In December 2017, I had a hysterectomy. I was 116 pounds (and had been for many years other than when I was pregnant) and was comfortable at that weight. I'm 5'3" and 115 lb is my body's "ideal."
After surgery I began gaining weight although I wasn't eating differently or exercising any less. I was lifting heavier weight once I could, so I wondered if some of the gain was muscle. Don't we all hope for that a little when we start putting on weight? Maybe it's just muscle? :)
I have actually never experienced weight gain outside of pregnancy in my almost-30 years of life. I am very consistent with my eating and exercise patterns - consistency really is the key, right?!
Well, despite my consistency, here I am 10 pounds heavier.
I don't completely hate the way I look and feel at 126, BUT I don't fit in any of my pants anymore and I don't feel like buying new pants. I preach prevention ad nauseam, so I figured I should turn on my prevention mechanisms and see what I can do to prevent this 126 from climbing, and hopefully reverse the trend before it gets out of hand.
My goal is 120, not 116. My goal is also to keep muscle gainz and lose the fat.
As a dietitian, I should know everything about every diet. Just kidding, that's impossible for any human to keep track of. But I do keep hearing relatively good things about intermittent fasting (IF) as an eating pattern and I got curious, so I Googled it in a very non-scholarly way. I found that all IF folks don't do it the same. The pattern that appealed to me was eating for 8 hours a day, and fasting for 16.
11 a.m.-7 p.m. was to be my new eating window.
I have fallen into a rut of eating Larabars (these are my favorite) or various Nature Valley protein or granola bars for breakfast every morning because COFFEE. They are so good with coffee. As good as it is together, it seemed like such an easy meal to say bye to. Also, I'm a wine drinker and a frozen yogurt eater, so having a cutoff of 7pm will naturally not enable me to indulge too much in either of those.
Here are the effects I experienced, both good and bad, from my time trialing IF.
1. Stomach churned at all of my "missed" meals.
It's amazing how smart the human body is. Mine has been used to a very consistent eating pattern, so at 7am, 10am, and 8pm when I would normally be consuming something to eat, my body let me know loud and clear that it was ready for it. The hunger was pretty constant during my fasting period, but it wasn't painful or uncomfortable very often. I did experience some upper right quadrant pain a few times that had me worried that my gallbladder was peeved at this new routine, and the hunger turned to nausea a few times, but the hunger was otherwise bearable for me until the night I gave it up, which I'll talk about in a minute...
2. Great energy to work out in fasted state.
I attended a hard core cycling class at 10 a.m. in a fasted state and burned 500 calories in 60 minutes on the bike. It felt great. I had good energy, and it was as if my hunger signals turned off while I was working out.
3. When it was finally time to eat, I wasn't hungry.
My first meal after 16 hours of fasting, I made a huge plate of veggies, sweet potato, fresh tomato and onion. It looked amazing, but when I sat down to eat I was full after about the first 5 bites. The first day I kept eating tiny little bits of this and that all day. I couldn't stomach a full meal. This was a big surprise to me because of what I had read about others getting into binge eating habits during their eating window. My body wouldn't have been able to tolerate binge eating even if I had wanted to. I got a warm pretzel and cheese at the zoo and couldn't eat but a few bites of it before feeling full, which is VERY unlike me.
4. Could not get enough water.
I drank SO MUCH WATER during the fasting periods. This was great, because I previously was not drinking enough water.
5. Funny taste in my mouth in the mornings.
I'm not even sure if I can describe it as sweet or metallic, which is usually how ketosis breath is described. It was just... weird. It felt like as soon as my body switched to fat burning for energy, the weird taste accompanied it. I did not like this effect.
6. Not able to work out at the end of the eating window.
This is where my time with IF ended. I worked out intensely around 6 p.m. when my eating period ended at 7 p.m. In the middle of that night, I had extreme hunger. The kind where it hurts, you get dizzy and feel like you'll throw up all at the same time. I realized that in order to continue IF, I would have to work out at the same time in the mornings every day to avoid this. My lifestyle does not allow for this kind of requirement. I need the freedom to be able to be active when I feel like being active, not on a set schedule. This was the game changer and the point at which I switched gears to another form of weight gain prevention which I'll talk about in a later blog post.
7. Intense mental clarity and energy in the mornings.
This was my absolute favorite aspect of IF and the only reason I may fast here and there as desired when I need a productivity reset. I would wake up early in the morning feeling rested and all of the time I used to waste sitting around eating my Larabar and drinking coffee was channeled into working. Eating wasn't an option, and I can't just sit around and do nothing until my kids wake up, so I ended up budgeting, writing, reading, designing, planning, and researching like a boss.
All in all, I'm glad I gave Intermittent Fasting a go. It is certainly not a lifestyle I will ever choose to live full time because of the restrictions it places on my fitness. I suppose it could be great for someone that never exercises or plans to exercise, or someone that can consistently exercise at the same time every day. I've had patients that for health reasons are unable to exercise, and for them it may work beautifully.
The key to making this work is to ask yourself at the beginning of the day, "How many nutrients can I fit into my eating window," and making sure you don't eat all dead foods for 8 hours straight during your eating window. That will not end well.
In all eating lifestyles, you must follow what works for you. You're unique and must never assume that one person's successful health journey will be yours. Try things out for yourself and if it doesn't work, never assume you've failed - switch gears and find something that works. Having a plan and eating mostly living foods - these are 2 pieces of advice that will benefits anyone and everyone.
Intermittent Fasting just all around just didn't feel right in my gut, pun intended, so I'm moving on to find what method works better for me.