Where’s This Weight Coming From?

Hi bloggers everywhere! I’ve been gaining weight (only 5ish pounds) and not sure why. To summarize my recent weight background for you… I have gained weight and lost it off and on the last twelve years. After completing my masters degree two years ago which included a lot of sitting-time, stress and lack of sleep, I found myself 44 pounds overweight, but really at least 60 pounds higher than a weight I’m comfortable at. I refocused on eating healthy and exercise and lost 30 pounds in about nine months. I maintained that (and some more at times) loss for a whole year, easy-peasy.

My new best bud, Gracie.

My new best bud, Gracie.

Something changed this spring. I gradually gained 5 pounds. I think I have it stopped now, but time will tell. I’m not sure what happened, but here are some of my thoughts.

Exercise

The same: I’m still running. Not the distances I was hoping for, but 3-4 times a week, totaling 10-12 miles. Usually one day hills, one day speed, one day easy, one day “long”.
Different: I added two days a week of Insanity. It’s not at home with DVD’s but a class run through the recreation department.
Possible problem: Overtraining. It doesn’t sound like it, but honestly, I’m really tired a lot. First, Insanity is brutal. By the end of the 50 minutes you are spent and dripping with sweat. Second, I could use a second rest day sometimes. But I feel like I don’t exercise that much and really want to increase my mileage. Not sure what to do.
Possible problem: Hunger. I’m hungry all the time. I have been able to identify some of this due to fatigue. I’m eating to get more energy when I’m tired. The solution would be to either sleep more or train less. Drink more water.
Possible problem: Not enough distance for my long run. I prefer longer distances for my long run to burn more calories and to enjoy the runner’s high, with less miles on the weekday runs. Now to get myself to run longer.

Surveying the world from the safety of the brush

Surveying the world from the safety of the brush

Diet

Different: Eating lots of the wrong foods. Candy, sweets, chips type things. Grabbing for the easiest thing when I’m hungry, hungry, hungry.
Possible problem: Eating the wrong foods does not satisfy nutritional needs and causes even more hunger. Eating refined carbohydrates causes cravings for refined carbohydrates. There is only one solution to this – stop eating the wrong foods. This could also be contributing to my fatigue.

Different: I tried fasting 16 hours a day. This was an experiment I did for a couple weeks.
Possible problem: I felt deprived and starving. I think there was some backlash from this. I find myself eating faster now (aka shoveling the food in). I’ve never been a particularly fast eater, but now I eat sometimes as though it might be my last meal ever.

Different: I tried a high-protein diet with some girlfriends to kick off summer. I lost 4 pounds (ten pounds less than I weigh now).
Possible problem: Again I think there was some backlash to feeling a bit deprived. Diets suck!

Those are my thoughts, can you tell I’m a problem-solver?

Let's Go! Let's Go! Run! Run!

Let’s Go! Let’s Go! Run! Run!

Here’s my Action Plan:

  • tweak my exercise habits
  • cut out the junk food (so hard to do)
  • make sure I’m well-rested
  • start blogging again
Gracie, our two year old rescued Treeing Walker Coonhound

Gracie, our two year old rescued Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Read and Eat

I’m still fasting 16 hours each day. Last week I was not perfect with the 16 hours and I did not count calories every day. It was a struggle. I have not lost weight or gained weight. This week I have been counting calories. I’m hoping to make it through the week tracking even if I eat a lot and the number is high. I really need to get a handle on what my numbers are and what I should aim for if I want to lose weight. I know how many calories each day used to work for weight loss, but since I’ve been exercising (and not consistently tracking) I don’t know.

I started some research on fasting and metabolism, but so far I haven’t found anything worth posting. I’ve only been through Google scholar and the scholarly papers are tedious and difficult to interpret. I’ve really only found information on rat studies and metabolic measures that I am not familiar with. So, not very helpful, but I thought it was worth looking into. Today I plan to move onto the world wide web to see if there’s any information there that’s helpful that I can share. In the meantime, I’ve made a few interesting dishes I can tell you about.

I love to make a big pot of chili. It’s healthy and there’s always plenty left over for an easy lunch or dinner or to freeze. I’ve been reading Scott Jurek’s book, Eat & Run, and came across his recipe for Minnesota Winter Chili. I’m only half-way through the book, but so far it’s a good read. I love to read about runners. Their stories always motivate and inspire me. Scott made this recipe sound so delicious I just had to try it. I’ve never made a chili without meat, but this recipe is vegetarian. It’s a basic chili recipe with lots of vegetables and instead of meat, add 1/2 cup dry bulgur wheat and 2+1/2 cups water. The bulgur gives the appearance of ground meat, so you might be able to fool a meat lover. The texture is not the same, but still a nice added mouth feel to the chili. I know winter’s almost over here (yay!) but it’s still pretty chilly and I found this dish very satisfying.

chili

Scott Jurek’s Minnesota Winter Chili

I have yet to make the bean brownies that I’ve seen popping up all over social media. So I tried another recipe from Scott’s book, Chocolate Adzuki Bars. I’d never heard of adzuki, but it’s a type of bean. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it was a total failure, inedible. Not to give up, I tried again, adjusting the ingredients and tasting until it seemed more “right”. It tastes okay. It’s edible. But it is nothing like a brownie. I plan to try a different recipe next time! This picture is of the second batch.

 

Looks yummy but it's not.

Looks yummy but it’s not.

Lastly, I can’t forget the St. Patrick Day’s corned beef and cabbage. This year I went to the internet for inspiration. I found this interesting article comparing classic boiled beef with baked. I was happy to try the baked version (they said it was the diners’ preferred version). I did cook it longer than they recommended, 3 hours for a 3 lb brisket. This turned out to be one of the best corned beefs I ever had (and I’ve had some really good ones, some famous ones). Darling said it was “better than”. Isn’t he sweet?

corned beef

Fasting

I’m still experimenting with fasting. I call it experimenting, because the main reason I’m doing it is for the challenge to see how I respond mentally and physically. I’ve always thought of fasting as being something done for religious reasons or before a medical procedure. And nothing I wanted any part of, since I get pretty crabby when my eating gets delayed (thus the challenge!) It never occurred to me that it might be done for general health reasons until a friend shared an article about it with me. Well, I did hear several years ago Jillian Michaels encourage no eating after dinner which should be low-carb. Which could be considered fasting. Her reasoning was similar to this new information I was reading where the time of no eating allows hormones to adjust/function (whatever) in a healthier way.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist and I have done very little research on fasting. It’s a topic that intrigues me. That first article I read was about Michael Mosley, who did a BBC documentary and published a diet book. I haven’t read the book, but did watch the documentary. It touched on a few studies that indicate there might be some health benefits to fasting. The key marker Michael used in the documentary with his personal trials with fasting was his blood level of the hormone IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor – 1). They talked about how lower levels of IGF-1 mean lower incidences of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, dementia and longer life span. Fasting lowers this hormone level.

I would love if fasting could help me lose weight. We’d all do it then, wouldn’t we? I would guess it will do no good unless my overall calorie intake goes down. I know I must eat less and eat healthier. My approach is not to do Michael Mosley’s plan with two days per week fasting (with 500 calories allowed). I am following the method used by Dr. Mercola by extending my overnight fast. So every day I go approximately 16 hours without eating and 8 hours eating. I have no idea if this has the same benefits as other fasting or not, I just know I can’t go a whole day with only 500 calories without biting someone’s head off.

The first week was basically extending my overnight fast until I could reach 16 hours. This was not easy for me. I am a grazer. A morning eater. A believer in breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal. I’d be happier not eating dinner than skipping breakfast. But, thinking of all the headaches that would cause, it didn’t make sense to do it that way. I finish eating by 6 or 7 in the evening and begin eating the next day at 10-11 am. The first week, I ate whatever I wanted in my eight hour window. It was very odd. Starving but shrunken stomach. Very odd to go from, No eating! to Eat whatever you want!

The second week I counted calories and I ate 3 meals a day, usually no snacking. In the last few years, I have taken the concept of 5-6 small meals and turned it into grazing all day. This is a habit I want to break. This is why I am attempting to eat only the three meals in my eight hour window. This week was easier to get to the 16 hour mark, but hard to eat my daily calories in just 3 meals since the meals are larger. I lost 2 pounds this week.

The past weekend I still fasted, but ate way too much. Saturday I ate out all three meals 😦 I gained back the 2 pounds.

This is my third week now. I’m not counting calories, but still eating three meals. I’m just being lazy about the counting.

What I’ve noticed:

  • I am very irritable when I’m very hungry.
  • I have a lot more energy in the morning. I call it being “squirrely”. No doubt trying to take my mind off hunger, but still energy and lots of things getting done.
  • I’ve been sleeping better.
  • It’s difficult for me to switch from not eating mode to eating mode.
  • By not eating when I’m hungry, I’m training my mind to accept the hunger. For this reason, I would think it would be very dangerous for someone with anorexic tendencies to fast.
  • I’m having some digestion adjustments. Constipation and heartburn/reflux. Because of this I’m having trouble getting enough water which doesn’t help constipation.
  • I’m surprised at how well I can still concentrate when I’m very hungry.

I guess I’ll continue with my experiment for awhile and hopefully do some more research. Anyone try fasting? Anyone have any more information about fasting? Know of any studies that support/deny these claims?

Intermittent Fasting

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