Friday, June 17, 2016

[Summer Ready] The Simple Eating plan that is transforming my body.

I'm sharing this post as a way of commemorating a milestone in my health/fitness journey. For the first time in a (long) while, my weight is officially back in the 120's  again. I attribute this achievement to a new eating lifestyle that I've recently implemented.  Truthfully, this is the easiest weight lost strategy that I've ever executed. And because of its simplicity, I'm confident that it has become a permanent way of life.

This new way of eating that I speak of is intermittent fasting.  Simply put, I "skip" breakfast and consume my daily calories within a specific time window.  By waiting until later in the day, I allow my body to operate in a fasted state for a longer period of time.  While in a fasted state, your body is able to tap into fat stores versus running on blood sugar.  As we sleep, we enter into a fasted state, once we have break-fast, we supply our bodies with fuel. That's what our bodies use as energy. So our fat stores remain untouched.
swapping out breakfast for an amazing lunch

Intermittent fasting (IM) is NOT about starving yourself.  The end goal is still to consume your ideal amount of calories each day (in my case, it's between 1100-1300).  But since I start eating later in the morning, I can enjoy higher calorie meals versus if I were to spread out 1200 calories between 3 meals and snacks.  As an experiment, I opted to eat a non-healthy diet to see if I could still lose weight.  While IM I feasted on chips, ice cream, and various other unhealthy foods. But as long as I stayed within the ideal calorie range, my progress continued.

Now that I know this method really works for me, I'll tweak my eating habits to incorporate healthier foods instead of taking advantage of knowing that I can eat poorly and still win.  I should also mention that downloading MyFitness Pal was a huge strategy in my success. Before, I had no idea about how much I should eat a day to maintain a certain weight. But with this app, I gained clarity and was able to adapt quickly.  Around the time I decided to loose weight, I choose the easiest form of exercise I could think of.   Once I started walking again regularly, I knew I'd eventually make it back to the gym. And that's exactly what happened.  Daily activity is a HUGE part of this strategy because it allows me to consume more calories and stay on track.  I used to view exercise as a chore but now it has become my ally.

Intermittent fasting is great for me because I was never a big breakfast eater in the first place. So eating a little later in the day was no big deal.  I wouldn't recommend this lifestyle if you tend to binge eat because being hungry by lunch time could cause you to make undesirable choices.  That's what happened to me in the early days of intermittent fasting.  By the time I had lunch, I'd gorge on whatever was in front of me.  But once I got used to this new pattern, this was no longer an issue.

This way of eating isn't for everyone. If you are prone to eating disorders, fasting could potentially make it worse.  IM isn't about starving yourself, it's about eating your normal calories but starting later in the day.  In fact women who take IM too far may mess with their hormones and could eventually miss their periods.  If not eating every couple of hours makes you dizzy or light headed, then IM won't be your solution.

Since I want this to be a way of life, I wasn't to rigid with IM.  For instance, if I'm hungry at 8:00 am, then I eat at 8:00 am.  Other days, I have my first meal of the day well after 11:00 am. Sometimes I go over my calorie allotment for the day. I don't constrict calories even more as a form of punishment.  I just get back on track the next day.

My weight came off a bit slowly (6 lbs in 2 months), but I'm perfectly happy about this.  If I was more rigid with IM, I'm sure I could have lost the weight more quickly.  But I wanted to be easy so I could stick with it for life.

Ultimately, losing weight is a matter of creating a calorie deficit.  So if I stick to around 1200 calories a day, it really doesn't matter what time I start eating.  But intermittent fasting allows me to enjoy higher calorie meals which makes me feel more satisfied overall.  For some people, eating 5-6 small meals a day works better for them as a weight loss strategy.  Or you can follow my friend's tip of drinking  detox juice before each meal.  It's a matter of what works best for you.  I'm able to fit into my old clothes again and it doesn't feel like I'm on a diet.  It just feels like I'm living my life and the weight is easily coming off.

  1. It doesn't really matter how many times you say "it's not about starving yourself," that's exactly what you're doing. Especially given the numerous studies that have pointed to the importance of eating a healthy breakfast and loading your calories in to the "front" part of your day decreasing as the day goes on. Aren't you doing it backwards? And if you find exercise to be an ally now, shouldn't you just focus on eating more healthy food throughout the day and exercising more? Regardless of how you spin it, there's no way you can make severely restricting your calorie intake sound healthy, especially if it's not under the supervision of a doctor. Also given how many scary resources there are online for people with a predisposition for and full blown eating disorders, it seems a little irresponsible to be promoting this kind of potentially damaging behavior.

    1. Hi MrsT, I'm actually glad that you share this comment because it provides me the perfect opportunity to clarify.
      1. Regarding "severely restricting my calories" - In the past I was overeating and consuming more calories than my body required, hence the weight gain. For my height (5.0 ft tall), I was considered overweight. Most sources suggest a person of my height to weight between 105-125. I was nearing 140!!! I am now eating the recommended amount of calories for my body. There is no calorie restriction taking place.
      2. On this "diet," I have lost less than 1lb a week, if severe calorie restriction were taking place, I would have lost the weight at a faster rate.
      3. I still eat 3 meals a day (plus several snacks). I start eating at 9:00 or 10:00 am instead of before 8:00 am or earlier. So, for instance, I eat my egg breakfast at 10:00 am instead of when I first wake up. If I feel hungrier earlier, I big deal.
      4. Breakfast is still an important meal. I just don't eat when I first wake up. I handle a few tasks first then eat breakfast later.
      5. I still exceed my recommended calorie intake from time to time, and when I do, it doesn't bother me at all. That's why I haven't been losing a pound a week.
      6. Just like there have been studies done on the importance (and benefits) of eating in the morning, there are also studies (and benefits) to fasting. Hence why people do juice fasts, etc.

      Thanks again!

  2. Hello,
    I wonder if your weight loss has more to do with the amount calories and not necessarily the time of day you consume them. For example, I recently lost close to 20Lbs, but I did the exact opposite. Towards the end of my diet prep (I entered a fitness show), I was consuming 1000-1300 calories a day, but I ate within 30mins of waking up every day, then ate a meal/or protein shake every 30mins on the dot, and then a high-protein meal again before bed. I tried to eat my body weight in protein daily and this helped to keep me satietated. In fact I felt quite full most days. There was much exercise involved too off course.

    I have heard of intermittent fasting, and I think it really depends on ones body type, as you stated. I think we can find flaws with all "diets" per se. BUT, i think the quantity and quality of the calories in is the most important factor. 1200 whether fasted or not would for most people (especially those of us on an american diet) lead to weight loss. Glad you found what works for you. I think your clarification that you DO still eat breakfast is important as my initial reading of your post was that you didnt eat till lunch, I consider 9am well within the breakfast hour for most folks.

    I do think your "eating disorder"/binge eating warning should be bigger though. oh, and My Fitness Pal is amazing, once you track what you are actually eating, rather than what you think you are eating! boom!

    1. Hi Neo,
      I do still eat breakfast daily (usually 2 eggs and sometimes yogurt w/fruit), but I don't eat early in the morning. I have lunch in the afternoon, snacks between the meals, and dinner around 7:00 pm. IM seems to work well for me because, during my traveling days, I would often not have a chance to have my first meal until late mornings. My body became used to it.

      My FitnessPal definitely helped me to raise awareness around how much I was eating. I did start losing weight with IM before I downloaded MyFitness Pal. It could be a combination of both. Staying around 1200-1300 calories seems to be the right number for me to slowly shed the excess weight. If the weight loss happened too quickly, I would simply raise my caloric intake. I also plan on consuming more calories as I increase the intensity of my workouts.

      Take care and congrats on your recent victory!

  3. Remember to do quite a lot of exercise, especially strength. Fat is the most difficult sourse of the body to get energy from so it will be much easier to tap into your muscles. That is why it is recommended to eat serval small meal throughout the day rather than go with long periods without food. The body will go for the muscles before they go for the fat depots.

    I dont know when you eat your evening meal but lets say it is around 19hrs. If you dont have another meal until lunch, it is a very long time. If you ask around you will find that the slimmest of your friends generally are the ones that eat a proper morning meal before going to work.

    1. Hi Lisa!
      Thanks for your comment. I typically eat a small snack after dinner and eat late morning so I don't over extend the fast. Before taking on this way of eating, I did a ton of research and found that the body uses muscle as a last resort. "....Specifically, the body burns fat after first exhausting the contents of the digestive tract along with glycogen reserves stored in muscle and liver cells." It's preferred energy source is glycogen then fat. Once those sources are depleted then it will utilize protein. But since protein is not an ideal energy source and the body will produce human growth hormone to stop/slow down the breakdown of protein (
      This is a part of the body's natural self preservation system. Protein breakdown doesn't occur until a person abstained from food for 36 hours or more. I love food way too much for all that. :)

      Thanks for the tip around strength training. I actually prefer strength training over cardio so I'll make sure to keep building muscle.

      Take care! :)

  4. As soon as I saw this post, I had to logon to offer a comment about the negativity you may face in trying this method, and low and behold, I saw the comments and realized I was too late. I tried this method out and got so much backlash from friends and family that I stopped speaking on it. I basically had the same take on it that you've described. Eating 1200 calories daily, but eating those calories within an 8 hour period and fasting the remaining 16 hours of the day. Like you, I found it rather easy to delay eating in the morning because I'm just not all that hungry in the morning. I'd feast for lunch at about 12pm and usually I ate a bowl from Chipotle with all the fixings (not a remarkably healthy meal) or a large salad, and aside from a piece of fruit here and there (generally a plum or apple), that's all I'd eat for the day. IM worked so well for me because I never felt deprived and I ate the foods (and the quantity of foods) I actually liked and never felt hungry, which is usually a problem for me when I restrict calories. I found that as long as I stuck to a regular bedtime (10 pm), I usually didn't wind up being hungry that day, and if I did, I'd snack on a piece of fruit, or a rice cake. I was also active during this time, working out at about 4 pm (4 hours after lunch) and found that I had plenty of energy to do so, as opposed to when I ate smaller meals and just didn't have the energy to workout. I made the mistake of telling people about IM, and I just couldn't believe the backlash I got. People are so hard-wired to believe that small meals spaced out is the one and only way to lose weight, and that this method is not only unhealthy, but dangerous. Anyway, this method worked well for me. I lost about 4 pounds in a month. Too bad I slowly slipped back into old habits, but now that the summer is here, and my appetite tends to lessen anyway, I will be giving it a go again. Good luck! And nevermind the negativity. Most people can't even offer solid reasons why you shouldn't do this diet.

    1. Hi Michelle!
      I kinda expected some back lash as well. The people I share this technique with "in the real world" and most weren't all that receptive. But I spent weeks researching IM before implementing it. And it's worked really well for me. I think there are a lot of misconceptions and some automatically think of "starvation" when they hear the word fast. That's simply not the case. Just like you, I eat large, satisfying meals. I haven't deprived myself of any food and still my weight is heading back to normal.

      Again, IM isn't for everyone but I'm certainly glad that I learned of it because it's created a positive change. Thanks for leaving a comment! I really appreciate it.

  5. I'm up super early and have never been hungry in the morning. I have my morning hours where food is my go to but not usually as early as I wake up. So I eat/drink a green smoothie at about five in the morning which is almost 5 hours after I awakened so I guess I'm kind of doing the same thing. There is a blog I sometimes read from a guy with diabetes who has been following the method you are doing too. It will work for some and not for others.

  6. Hi! I wanted to comment on intermittent fasting as well. I am a HUGE fan. If done right, it's a lifestyle, not a diet/quick fix. My husband has been following it very strictly since he was 18 (now 38) and eats one large meal a day (look up the Warrior Diet). I used to do that as well, but had trouble with the negative responses (funny enough, no one questions my husband's eating habits) and navigating certain social situations. As a solution, I now eat breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon-Fri, and the weekend/holidays are for stricter fasting. I am also a weekday vegetarian, so I only eat meat on Saturdays and Sundays. The week is all about veggies/fruit! Breakfast is a large smoothie, lunch is a whole avocado with ground pepper (very filling!) and dinner is a large bowl of veggie soup with bread and tumeric tea, or some other vegetarian meal. On the weekends, anything goes but I pretty much just eat one large meal plus a healthy dessert such as banana "ice cream" or oats with banana and raw cocoa. I also drink my fair share of craft beer, wine and cocktails. The beauty with intermittent fasting is that there is little to no calorie counting and food tastes SO good when you break a fast. I would recommend it to anyone.

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