Experimenting with Fasting

Experimenting with Fasting

Over the Christmas holidays, I decided to learn all I could about compressed feeding windows. The idea of intermittent fasting, or compressed feeding windows, has always interested me from a fat-loss and longevity perspective. Information abounds about longevity, fasting and autophagy. For an incredibly scholarly approach to longevity and a dissemination of the research, I encourage you to follow Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s podcast, Found my Fitness. Some of her podcast episodes are good to listen to while others I encourage you to watch on YouTube, rather than listening, because there are text definitions included in the videos. Pausing and reading the definitions helps you to understand and research some of the discussions.

But what does this mean for the average citizen like myself? I happen to have a Bachelors of Science but some of the discussions are well above my head in terms of the chemistry – I can generally follow the biology. However, as I learn more, I’ve been curious to see how some of the principles can be applied to my own life. I’ve heard of people having really good success at changing their body’s set weight through methods like Intermittent Fasting but could little old me accomplish that?!

I took the time to read Dr. Jason Fung’s book, The Obesity Code. I highly encourage anyone struggling to lose any kind of weight to read this book. It will completely overhaul your thoughts about fat and weight loss. He also explains why the contestants on The Biggest Loser gained all the weight back. I knew it had something to do with their decreased metabolism during the show but what does that really mean? Why, if you keep your calories equally low (a brutal existence to be sure) do you still gain the weight back?

It all has to do with the body set weight. And insulin.

I’ve decided to do a mini-experiment on myself to see how this might play out. Rather than become too attached to the outcomes or setting a bunch of goals, such as ‘I want to weigh 130# before June,” which are generally guaranteed to fail, I thought I would approach it as a scientist. What would happen if ___[fill in the blank]___?

This is Day 15 officially but I was leery to talk about it until now because I had two thoughts about what might happen: It would be too hard and I’d quite, and second, I wouldn’t feel that I wanted to talk about the experiments. But the further into this I get, the more I would like to share it from a purely interest standpoint. Here’s how things have gone thus far:

January 3 – 4th

  • I started off by limiting snacking. No snacking. I decided to cut out sugar and flour (more on that later) and have 3 square meals per day,
  • The first few days went okay but I definitely experienced a drop in my energy, felt hungry all day (you know, that gurgle-ridden stomach acid feeling?), and thought a lot about food. I watched the clock so I would know when I could eat again, and
  • I dropped about 2# in that few days.

From there, I decided I might try beginning to push my breakfast towards lunch and eliminate breakfast all together. I love breakfast so much so I decided, rather than eliminating those foods, I would just have them at lunch if I so decided!

January 5 – 6th

  • Began pushing breakfast, beginning a 16/8 (fasting 16 hours, eating within 8 hours) fasting regimen,
  • Felt hungry throughout the afternoon but the weekend was busy so I focused on that!

January 7 – 15th

  • No breakfast, fasting on an 18/6 regimen, which meant eating from 12noon until 1800hours,
  • Definitely feel hunger throughout the morning (my stomach is gurgling at the moment but it’s not uncomfortable),
  • Learning that hunger is not an emergency in my constantly fed-state from my whole life,
  • I’m down a total of 6#,
  • Drink coffee, mostly decaf, throughout the morning, and started adding some almond milk (which means I am ‘dirty’ fasting), and
  • During my ‘fed’ window, I’ve been eating 2 large-ish meals that are still plant-based.

January 16th

  • Yesterday, something really interesting happened:
    • I felt insatiable all day. Nothing would satisfy. I wanted sugar and junk. I even thought about going to A&W. I’m not sure what that was all about! I caved and had some gummy bears but didn’t really enjoy them, which left me wondering if this was in fact a Craving Extinction that I should have worked through.
    • I ate a handful of almonds in the morning during the morning rush, which meant I really wasn’t fasting anymore. I’m not sure why I did it. I think it was a moment of ‘weakness’ but I haven’t felt that this is particularly hard so I’m not totally sure what was going on. I knew I had a busy day ahead and felt pre-occupied with that … I wonder if it was a moment of falling back into old habits of eating when stressed?
    • This morning, the next day, my weight is up 1# on the scale. This isn’t particularly concerning but it’s interesting to note!

Reflections thus far on my basal metabolic rate (BMR) have been interesting. At first, I thought I was noticing a drop but instead, even with eating a decreased number of calories per day, I’ve been able to maintain a roughly 2000cal/day BMR. This is really great! That means if I focus on eating roughly 1500 – 1800 cal/day, I am still in a deficit but continuing to burn while fasting. This is the whole principle of Intermittent Fasting!

I’m going to continue with this experiment to see how things work out … I’m curious to see if my energy levels continue to rise the further I get into this method of approaching the days.

Have you played around with IF? What have your results been? Do you enjoy it? How to do you manage feelings of hunger throughout the day? Thank you for sharing!

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Hard Work.

Hard Work.

It’s been almost 2 months since my first session at the CrossFit gym that I joined. In order to join as a full member, as I mentioned last post, I had to complete a series of 6 personal training sessions (which are finished now). There was a myriad of emotions and thoughts as I worked my way through the process. This has continued as I’ve continued to attend classes and meet people. Often, I’ll be halfway to the gym and think, “I could just turn back and go home.”

What is it about change and growth that causes us to question ourselves and our worth? Part of me (the irrational part) doesn’t understand why I struggle with certain aspects of the workouts – things I’ve never done before, heavy lifts that require a lot of strength and training, and gymnastics. The rational side of me recognizes the need for patience and time. The need to put in the work and effort to get better, improve and learn.

The workouts are hard. The volume of work is hard. This is not child’s play. It’s real and it’s hard.

I did it.

I did it.

I knew I could, so I did.

After a lot of ruminating, talking to my husband and hearing the encouragement from a couple of instrumental friends (not ones I would have normally turned to for advice either – both are people I consider “work friends” or “acquaintances”), I decided to do the foundations program to learn more about CrossFit.

I’ve been waffling about this leap (jump, bounce, hurdle) for over a year. I felt intimidated, scared and anxious about trying something this foreign to me.

There’s a quote on Instagram that comes through my feed every so often because various people and ad companies run it:

Life starts at the end of being comfortable.

There are several variations to this quote and I’m sure you can find one that is more eloquent BUT I saw it enough times that I started to realize it is true. Growth – real growth – happens out of those places and times in our lives when we aren’t particularly comfortable, happy or content. To endure times that push us mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc, we must grow. Period. That’s how we “get through” those times. People who refuse to grow during those times have a rough go!

To that end, after watching my husband go through the intense 5-session foundations program, I decided to take a leap. Go for it. Try it out. Learn.

The first day was actually really good. I sweated a lot. Dripping even. But I learned some things. I tweaked my squats, which I’ve been working on with my chiro/physio, so that felt good. I hopped on a rowing machine for the first time in 10 years. That felt good. I did some running. Even better.

The second day, I started to learn how to power clean. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. I didn’t either. Basically, you’re getting the barbell (this long, metal, slightly intimidating rod with plates on each end) from the ground to your shoulders, then up overhead. No problem right? Well …

I felt really overwhelmed after this session. I’d gotten a bit cocky. I’d thought I had it all in hand. I was super sore after because I didn’t stretch or foam roll afterwards. Everytime I lifted that barbell, I over-thought the move. I couldn’t get out of my head.

This was really good for me! Even though it might not sound like it was good, I learned so much about myself! I learned that some early wins didn’t mean I knew everything. Instead, I had so much more to learn. So much to gain in terms of strength and technique. I knew I’d struggle with any of the gymnastics moves but knowing I had so much foundational work to do to build my core, back and legs meant I have (present tense because this is now that the work starts) lots of work to do. Is it still overwhelming? Absolutely.

On day three and four, we worked on more lifts. I learned about clean and jerk, deadlifts and more gymnastics. Can I do everything? Nope. I did, however, deadlift 65#! That, my friends, is a win. That’s more than I thought I would be able to do. I also threw 50# over my head. Another win.

Day five was hard. So good. But hard. I learned to snatch, which means I took the barbell and moved it from the ground to over my head. Think about the most awe-inspiring move you’ve ever seen in Olympic weightlifting or at the CrossFit Games: That’s a snatch. And, in my humble opinion, when women snatch, they look like friggin’ Superwomen.

When the coach I’ve been working with through these sessions yelled out, “YES!” I couldn’t help but feel amazing.

The experience left me feeling hungry. I see that term used all over social media by athletes to get after their goals and hard work. It’s a funny word but I understand what it means. I am starting to understand that grit and determination that one starts to feel as the workouts intensify. There is this part of me that knows I am capable. I can do this. I will learn and get better. It’s definitely not all going to be roses. My first class was a good example of this: 100 pistol squats (with a band). It was hard. It was freaking hard. My IT band and quads are still feeling it. They aren’t sore per se but they feel like they worked hard. But I’ll get better. They’re going to get stronger.

Now, I have to tackle my second class and then my third and so on. One day at a time.

One Year.

One Year.

It has been a year since I started my fitness journey. I started on May 26, 2017, with a commitment to change my eating patterns and learn about counting macros. I continued with that until April 2018, approximately a year of tracking, measuring and learning about carbs, protein and fat intake. My main goal was to learn what fuels my body and how the different macros play with one another to fuel workouts, weight gain and weight loss. I learned a lot! By December 2017, though, I had gained about 11# and was feeling quite frustrated with the process. I stuck with it for a while longer into the new year, committed to continuing to learn, and I lost some of that weight quickly. I think most of it was water retention from the number of carbs I was eating daily — roughly 380g for those who understand about counting macros. That is a lot for my smaller frame! In the end, the nutritionists I was working with had my eating upwards of 3200 calories on my ‘high’ and ‘super’ days (the days in which you fuel to re-fill those glycogen stores in your liver and muscles). That is a lot of calories and while I understand what they are trying to do with the macros, I felt full and sloth-like much of the time. My workouts were fueled but I wasn’t seeing major progress due to the amount of food sitting in my belly!

What I learned in this process was the amount I can eat without gaining weight. I was fueled for some pretty grueling workouts, which is amazing. I had never felt that fueled workout feeling before – I’d always run out of steam, no matter what I was doing. After about 35 years of life, I’d never felt what it felt like to get through a workout and feel like I could keep going. Also, I’d never recovered so well in my life! Muscles recover quickly when there’s fuel on board (protein) to rebuild!

My workouts aren’t that hard, though. They are about 45-60 minutes once per day. I’ve been trying to figure out how to increase that intensity and work over these past couple of months. I’m slowly figuring that out. My body needs to learn how to do that, since I’ve never asked it to perform at this level before. For me, this is a big deal! I’m not a natural born athlete but I’m competitive with myself and that will take you far.

In the end, I decided that to continue this journey, I didn’t want to track, measure and weigh my food for the rest of my life. I am never going to be a competitive CrossFit athlete (although, man, I would love to be!) so I don’t need to think about my food all the freaking time. Would I like to work towards working out at a higher level and getting stronger? Absolutely. The question now is how to move forward. 

To be totally honest, I’m actually not completely sure how to move forward! I’ve lost about 16# since I started this journey last year – most of which came off when we switched to a plant-based, whole foods eating regimen. This was primarily why I didn’t want to continue weighing and tracking. I knew this was the future for myself and our family, so I needed to make peace with that side of our eating plan. Just eat whole foods, not too much, all from plants (for us). I’ve been implementing Chef AJ’s ideas into my daily eating plan and starting my day with 1# of non-starchy green veggies. Boy, does this start the day off right! If you haven’t tried this and have tried every diet out there, I would really encourage you to try this. No other changes, just this. It has made a WORLD of difference for me, and how I feel about food, choices and weight loss.

For Year 2 of my journey, I’ve been thinking about some goals that are non-weight related. I know in my heart that my body will find it’s ideal weight and composition once I figure out what the next steps are for me.

Firstly, I’m having major envy of my husband at the moment, who has been on-ramping (learning the foundations) at a local CrossFit gym. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for the last 1.5 years and you may say to yourself, “Well then, why aren’t you joining with him?” Injury. That’s why. I’m really worried about getting hurt. My shoulders have taken a beating in the past and I’m worried about getting hurt. Do I want to become stronger and learn to throw around weight? Yes! So much! I’m thinking very seriously about on-ramping and learning the ropes (literally) before making a decision. I think I’ll know if it’s for me once I go through that process … right?!

My concern is that I’ll completely fall in love with it and then what?!

Next, is my strength goals. If nothing else, I am going to be focusing on pushing myself harder in the gym to reach some new PRs (personal bests). Isometric exercises, like plank for example, are completely mental games. It is so easy to talk yourself out of being able to do it! I am stronger than I was a year ago and more capable than 1 year ago – I can do much of this stuff! It’s a matter of honing in and focusing. Getting the work done and I think learning the Olympic lifts will help with this goal for the next year.

Lastly, flexibility. This is huge. If you can’t move, you can’t move more. Part of my hesitation for leaving my current gym is the yoga classes. I want to be able to engage in yoga practice 3-5 times per week and I absolutely love the instructor at our gym. There are so many other things I love about my current gym as well, but this is one of the main reasons! This needs to continue to be a major focus of mine going forward.

Here’s to completing a life-changing Year 1 and moving forward into Year 2. It’s so hard to start. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. Am I getting closer? Absolutely. Can I always improve? Absolutely. I have lots and lots of time to learn, grow and become stronger. It’s all a matter of knowing what direction you want to move. And then get moving. 

Intuition & Moving Forward.

Intuition & Moving Forward.

Over the past many months, I have begun to view my progress in a slightly different way from prior. Over and over, I hear people talking about ‘making gains’ and ‘fitting it into their macros’ and on … and on. I have been tracking through counting macros for a little over a year. As well, I have been gauging my ‘success’ by evaluating whether I am starting to see muscle definition or not. Sometimes I have some definition, other times I do not. These moments are contingent on so many factors: bloating, salt intake, water intake, food intake, exercise, time of year, sleep, sleep deprivation, illness … the list keeps going!

On this journey (for lack of a better work, although I don’t like that word very much because journey implies an end or finish point), I have noticed that again and again I wish to return to a more intuitive approach to eating. Seeking food to fuel my body, based on the queues that I’m recieving from it, is beginning to take president over everything else. Again and again, I’m reminding myself that I don’t need to eat that whatever (insert a meal here) to maximize my macros. There seems to be a disconnect between what’s happening internally with my body and outside influences: Someone else setting my macro goals, tracking, MyFitnessPal, prescribed training and intensity days, ‘hitting green’ (meaning I hit my macros every day), and on and on again.

April 2018

April 2018 – shoulder gains and definition

There’s a theme here! The extrinsic goals of society and others seems to be overwhelmingly prevalent. Nowhere have I said I was listening to my inner voice, trusting my instincts, learning to trust my hunger queues, etc. There’s a commitment that I’d like to make to myself as I approach my next birthday and that is to begin to trust myself more. Begin to look inward at my own hunger queues and thoughts around food. Use the acronym HALT before going into the fridge by asking myself: Am I hungry, angry, listless or tired? Regardless of which I give for an answer, what are my next actions going to be in response to my thoughts?

Just taking notice of those thoughts would be a huge step forward for me! I rarely listen to my inner voice when it comes to food because I’ve been too busy counting macros and ensuring I’m ‘hitting green’ to worry about whether I’m actually hungry or not. And most of the time? The answer is that I’m tired.

This is a great place for me to start! Knowing that I feel tired in the evenings a lot, I think there are somethings I can do about that:

  1. Not get up at 4:30am every morning to go to the gym. Pushing myself that hard doesn’t necessarily fit with this new intuitive approach to exercise, nutrition and life. Getting up a couple of times per week for my favourite classes really feels appropriate.
  2. Go to bed! Duh. Aiming for more than just the 7.5hrs of sleep I usually get each night if proving not to be enough throughout the week. I’m hopeful to begin increasing this slightly to 8-8.5hrs to see what the repercussions of this are.
  3. Eat to fuel my daily activity. There are few days in the week that my FitBit doesn’t show that I’ve been active hourly (>250 steps per hour) for more than 10 hours. That’s a lot of moving! That doesn’t include all of the mindless movement that we do on a daily basis that we don’t take into account. Eating to feel good and move more is a great way to continue moving more and moving better.
  4. I want to continue to get stronger and move well. I’m very curious about the approach from Dave Smith called LIFL. I’m going to be learning more about it in the coming weeks and I’m hopeful I can implement it into my weekly and daily routines, while still enjoying my time at the gym.

It’s been strange not counting macros this past number of weeks but I don’t regret not doing it anymore. There’s something very freeing about letting go of counting and focusing on food as fuel. Changing my mantra in my mind about ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ food was something I’d forgotten many years ago (this comes from the book, Intuitive Eating, which I would highly recommend). Instead, I’m attempting to think about foods in a neutral way with no labels or judgments. My new mantra has been to remind myself, “My body is a place for health and wellness. How does (insert choice here, regardless of whether it’s food or otherwise) affect my health and wellness? Do I need to make a different choice?”

I’ll keep you posted with my progress — because regardless of whether there is muscle definition or not, there is always progress and moving forward!

But … where do you get your protein?

But … where do you get your protein?

One of the biggest questions I’ve been getting since our family has transitioned to plant-based is “Where do you get your protein?” I knew it would be a common question because it’s one that I initially asked. I felt quite concerned about it, actually. I worried about the kids and their protein intake. I worried about my own. I wondered how I was going to continue building muscle in the gym without all the protein I was eating. It was a really fear of mine!

Now when I field questions from people I have a standard answer, mostly because it is a very real fear in our culture that we won’t get enough protein and we might starve or worse, waste away from protein deficiency. I say this because the food industry has done an amazing job of marketing protein to us, which sends the subliminal message that we must need more protein, not less. I definitely thought more was more and therefore, better, for a long time.

If you’re wondering, and feel free to use it if it fits for you when fielding your own questions from friends and family, my standard answer now is to say, “We eat a lot of beans and legumes, quinoa and millet. Pretty much everything in the plant world has some protein.”

What has been really helpful for me has been to educate myself. The more I read, the more I want to learn. I thought it might be helpful for you to share some of the resources I have found particularly helpful in learning more about this amazing nutrient that gets A LOT of media attention (most of which is incredibly misleading):

  1. Clean Protein by Kathy Freston
  2. No Meat Athlete Episode 222
  3. The China Study by Colin Campbell
  4. Forks over Knives
  5. Podcast interview with Dr. Neil Barnard

I could keep listing resources but I think these are a great place to start.

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I have to say that since beginning this plant-based journey, I have experienced increased strength and endurance in the gym. I am building muscle and losing inches. My energy levels have increased. I sleep better. My skin is clearing. I could go on and on and on!

Take a moment and perform a Google search for “vegan body builders” or “vegan athletes” … you’ll be amazed at the people performing at elite levels on purely plant-based lifestyles. I find it incredibly inspiring and I hope you do as well!

 

Ice Cream Parties

Ice Cream Parties

So I still haven’t gotten that elusive pull-up … but I have experienced some major changes in strength lately. As you know from reading, we’ve been transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet. I don’t want to call ourselves vegan because I have leather shoes, as does my husband. I have leather purses (although I have a few that are certified vegan) and we have a vehicle with a leather interior. Will we try to stay away from these purchases in the future? Yes but I can’t say for certain that we always will be able to and I don’t see myself not continuing to use wool in my crafting (even though I try to source from multi-generational flocks now that aren’t meat sheep, which is harder than you might think). And when our son asked if he could have shrimp for his birthday dinner in July, we said we’d talk about it when the time came. There’s also an ice cream party in his classroom coming up in a week so we sat down and talked about it.

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I love the result of the conversation. It was completely driven by him:

I asked him how he felt about having cow’s milk/cream ice cream because it would be eating an animal product. He sat there and thought about it. I could tell he was really thinking about it, too, because he stopped eating and looked at me for a few moments. He said, “I don’t know.” Fair enough. He was torn. He didn’t want to miss out on the party and the treats, but he didn’t really seem to want the ice cream, either. I decided to give him two options (more and he would have been overwhelmed).

  1. He goes to the party and enjoys the ice cream with his teachers and friends (it will be a saying goodbye to his pregnant teacher party), or
  2. I bring in ice cream that he and I go and pick together so that it’s a flavour he likes (probably chocolate, let’s be honest) and he has that but enjoys the toppings that are provided, which will most likely include milk chocolate.

He light up! He asked if we could go and pick out an ice cream together to bring to the classroom. He agreed that having the toppings would be a good compromise.

I hadn’t tried to sway him either way – I told him we were happy with whichever option he chose. He will have to make decisions like this thousands of times in his young life so starting now means we can help him come up with alternatives and ideas. These are life skills both of our kids need to develop. I find it exciting to watch him mull it over and make decisions – sometimes he will make the ‘right’ decision and sometimes he won’t but in the end, he has to learn and start somewhere. Right now, we still have eggs in our fridge.

I’ve been eating them up – one at a time, each day. Never did I think we would start giving away food but we’ve started to empty the freezer and give things away. The thought of eating some of the food we have now that we’ve almost completely transitioned doesn’t appeal. I never thought we’d get to that point but here we are! What I thought I would do is bake a bunch of banana muffins and take them to school, along with egg-free muffins for our kids. It’ll use up the eggs and others can enjoy them. One step at a time but one step closer to a whole foods, plant-based diet.