No Shame in Your Game

Sorry about posting like NOTHING last week. I was reeeeeallly busy.

And uninspired.

And lazy.

IMG_6449Even as I sit here writing this now (in the middle of another busy week), I’m trying to recover from all of those feelings. Writing is tough. I do it all day every day and sometimes I just need a break — a writing fast, if you will.

Busy and resistant as I was, I still got in a fasting day last week and this week, too. I was super lazy about them — a banana for breakfast and some scrambled eggs for dinner.

No fast-day ramen, or pretty salads, or hipster avocado toast.

Smart OnesWhen I have weeks like this, I try to make my most difficult tasks as easy as possible. Sometimes, that means eating really boring food or using frozen diet dinners. I used to feel like this was cheating. I used to worry about missing out on protein and nutrients and fiber and doing more harm than good for my body.

Calming the mind is the biggest challenge I face when fasting. If I’m not worried about eating too little, I’m worried about not eating the right things. Now I know all of that worrying was for nothing because here I am, 3 years later and I’m healthy and fine.

Sometimes, as I’m scrambling my dinner eggs or ripping open the box of 240 calorie fettuccine alfredo, I stand there all alone in my kitchen and say out lout “no shame in your game”.

If this is what I have to do to get my fasting day in, then there’s nothing wrong with it. Could I be eating something better? Sure, but isn’t that really true of every meal? If I asked myself that before I sat down to eat, I would have to replace most of my meals with salad.

Now that I don’t feel guilty about eating lame food on my fasting days, I can go back to feeling guilty about not updating my blog often enough — and we all know that’s really where I need to kick myself in the butt.

Recipe: Strawberry Lentil Salad

img_6845.jpgI’m not one for salads.

I don’t mind getting a salad on the side of a real dish like chicken parm or a brunch fritata, but I hate eating a salad as a whole meal. They rarely fill me up unless they contain not-salad ingredients like Chipotle’s barbacoa. Getting them to taste good usually means dressing them with a fattening olive oil concoction that adds back in all of the calories you’re trying to save by eating a salad in the first place.

But I don’t write this blog for me and I’m sure some of you like a salad every now and then, if for no other reason than to psychologically feel better about eating a burger or a piece of cake later in the week. After fasting for 3 years, I feel no such guilt and consider it one of the many benefits of my choice of diet.

I saw a salad recipe in a magazine a while back that actually sounded like it could be filling and tasty. I never thought about adding lentils to a salad, but I like lentils so I thought it was worth a try. Strawberries and balsamic vinegar is always a winning combination in my book, but usually for dessert. Here’s how I recreated that magazine salad I loosely remember:

img_6852.jpgStrawberry Lentil Salad w/ Balsamic Dressing
1/2 cup canned lentils 70 calories
1/4 cup goat cheese 80 calories
150 grams strawberries 42 calories
100 grams arugula 24 calories
1/2 tsp olive oil 20 calories
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 calorie

Total calories: 237

I realize the oil to vinegar ratio is out of whack compared to a normal vinaigrette, but considering the vinegar has 1 calorie/tablespoon and the oil has 120 calories/tablespoon it was really the best move. I probably didn’t need the oil at all. I barely tasted it and the balsamic wasn’t overpowering. I admit to adding a little more balsamic vinegar at the end, but it wasn’t a full tablespoon so I didn’t feel the need to add the extra calorie to the recipe.

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100 grams is a lot of arugula. My medium sized mixing bowl was full before I added in all the good stuff. That’s one good thing about eating a salad on a fasting day:  you can have huge portion of raw greens for very little calories.

I originally thought about cutting the goat cheese portion in half because it seemed a little indulgent to eat more calories in cheese than protein, but when I added everything together and it came to less than 250 calories, I decided to get down with my bad self and go for the full serving of cheese (according to the packaged serving size).

img_6854.jpgThe final verdict: this salad was delicious, low-calorie, filling, and pretty (bonus). Now that summer has arrived with a vengeance, I’m not going to be “cooking” as much as I usually do, so there may be more salads to come. It’s funny that I’m finally starting to come around to salads after I’ve figured out a way to be thin without them.

Recipe: Egg Salad Sandwich

Check the nutrition facts on your groceries. You’ll be surprised.

Mayonnaise isn’t something I would think I could use on a fasting day because it’s essentially just eggs ad oil, but I got this “mayo” for a different recipe and realized it only had 35 calories in a tablespoon. So I knew I could make some kind of sandwich with it. The fridge was a little empty the week I made this, but I always have eggs. So, behold, my barebones, fasting-worthy, super simple egg salad sandwich.

I won’t even insult your intelligence by giving you instructions on how to put it together, but I did the calorie math at the end just to show you it works out to a low-calorie meal.

Enjoy!

Eggs  Eggs and Mayo  Egg Salad

Fast Egg Salad Sandwich:

2 hard boiled eggs: 180 calories
1 tbsp Chipolte Mayo: 35 calories
2 slices 40 cal. bread: 80 calories

Total: 295 calories

I’m alive

Here I am dancing at the Walk to Cure Arthritis, all relieved that my site is secure!

I realize I left you all hanging after my 3-day fast even though I promised an update on how I’m feeling. Sorry about that. Let me explain…

As a new blogger, things were brought to my attention that I naively was unaware of: site security, data back-ups, and the prospect of hackers gaining access to my site and holding it hostage for money. I have to laugh at someone thinking this site is worth the effort of hacking into with its 40 weekly views and 15 subscribers. I mean, you’re all worth something to me <3, but I would much rather start over from scratch than negotiate with terrorists.

That said, I took me a while to figure out how to install all of that stuff and get it working. I think I’m safe (or at least backed up) for now and I feel comfortable writing again without worrying my work is going to get hijacked.

So….how am I doing? Well, fine, I guess.

I was feeling good coming off the 3-day fast. I didn’t really have an appetite in the days following, which was to be expected. I started eating solid foods again shortly after, but soft stuff: scrambled eggs, smoothies, protein shakes.

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My first chewable food! I even ate a salad, you guys!

On Saturday, I had my first real meal again: a BLT with avocado, egg, and a side salad. I expected it to hit the bottom of my stomach like a brick and just sit there, weighing me down. It didn’t. It felt good to eat again. Later that night I had some Chinese noodles for dinner. That went down fine too. I felt pretty damn good.

I woke up Sunday with no pain and thinking I beat my gastritis. Then, brunch happened and I went a little overboard. In my defense, I was at Colicchio & Sons. As in TOM Colicchio of Top Chef! Let’s just say a duck pizza, a brisket sandwich, pork belly with polenta, chocolate soufflé, and wine were ALL involved.

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I’m still in pain from this pizza, but it was oh, so delicious 😛

I was full for the rest of the day and didn’t eat anything else, so I started my weekly fast right after brunch (around 2pm). Still feeling good. I broke my fast Monday at 2 with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was starving!

As of Monday evening the pain has returned, though. It looks like it’s going to take a lot more than fasting to heal me of this problem…but what? That is the question. The doctor said eat a “soft diet”. For how long? She doesn’t know. Well, that’s not going to work for me. I’m going to dinner at another chef-lebrity’s restaurant tomorrow night and I have a busy weekend ahead of me. So this pain will probably be with me for a while again.

So the scoreboard reads: Gastritis – 1, Mara’s 3-day fast plan – 0.

But I don’t consider it a total failure. Now I know what doesn’t work or that the plan needs tweaking.

I will get to the bottom of this and hopefully soon.

Pre-fast Jitters

For those of you who do intermittent fasting, do you get nervous the night before your planned fast? I used to. There was a fear of hunger and all that comes along with it: headaches, irritability, food going bad before I can eat it. It’s been a few years now, so I’m used to the physical discomfort (which is minimal lately) and I adjusted my habits to minimize food waste.

But I’m feeling a little anxious tonight because I’m about to start a 3-day fast. I have never fasted for this long, so I don’t know what to expect. I can put up with one rough fasting day because I know it’s only for a day, but this time it’s for 3 days. How is this going to play out?

A moment of silence for the food that won't be eaten...

A moment of silence for the food that won’t be eaten…

I haven’t decided if I’m going to start Monday or Tuesday. I would like to start Monday just so it will be over sooner, but I don’t know if that will be possible. I had a lot of fun today (Mother’s Day) and maybe a little too much wine. I never actually know if I drank too much wine until the next day. So if I wake up Monday and have to take a pain reliever or something for heartburn then I will take care of it and start the fast on Tuesday. If you saw the video in my last post, I’m going to follow a routine similar to what Dr. Mosley did:

*No food for 3 full days.
*Drink only water and black tea throughout the day.
*Less than 100 liquid calories per day (He had a cup of miso soup at night, I’m going to have bone broth).
*No exercise.

If you didn’t catch an earlier post about why I’m doing this, the short story is that I have been diagnosed with gastritis and it causes me pain when I eat a lot of foods that I enjoy — specifically the foods that need to be chewed, so basically everything. Fasting does help the pain, but it usually comes back after I have a big meal. I hope fasting for a longer period of time will give me more time without pain and also activate all the other healing properties of fasting. A study out of USC by Prof. Valter Longo shows fasting for 3 days can regenerate the immune system. I hope it will have some type of healing effect on me.

I’m an otherwise healthy person and I just had a full workup of tests by doctors within the past month so I’m not concerned that I’m putting my health in danger. I’ve been fasting long enough to know when something isn’t right and if I get that sense then I will bail. It’s simple as that. I’m not going to let my pride become more important than my health. Otherwise, what the hell am I doing this for?

Can I heal myself with a 3-day fast?

Publishing this post is the hardest thing I will do all day because now that I’ve written it down and sent it out to the world, I have to do what I’m about to say…or have a damn good excuse why not.

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In a previous post, I mentioned that I was considering a 3-day fast. I believe the time has come to stop considering it and actually do it.

Why?

I knew you would ask.

Let me start with the problem that I’m having: gastritis. It’s inflammation of the stomach lining and it sucks. It’s usually caused by an infection, but I don’t have one. I do have reflux, but I couldn’t get a clear answer from the doctor as to whether or not that is causing this problem. She put me on a soft diet and told me to take Prilosec for 2 weeks, but that did NOTHING. I felt better for a little while but here I am again, in pain.

Fasting does help me feel better, especially the day after the fast. My stomach feels more relaxed because I’m still eating light, but then when I go out to dinner later in the week I go back to square one and have pain again. I can’t live like this: stuck between only eating food that doesn’t need to be chewed or being in intense pain.

One of the reasons I started intermittent fasting was because of the healing properties of fasting. You can find the scientific research to back up this claim in The FastDiet, but the simplest way I can summarize it is like this: Most of our immune system lives in the gut (intestines and such) and if we constantly bombard the gut with food to digest, then it doesn’t have time to heal whatever is wrong in our bodies. When we fast, we give our bodies a rest from digesting all the stuff we eat (difficult considering all the processed food in our diets) which frees it up to start repairing our damaged cells.

In the book, Dr. Mosley started his fasting journey with a 4-day fast under the supervision of Valter Longo at USC. He has published studies about how fasting for a few days can reset parts of the immune system. Is this what I need? I don’t know. What I do know is that fasting for a day makes me feel better. So I hope fasting for 3 days will give my body more time to heal.

Obviously the whole process will take more than 3 days. I’m planning a pre-fast cleansing day and a few recovery days after the fast. I’m going to blog about it everyday so you will know if I survive each day and so you can witness this human experiment in progress.

And it starts Monday.

The FastDiet Inventor on Dr. Oz!

Hey, y’all!

If you missed The Dr. Oz Show episode about fasting recently, he interviewed Dr. Michael Mosley, one of the authors of The FastDiet (aka, the book that changed my life). Check it out if you have some time. He talks about why he started it, how he cured his type 2 diabetes, and responds to the critics who say there isn’t enough evidence to show intermittent fasting is effective or safe.

Link to the episode is in the tweet. Let me know what you think!

<3

https://twitter.com/TheFastDietBook/status/726014159788331008

 

 

Fast Days & Exercise

A lot of people on Instagram have been asking me if I work out on fast days.

Yes. I do.

“I’m fasting today” sounds like the perfect excuse to skip the gym, but I don’t fall into this trap (too often). Plenty of studies suggest working out on an empty stomach is not only safe, but can help you burn more fat than if you eat before a workout. 

I had concerns about this when I started fasting: “am I going to get dehydrated and pass out? Where will I get the energy to work out if I don’t eat during the day?” Sound familiar to any of you starting to embrace the possibility of intermittent fasting in your lives?

IMG_4869I’ve been doing hot power yoga for about 7 years now. It helps me get a good sweat on, gives me some definition in my arms, and gets me moving so I don’t settle into old age at this point of my mid-30s. It may not be cross fit or running or weight lifting, but it’s the only workout I’ve been able to consistently tolerate for more than a few years at a time. And isn’t that what everyone needs: a form of physical activity they enjoy?

In the book, The FastDiet, the authors encourage working out on fasting days, so I gave it a try. Back then, I had a different work schedule and I was able to work out in the mornings. For early workouts, I always ate afterward anyway (fast day or not), so I thought this would be the easiest approach. My body wouldn’t even realize it was fasting yet. I got my exercise in, stayed hydrated throughout the day, and all was well. Once I realized working out while fasting wouldn’t kill me, I tried an evening workout on a fast day — when I was mid-hunger. That turned out to be fine too. So as long as I feel good (hunger aside) and I’m able to hydrate, I definitely work out on fast days. After all, it’s one more thing to keep me distracted from thoughts like “I really want fries right now”.

When I started fasting, I was getting to the yoga studio between 4 and 6 days per week. I moved less than a year ago and the studio I go to now isn’t as easy for me to get to, so I only work out 3-5 days per week…but more like 3…and sometimes 1. Fasting helps me control my weight enough that I don’t see working out as “urgent” anymore. Good for peace of mind, but probably not so good for the body. Exercise is still a priority for me, but I don’t freak out if I have a busy week and can’t make it to yoga.

Workout or not, I still keep it to 500 calories or less on fasting days. Burning calories gets me no reward of eating extra calories. Sorry to disappoint if that’s what you really came here to find out.

Fast Day Ramen!

img_6538.jpgWelcome to all my new readers!! Great news: I can have noodles on fasting days now!

I was watching an episode of the Dr. Oz show about “Zero Calorie Foods”. While most of the stuff they showed was pre-packaged, chemical-laden crap that the doc and his health expert guest denounced, but they did recommend one zero-calorie food. Behold: shiratake noodles.

I never heard of them before, but I found them on Fresh Direct (and Amazon if you don’t live in a FD area). They only have 10 calories per serving!

I love ramen, but the fat content of just one bowl will put me over a normal day’s recommended calorie intake, so I can forget about visiting a ramen shop on a Monday. Here’s what happened when I tried to fashion my own bowl of low-calorie ramen for a fasting day…

img_6542.jpgIngredients: (Makes  2 servings)
Shiratake noodles, 1 package: 20 calories
Vegetable stock, 3 cups: 75 calories
Bok choy, 100 grams: 15 calories
Mushrooms (I used baby portobellos), 100 grams: 13 calories
Garlic, 1 clove: n/a
Eggs, 2: 180 calories

The noodles were easy to prepare. The directions say to rinse, then boil them for 2 minutes to get rid of the “authentic aroma”. That’s just a gentle way of saying that they smell awful, but boiling did the trick. I let them dry for a while and then started to make the broth.

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I brought the stock, 1 cup of water, and a crushed garlic clove to a boil in a pot. Then I added the chopped vegetables and let them cook while I prepared the egg. I watched a video about how to make the perfect soft boiled egg and it said to bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil, drop in the egg and cook for 6 minutes and 30 seconds. The white inside wasn’t completely set, as I like it. I will let it cook for another minute next time. When time was up, I ran the egg under cool water so it would be easier to handle.

img_6550.jpgWhile the egg was cooling, I put the noodles in the broth and turned the heat off. I stirred to incorporate them and marinate a little while I peeled the egg.

Ramen…assemble! I discarded the garlic clove, poured half of the soup pot into a bowl, cut the egg in half and voila: homemade, fasting day-worthy ramen! Total for this bowl: 152 calories!

img_6558.jpgThe noodles didn’t have a discernible taste and were chewier than real pasta. They also don’t have much to offer in nutritional value, so the egg and veggies give the dish some needed protein and fiber. I saved half the soup for my next fasting day. 152 calories is light even for a fast day dinner. I could have added more veggies or even some chicken…or cooked up that second egg and ate the whole pot of soup! 304 calories is reasonable on a Monday.

The taste? Not as great as the bowl of authentic ramen I had last week, but that’s not fair. Pork makes everything taste better.