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.

Fasting Day Pleasures

Fasting can be depressing, especially when your co-workers bring in delicious-smelling food for lunch or if your friends decided to go out for happy hour at the last minute. I’ve found a bunch of things to do to keep myself in good spirits. I try not to do things that “fill the void” like shopping and (unfortunately) there’s no amount of boredom that will make me want to clean my house, so here are the things that make me happy when I can’t have food.

Drinking some fancy tea
Tea is one of the few things I can have an unlimited amount of on a fasting day because it has no calories. I try not to go crazy because it does have caffeine and it stains my teeth, but I got fancy tea from London a few years ago — Harrod’s Earl Grey blend. I wanted it to last, so I drank it sparingly and it turned into my mid-fasting day treat. My supermarket has Twinnings Earl Grey, so I usually have that, but there are lots of cool flavors of tea out there to try when I get bored of this.

IMG_6728Using up my “products”
I’ll bet there are tons of fun things in your bathroom cabinets and drawers that you used once and then never bothered with again: facial masks, bubble bath, oily hair treatments. I sometimes use them to turn a fasting day into a spa day! Much cheaper than the actual spa, too.

Getting a mani/pedi
I’m terrible at doing my nails. I leave them to the professionals and since I have more time on a fasting day I’d much rather go to a nail salon after work than on a weekend when it’s crowded. I’ll usually have a simple microwavable dinner afterward so I won’t ruin my nails.

Going easy at the gym
I do still work out on fasting days when I’m able to, but I definitely don’t work as hard as the days I eat. I still feel good for working out, but I don’t overwork myself. If I don’t make it to the gym then, weather permitting, I take a long walk.

Going to bed early (or sleeping in)
I usually won’t let myself go to bed before 11pm no matter how tired I am. I always feel like there’s one more task I could do, one more article to read, or one more blog post to write, but when I’m fasting I make the exception to end the day (and my hunger) as soon as I want. On the days when I’m working late, I shorten my fasting day by sleeping in.

Binge watch TV
I’m not one of those people who likes to snack in front of the TV and that’s why this works for me. I’m good with a cup of tea or glass of water. I prefer to do something more active on a fasting day, but when I just don’t have the energy or I’m not in the mood, I allow myself to binge watch some things.

What are some fun things you do to keep your mind off of food on a fasting day? Please share in the comments!

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

Get Full Faster in 5 Weeks?

I came across this article in Greatist about how if you eat light for 5 weeks then you will start to get full faster and want to eat less over all.

While I disagree with the second part of the article that says you need to eat “small meals” throughout the day to lose weight “healthily”, I do think the main message is true.

I’ve written about how I eat light after fasting days because my stomach fills up very quickly. I also eat noticeably less than I used to eat before I started intermittent fasting. I don’t know if it took 5 weeks for me to realize that I was filling up faster. Actually, it was after the first fast that I realized it, but this article doesn’t talk about intermittent fasting. It talks about training your body to feel full sooner by just cutting back on what you eat throughout the day.

Give it a read if you want the scientific info.

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.

Day 3 of the 3-Day Fast

And it’s over.

The 3-day fast concluded at 5pm — just 2 hours short of 72 hours. I originally planned to break it tomorrow morning, but I thought it was best to end it when I did.

I had a headache and shoulder pain through most of last night. I woke up dizzy and lightheaded. Most of my body ached. I stumbled to get to the bathroom. For most of the morning my stomach was turning. It felt exactly like being hungover.

IMG_6731I called out sick from work. I was afraid of what was going to happen when I start eating again. I would rather get that out of the way tonight than find out tomorrow when I’m not home. I broke my fast by nursing this green smoothie for about 2 hours. It contains mango, spinach, coconut, apple juice, almond milk, and ice. I did not ask for half of those ingredients, but the smoothie maker put all of that in the blender and I felt bad asking him to throw it away.

I’m not going to have the bone broth tonight. Thinking about it made my stomach turn. Not the broth’s fault, though. It’s delicious. I might use it to make a soup tomorrow.

Despite my best efforts to put on weight over the weekend in anticipation of this fast, I woke up today skinny as hell and didn’t like it. I don’t know when I’m going to put that weight back on. I can’t see myself eating a big meal any time soon. Tomorrow’s planned meals so far are a protein shake for breakfast and a homemade egg drop soup for dinner. I don’t know what I’m going to want for lunch or if I’m going to want lunch.

I won’t know if this fast helped for a while. My gastritis is still there. It hurts me now as I type this. I went most of today without pain, until I started drinking my smoothie. It’s not terrible pain, but it’s noticeable.

I don’t know if I can say I’m glad I did this, but I just stopped so I will need more time. I am disappointed I didn’t go as far as I wanted, but I’m not kicking myself. If I do this again — that’s a BIG IF — I’ll start on a Thursday so my toughest days will go into the weekend and I won’t have to worry about work. Looking back, even though I had anxiety about doing it, I was also pretty cocky. I thought it would be easier. It wasn’t all that terrible. I think I just got scared of feeling any worse than I was already feeling and having to feel that way at work.

I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing in the coming days. For those of you who went with me on this journey: thanks so much for the encouraging words. I hope we can all learn something from this, even if we haven’t figured it out yet.

Day 2 of the 3-Day Fast!

And now: a rant from a hungry person…

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OMG did today take FOREVER or what?

No?

Just me?

Time is passing soooooooo slow. I’m also moving a lot slower today too. I feel like I’m walking through wet cement. Just going up the stairs from the subway, I felt my glut muscles on fire. I climb these stairs every day!! There’s not even a lot of them.

As you can tell, my second day of fasting is going great.

I can’t say I feel any better. My stomach still hurts and my heartburn is off the charts.

I’m drinking plenty of water and some tea. I was thankful this morning that I gave up coffee a month ago. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I was still drinking coffee because going off of it gave me the worst headaches.

Fasting is also supposed to make your mind sharper. Yet, I feel like an uninspired idiot writing this. Who is going to read this crap?

…and there’s the irritability.

I’m about to go heat up my cup of bone broth. I thought I would be craving it all day, but that’s not the case. It was nice yesterday, but knowing I’m not going to be able to chase it with a cookie is kind of depressing. I’m also a little afraid it’s going to make my heartburn worse. And now I’m getting anxiety.

Ugh. OK, I’m going to go “eat” now.

I really hope to get through tonight and tomorrow. Trying to maintain mind over matter.

Wish me luck.