Another year in the books

I had a birthday recently — 34. Wow.

I don’t know about you, but with every year that passes I think about what I accomplished and what I didn’t, where I thought I would be by this time in my life as opposed to where I actually am, and whether I even want the same things I thought I wanted a year ago.

Dirty 30 Party 035The past few years have been a little more pleasant especially when I look back at the pictures from my 30th birthday. I had a blast at that party, but the photos remind me of a struggle I had been fighting for a long time.  This was a year before I started fasting. As I’ve said in other posts, I wasn’t what many people would consider “fat”, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Of course, that didn’t stop me from having 2 slices of cake that night or a slice of that cake every night for the next week. I was never bothered by my weight enough to make big changes in my diet and exercise plan.

IMG_5263It turns out I didn’t have to. I know fasting might seem extreme or hard work to some, but it was pretty simple for me to follow and adjust to. This photo was taken on my 33rd birthday, about 2 years after I started fasting — about the time I really felt like I nailed it. I remember showing up to my day-drinking brunch and telling my friends that even a year ago, I would have been too self-conscious to wear a skirt that fitted.

It’s been a little more than a year after this was taken. I still wear that skirt. I still eat cake. On the other hand, I still wake up on Mondays and question whether I’ll get through the day with only 500 calories or bail and go get pizza.  In my 3 years of intermittent fasting, I’ve only bailed on a fasting day twice (I can’t turn down an unexpected invitation to dinner). Overall, I feel like I’m winning this battle. Cheers to another year of that!

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.

Ways to Fast

People have been asking me how to “do a fasting day.”

I say, “take your pick”.

My fasting days are very inconsistent. I try to stick to eating a small breakfast and a small dinner on Mondays, but sometimes I have to change it up.

While researching intermittent fasting, I found different fasting methods in The Fast Diet book and in others that gave me options. Some may be considered “an easy way out”, but remember: that doesn’t make them wrong or ineffective. Other methods are more restrictive with longer periods between meals, or no meals at all. It doesn’t mean they’re “advanced”. Whatever the case, having options made the diet flexible.

These are the method of fasting I’ve used:

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Brunch game strong at Cosme, NYC

1 – The 2 to 2 Method
Restricting my calories between 2PM one day and 2PM the next day counts as a fasting day. Most of my time fasting happens while I’m sleeping. It doesn’t get easier. I actually like to call this my “after-brunch fast” because brunch is usually a big enough meal eaten late enough in the day to keep me full until it’s time to go to bed. If I finish brunch around 2PM, I will only consume 500 calories (or less) until 2PM the next day. That’s 24 hours on only 500 calories. Boom: one fast down.

2 – The Fast Diet book Method
This is the method I use most often: consuming 500 calories between the time I wake up and the time I go to bed. The authors of The FastDiet book have different ways of approaching it:

2a – Mimi Spencer’s Method: She prefers to eat a small meal in the morning and a small meal in the evening with a snack in between.
2b – Dr. Michael Mosley’s Method: He has a meal in the morning and then another meal at the end of the day, with about 12 hours in between the two.
2c – They also mention another doctor in the book (page 68 in the old version of the book) who recommends having just one 500/600 calorie meal within your fasting day (usually for dinner).

I’ve tried it all of their ways. I usually use Dr. Mosley’s method and skip lunch so I don’t have to pack a lunch for work that day, but I can’t honestly say one way is easier, better, or more fun than another.

3 – 24-hour Fast

This a whole 24-hour period with no calories. It starts after the evening meal the night before the fast day and ends after a full 24 hours. So, if I stop eating around 7pm Monday, I get to break my fast after 7pm the next day.

4 -Bragg Fast

You may have heard of the Bragg family and seen their products at health food stores. They also wrote a book about fasting. They fast once per week, eating nothing between the time they wake up the time they go to bed. I did this once. I wanted to see what it was like and it turned out to be fine, but I didn’t feel any better or worse than the days when I have small meals except I had to deal with feeling hungry longer that day.

The Braggs also go on 7-10 day fasts several times per year…but I’ll pass on that. I barely made it through my 3-day fast.

As you can see, there’s no “right” way to do a fasting day. Even these days, I’m not committed to one particular method. I usually leave it up to my stomach to decide.

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

Fast Recipe: Soup & Sandwich!

IMG_1060I LOVE SOUP!!! I could eat it every day. It’s comforting, filling, and usually very low in calories if it’s water or broth-based. Unless you add bacon and/or heavy cream, it’s hard to make it fattening — in which case it should just be called what it really is: chowder.

I came up with this soup & sandwich combo using ingredients I had at home already. The soup is very simple: frozen peas, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. It came out sweet and delicious, but if peas weren’t available they could have been switched out for another vegetable in the freezer.

The “sandwich” is really a quesadilla, but it’s a great substitute in this low-calorie meal. It’s a cheesy compliment to the soup and almost made me feel like I was cheating on my diet. Until I wanted to make a second one. Then reality set in. It has just 2 ingredients: tortilla & cheese. It could only have been easier if someone made it for me.

IMG_1061Simple pea soup

Frozen Peas, 285 grams: 148.5 calories
Vegetable Broth, 1 cup: 15 calories
Salt & pepper to taste: 0 calories
Squeeze of Lemon, About 1 tbsp: 3 calories
Total Calories: 166.5

I brought all of the soup ingredients to a boil in a pot. I then transferred them to a blender and liquified for a minute or 2. I poured the soup back in the pot and kept it under a low flame while I made the “sandwich”.

Simple Cheese Sandwich

Trader Joe’s Wheat Corn Tortilla, 1: 90 calories
Shredded Mozzarella, 1/4 cup: 80 calories
Total Calories: 170

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I put the cheese on half of the tortilla and folded it over. I heated it in a non-stick pan for 2 minutes on each side until the cheese melted.

Total calories for this meal: 336.5

Other notes:
I used Pam to keep the tortilla from sticking to the pan. A simple spray to coat the pan has no calories. Score!

I do rely on the nutrition information on the packaged ingredients I use. They’re pretty accurate, but what’s most important is to check the calories against the serving size! In this case, only 1/4 cup of cheese had 80 calories. 1/3 of a cup might have put me over my limit.

This is something I would eat on a non-fasting day, although probably in a bigger portion. Recipes like this make fasting so much easier. I almost feel like I’m getting to eat whatever I want 7 days/week…almost.

5 reasons Monday is a great day to fast

One of my mantras is: I don’t eat on Mondays.

Try bringing that up on a first date without getting a weird look.
But hey, if there’s going to be a second date, at least he knows it’s not going to be on a Monday. There are lots of reasons why I’ve chosen to make the most hated day of the week a little worse for myself. Here are some:

1 – Mondays suck anyway.

Since the weekend is over, there’s usually a cloud hanging over Monday anyway. So, why not add just one more sucky thing to it? It’s like intentionally creating a rainstorm in your life, but you know what they say: after the rain comes the rainbow. I actually feel like there’s a rainbow outside my window every Tuesday morning. Isn’t that nice?

2 – There’s lots of time on Sunday to prep.

Sunday is usually the day many of us prepare for the week ahead. I plan out most of what I’m going to eat for the week and Sundays give me extra time to prepare fresh fasting meals, which do take a little more time to make since they involve careful measuring. This saves me a lot of time on Mondays, not only preparing what to eat, but also thinking about what to eat, which is not something you want to do on a fast day.

 

 

3 – It’s an excuse to go all out on the weekend.

I thoroughly enjoy myself on the weekends and I feel no shame, guilt, or worry about it. I eat too much, drink too much, and it I’m a lot of fun because of it.

4 – Super fun things rarely happen on Mondays.

Who goes out on a Monday? Some people do. I definitely have a couple of times in my life, but I find most fun, “let’s go out”-type things don’t happen on Mondays. Most people are still recovering from the weekend. They use Monday to reset and get back to a routine before making fun plans. Also, lots of service and entertainment businesses (restaurants and such) are closed on Mondays because they too need a break from working all weekend. The point is, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much, but on the rare occasion something fun and exciting does come up on a Monday, then I fast on Tuesday instead. Simple as that.

5 – The rest of the week seems like a breeze.

One fast-day down! When I was in the weight-loss stage and fasting 2 days per week, once Monday was over, I felt like I already fought half my battle. Getting one fast over with early made the rest of the week much easier. I could choose my second fasting day whenever it suited my schedule. Now that I’m only fasting once a week, I wake up on Tuesday feeling like the hardest part of my week is behind me. Now that’s a lot to accomplish on a Monday.