Unless you’ve been shacked up somewhere in the Arctic Circle (heck, even they probably have WiFi now), you’ve heard of Intermittent Fasting and Alternate Day Fasting, and have seen those T25 Infomercials whilst polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on a Friday Night. (We’ve all been guilty of that at least once). Well I’ve jumped on those bandwagons and I’m here to give you my full report.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is NOT an endorsement of any particular diet or fitness program. It is simply my personal experience with these programs. We are all different, every body is different, and you should explore multiple options and decide for yourself what plan is the best fit for your lifestyle. And of course, consult your Doctor, dietitian, psychic, astrologer, are whoever it is you trust for diet and exercise advice. (Note: PLEASE do not fill my comments section with what I should/should not be doing or negative rants. I won’t post them, fyi. Positive comments and questions are always welcome. Thanks!)
A little background on my situation. As I confessed in a previous “Beauty & Fitness” post, the Bod had seen better days. A rough year contributed to falling off the exercise wagon and lots and lots of comfort food. I decided enough was enough, so I started back on near daily work-outs a few months ago, and started researching some of the newly publicized approaches to eating I’d been reading about. (I’ve always been an avid nutrition and exercise researcher). I was looking for an easy and sustainable way to go about this. I have been, like so many of you ladies reading this I’m sure, a life-long dieter. I’m over it. This time I wanted to take the slow and safe road. No more starvation! No more weirdness! (Remember the Cabbage Soup Diet? Yikes!) I love to cook, I love to bake, and I love to eat. I love my coffee with cream and sugar (ok, Agave). I love the occasional tasty cocktail or glass of red wine (or two). The last thing I want to do when I eat out is worry about what I can order. I’m a total foodie and enjoy the Hell out of good food and want to keep enjoying it. And, I want to feel FULL and satisfied after a meal. Is it possible to still have all this and lose fat off the Bod too? I knew there had to be a way. The studies on fasting looked promising, stating fat loss without muscle loss, and better health overall. There are two basic popular approaches making the rounds right now, and I tried them both. (FYI I’ve been walking this planet 45 years, am 5′ 4″, in good health, and have 20-25 pounds of fat yet to shed)
Alternate Day Fasting at first sounded like the answer. The theory is, “Fast” about every other day, eating 500 calories (or 25% of normal) on your fast days, and eat about 125% of your normal daily calories on the eating days. (You can read more about what Alternate Day Fasting is here: http://www.shape.com/blogs/weight-loss-coach/cheaters-guide-fasting or just Google “Alternate-Day Fasting”) I gave this method an honest 2-week go. In short, I hated it. I was a big fat (no pun intended) FAIL at this approach. It may work great for some people, but the fast days were murder for me. By Mid-afternoon I felt weak, fatigued, and jello-legged. I had low energy and could hardly get through my work-outs, let alone put in a strong effort. I also found that I tended to pig out more on my eat days. Then I just felt bloated and gross. After a couple weeks of this torture, I switched to a different method referred to as Intermittent Fasting.
In Intermittent Fasting, you do all your daily eating within a small window of time. Theories on this vary, but the daily “Eating Window” will generally be between 4-8 hours, then nothing for 20-14 hours, or abstaining from food for a full 24 hour period (say, from 6pm-6pm the next day) a couple times a week. (You can read about Intermittent Fasting here: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/28/intermittent-fasting-health-benefits.aspx or Google “Intermittent Fasting”) This approach made a lot of sense to me for a few reasons, mostly because I’m not hungry in the morning. It never made sense to me that I should force-feed myself a morning meal when my body was saying it didn’t want anything, but I did it anyway as that was the prevailing wisdom. I should have listened to my body instead. I started nice and easy into the intermittent fasting with the largest eating window (8 hours), and was able to pretty quickly go to a 6-hour window comfortably. Note: I am not pigging out in the eating window! I eat pretty darn healthy most of the time, I am a vegetarian and do most of my own cooking. (One of the perks of working at home.) There was an adjustment period to be sure, while my body got used to the program, but I am really digging it now! The best part is, I don’t get hungry. I can eat a big meal if I want, and I feel full. I have noticed my cravings for carbs and sugar have really decreased, and I’m full on less food. I have more energy as well, and have no problem giving it my all during work-outs. And yes, I am losing weight! Almost 10 pounds gone so far (my goal is 3-4 pounds a month, and I’m right on track.) I have made a few adjustments to the basic program that are working really well for me. Here is what I’m doing: 5-6 days a week, I practice Intermittent Fasting. I eat nothing (I do drink a lot of water and have a cup of black coffee in the morning) for 18 hours, then eat about 1200-1400 calories during my 6-hour Eating Window. (For me, that’s Noon-6pm, though it can be any period of time that is convenient, and I don’t beat myself up if I’m a little off). This makes eating easy-peasy. I usually have one good-sized meal, then a smaller meal later. One or two days a week I give myself a break, usually on the weekends. I am a believer in the “Cheat Day” theory, in that if you have a good cheat day once a week or so, your body will not get used to a consistent lower calorie intake and slow down your metabolism. So far this has held true for me, (no plateaus!), and besides, it’s fun 😉 I don’t go totally crazy on the days off, I still eat pretty healthy, but I eat what I want and do have a treat or two. (For example, Saturday Morning Pancakes are a tradition in my house, and I’m still making (and eating) them most every weekend!) I usually consume 2000-2500 calories on these days. In addition, I always work out in a “Fasted State”, meaning I work out during the Fasting Window. This works great for me as I like to work out in the morning. The theory is, the body will burn directly from your fat stores instead of from any food you have in your system. The bottom line is, I feel good, I have energy, I do not feel in any way deprived, and this is totally sustainable for me. Yay! And speaking of working out…
T25 Focus. As of today, I’ve completed 10 weeks of T25. A little background: I’ve worked out on and off most of life, and have pretty much done it all. What I have stuck with through the years is calisthenics and weight-lifting, because they work. I have a pretty good fitness foundation overall, despite falling out of the routine from time to time. Last year (motivated by an upcoming trip to Burning Man) I completed both Insanity and P90X back to back. These are both great programs and really did work for me, but admittedly, it’s a big time commitment. So when Shaun T (Insanity) came out with T25, I was all over it. He promised a great workout in just 25 minutes, and I have to say, he delivers. I sweat more with this program than I have with any other. After 10 weeks, I feel like I’ve got my muscle-mojo back. I did get winded and struggle at first (after a pretty long break in regular work-outs, that’s to be expected) but I’m getting stronger every week and doing very well with it now. You have to put a real effort in, but it does pay off. And it’s only 25 minutes! (plus 3 minutes for the cool-down). The short time has been key for me to stick with it. When the work-outs were over an hour, it was much easier to make excuses and skip a work-out. Now, I have no excuse. I tell myself “it’s only 25 minutes!” And I get it done. I’ve only missed 1 workout in 10 weeks, and was feeling rather ill that day. I plan on repeating “Beta” (I am determined to totally keep up with the videos for every workout, and I’m getting close!) then I will move on to Gamma. (T25 has 3 sections, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, each increasing in intensity). I do plan on integrating more weight-lifting back into my routine after completing Gamma (there is some in T25, but I like more 😉
In the final analysis, it’s all mental. I’ve stopped torturing myself. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I have a bad day. I only weigh myself once or twice a month (read: no more obsessing over the scale! It’s very liberating.) I’m being kind to myself and taking it easy. No one is perfect, we all eat too much, drink too much, or miss a work-out once in a while, and it’s ok. Life is too short to suffer, and I refuse to do it anymore. Maybe a plan like this will work for you, and maybe it won’t. Explore your options, try new things, and be good to yourself, always. It’s your life, and you deserve for it to be Fabulous.