I hope this blog post finds you all transitioning into a wonderful spring!
Well, this post isn’t about books or writing. It’s about something I’ve been asked to share based on a Facebook post I made on my birthday last week. It was about my recent weight loss (43.6 pounds in 3 months) and change in eating.
Several people tagged me and inboxed me asking for details about my experience with Intermittent Fasting (IF) and exactly what I’ve done. So instead of responding individually, I thought I’d just write a blogpost and share with everyone.
Let me first say that I am not a dietician, health expert, lawyer, doctor, or anybody who is any authority to give you medical advice. Take this as a personal testimonial and consult with a physician as you would before starting any diet.
How it started for me
My issue with fitness was not necessarily eating too much or even emotional eating. I just ate way too much fast food, and I ate at irregular intervals. I had already learned to speak to my food and not be controlled by impulses and binges or eating just because something was on the table in the employee break room. I think that’s important to say because if you are addicted to food and using it as an idol (going to it as your savior/comfort/friend/ confidante), you will need to get something else in place in advance. Have a constructive plan for what you will do when you face a crisis, have something to celebrate, get tired, or feel confused—these are times when food has normally been there for you. You will continue to have these times in life. But now that you won’t be turning to food, you need a substitute. Don’t leave it to yourself to figure out what to do in that moment. (Of course, I recommend prayer and time alone with God.) Additionally, consider taking a power nap, coloring, or calling a friend.
Something else that probably contributed to gaining weight for me was a partial hysterectomy in late 2016. Though that procedure is not “supposed” to cause weight gain, umm….it did for me. I would eat my normal diet and still gain weight. Not a lot of weight at once, but, say, half a pound a month. I wasn’t so much concerned about my health (I believe my health is in Christ), I was concerned about my level of fitness and what that slight but steady weight gain would mean for me over time.
Eating a normal diet but gaining weight was completely frustrating to me. I felt like I was once again at war with food. Though I was winning (mostly), it was still a fight. I was at a mental place where I was just done with food. I was tired of thinking about it, loving it, hating it, buying it, cleaning up after it, planning for it, speaking to it, being bullied by it, fighting it, just everything. Honestly, if I could just not eat anything else, I would be fine. I’ve had enough cupcakes, enough yeast rolls, enough juice to last a lifetime. That’s how done I am with food (even now).
I had begun fasting regularly back in 2014, when I was going through a lot of transitions. I found a great deal of peace in pushing the plate aside and focusing on spiritual matters and a lot of other things that I needed to handle—things that required a great deal of mental clarity and focus. Removing food (which, for me, was mostly a bunch of carbs) brought greater clarity.
Of course, the problem is you can’t fast for forever.
So there I was on December 7, 2017, looking for a way to eat less without harming my health and without bringing myself into an eating disorder (I mean that seriously). That night, I stumbled upon this article about a lady who does Alternate Day Fasting (ADF), which is a form of IF. She reference research and other testimonials, and I was able to read comments that shed light on the eating style. There are many forms of IF, by the way, but I don’t have experience in those.
Basically, the way I do ADF has been to eat low-carb foods on “feed” days. I don’t eat anything on my fast days. Some people do eat up to 500 calories on fast days. But for me, it’s easier to just not eat anything than to tease myself with little bites.
Here is how it looks for me in a typical week:
FEED DAY (every other day, trying to meet my TDEE caloric needs)
Breakfast (around 6:00am):
1 piece of bacon and 1-2 scrambled eggs with cheese
Take vitamins (multivitamin, Vitamin D, magnesium, potassium)
Green tea with lemons
Start drinking my 50oz of water (drink this up throughout the day)
Snack (around 9:30am)
5 raw almonds
Lunch (around 12:30pm)
Meat (usually poultry)
Something sweet/carbs (maybe a few pieces of hard candy, half a dinner roll, a small serving of something with potatoes or pasta)
Dinner (around 4:00pm)
Meat (usually poultry)
Vegetables and/ or another salad
Snack (around 6:00pm)
5 raw almonds
½ a serving of graham crackers OR 5 more chips
FAST Day (every other day)
Green tea with lemons
Start drinking my 50oz of water (drink this up throughout the day)
Tips & Advice
Side Effects I’ve Experienced
Bad Breath – One side effect of fasting and low-carbs is bad breath. I keep a pack of sugar-free Mentos Pure Breath mints with me. I don’t really like the flavor, so I just chew it for a few minutes and then spit it out.
Heart Burn – a well-known side effect of fasting is heartburn. I experience this probably once or twice a week on a fast day, usually in the evenings. I take Zantac and keep it moving.
Energy Level – In these past three months, I have had about 4 or 5 days in which I felt weak and needed to come home and take a nap immediately after work. In retrospect, that usually happens when I didn’t get in all my calories the day before.
Lack of Appetite – Fasting every other day has actually caused me to have less and less of an appetite pretty much any day. This seems like a good thing, but this does make it hard to fulfill my caloric needs on feed days because I’m just not hungry. When I don’t eat all my food on feed day, that causes an energy drop on fast day. I just have to try to make good, enticing food for myself so I’ll eat enough.
Insomnia – Early in the process, I had some trouble sleeping on fast days. Not every day, but enough for it to bother me. I have to get up at 5:45am many mornings, so I couldn’t have this. Unsettled sleep is actually something that people have discussed in IF forms. I took an over-the-counter sleep aid a few times. After a month or so, I didn’t have this problem.
Random Aches – You’ve heard of “growing pains.” Well, I experienced “shrinking pains.” These were just random little things here and there. One day my shoulder would be a little sore. Then the next week, my thigh felt weird. When I got much smaller, I felt like my ribcage was poking me in the side. I have no explanation for these things, but I did see someone else posting about it once in a forum so I didn’t worry about it much.
Mental/Emotional Issues to Consider
Hunger – You will be hungry sometimes, especially in the first few weeks. But the good news is that hunger comes in waves, and those waves do pass. You will not be physically hungry 24/7. You might be mentally or emotionally hungry, but that is another issue altogether.
Sharing – People will start to notice that you are losing weight and they’ll ask you what you’re doing. When you tell them that you are eating every other day, they will look at you like you have lost your mind. Westerners have been thoroughly trained to eat three meals a day whether we need to or not. This myth is part of what keeps the economy going. The truth is, most of us would do well to consume far less. Besides, just because someone is eating every day doesn’t meant they’re actually nourishing their bodies. If half of what they eat is junk, they’re basically only eating half the time already. Expect the most criticism from others who are struggling with their own eating habits. IF and ADF is not for everyone, but you can encourage them to find what works for them.
Social Situations – Because I started in December, there was a lot to consider with regard to social events. I ate a little at everything I went to, whether it was a feed day or not. The good thing about January was that (in my circle) a lot of people were fasting, so it was pretty common to see people abstaining. I fit right in. I did eat a cupcake for my granddaughter’s first birthday, but it was not all that I thought it would be. In fact, it made me feel a little bloated since I hadn’t eaten sugar like that in over a month.
What I find, for the most part, is that if I don’t bring up the fact that I’m fasting, people won’t even notice it. They just assume I’ve eaten earlier or I brought my lunch and I’m eating alone. I mean, when you think about it, you don’t spend that much time actually chewing food in a day. You probably spend more time thinking about it, going to get it, preparing it, and cleaning up after it than actually eating. It’s not that serious.
With regard to my family, they are very accommodating now. My husband will ask, “Is this a fast day?” before he invites me to a meal, and he respects my answer. He knows I’ll be eating the next day, so we can try that new restaurant either today or tomorrow. My daughter now understands that if it’s a fast day, we are not going to eat a meal together. She’s not necessarily happy about it, but she does understand.
The Scale – I did get the Healthy Scale app to track my weight loss trends. I think it’s important to weight pretty regularly, if not daily. It’s true that the scale can lie, but for the most part, it’s telling the truth. Because I’m trying out different recipes and such, I want to know right away if something is sabotaging me. For example, I started drinking shakes from a well-known “low-carb” line, but noticed right away that I wasn’t losing as much on my fast days. Because I was watching the data, I was able to make a change quickly. The same thing happened to me with fried chicken. I always thought it was low-carb, thus it wouldn’t affect my body. Wrong! The next morning, the scale told me that my body didn’t like it, so I was able to adjust instead of eating something blindly without realizing that I was inadvertently undermining my efforts.
Don’t freak out – The downside of watching the numbers is that there will be times when you gain or stall inexplicably. It’s also important for you to recognize that when you’re doing ADF, you may start off losing weight every day. Then, at some point, you’re losing weight every fast day and gaining some of it back every feed day. In any case, the tendency is to say to yourself, “This is not working. I quit.” This is what I call “freaking out.” In the words of my fellow author friend, Unoma Nwonkar, don’t freak out—freak it back in! Freak it back in!
Recognize that the process is not totally downhill. It looks more like this:
Stay with the process. I went about 10 days stuck between these 3 pounds. It was totally discouraging, but I kept saying to myself, “Stay the course. Stay the course.” I mean, what else was I going to do—make it worse with a piece of fried chicken? It’s helpful to look back at the data and remind yourself that you are making progress.
I freaked out a few times and did two fast days in a row because of that salt craziness. I don’t recommend this. Things always work out eventually, so it’s not necessary to fast more than one day at a time.
Obsessing about the fast – It took about 7 weeks for me to stop being obsessed with the fact that I was actually fasting every other day. I guess I just couldn’t believe it for myself. I had fasted before, but this was like, 3 or 4 days a week! I found myself constantly looking at my watch, thinking, “How long until I can go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and eat?” and “What’s the first thing I’m going to eat tomorrow?” and “I just can’t believe I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday!” and going to bed on a feed day thinking, “Oh my gosh—I’m not eating anything tomorrow!” It’s kind of like when you first experience any major change in your life, you think about it all the time. Then, one day you wake up and it’s just not that serious anymore. Now, I wake up and I’m like, “Ummm…is it a fast day or a feed day? I don’t even care. It’s just a day.”
Exercise – I believe you lose weight in the kitchen, you get fit at the gym. I haven’t put the two together right now. I did try to exercise one day on a fast day. That was not a good idea. I haven’t exercised much this entire three months, but I do feel quite flabby right now so I’m going to start soon.
Maintenance – When I reach my goal weight, I will move to the 5:2 plan – eating five days a week, fasting two days. This is actually something that Jews have done as a regular practice (see Luke 18:12). There are also lots of books and resources to help IF people continue this as a lifestyle.
Okay, so this information has more to do with low-carbing that IF, but I thought I would share anyway. You don’t have to do low-carb (or any kind of special diet) with IF. Some people say they eat “anything they want” when they’re doing IF and they still lose weight. I imagine that will probably be true for a while because they’re probably already eating “anything they want” already. They are just cutting down their intake on fast days, which will absolutely result in weight loss just by the math of it all.
I just did low-carb because my body likes it. It keeps inflammation down, it keeps my appetite in check, and I just like the way it makes me feel.
Because you’re only eating every other day, you only need to make two or three days’ worth of stuff at a time. Woo hoo! I also live near a lot of restaurants (which is how I got in this position to begin with – LOL!) so I cheat quite a bit when it comes to cooking.
Salad Tip – Unless you just like buying and preparing salads, go and get salads from a restaurant with a salad bar instead of buying all those ingredients and preparing/cutting them up at home. My new favorite is Jason’s Deli’s salad bar to go. For $8.65, I can get enough for 3 really big, good salads with all the fixings, with these little bitty cornbread muffins—just enough to feel like I had some bread. A good salad bar box will last me 3 feed days. After that, it’s probably going to go bad.
Dressing – I like Wingstop’s ranch dressing the best. I usually get two of dip sizes (they are like 99¢ each) then go over to where they have the ketchup containers and get those little mini-containers. Then when I get home, I divide up the dressing and pack it up in my lunches.
Vegetables – My favorite thing to do is go get a vegetable plate to go from Cheddar’s, Boston Market, or Luby’s. That’ll give me me 4-5 servings of veggies. I usually get broccoli, green beans, spinach, cabbage, or occasionally glazed carrots.
Water – Lately, I have been drinking Essential water (or anything that comes in a 50 oz container) because it helps me have a visual of exactly how much water I have or have not consumed for the day. I try to be finished drinking my water by 8:00pm so I won’t be up all night using the restroom.
Beware of salty meats in restaurants – Food served in fast-food places and chain restaurants have to be processed in such a way that they all taste the same at all their locations. That means one thing for meat: SALT. Salt will cause water weight gain, and it will definitely show up on the scale and perhaps even in your appearance. You can decide to just get over the water weight and “don’t freak out”, or you can just decide not to put yourself through this drama by avoid eating out altogether, especially when it comes to meats. If you must eat out, go online and look at the menu ahead of time so you can already have it in your head what you’re getting before you get there. (*I realize that bacon is salty, but I refuse to give up bacon, period.)
Time of Day – If I’m going to eat carbs, it will usually be during the lunch meal. That will give my body time to burn it off before I go to bed. I suggest you experiment with foods/times to learn how your body reacts to certain foods at certain times.
ICE drink – This is a calorie-free soda substitute. I drank a lot of these at the beginning because I felt like I needed some flavor in my mouth. I can probably drink about 1/3 of one of these on a fast day with no side effect. But if I drink more than that, I notice a slow-down of weight loss. I believe that’s because it does contain sucralose, a sugar substitute that can still effect blood sugar.
Speak to Your Food – Something I do when I feel tortured by foods is to speak to them. (This is something I published a Christian book about a few years ago.) So, if my daughter brings in a bag of Doritos that I have to see every time I open the pantry, I use my words to limit that temptation.
Good News: Because I don’t eat every day, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing every day. Woo hoo! To that end, here are some of my favorite low-carb eats:
Cheese shell tacos – (I use ground turkey, pico, and ranch dressing in mine) https://www.homemadeinterest.com/low-carb-taco/
Bell Pepper Boats – https://skinnyms.com/skinny-bell-pepper-nachos-recipe/
Kabobs – (I use KC Masterpiece Honey Teriyaki Marinade for the sauce) https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/8626/yummy-honey-chicken-kabobs/
Meatballs (turkey, beef, or chicken) – these were made in the air fryer. I usually have a little bit of BBQ sauce on the side.
Jimmy Dean Frittatas – I eat these if I’m in a hurry in the mornings. My body tolerates this well even though it’s processed.
Pizza on CauliPower® Crust – this is made with cauliflower, so it’s not really carb-free. Just see how your body responds. I found this crust at Sprouts – $7.99 for two.
Olive Garden’s® Zuppa Toscana Soup made with a little cauliflower instead of potatoes – http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/better-than-olive-gardens-zuppa-toscana-493203
Okay, I hope that helps you get started if you think IF is for you. Be blessed!