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Food, Panic & Fasting

Confession: I missed two days of doing one pushup last week. Mostly because I just forgot. I have a reminder set now, so I’ll definitely do better this week (did 8 last night)!

I’m actually very motivated to do well with that goal, because I’m finally, after years of being stuck at the same basic weight, losing again. The thing is, I’ve always had good luck with keto-style diets (where your body burns fat instead of sugar/carbs for energy), but it’s not a sustainable diet if, like me, you enjoy a wide variety of foods and food preparation techniques. I’ve never been all that keen on giving up natural sugars like fruit either – there are good nutrients in fruit, and not all carbs are bad, IMO.

There’s a new-ish trend that’s becoming more popular called Intermittent Fasting, and while I’m not normally one to jump on various trendy bandwagons, this one appealed to be mainly because it’s largely how I ate all through high school & college. I was never overweight back then – in fact, I had trouble keeping weight on. But I never ate breakfast, and went from vending machine to taco bell and back while being on my feet for more hours than not during the day.

Also, genetics. When I was young, they were on my side. Now, not so much. *sigh*

Obviously, I didn’t eat all that well back then, but I also didn’t eat all that much, which was the key. And when you love food like I do, and you have enough money to buy food (like I do now), it’s incredibly difficult to just “limit calories” for three meals a day. Also, not much fun.

The thing about intermittent fasting is that if you fast for enough hours in the day, your body will switch to fat burning when it runs out of carb energy. And if you work up to longer fasts, you can ramp up something called “autophagy”, which, from what I read, is when your cells start cleaning themselves up (dismantling the old, dysfunctional or otherwise mutated bits and turning them back into usable “parts”). There are other potential benefits as well, but those are the two I’m most interested in.

So, after a lot of research, the hubby and I decided to try it. He was interested first, so he was already basically following the no-eating from around 7:30pm (when we normally finish dinner) to lunch the next day, though he’d have a light snack late at night, and occasional snacks at work in the morning (so not a true fast). I, on the other hand, was eating round the clock, and I knew it would be more of a mental challenge for me to change than a physical one.

Mostly because, before last week, I panicked if I got hungry. Something about that hunger hormone (gherlin?) hit my brain and told me to eat asap to keep my blood sugar up! Don’t go without! Don’t starve! Very bad things will happen!!

Hormones are drama queens, and can’t be trusted. My brain knows this, but still responded with the appropriate panic to hunger signals. Which was really annoying, once I put it in perspective. My body was controlling me, not the other way around. And that made me want to take control.

Being a control freak isn’t all bad. Sometimes, those powers can be used for good…

To start, I cut out my late-night snack (a half-cup helping of yogurt, granola, hemp & chia seeds, and maple syrup). I have (had) trouble sleeping on an empty stomach, so I was prepared for a struggle, but I managed to make it through to the next morning. Then I started pushing my breakfast back, first by an hour, then another one, and another, and another. The first day was really rough, because that “hunger hormone” kept firing off every time I would normally eat, and the more I didn’t eat, the more insistent it was, so I was hungry pretty much all day – even when I was eating.

The lack of salt in my diet didn’t help – my electrolytes went really low and gave me a whopper of a headache, which wasn’t pleasant. A little sea salt in water did fix that problem, and I’m more attentive to getting a little salt in daily now to combat that (salted peanuts).

In any case, after the first day, things got a lot easier, and now I’m doing 15 hour fasts regularly Mon – Fri, and pushing towards 16 (which is the goal). We don’t fast on the weekends because our schedules are just way too variable, but we still only eat a couple times per day – morning and evening, often skipping lunch.

According to the scale, I’ve lost two pounds in the last week and a half. Which is pretty amazing, all things considered. If I can keep losing a pound a week (or even a pound every other week), that would be incredible. I have a good 15-20lbs to lose, and slow and steady would be perfect (and not leave me with too much loose skin).

I do have to make sure I get enough fiber, which is kind of a challenge with a smaller eating window. But the longer I go without food, the easier it gets, so I’m really not hungry during the fasting window any longer. And I don’t feel the need to eat a lot during my eating window either…so I don’t “binge” to catch up, which is also good. My body is running on less overall, and doing just fine with that, and I don’t have to work at it all that hard, now that I’m through the adjustment period.

I try to stick to a fairly low-carb diet anyways, and I’m still doing that too. But I haven’t been too strict about it lately, and I’m still losing weight, which means in the fasting parts of my day my body is definitely burning fat for fuel. I want to keep that going, and I imagine when that starts to slow down, I’ll be able to go stricter with the low-carb thing and get some extra loss out of it to keep my metabolism revved.

So…a good experiment so far, and one I’ll continue for as long as possible/feasible. One more weapon in the arsenal against the bad genes in my makeup. Here’s hoping it’ll make a long-term difference.


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On Food, Cooking, & Eating

No, I don’t have a menu plan drawn up yet this week, though I have the beginnings of one in my head, and by the time you read this, I might have actually committed it to “dry erase magnetic menu board”. It was another incredibly busy weekend (don’t see those ending until the snow flies again, honestly), and while I need to figure out how to make time for menu-ing, it hasn’t happened yet.

But I do make time for meal prep on Sundays – making things ahead of time to keep the freezer stocked with “homemade fast foods” and the fridge stocked with my weekday breakfasts (two hardboiled eggs and five prunes, eaten in the car on the way to work – yay fiber/protein rich finger food!). I try to stagger the larger freezer-stocking recipes so I don’t have to do so much all at once, but this past weekend, I needed to restock both oatmeal bars and burritos, and I found myself sort of grumbling under my breath about having to take the time and thinking about buying such things pre-made like we used to in order to save the time on Sundays.

I do that often – complain about the work I create for myself, that is. And then I remember why I do it, and shut up and get it done, thankful that I’m lucky enough to be able to make the time. Health and taste are almost always the reason I make something rather than buying it. I started making oatmeal bars at home because my husband (who isn’t even eating them at the moment) didn’t like the fiber bars we were buying because they tasted too much like coconut (and honestly, I wasn’t all that fond of them either). The burritos we used to buy came/come in beef or bean flavors, but not both together, which always annoyed me. And of course after reading the labels on both packages and finding a lot of stuff I’d rather not have in there for various reasons, I decided to make my own.

As I was standing there, rolling burritos with less filling than I personally would have liked but just enough to fill them without over-filling, I got to thinking about how every Monday I eat one of those burritos that look somewhat “scant” when I’m making them, and it’s plenty of calories to take me all the way to my 4:30pm oatmeal bar snack. I don’t feel hungry, and I don’t need more…it’s plenty, even though it *looks* like it won’t be enough.

Which made me think about how little we really *need* to eat for optimal health (not even just survival, which is less yet, but truly optimal weight and performance), and yet we so often blow right past that need just because…well, because it doesn’t look like much, for one thing, and for another, we have access to a lot of really good food, whether we buy it or make it. It’s *so* good that we don’t want to stop when we’ve had enough. Or even when we feel way too full. We still want more, and we often have it.

I love food, and I love to cook and bake. I love a lot of different tastes and textures and colors and scents, and affording them wasn’t always a luxury I had. When I was young, we were poor, and we ate a lot of antelope meat (couldn’t afford beef, and antelope was easier to find than deer when my dad went out hunting with my grandparents). I like deer quite a bit. Antelope, not so much. It’s often tough and “gamey” and the only real way to make it less so was to cook it with a lot of spices. By the time I hit high school, I’d perfected using just enough pepper and garlic to make an antelope steak taste like sausage. Ironically, I don’t get wild game anymore – hubby didn’t grow up on it, and as is pretty common, it’s too rich for his system.

I learned to cook pretty young, first helping my mom and grandma in the kitchen, and gradually doing more myself. My mom went back to work when I was 13-14 or so, and that year, it was my job to make dinner every night. We had a lot of Hamburger Helper (with wild game, of course), but I also went through my first recipe book as well as my mom and grandma’s old ones, and since we often didn’t have the ingredients needed for any given recipe (and couldn’t just go buy them), I learned early on how to experiment with substituting in pretty much every recipe.

To this day, even though I can afford the “proper” ingredients and have a very well-stocked pantry, it’s extraordinarily rare that I make it through a whole recipe without changing something, even if it’s just because I think it will taste better. More often, if I want to learn to cook something, I’ll go look up a bunch of different recipes and then make up my own version using a bit from this one and a bit from that, etc. Yes, even with baking, though I don’t do that too often any longer due to the carbs and calories involved.

Which brings me back to portion sizes, and health, and how little we need for optimal “performance”. I try to keep my portion sizes down, but man…it’s hard. Mostly because I love food, and love to cook, and the correct portion sizes for my body are really very small. The correct foods for my body don’t include carbs, but who doesn’t love a beautiful french bread for dipping, or corn chips for chili, or pasta here and there? It’s kind of a delicate balancing act, and one I’m still a long way from perfecting.

Even without carbs, it’s hard to get in all the fiber and veggies I need for one day. Fiber takes up a lot of calories, but thankfully veggies don’t. By the time I get in all the fiber, protein and good fats I need, I’m either right at or already over my calorie limit for the day. It’s crazy and fascinating all at once.

Obviously, exercise is something I need to do often (and I’m working on it), but so is cutting those portion sizes even smaller, and accepting the fact that I really don’t need nearly as much food as I’m taking in. Acknowledging that I eat too much, and I do so because I enjoy it, and the consequences of that is a less than optimal body.

I’m not judging anyone for the food choices they make, and I hope that’s not how this sounds. I’m completely focused on myself here, and what I need. Which is “less”. And my most recent food project is to do exactly that – eat less, and accept that I need less. Part of that is presentation – making “less” look nice with good presentation, and part of that is looking into smaller plates and such, so that “less” looks like more than it actually is. Mind games are sometimes handy.

I’ve lost about 2lbs in the last six weeks or so, which is slow going, but it’s going in the right direction, so I’m not complaining. Cutting portion sizes and lowering carbs way, way down has been very beneficial, and so has the weight training program I put myself on (not to mention all the concrete blocks I’m building garden walls with in the backyard). I’d like to lose about 15 more pounds, but I’d settle for 5-10. We’ll see how it goes over the next few months. This stupid over-forty metabolism is for the birds, I tell you what. But hopefully by Christmas I’ll have good news there, and also some smaller-portion meal examples to share.

And tonight, we’ll probably have fast food for dinner, because we have to go get another load of cement bricks for the back retaining wall. And I don’t cook when we have to go out and about right after work. Baby steps!

Do you like to cook? Love to eat? Tell me your favorite recipe (or three)!


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Of Stretch Marks, Cold Medicine & The Apocalypse…

I think I might be the only woman on the planet who looks in the mirror after a shower, and celebrates new stretch marks. It means I’m losing girth around my stomach/hips, which means I’m losing fat, and that’s far more important than whatever number the scale happens to say. Sure, they’re not the prettiest things in the world, but it’s not like people actually see my stomach/hips (aside from my husband and he’s contractually obligated not to care about how they look).

In any case, fat lost, skin shrinking, good stuff. Motivation to keep working out, walking the stairs and watching portion sizes/carbs.

If only eating (mostly) healthy and working out were all it took to keep from getting common ailments like…say…a cold. Friday night, I felt a sore throat coming on, and it even swelled up a bit, almost like an allergy. Except all the normal stuff I’d do for an allergy didn’t work. Finally late that night, I made up a batch of my favorite cold medicine, which includes a big dollop of honey, a couple dashes of apple cider vinegar (the real stuff with live cultures), a pinch of turmeric and a bit of fresh ginger all mixed up in a mug of warm water. It doesn’t taste all that great (but better than chemical-laden meds, IMO), but it seems to knock stuff out quick, and it did take care of my sore throat by the time I woke up the next morning. Had another cup later in the afternoon when the sore throat threatened to come back, and I was fine all day Sunday. One more cup late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and I should be good to go. Fingers crossed!

I’ve been watching several sci-fi shows online lately – most of which are set in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve watched as many free episodes of “Defiance” as there are available on Amazon Prime, I’m anxiously awaiting the return of “The 100” on the CW, and I’m working my way (quickly) through the second season of “Falling Skies” on Amazon Prime. All of these shows tend to make me think about what I would need to survive (minimally) in those types of environment, what I would want if possible to carry it, and perhaps more importantly, who I’d want to connect with and who I’d want to avoid. It’s a valuable thought-exercise, I think…moreso than the ubiquitous “if you were stranded on a desert island” question. I think it’s valuable too to think about what kind of skills you’d want to have in that situation – things a lot of people don’t cultivate any longer, like seed-saving, and a working knowledge of what kind of plants are poisonous vs. edible in different environments. Suddenly people who do certain types of crafts like spinning and soap-making from scratch are people who might be on that list of people to connect with in case of an apocalypse…

…and maybe those would be good connections to foster before some sort of major crisis happens. Just like some of those skills you might need might be good things to cultivate in advance, just in case. The odds of something happening to send us back to the dark ages is pretty remote, but…maybe not as remote as we’d like to think.

Seems kind of fitting to be thinking apocalyptic thoughts on a Monday morning, eh?


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