Monday, December 21, 2015
I have been pretty quiet lately, mostly due to the fact that I am just trying to make it through the holidays without going crazy. :)
Fasting is a great tool, but it is best to stick to something of a schedule. It doesn't have to be written in stone--in fact a little variety is good, but too much variety can derail you. I have had a little too much variety since Thanksgiving, and this week of course is Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Followed by my anniversary. Followed by New Year's Eve & New Year's Day.
The only way I haven't gone completely off the wagon since Thanksgiving is because I have sprinkled a lot of 24 hours fasts in there. Any day I have an event, I fast all day until the event. Then I try to eat fat and protein and veggies first followed by other carbs (if I must have them) at the end of the meal.
Enjoying and celebrating special occasions is important but generally there really shouldn't be three special occasions in one week, let alone five. That is why I have decided to try a 14 day fast in the New Year. I'm excited about it! I plan to start it the 4th, and begin eating very high fat and low carb from Dec. 28th on to prepare myself. I find that having a good 3-5 days with lots of fat and good protein makes it much easier to transition into fasting. I don't know if I will make it the full 14 days, but I'm going to try!
I am off of work for almost two weeks (starting tomorrow at 2:30 pm!!) and plan to make a lot of bone broth and freeze it in ice cube trays, then store in a large freezer bag for easy grabbing. And stock up on some MCT oil and butter for my coffee. I also bought myself a small coffee grinder for my flax seed which I will be including more in my diet. I have a great recipe for a flax and chia seed hot cereal with cinnamon that I want to try. Very simple--just 2 T. ground flax, 2 T. chia seed, 2 T. heavy cream, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 to 1 cup hot water. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds good and it will help me get fat and fiber into my diet while I fast...
I will probably end up pretty tired of the broth and coffee and flax/chia "cereal" after about 4 days--(that's what happened on my last fast anyway)...so I may end up finishing the last few days on a water fast. We shall see how long I last this time...
Monday, November 16, 2015
It is getting much colder the last couple of weeks in Seattle. When I leave for work in the morning I have to wear scarves and gloves, and probably should be wearing a hat as well. It has also been raining a lot which makes me want to stay indoors where it is warm and dry. It makes it difficult to fast because I like to cook when the weather turns...Soups, stews, roasts. Things that warm the house up and smell good.
I have been consoling myself with my daily pot of broth that is always simmering on the back of the stove, or in the crock-pot. And I am trying out a lot of warm spicy teas like cinnamon chai and Market Spice.
This past week I did not lose any weight, but I had several social events which I made it through safely. I have one more this week (on Tuesday) which hopefully will turn out well. Then next week is the big Thanksgiving weekend--I may try to eat just once a day maybe on Thurs-Sat. Then do a longer fast Sun-Wed. I haven't had much time to post lately, but I thought I would share my weekly menu again at least...
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Saturday, November 7, 2015
My Grandfather's family on my mom's side comes from Sicily, and so when I had the chance to go to Italy a few years ago, (we we living in Germany at the time) I was very excited. I felt at home in Germany, people there are a lot like me, very particular about food and keeping things looking nice, but since we had moved there I had not traveled much outside Germany, so I wasn't sure what it would be like.
Italy was like coming home in a way I really can't explain. My husband drove us all the way there from Bavaria through Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and northern Italy all the way down to Sorrento. By the time we arrived in Sorrento, I had a new found respect for Italian drivers. You always hear that Italian drivers are terrible, that is absolutely not true. Italian drivers have their own way of approaching the rules of driving. Stop signs for example, are totally optional. But you don't just drive through them and crash into other cars, you honk as you approach a blind corner or a stopping point and let the other drivers know you are coming, then you brake or accelerate as needed. This driving style is a cultural reflection of Italian personality. You say hello, and depending on the response you get, you continue in an appropriate way. I drive like a German. My husband, however, drives like an Italian so we fit right in.
Once we were on the streets walking among the buildings and the people, taking boat rides to Capri and the train to Pompeii and Herculaneum, I was completely at home. In Germany, I was always afraid I would say something wrong in my terrible German. In Italy, even though I'm sure I pronounced things with a Spanish accent, people were so nice and welcoming and open. My grandmother had a music box that my uncle brought home for her when he was stationed in Italy after the war, it was made in Sorrento and plays Torna a Surriento. Maybe it's the sunshine, or maybe some genetic part of me just fits in there, but I will always feel like Sorrento is another home.
When I went to Italy, I was overweight by 20 or 30 pounds, and so was motivated to eat well while I was there. I remember trying to eat fairly low carb, but having a really hard time with breakfasts. Our hotel included breakfast, and in order to cut expenses, we tried to eat a large free breakfast and then just eat dinner. The hotels pretty much had continental breakfasts. My typical breakfast while there was two small whole grain rolls with large amounts of cream cheese, eggs if they had them, and plain whole milk yogurt with honey and fruit. Not very low carb, although better than American continental breakfasts which rely on pancakes, waffles, toast and cold cereals.
For dinners we would go out to nearby restaurants and eat whatever looked good. I admit I ate pasta although I tried to eat seafood as much as possible--grilled calamari is so incredibly delicious! Even so, by the time I got back home to Germany I had lost 10 pounds. Maybe it was the fasting between breakfast and dinner (often 12 hours), or maybe it was the lack of preservatives and the overly processed foods. Real Italian lasagna is a simple layering of pasta and cheese with a little sauce cooked in an oven and topped with cheese. The sauce was very tasty and there wasn't a lot of it. The cheese was ricotta mixed with herbs, topped with a little fresh mozzarella. This was very similar to my mom's lasagna.
When I went all-out low carb high fat, I looked and looked for a good low carb lasagne recipe that would work for me. I found Linda's Low Carb Lasagna which is delicious, but for true LCHF, I needed more fat and less protein. I loved the addition of the spinach though and the use of cream cheese instead of ricotta and decided to play around with the ingredients until I got the right maconutrient ratios for me. The result is a vegetarian lasagne with lots of mushrooms and cheese and a moderate amount of sauce. It isn't a true "lasagne" because there are no pasta-like layers, but I am sticking to the name:
24 ounces mushrooms sliced
4 T. butter
24 oz. frozen spinach
8 oz. full fat cream cheese, softened
3 cups shredded full fat mozzarella cheese
6 oz. tomato paste
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
Saute the mushrooms in butter.
Add tomato paste, 12 ounces water and dried herbs, mix well and simmer for 1/2 to 1 hour.
Thaw frozen spinach, and drain thoroughly.
Add cream cheese to spinach and mix well.
Add in egg, and stir until well incorporated.
In 9 X 12 baking dish, layer 1/2 of the mushroom sauce, 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella, all of the spinach mixture, 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella, 1/2 of the mushroom sauce and top off with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Makes 6 servings
So this week I have slipped pretty easily into the 42 hour fasts. They seem very easy compared to the 7 day fast. I also switched back to Fitday after playing around in MyFitnessPal all week. I really like Fitday better, I just wish the app had totals for each day and that I could sync my fitbit to it. But hey, I'm lucky they even have an app I suppose. Last year they just had the promise of one...
I had my first follow-up meeting today with Megan. There was a small group of us and she asked for our food journals and weight and waist measurement the day before so she could see how we were doing. Apparently I am doing really well.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Well, I made it. The last two days were kind of anti-climactic. I was mostly tired, and Thursday was a hard day. The hunger never really went away, but I didn't binge too much on my return to the eating world. I had my planned meal with a glass of wine, and went to bed early. Kind of boring, but still--I feel good about it.
The rest of the weekend, I followed Megan's advice, and ate as late in the day as possible having a snack around 3 pm and dinner around 6 pm on Saturday, then on Sunday a similar plan. I keep forgetting to write down my food, so I started a new MyFitnessPal Journal. I was using Fitday to track my food, and I do still like it, but the phone app doesn't tell me what my carb and protein counts are for the day, and also doesn't track my steps with my Fitbit like MFP does.
I have a follow-up appointment with Megan on Nov 5th (Thursday) at 11. I need to send her my food diary, current weight, and waist measurement.
I lost a total of about 8 pounds, then I ate over the weekend and gained back 4. I need to remember that weight loss is not the same thing as fat loss...
Today I start my regular weekly schedule. I fast 42 hours today, so the next time I eat will be dinner tomorrow. The same schedule is for Wednesday, and hopefully Friday. I forced myself to make menus for the week because I need to know that I have something healthy I can eat for my dinners, and something healthy to feed M for his lunches and dinners on my fast days as well.
Here is the plan through Friday, the Breakfast/Lunch options are for M--I will just be eating Dinners on Tuesday, Thursday, and maybe Friday depending on how things go... I left the weekend off my menu because on Saturday I will have time to go shopping and a make a new menu.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
So for my "lunch" break today I thought I would update my journal. I am back at work after a few days off, and am keeping busy and trying not to dwell on food too much although Starbucks does smell enticing.
Hunger is an interesting thing. Today is day 5 of my fast, and even though I feel hungry, my stomach is growling, I have all the signs of hunger, I am just not very interested in the chicken broth I made, preferring instead at this moment to drink water or plain tea. I had coffee this morning with coconut oil, butter and cream, and could only down half of it. It just wasn't appealing. Water and tea or even plain coffee sound better. Megan told a story in the class the other day about a woman who loved and craved coffee daily, but during a fast ended up so tired of it that she had to give it up for a while...
I feel that way about cinnamon. And chicken broth. And coconut oil.
I am also sort of cold. Although I am not sure if that is because of the fasting, or because it is just cold in here. I'm not the only one who feels cold today...
I'd like to just go home and take a nap which could be due to waking up at 2:30 am and not being able to really get back to sleep, or it could be due to a breakdown in my fuel pathways. If I do this again, I may just take the whole week off--I think it would be easier. I am hoping that any minute now my body will figure out that I have ample fat stores that it could easily use for fuel. It is definitely struggling right now.
Dr. Fung has a great description of the process that we go through when fasting to be able to create ketones and alternate fuel for the body. It is pretty amazing.
Mentally, I am sort of vacillating between tired/hungry and euphoric/satisfied. Since today is day 5 of my fast, I should be well on my way to using large amounts of ketones in my brain. People say that it is at this point (or near this point) that the un-hungry phase begins. May people report that after 4-5 days that they completely lose their appetite and are comfortable and happy not eating. Currently, my stomach is still growling, so I am not quite there yet. I hope to be there soon...
Monday, October 26, 2015
One of the big questions I had as I approached my 7 day fast was, "I wonder what it will feel like?" I have done many short 24-46 hour fasts, so I had some idea of what the first day or two would be like...
I am lucky in that I get a sort "buzz" from fasting. A feeling of well-being. If you have ever taken Phentermine, you might be familiar with this feeling. It is almost like euphoria. I don't think everyone experiences this, or at least not at first. The first few days of a fast can be difficult. During that time, your body is using up its glucose stores. It knows that you aren't putting more food in, and so it sends you hunger signals. The feeling of well-being I get is the result of chemicals that the brain releases to deal with the stress that I am putting my body under. There is a good short post on one of my favorite science blogs that talks about what happens to our brains when we fast.
If you have not been following a low carbohydrate diet--fasting can be pretty miserable those first few days. Since I follow a low carb Paleo diet (Primal really, since I do consume dairy), it really hasn't been that hard for me. Yes there are moments of hunger. But hunger really isn't a constant growling pain in my stomach. It comes and goes. I start my day off with Keto coffee, and I drink lots of water and tea the rest of the day. When I feel the stirrings of hunger, I sip on a cup of bone broth. If I feel ravenous, I know it will stop in a few moments. In a few days, maybe today or tomorrow, I will get to the place where my body starts burning primarily fat for fuel, and the hunger pangs will stop, because my body will realize that I have ample stores of fat, and it can use that fuel instead.
I took a few days off from work, because in the past when I have fasted for more than one day, I have felt a little nauseated from time to time. I don't like the idea of dealing with that while at work--just because it could be totally solved by sleeping through it. I find that it is really easy to nap through a couple of days if I can manage that, and if I am feeling "icky". Part of the nausea might be lack of salt, so I made sure to put a heaping tablespoon of it in my bone broth. It is also important to drink enough water, and other liquids which I have great access to at home. At work, I am subjected to cravings far more than at home because there is the smell of food and the smell of coffee from the Starbucks on site, so I decided that this time I would just skip all that...
So far, other than occasional expected moments of hunger, I feel great! I have had a hard time falling asleep at night, but fortunately with not having to worry about work, I can sleep when I am actually tired so that is working out well. Even if I was going to work, I seem to be very awake and alert in the morning anyway. I got up at 3:15 to get lunch together for my husband, and could have gotten up then if I had wanted to--I was certainly alert, and didn't feel sleep deprived even though I didn't go to sleep until around midnight the night before...
I have had a slight headache off and on for the past couple of days, but so far today I feel pretty good. Up until now, my longest fast has been 68 hours. As of today I have fasted 76 hours so far, I plan to fast until dinner on Friday, just because it will be easier--no packing of food, etc. That means I have 100 (ish) hours to go. By tomorrow at this time, I will be more than halfway to my 176 hour goal!
Sunday, October 25, 2015
My goal, as I mentioned before is to lose weight, (although fasting on its own has been used for centuries for a multitude of ailments.)
I would say I'm a pretty average American woman. I'm substantially overweight, 48 years old, and have a sedentary job. Most people I talk to think fasting is pretty extreme. I have dabbled in intermittent fasting for a long time, and am totally comfortable with the idea of going without food for a day. It's not that extreme, but there is a fear that has been ingrained in us that fasting is somehow dangerous. This idea that if you don't eat six times a day, you will suppress your metabolism, and put your body into "starvation mode." For more information on why intermittent fasting is different, read this.
Fat equals energy. The reason I am overweight is because my body does not use the stored fat that it has available. Humans, like other mammals evolved to be able to store fat and to use that stored fat as a resource when necessary. Because I am insulin resistant, I cannot access those fat stores. I joined Dr. Jason Fung's Long Distance Intensive Dietary Management program with the support and approval of my current doctor. I sent them my medical records, and will meet with them via GoToMeeting every month or so for support and advice, while my doctor monitors my blood tests, and supports my health on this end.
I had a five hour class Friday as part of the IDM program. Despite the fact that I had to get up early for it (because they are located in Ontario, and I am on the west coast), it was a great class! I did learn a couple of new things. This is great because I do A LOT of reading on the topic of fasting and the ketogenic therapeutic approach to diet, and I wanted to learn more and was afraid this class would not give me the kind of information I wanted. Megan, who I am going to call my project adviser was fun to listen to and a very good teacher--she used a lot of stories and easy-to-absorb examples. This program is obviously designed for people who don't know much about a ketogenic diet, and who have not fasted or read about fasting as much as I have. I admit, I have been obsessed with it for some time, but even so, I felt the class was well worth my time, and it was a quick five hours.
Insulin resistance causes fat gain. Insulin resistance is the result of chronic high levels of insulin in the blood. This can be caused by multiple factors. One of the most common factors is too many refined carbohydrates in the diet. Another thing that can cause high insulin levels is long term psychological stress. Dr. Fung describes how this works in this post:
"In modern times, chronic, non-physical stressors increase cortisol. For example, marital issues, problems at work, arguments with children, and sleep deprivation are all serious stressors, but do not result in vigorous physical exertion afterwards to lower blood glucose. Under conditions of chronic stress, glucose levels remain high. There is no vigorous physical exertion to burn off the glucose, and there is no resolution to the stressor. The blood glucose can remain elevated for months. This chronic elevation in glucose can trigger the release of insulin. Chronically elevated cortisol leads to increased insulin. This has been demonstrated in several studies."
Much of the class was an overview of how fasting can bring down insulin levels. And the last hour or so was an overview of the recommended diet that you follow when not fasting. I started off my program with a 7 day fast. I started my fast Friday, October 23, and will eat again next Friday, October 30. The purpose of this fast is to lower my insulin levels. This will allow my body to enter a state of ketosis. When I am in ketosis, it unlocks the fat from my cells and allows my body to use them as fuel in the form of ketones. There is an excellent (and easy to understand) description of how this works on Dr. Fung's blog.
During the fast I am to drink 2 liters of water. I am allowed still and sparkling water. I can also have any kind of tea and herbal tea, coffee and bone broth. I can make Keto coffee if I want to. Recipe: 2 T. Organic coconut oil (or MCT oil), 2 T. grass-fed butter, 2 T. grass-fed (pastured, not pasteurized) cream. Adding cinnamon to coffee will help to lower insulin, so my recipe includes 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon as well. MCT oil is tricky, I end up with digestive distress if I take more than 1 T. of it at a time, although I understand that your toleration of it improves with time.
I am also advised to take 1 T. of apple cider vinegar 3 X per day before meals in water.
Obviously on fast days I won't be eating, so I will take the Apple cider vinegar before my keto coffee and before bone broth. I am starting off with 1 tsp instead, because 1 T. is a little too vinegary for me at the moment. I am going to add lemon next time I try it to see if it helps with the flavor. Apparently vinegar serves as a good appetite suppressant, and has other healthy attributes--I use Bragg's Organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
Once I am done with my 7 day fast, I will switch to a regular fasting schedule.
There are many different intermittent fasting schedules.
If fasting is very difficult, a good way to ease into it is to try three 24 hour fasts per week which entails eating only one meal on those three days, say M, W, F, like this:
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
T Eat Eat Eat
W Fast Fast Eat
T Eat Eat Eat
F Fast Fast Eat
S Eat Eat Eat
S Eat Eat Eat
The next step up would be three 36 hour fasts where you would choose three days to skip meals and eat the next day. This 36 hour fast schedule would look something like this:
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
M Fast Fast Fast
T Eat Eat Eat
W Fast Fast Fast
T Eat Eat Eat
F Fast Fast Fast
S Eat Eat Eat
S Eat Eat Eat
The fasting schedule I will be starting with, however is a 42 hour fast:
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
M Fast Fast Fast
T Fast Eat Eat
W Fast Fast Fast
T Fast Eat Eat
F Fast Fast Fast
S Fast Eat Eat
S Eat Eat Eat
It may turn out that I will be able to do a 42 hour fast on Monday and Wednesday, but not on Friday in which case I may be have to be happy with that--we have a lot of events on Fridays and weekends, so it may work out best for me to do two 42 hour schedules and one 24 hour schedule at least some of the time. We will see what kind of success I have.
One thing Megan did mention is that it is not a good idea to do 24 hour fasting every day and just eat dinner. We want to keep the body guessing! In the past I have made this mistake just eating one meal a day and the result was that I managed to lose weight initially, but then after a couple of months I plateaued...
For the meals I eat, I will be following a strict low carb high fat diet. (LCHF).
The rules are pretty simple: Avoid all processed food. Limit meat to about 60 grams per day (for women). Eat only organic, grass-fed, pastured and wild protein sources. Limit carbs to 30 grams. For me, (doing this for weight loss) that means eating non-starchy vegetables (veggies that grow above ground) pretty much exclusively for my carbs. I can also eat berries and fruits with skin, but those have to be within my 30 gram limit per day. The rest of my diet will be made up of fat. I don't have to limit fat, but I should only eat until I am satisfied. Fat, like the proteins I am eating, needs to be made up of healthy choices. Grass-fed butter, coconut oil, the fats that come naturally with the meat you eat. Eat your chicken skin!
If I am having a meal out, or it is a special occasion, I can have an occasional starchier treat like legumes, or sweet potato, but those need to be 10-20% of my diet and only on special occasions.
If special occasions become every day or even every week--it could derail me so I have to be careful. I know myself, and I can justify pretty much anything to myself, so it is important that I control my special occasions.
I can have one glass of dry red wine or so with meals on my eating days--for my part I think I will restrict that to Fridays and weekends, and have flavored (no sugar) seltzer water instead during the week. Alcohol can lower my resistance to the foods I shouldn't be eating...
Megan had a great rule for us that I think will be helpful. The rule of three.
In order to increase variety and add control don't do anything more than three times a week: For example: I can have chicken up to three times per week, eat Brussels sprouts up to three times per week, drink wine up to three times per week, eat raspberries up to three times per week, etc...
So today is day three. I am experiencing hunger off and on, but it comes in waves and is pretty easy to ignore. When I get hungry I have a cup of coffee or tea or broth, and it subsides. The only issue I have had so far is a difficult time sleeping. This could be because I drink coffee too late in the day, or it could be the fasting...In a few days I will be over this introductory period, and am told that I won't feel hungry, and I will be able to sleep better.
I am looking forward to the future! :)
Saturday, October 24, 2015
As a result of the article, I started to second-guess myself. I am one of those women who loves intermittent fasting. I feel very good in a fasted state. I can consistently lose weight. My skin improves, everything improves. My menstrual cycle becomes much more normal. But, I read the article, and doubt started to creep in. What if all the studies she mentions in the post could be applied to me? What if I was burning out my adrenals, and ruining my metabolism? What if I was doing serious damage to my hormonal regulation?