Saturday, July 25, 2015

Intermittent Fasting and Me

So, as many of you long-time followers know, I have been on a weight loss and fitness journey for almost three and a half years. I had lost 25 pounds overall, but last summer, I noticed that I had put some weight back on. Finally, I weighed myself a few weeks ago and I had definitely put 10 pounds back on.. Still 12 pounds lower than at my highest, but 15 pounds higher than my lowest. I've remained totally active during this time. I work out hard 6 days a week. I eat reasonably enough (I mean, I'm a freaking Dietitian so I know what I'm doing). But, the pounds just creeped back on.

Obviously, since I've continued to work out, my problem was what I was eating. So, I decided I wanted to do something with my diet to help me lose the weight I'd previously lost. Graham has been gone since February, and he comes back in less than 3 weeks. I wanted to look better before he got back so I was considering a diet program. I was considering Nutrisystem or something else ridiculous, but I didn't want to pay for it. Plus, not being able to eat my own food would really piss me off. I was stuck in a rut and wasn't sure how I could change without going crazy. There's no way that I can follow a calorie-restricted diet long-term (or even short-term) without feeling totally restricted and starved.

In grad school during my Dietetic Internship, I had to answer questions posed to the Oregon Dairy Council as one of my projects. One person asked the question if a person must eat throughout the day to lose weight. I did a lot of research on this subject and the results were inconclusive. Many studies showed that the opposite was true--that intermittent fasting has been shown to be beneficial to lipid levels and weight status. This absolutely blew my mind at the time. Anyways, I completed that project in 2006, answered that question with a vague answer, and never really thought about it again. I mean, I do hear time and time again from people how eating throughout the day "fuels your metabolism", which is factually true, but is it necessary?

So, I'd been hearing more and more recently about "intermittent fasting" as a way of eating to promote loss of body fat, improve health, and to lose weight. My interest was piqued, but I wasn't really considering it because I've fasted before for religious reasons, and it is pretty difficult to not eat for a day. However, I somehow received a random Shape magazine in the mail, and there was an article about intermittent fasting and the different types. By reading this, I got super excited and decided to try it out because the intermittent  fasting doesn't mean you can't eat or drink for a full day, like we do in the LDS (Mormon) church. You just restrict your calories to 500 calories (600 for men) for a day, and you can have unlimited calorie-free beverages.

Excited about this prospect, I posted about it on Facebook and asked if anyone had experience with this way of eating. Surprisingly, I received a fair amount of negative feedback and encouragement to try other extreme methods of dieting, I had people suggest Whole30, which is so not my thing. I do believe in reducing the amount of processed foods that you eat, but I can't do Whole30. For one, I don't think eating that much animal protein is good for you, I don't believe eating a high animal protein diet is good for the environment, nor do I like eating large chunks of meat. Plus, it means lots of scratch-cooking, which I like, but I don't like cooking while Graham is gone, and I get free food at work. So, NO to Whole30. Then, I had someone suggest a diet plan group with them. Um, no, I can make my own diet plan. Like literally. I have a master's degree in Nutrition. I can plan meals just fine. Then, someone told me I was focusing too much on being thin and to eat reasonably. Yeah, I do eat reasonably, but being fit and not fat is kind of part of my job, whether I like it or not. People just won't listen to a fat Dietitian..

Anyways, a high school friend of mine e-mailed me and invited me to Intermittent Fasting group on Facebook that focuses on the 5:2 plan. This means that I limit my calories to 500 two days of the week, and then eat reasonably (~2000 calories for women, 2200-2400 for men) for the other five days (this equals about 1571 calories per day over a week). This plan is based on a book and documentary produced by Michael Mosley. The research behind it is very fascinating, with benefits seen in animals better than overall calorie restriction. I'm not going to go over all the info. You can look up that stuff yourself!

I jumped on the bandwagon and started the next day. I was prepared with low-glycemic foods to meet my 500 calories, such as roasted almonds, blueberries, mozzarella cheese stick, and chicken sausage with vegetables. The first day wasn't THAT bad. I first ate around 11 AM with some almonds, lunch of blueberries around 1 PM, then a cheese stick around 2 PM. Dinner of chicken sausage and broccoli around 6 PM. I kept a no-calorie beverage at my side all day (aka True Lemon lemonade, Diet Dr Pepper, and lots and lots of water). The absolute worst part: going to bed hungry.. something I don't think I've ever done. It's gotten better with each successive fast (I've "fasted" six days now--currently fasting for my seventh time). I've been able to go without food for longer periods of time, and I've been able to sleep better feeling hungry.

I've actually been able to learn a lot from this experience. I've learned what my actual hunger signals are, or whether I'm just bored and want to eat to fill my time. I feel more in control of what and when I eat. But, I have to watch my hanger a little bit on those days. I have to take a deep breath and remind myself to take a step back from the situation (commuting+fasting=road rage). One thing is that I did feel a little on-edge, even on my days of normal eating. I yelled at Carter for the first time on my non-fasting day, which made me feel horrible! Another positive--I only feel restricted on my 2-3 days of fasting, which is way better than feeling restricted 7 days a week. Plus, I have lost 4-5 pounds in just 3 weeks of fasting.  This way of eating isn't for everyone. It's hard. I'm not lying. It's not for those that are weak-willed or looking for something easy. A co-worker of mine tried it and ended up bingeing when she got home that night. For me, that's not an issue, because if I've made it past 5 PM, there's no way in hell that I'm not going to make it the full day or make that day of fasting null and void.

This is kind of considered to be a "fad diet", but I plan to continue this as long as I can!

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