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.

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Brief Delay

I told you all that I’d give the recommendations in The Obesity Code a try for a week and let you know how it went.

Instead I spent a week at a hospital, with my husband in ICU for four of those days. So I haven’t done that yet. I just wanted to mention here that I still plan on doing it, but there’s been a brief delay. I’m starting today and I’ll let you know (barring any unforeseen circumstances) how it goes.

PS: He’s expected to make a full recovery, but it was a very scary time.

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.

Week 6 Results: A New Thing My Body Is Doing

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 56 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 38 meal replacements. I burned 3,240 calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~1183 calories per day. As you can see, these numbers are quite different from the last 5 weeks. My physical activity burn is significantly lower (by ~ 1000…ish). My net average cal/day is quite a bit higher (by ~400…ish) from those past week.

I spent the weekend medieval camping, and despite vast amounts of tasty temptation, I stayed on program every single minute of every single day. You could say I ROCKED IT. I will say it. I rocked it. I am feeling so good about how I handled this weekend with my prepping and my planning, albeit with the slight alterations to my plan of adding in some healthy fats in the form of avocados and full-fat dairy in measured and careful portions.

Dutch market girl reporting for duty!

Antwerpen market girl reporting for duty!

My medieval camping this weekend culminated in working in a veggie and fruit stall as part of a tableau of 16th Century Antwerpen Market scenes as seen in paintings. Google it! That meant that I could happily munch away on the merchandise (we weren’t charging real money, donation only) without wandering outside of my program’s constraints. I ate a lot of strawberries and sugar snap peas.

As you can see from the numbers I worked out a lot less and ate a lot more, and for my efforts I was rewarded with a 2 pound loss. You guys, this is something that my body has never, ever, ever done before. Prior to right now, maximum effort has always yielded maximum results for my body. NOT ANYMORE.

This is a whole new world that I’m not even equipped to navigate. The idea that I could take my foot off the gas and actually get better results…I need to process this. It feels so decadent to eat these healthy fats, but I’m not going to stop now! MOAR AVOCADO PLZ THX.

Anyway, this brings my total loss so far to 9.3 pounds. I’m very close to making my initial goal of 10 pounds. I don’t quite see it yet, but my diet buddy Allie says she does, so who am I to argue? I know my clothes are fitting better and I feel better, especially this week now that I’ve tweaked my formula. Exercise less, eat more. Who could have ever predicted that? I’m still stunned. I’ve heard about it in theory and for other people, sure – but for me, this is a brand new day!

Promises to Myself, and Kickboxing!

In my last post I said “I’m going to think about maybe going for a run tomorrow ,” which was yesterday. I did, in fact, go for a run yesterday, and it was nice. A short loop (exactly 2 miles, I checked) down to and along the canal near my house. I was rewarded with a blue heron sighting. Magnificent bird, the blue heron. They’re only here in the winter.

I’m not sure how it works for you, but I have to play a constant mental game to stay on target. If on Friday I had said, “I am absolutely committing to you all publicly that I will go for a run tomorrow,” that would have been counter-productive for me. Whereas for some people, that is very motivating. Different strokes for different folks. For me, laying out a tentative plan that I know has a good chance of working into my schedule for the day is enough. Making a hard commitment without any leeway would work against me, and I’d feel trapped and resentful. Then I might not do it because of the resentfulness, or something came up, or I had a migraine, or whatever, and then I’d feel like a failure because I promised you all (and myself) and then I failed. Living in my brain is hard, y’all.

Good run yesterday, though. And today I tried something new to mix things up. I’m kind of bored with the Jillian DVDs I have on hand, so I tried a new trainer that I found on YouTube. I’m pretty impressed, she does home workouts, in a small space, with her dog nearby. What more do you need?? A trainer that understands that I don’t have a whole fitness studio to work out in. And I have to dodge pets occasionally. That’s pretty much perfect! I did Kick Butt Kickbox and boy am I going to be sore tomorrow. It’s not my first time doing a kickbox workout – I did one once in 2007 with a friend – but it’s close enough to my first time as may as well be. Thing I like about kickbox workout – I feel like a badass when I’m doing the moves. I may look like a flailing muppet, but I feel butch. And it’s new to me so I have room to improve.

This trainer, Jessica Smith, has a whole YouTube channel – JessicaSmithTV – of different types and lengths of workout. All done from her home with her dog sleeping in the corner. Check it out if you’re looking for something to do at home! I’m pleased to have something new on the exercise front to explore, it will keep me intrigued and interested for at least the next few weeks.

Good workout. How ’bout you. Got any plans to try something new this week?

Blitzing Dinner Party

Today I had new things!

My friend Allie, who inspired me to do the Blitz, came over and we went for a walk then made dinner together – she made a fancy pants entree: Thai-Inspired Spicy Peanut Chicken. I’ve never enjoyed the Savory Chicken HMR entree because it’s one of the most bland meals they have, but this was fantastic! I’ll have to get some so I can make it for my husband.

And I made roasted shishito peppers for her to try, and she liked them! Everybody wins!

I also downloaded the HMR app, which I am evaluating for my purposes. Upside: It already has all the Healthy Solutions shakes/bars/entrees and fruits/veggies data points programmed in. Downside: Doesn’t track calories. Somewhere along the years since I “graduated,” HMR stopped requiring people to count and track them, I guess? This doesn’t really work for me, I like to have the solid data at my fingertips, and that includes tracking calories. So I’d still have to enter everything again into the MyFitnessPal app if I wanted to know the calorie total each day. Or maybe there’s a way in the HMR app and I just haven’t spent enough time with it yet to figure it out? Not sure what to do here, since neither app appears to be a perfect solution to my needs as it stands now. Screw it, I should just go back to pen and paper. That always worked perfectly for me.

Today: 3 shakes, 2 entrees, 9 fruits/veggies, total calories: ~1450. Minus the 670 I burned in physical activity. Looking good!

Exercising After Dark

Ugh I woke up with a migraine this morning. I’m at work but waiting for the meds to kick in.

In lieu of a new post, I will instead direct you to a post I made a while back about exercising indoors if you loathe the gym. I find this useful now that the daylight savings time has ended and it’s getting dark out an hour earlier. I have less time to frolick about outdoors while the sun is up, but that doesn’t mean I get to slack off and drop my exercise plans.

Indoor Exercise That Doesn’t Involve the Gym

What did I miss? What’s new since I wrote this? What do you do indoors when you can’t get to the gym (or just don’t want to?). I’m particularly interested in ideas that don’t involve expensive tools or equipment. I’d love to discover something new this winter!