week and a half now without a migraine. This is very unusual for me! Dammit.

Constipation: If you are prone to it, fasting will exacerbate it (less input to the system = system slows down). If you are prone to it already, then you have an arsenal of tools for dealing with it, and employing those will help.

I must note for the record that last year around this time I re-started HMR to lose 10 pounds and in the first week I lost a single pound. I continued to slowly and laboriously work my way down until I finally lost those ten pounds but it took me almost 8 weeks to do it, 8 weeks of arduously following a strict diet plan to see very slow, very grudging results. I’ve lost 9 pounds in 2 weeks already. So either this is the solution I’ve been looking for, or any kind of change-up to the system was what my body needs.

Another thing I’ve been thinking: The diet industry has been pushing their “6 small meals a day” advice with the reasoning that if you snack between meals it will keep you from binging on your meals due to hunger. I have found that I do NOT binge, either after fasts or at my 3 meals I eat on regular days, because my body seems to be reducing the amount I can eat during those meals. I.e., my stomach appears to be shrinking by giving it breaks between meals.

So that’s how it went. I’m continuing this week, curious to see if the loss will continue or stall out.

Book Review: The Obesity Code

I finished reading The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung on Monday. First things first – it is extremely readable, while still bringing the science. I blasted through it in record time, because I just didn’t want to put it down. Page after page of “a-ha” moments for me kept me glued to the book.

The thesis he lays out makes so much sense that I found myself wondering if it made too much sense. Like, I’ve been through the weight loss roller coaster before so many times, that I found myself trying to remember if I’d felt this same sense of “OMG EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW” when reading other weight loss books. Because who hasn’t felt they’d found the answer before? Didn’t the Zone, South Beach, Atkins, Grapefruit Diet, Low-Fat Diet, VLCDs, pH Balance, Low Carb, and Grain-Free Diets all make so much sense before eventually being debunked or just not working?

Dr. Fung lines ’em up and shoots ’em down. He lays out in the first half of the book why all the methods people have been using to control their weight since the middle of the 20th century have not worked – particularly that classic we all know and love: Eat Less, Move More. He reviews the science and studies that prove they don’t work over the years. He shows that the USDA Food Pyramid has been an unmitigated disaster from the first year it was introduced – the whole country is in an obesity crisis and all the usual advice we’ve been getting is doing nothing to stem that tide. So if we know what doesn’t work, what will?

The premise of The Obesity Code is that the body’s control mechanism for set weight is hormonal, not caloric, and the main hormones that control your weight are insulin and cortisol. In order to allow them to do their job, you have to be aware of how they work and what they do.

The biggest Eureka! moment for me was when I put it down and realized that even though I thought I’d tried everything, there was one thing I hadn’t actually tried: JUST NOT FUCKING EATING. Total revelation right there. His guidelines are that in order for the insulin cycle to work, you have to not be stuffing your face every 2-3 hours (and thereby demanding a constant insulin response), which is the program I’ve been following for years and years (while watching my weight climb and climb). I particularly love where he shows a list of diet industry advice that is basically admonitions to eat this, eat that, eat those, eat, eat, eat…and then points out, hey, you don’t lose weight by eating. Try not eating constantly, FFS.

The other part of the equation is to cut out refined carbs and sweets. I don’t eat a lot of those, but there are a few changes I can certainly make. On the flip side: eat all the fat you want, it doesn’t provoke an insulin response. That’s a trade I’m willing to make. Avocados, sour cream, olive oil – here I come!

The other big revelation: He puts forth the first believable argument I’ve ever seen for cutting out artificial sweeteners. See, all the other arguments around are based upon nothing but conjecture and faulty science without rigorous studies to back them up. His argument is based upon actual, testable, verifiable facts. That’s something I can work with.

Also his system requires no calorie counting whatsoever. Wow! I haven’t been this excited about experimenting on my body in years. The only weak point I found is that he doesn’t really say anything about what you do once you’ve readjusted your system by following his advice and, presumably, losing some weight. The book lays out a pretty clear guide for how to lose weight, but doesn’t say much about what’s after that. I’m guessing it’s just a matter of tweaking things until you find the right balance, but it’s not really covered.

Bottom line: I’m willing to give it a try. I finished the book Monday mid-morning. That very day I started by cutting out snacks between meals, artificial sweeteners, and processed food. Tuesday I did a 24-hour fast with absolutely no ill effects – as promised, I had plenty of energy for my workout and daily routine. This morning I’ve started my day with a modified version of my usual breakfast, cutting out sugar from my oatmeal (replacing it with a cut up banana instead) and Splenda from my coffee. I plan on having no snacks between meals today, and upping the fat content in the meals I do eat.

I’m going to do this for a week and see how it goes. Will report back. If you’re intrigued by what I’ve written, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. For me, it explains a lot of the questions and issues that have come up over the years about my body and obesity. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, I think this book is a really fascinating read and introduces concepts that are worth entertaining.

More Numeric Ruminations

Last week Trystan commented here that despite the number on the scale, I still do a healthy lifestyle better than almost anyone. I am hugely proud to hear that, but also it reminded me that people don’t just come here because I’m specifically keeping off 200 pounds (because I’m not), but for other reasons and living a healthy lifestyle may very well be one of them.

So, today I’m going to ramble about last week’s numbers. Last week I burned 3,780 calories in exercise. That’s well above the 2000/week recommended by a lot of programs – almost double, in fact. All that, and I even took Saturday as a rest day! How did I get there? Well, I could break it down and tell you that represents 305 minutes of activity (a little over 5 hours) that week. That’s an average of 12 calories burned per minute, but I don’t exercise in averages. A majority of my exercise was at a high intensity (running, kickboxing), which using my ballpark calculations I estimate at 14 calories/minute. The rest of it was at moderate or medium intensity (walking, yoga, weightlifting), which I ballpark at 8 calories a minute. These numbers are based on my weight and change when my weight does – when I weigh less I burn less per minute, when I weigh more I burn more. Most days I do 40-60 minutes of exercise.

I also did a great job last week at journaling my food intake (except Saturday which was unusual). I saw a steady downward motion on the scale – started at 224.5 on Monday morning and by Sunday morning I was at 221.5, excellent progress.

Yesterday I went for a long, hard run. I didn’t have anywhere to be, and the usual symphony of bodily complaints was at a mere whisper, so I decided to go for it. Not my longest route, but a portion of it which was 5.5 miles and included a serious hill in the middle. It is a steep, high hill and I don’t attempt it very often because it is HARD. But when I do attempt it I have only a single goal – to not drop into a walk on the way up it. That’s it. That’s the only thing I want to accomplish on that run. On Sunday I powered through and made it up the hill, then back down again. By the end my legs were burning pretty hard – not only a longer run than I have done all year, but a seriously strenuous section in the middle. That run took me about 90 minutes, and burned ~1260 calories. I took a long nap after that run. Yesterday I consumed approximately 1600 calories all day. Pretty good in/out ratio there!

So naturally, as you can imagine, I woke up this morning to the highest weight I have seen in years – 225. That’s right, runningĀ  shoots my weight up. Always. Running harder than usual will spike it higher than usual. That’s just how it goes. Maybe not for everyone, but always and without fail for me. At this point I’m just looking at the numbers out of objective, scientific curiosity. “Oh, huh, that’s a surprising number to see after yesterday. Wow. Body, you never fail to confound me.”

I started reading a new book I bought on Rianh’s recommendation last week, The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. I’m about halfway through, so nobody spoil the ending for me (the butler did it, right? It’s always the butler!), but so far it makes a lot of sense and I am hoping there will be a “how to do this” section in the back, because I will probably want to give his ideas a try. What do I have to lose, other than all this fabulous and exciting fat?! I’ll keep you posted as I go.

No Secret Solution

I talked to my primary care doctor last night, I wanted to check and make sure there wasn’t some super secret doctor trick she knew for when you’ve wrecked your metabolism like I have. Here are the things she knows about which we discussed:

  • Weight loss pills. We both agreed they would be totally pointless. You take those pills, you maybe lose a few pounds, then you stop taking them and it comes right back. I’m not looking for a short term fix, I’m looking for a long-term way to live in my body.
  • Surgery. I’m not looking for a short-term fix, and most people who have the surgery lose weight then gain it back after some time (just like most people who use any other method). The surgery won’t fix anything you don’t change in your lifestyle, so in the end it’s simply an aid (for some) to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. I’m already kicking ass on a healthier lifestyle. Pointless.
  • Classes. Going to a “healthier lifestyle” class is pointless for me. I could teach the class. I should be teaching the class. Some 24-year old recent nutrition program graduate who lost 20 pounds and discovered the gospel of eating right and exercising last year isn’t going to have anything to teach me and might make me homicidal.
  • Life coaching. Ha. I’m already doing the things they’d coach me to do.

My doctor is great, but there’s really not much out there for people in my position. And there aren’t many of us, so it’s not like there are a lot of studies or literature on cracking this nut. I have exhausted the available science on the matter.

What to do? I don’t know. I guess I have to just keep moving forward and see where I land when my body stops adjusting up. Journaling, exercising, eating healthy. Yesterday I did 40 minutes of yoga/pilates. The day before I ran 3 miles. The day before that I did 35 minutes of kickboxing. The day before that I ran 3 miles. Whoopee. Go me. Today I’m thinking I’ll go for a walk in the sunshine later, we’re having very nice weather here right now.

Wednesday my husband and I tried out a new restaurant in our neighborhood – Mongolian Hot Pot. A++would healthily eat again. A pot of boiling broth, and meat and veggies you cook in it. It’s almost impossible to NOT eat healthy there. Lean meat (you can get scallops, shrimps, chicken…or red meat too) plus piles of veggies sounds pretty damned healthy to me. And tasty too. They have locations all over California, and a few other states. If it sounds good to you I’d totally recommend it for a healthy restaurant meal.

The Vacation Detox – This Time Take 10!

I’ve been following my program for eating right since I got back from Antarctica. I don’t really have a name for how I eat, it’s just, “I eat these things and don’t eat those things and my body feels good.” I don’t have a fancy term for it like, “clean eating” or “paleo” or “the zone” or “gluten free” or whatever the fad diet of the day is. I just eat the right amount of food, lots of fruits and veggies.

Did you all see the news that came out this week? It says that we should all be aiming for 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day, not five like previously recommended. I’m so down with this! When I’m eating right I’m usually averaging 7 or 8 servings of fruits and veggies per day, but I love having a stretch goal! Having an additive goal is even better (vs a subtractive goal like, “Don’t eat X” which can be demoralizing and counterproductive) so I’m going to aim for 10 fruits and veggies per day now. Of course, the online comments are infuriating. I actually saw some jackass comment on one of the articles that “If I ate that much fructose I’d feel horrible.” Listen, dickface, you can eat all your ten servings as veggies, it ain’t that hard to figure out. Willful ignorance drives me up a wall.

Considering how small the portions are for servings in this recommendation, I don’t think anybody should have trouble getting closer to ten servings if they make even a small effort. So…I’m going to make a small effort. This mainly means replacing anything not made of fruits or veggies or protein in my diet with fruits and veggies, or supplementing/boosting existing recipes with more veggies. Easy.

This morning I did a light workout. A “light” workout is not something I really have much experience with, because I tend to go all-out when I exercise, but I’m still reeling from the stupid cold I brought home from my trip. So I did some gentle yoga tailored for back pain. I don’t currently have back pain, but it’s something I’ve struggled with off and on my whole life so combining that with my light workout made sense. I still finished it thinking, “I could have worked harder.” But, that’s the point – I don’t want to overdo it while I’m still recovering. This morning my urge to fall into fits of coughing is noticeably reduced so I’m taking that as a good sign that the end of this cold may be in sight. It’s been a full week now, which seems entirely too long for a cold to linger.

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Southern elephant seals – continuing my Antarctica pictures!

Take 5! Or more if you like

That’s how many pounds I gained on my vacation. Five. It’s not huge, but it’s not nothing and it needs to be dealt with. While I’m at it, I’m going to look into making some further changes to my lifestyle to maybe drop a few more. The weight I’ve been maintaining over the last year or so is ok, but I’m not happy with what I saw in the photos from this trip, and it’s not five pounds that does that.

But start with five.

I’m still hacking up phlegm regularly, so vigorous exercise this morning wasn’t in the cards. I did 30 minutes of yoga, though, just to get my body moving and back on track (although it was obvious I wasn’t yet at 100% when I was doing it). Yesterday I went to the grocery store and stocked up on healthy food – fruits and veggies, mostly. I was very pleased with two of my purchases, the big and small end of the citrus spectrum:

  • Sumos – Have you seen these guys? Sometimes you have to look for them, but I get them at my local Safeway. My friend Sandy turned me on to them last winter. They’re like giant clementines, sweet, seedless, and easy to peel, but big and filling, too! They’re my favorite form of citrus right now. Normal oranges can kick around in my fruit bowl for weeks not getting eaten, but sumos are the first thing I grab when I’m hungry. So delicious!
  • Kumquats – Not for everyone, but I love them! Sweet then tart, they’re like little candies to me. You roll them between your palms with a little pressure a few times, then pop ’em in your mouth, peel and all. I just found this tutorial for how to make them sweeter when you eat them, and I’m going to try that next. I ate several last night after dinner for dessert.

I’m hoping that I can drop these pesky vacation pounds in two weeks. That seems reasonable, right? It took two weeks to put them on, so two weeks to get them off? Right?!

Just FYI, that logic isn’t actually correct. There’s a hard limit to how much you can lose in a week due to physics, but there’s absolutely no limit to how much weight you can gain in a week. The sky’s the limit there (thanks, Universe)! I still think two weeks to get them off is reasonable though. Will let you know how it goes.

Also I’m gonna keep posting some of my favorite pics from Antarctica. Who doesn’t like penguins??