Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Intermittent fasting pre-and during lockdown

Longtime readers know I have been struggling to maintain my weight for quite some time now - traveling so much for work meant eating out 3x meals per day nearly two weeks a month.  It was some what easier this last year with spending so much time in the US where all of the hotels have gyms, there are healthy take-out options and the calories are nearly always listed on the menus, but nevertheless, it was a constant battle.

Since losing 60+ lbs several years ago, I have tried all sorts of different diets out there in an attempt to find one that worked for me and my lifestyle.  None of them ever really seemed to make much of a difference until I decided to try intermittent fasting last September.  I was just tired of spending so much time thinking about food and meal planning, not to mention being frustrated with the extra 1-2 kg I could never seem to get rid of, so the idea of being able to eat normally but just during a limited time window seemed really appealing to me. 

If you've not heard of intermittent fasting, there are a few different ways to go about it.  Some people eat normally and then do a full 24h fast once or twice a week.  Others eat normally 4-5 days a week and then limit themselves to 500 calories 2-3 days per week.  And then the final method is limiting all of your calories to a 6-8 hour time period day. 

I had sort of tried the second method when I tried carb-cycling, and didn't like how hangry it left me feeling, so I decided to give the 6-8 hour window intermittent fasting option a go.  I've always noticed that if I eat breakfast, I am hungry ever 2-3 hours for the rest of the day, whereas if I don't eat breakfast, I am a lot less hungry throughout the day, so I decided it would be the easiest for me to skip breakfast and start my eating window at 12pm and end it at 7pm.  

Pre-confinement, this usually got pushed to 12:30/12:45pm since my colleagues typically weren't ready to eat right at noon, so I would usually end up eating a piece of string cheese stick at noon to tide me over.  I also drank several cups of hot tea throughout the morning.  Then I would eat my normal lunch + a piece of fruit for dessert.   My afternoon snacks consisted of green or herbal tea plus four 2-ingredient cookies and another piece of fruit spread out over the afternoon.  I would typically try to make it home for dinner by 6:30pm or alternatively eat a protein bar if I was going to the gym after work, so that I could wrap up my eating window by 7pm. This has made C very happy since he has always wanted to eat dinner earlier since he comes home starving and prior to IF, we were usually eating dinner around 8-8:30pm.

Pretty quickly after starting, I noticed a few major benefits - first, the quality of my sleep improved greatly.  I have always been a light sleeper and often suffer from insomnia, but I can probably count on one hand the number of nights I have laid awake in the past 6 months on one hand.  After so many years of sleepless nights, I typically fall asleep before my husband now (who is a champion sleeper) and usually sleep straight through to my alarm.

Second, I have a lot more mental clarity in the morning.  I used to say my best working hours were from 4-7pm, but I find it much more easier to concentrate in the morning now.  I'm not sure why this is - I mean, you'd think your brain would be struggling after being without food for so long, but this is definitely a benefit of IF that others mention as well.

Third, I feel a lot less bloated in general.  It's actually really nice to go to bed without feeling so heavy and it's great to wake up to a flat stomach and feeling 'lighter'. 

Lastly, I have been able to easily get rid of the extra kilos hanging around, while not depriving myself of anything.  I mean, I still eat healthy meals, but my colleagues bring a lot of treats into work and I feel free now to eat them without guilt.  At least for me, as long as I limit my calories from roughly 12-7pm, I can eat normally and not gain weight.

Side note - this works even for alcohol - for whatever reason, drinking after 7pm doesn't appear to impact my IF, as long as I don't eat anything with the booze. Pre-confinement, I was also going out with friends or colleagues after work, and was still able to maintain my weight even if I ended up eating after 7pm 1-2 nights per week.  So my goal was to be pretty strict about my eating window at least 5 days per week and 1-2 days per week be a little more relaxed so I could still have a social life.

In addition to weight loss, mental clarity and better sleep quality, IF supposedly has a lot of other benefits for your body as well, such as improved cellular regeneration, reduced inflammation, improved cholesterol & blood sugar levels, etc since in theory, your body can use that time to work on repairing itself vs just digesting all day/night long.

All of this worked out really well pre-confinement since I was at work and busy with meetings all day - I felt confident and comfortable in my body and my clothes, and it was just nice not to be thinking about food so much. 

However, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to go at home during the lockdown, especially with my plan to work-out at 7:30am every morning.  I didn't know if I would feel light-headed working out or if I would be tempted by food all day since my desk is literally four steps from the fridge, but I'm happy to say things are going pretty well.  I feel energized working out in the mornings and often again at noon before lunch, so it hasn't been too challenging to my willpower to wait until after 12pm to eat. Afternoons can be a bit more tricky since I do love to snack, but I've been trying to limit extra snacking to things like fruit, yogurt or nuts. 

I have also still been trying to limit alcohol to 1-2 nights per week, but I admit I have been going a bit overboard on the weekends with the sweets since I find #confinementbaking to be very soothing.  So there have been a lot of Saturdays & Sundays full of things like cinnamon rolls, cookie dough, etc, and I can usually feel my muffin top coming back by Sunday night, but it goes away really quickly Monday/Tuesday once I'm back to my normal eating.

Overall, intermittent fasting has been a great gimmick-free way to overall feel better in general and maintain my weight.  There is nothing to buy, no extra work to be done, no need to avoid certain food groups or be picky when you go to a restaurant, etc - you just need to eat normally and limit your eating to a 6-8 hour time period depending on what works for you.   Has anyone else out there tried it?


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Lockdown diary

Hey everyone. Hope you are all safe and healthy, wherever you might be in this crazy world.  I am holed up in Paris, and have not left our apartment since March 16.  I am set up to work remotely and very used to working from home having done so for nearly 15 years; plus around 70% of the residents in our building are elderly, so I just decided not to take any risk in contaminating them (even though it sounds like most of them insist on going out daily anyways. 😡).  But we have tons of food and a full freezer, so I have been trying to use this opportunity to empty out our cupboards and not contribute in any way to the panic buying that seems to be happening in some areas. 

My work has been insanely busy - pretty much non-stop from 9am to 9pm, so I haven't really felt the time go by, nor am I feeling 'confined' at all, but this period has been really difficult for C, whose work is completely stopped and whose boredom is likely only amplified by the fact that I am working so much.  Plus the weather has been so nice and it's prime planting time out at the land...

Luckily my gym has been offering free FB Live classes 4-5x per day on their FB page (search for CMG Sports Club if you want to join me!), so I have been taking breaks to do two classes per day, for a total 1-1h30 of exercise every day.  So on that side, it's been nice to be able to work out daily again, especially as my new job been so intense that I haven't managed to squeeze in more than 3-4 workouts per week since November.

Today is meant to be the nicest day of the year however, and I am considering going outside - several friends have indicated to me that it might be good just for my mental health, to avoid becoming agoraphobic.  We are short on a few fresh goods (some spinach would be nice for example), but the idea of going to the supermarket and then the cashier touching everything I buy does sort of stress me out. I mean, how silly would it be to catch and/or transmit the coronavirus now, after having made the effort to stay inside for 21 whole days?

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Photos du terrain

Our little village is on a river and surrounded by a beautiful little canal:
It has a small chateau, all the shops you would need and is 2.5km away, so easily accessible by car or by bicycle.
As I mentioned yesterday, the land is bordered on one side by the same river, and we've had a ton of fun canoeing and paddle-boarding up and down it.  You can fish as well, but we haven't had time yet, and also I'm slightly put off by the fact that the annual fishing permit is 85€ for men and 30€ for women.
Somehow, the land also has electrical and water hook-ups, which definitely makes life easier.  And to help out even more, C spent most of this spring building this teeny tiny house.  It is definitely small as it is a terrain non-constructible and thus it had to be under a certain size, but it is big enough for a shower, a fridge (#roséallday) and for C to sleep in during the winter months.  For someone who is not really interested in handy work, I continue to be impressed by his ability to design and build things on his own!  You might notice the tiny house is also up on stilts, so that it won't be damaged if the land floods - which does happen from time to time. 
Since one of his big goals was to have a garden, and we obviously can't be out there every day, C has been working hard to follow permaculture principles, ie to work with nature instead of against it.  This has included using a lot of natural methods to ensure good ground cover, prevent weeds, etc so the soil will stay healthy and humid enough for his plants to grow while we are not there.  

And man, are there a lot of plants!  My dear husband isn't one to do things half-way, so he has been planting literally anything and everything out there. Seriously, any time I cook at home and he sees me removing seeds, he yells out "Don't throw them away!".  Many of our friends are also now saving their seeds for us, and several offices in his building are keeping their coffee grounds for his compost.   Some things he's tried have worked, some didn't (like making seed balls - they were promptly eaten up by the birds), but right now, we currently have the following plants and trees growing (the ones with * were planted this year and haven't yet produced anything): 
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Apples*
  • Pears
  • Mirabelle Plums
  • Cherries*
  • Grapes (Regular and seedless)
  • Black Currant*
  • Kiwis*
  • Kiwais*
  • Mandarins*
  • Bananas* (likely won't fruit now, but might someday in the future with global warming)
  • Peaches*
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes (haven't harvested yet, fingers crossed!)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Avocado*
  • Herb garden
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Sunflowers
  • Lettuce
  • Dates* (This one makes me laugh, because date trees apparently take 60 years to fruit, so we will be dead by the time ours start producing)
What didn't work (all attempted from seeds):
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Corn
  • Mango
  • Bell Peppers
Next year, he's going to try starting a small pepinière to start off his seedlings before planting them in the ground, so he's currently studying how he can do that without daily watering.  And the birds had a heyday with our blueberries and grapes, so we'll definitely need to set up better netting next year.  I know the goal of permaculture is to share with nature, so you grow some for you and some for the animals, but blueberries are something I'm just not willing to partager. ;)

He's also built multiple bee & insect hotels around the land, to encourage pollination and to improve the flora and fauna in general.  This one is over 3 feet tall!
Here's a view of how the main garden looked early June. The little green building below is our toilet, which is a dry toilet that uses sawdust (and then gets composted).  It's not pictured, but about 1/3 of the land is a "forêt comestible", or an edible forest as Chris calls it, where he has planted most of the fruit plants and trees.
I am unbelievable excited for these spaghetti squash to ripen - this plant actually grew out of a random seed that was in our compost and now it has ten squash!
Because I'm not much of a camper, my dear husband has done his best to make it as comfortable for me as possible out there.  We have this funny cabin tent, which I love, and he installed a double camping bed with a mattress pad inside.
And lastly, having spent so many summer nights around the campfire growing up, my absolutely favorite part is the fire pit.  We cook 90% of our meals on it, including C's traditional Sunday morning crepes!
Et voila! I never thought I would be spending most of my summer weekends camping, especially since it's my favorite time of the year in Paris, but the things you do for love, eh?  Plus C is just so happy out there, and I find it really sweet how excited he is to show me everything he's worked on since the last time I was out there, so it's a no-brainer to support a project that's so important to him.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Land

Long time no see folks!  Hopping on here now because I realized I completely forgot to post about the piece of land C bought.  He's been talking about being his own terrain literally since our first date, and his boredom at work and lack of existing projects brought that idea back to the forefront last spring.  We put together our wish list - including my criteria of around 1H from Paris and on some kind of body of water - and then spent several weekends in March 2018 looking at different properties.  C had a pretty small budget, so we were mainly looking at 'terrains de loisir' or 'terrains de pêche' - basically plots of land that can't be built on and are used mainly for weekend hobbies like hunting or fishing.

We very quickly realized that there wasn't much available within an hour of Paris, as most of the land had been converted into residential property long ago.  We did find one though that I loved - it was on a river and had a view on castle ruins, plus it was exactly an hour's drive from our place. However it was fairly small and covered by the neighbors tall trees nearly all day long, which wouldn't be great for gardening, ie C's main goal.

We also saw one place that was closer to two hours away - it was gigantic and on the Loire river, and had several homes and structures on it already in various states of decay (including a grown-over boules area).  C loved it, but it was on a cliff so it didn't have easy access to the water and there was a public hiking trail that cut through the land, so I was worried about theft and squatters.

We ended up compromising on a place that was 1.5h from the city, on a river and near a really cute little village.  We officially got the keys last June and C hasn't looked back since!  I swear, he would live out there if he could.  He's already calculating how much time is left on our mortgage and if he can take an early retirement lol.

As for me, the non-fan of camping, I have to laugh though every time I think back to when we visited the first time as owners. We originally saw the place in March, and I hadn't mentally-prepared myself for how much things would have grown by the time June rolled around.  We went there straight from the notaire, and as C excitedly opened up the gate, my initial reaction was "WTF did we just do??".   Three months of lots of rain plus no entretien meant that the land was completely overgrown and I could barely see past my face. There were weeds galore, downed branches, and all kinds of critters who were none too pleased to see their home being disturbed. But C's excitement not diminished in the least, and busted out his knife and swathed his way through as I gingerly followed behind him. 

We finally made our way down to the river, and I looked around and thought "Oh man...I definitely do not see myself coming out here".  Poor C saw my face and to his credit, immediately went out and bought a lawn mower.  And it's true, once the grass was down, it was easier to walk around with him and see the vision he had for the place.

It's actually pretty incredible what he's been able to do with it in the past year; I'll share some pictures in the next post.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 in review

Friends, I have to admit that my 2019 started on the toilet. 🥳

I’m still laughing about it over here. 

You see, we had friends over for dinner, and we were in the middle of a very spirited game of « Cards against Humanity » when I all of the sudden realized it was nearly midnight.  So I popped open a new bottle of champagne, topped up everyone’s glasses and then for some reason, decided I had enough time to go pee before the clock struck midnight.  So that’s where I was when I heard « Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one....Happy New Year! ». And then immediately followed by C « Sam, where are you?? ».  Poor guy got his New Year bisou a minute too late. 

Hopefully this is not a sign of the year to come. ;)

Looking back though, 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag. I wouldn’t say it was a bad year, but the first half was certainly mired with a lot of work-related stress and self-doubt.  But it also included a lot of really cool work trips to Brazil, Egypt, UK, Portugal, US, Egypt again, Monaco, Egypt a third time, Jordan, China, the UK again and the Netherlands. 

And then I started my new job and made several more trips to the UK and Hungary, and 5 more trips to the US. I also squeezed in a quick trip to Japan, which made up for my trip (and my poor first-class ticket!) that I had to cancel in September due to the typhoon in Kyoto. 

I had a big chat with my new boss right before Christmas about my objectives for 2019, and right now, I’m to focus on the US and Japan, and see if I can manage to build any business in France in my ‘free time’.  Which should be exciting, right?  Who wouldn’t want to travel regularly to the US and Japan?  But I can already tell I’m starting to feel a bit itchy about no longer visiting ‘new’ places...and C wants to save all of his vacation for his land (which I still need to write about!), so I haven’t had any luck convincing him to take any personal trips with me. 

I guess that it’s natural that this time of year comes with a lot of reflection as one year closes and another begins, and particularly this year, as I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life - but the only thing I do know is that travel will always be a part of it. 

Friday, December 28, 2018 review

Earlier this summer, I received an offer to try out the premium service of for 30 days, so I decided to take advantage of cheaper prices in the US and try it out.  If you haven’t been inundated with their ads on Google and Facebook, is a shipping service that expats can use to receive goods abroad, and I was initially drawn to it because of the simple set up and (what appeared to be) reasonable shipping prices.

With the premium service, you get 20% off shipping rates and the possibity to store ordered items for free up to 30 days, which is beneficial if you are ordering from several sites and want to group everything into one shipment.  So I was given an address in Florida, and I placed my orders and had several orders shipped there.  Once everything had arrived in my warehouse, I requested it all be shipped, and I was given an estimated charge of $35, which was a lot, but less than if I had shipped from each individual site.  The site also indicated no customs fees would be charged since the total value was under 100 euros. 

My package arrived rather quickly, but I had the unfortunate surprise of discovering that instead of being charged $35 in shipping, I was instead charged $60.44!  Apparently I had ordered two items (my favorite nail polish and a small external battery charger) which were considered hazardous items and thus required special packaging.  I was also charged extra for the « hazardous items » sticker. 🤔 I tried to call the customer service line multiple times, but no one ever picked up, so I ended up emailing and finally got an answer several days later stating that the shipping charges online are only an estimate and « that final charges may be more ».  Okay fine, but nearly double the quoted price?? Seemed fishy to me.  I went back and forth with them several times since I had carefully checked their website before this whole process began, and neither the battery nor the nail polish were listed as requiring special shipping, and after a long delay, they did end up refunding me $18. 

However two months later, I had a second surprise- a 50 euro bill from customs!  I emailed again multiple times and they could not explain why I had been charged but also refused to refund me for the customs fee.  In the end, I just ended up dropping it because I was starting my new job around that time and my brain space was elsewhere, but I was definitely frustrated to have practically paid more in shipping and customs fees than the items actually cost!  Their site might come in handy if you are trying to send a gift to a relative and you don’t have time to deal with the post office, but other than that, I would not recommend it.  Their slow customer service and lack of transparency when it comes to pricing definitely gets them two thumbs down from me.  I’d be curious to know if anyone else out there has tried them out?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

A wrinkle in time

One of the reasons I decided to take the job that was in my current industry was because I was feeling nostalgic about leaving my colleagues and clients.  In the months since, I have been lucky enough to see both regularly at conferences and trade shows, but it hit me the other day that seeing them and hearing how things are going always leaves me feeling like I’ve reopened a wound.

On top of that, I’m disappointed in myself for not realizing until recently that in addition to being my colleagues, they had also become my friends.  I like my current colleagues, but my interaction with them is mainly limited to email.  For as much as I hated all the meetings I had in my former role, I realize now that it was a chance to be able to talk to them on a daily basis and hear more about their lives than what is visible on social media. I miss their opinions and advice.  I miss the fun times we had together.  The only thing I can really liken it to is a break-up, ie when you choose to break up with someone, their friends and family unfortunately also become collateral damage.

I also have to admit I have sort of a morbid curiosity about seeing how life there has moved on without me.  I can’t help myself from asking how things are going with ‘so and so’, and hearing the latest gossip, and taking satisfaction in the fact that others are unhappy with the current structure.  And on one hand, I’m happy my departure has given others to step up and take on some more responsibility, but on the other, it’s perturbing to see my projects continuing on without me.  A former colleague recently posted pictures of his trip to Kenya, which would have been my trip.  Seeing him do all the things I would have been doing was odd.  Sort of like a « Sliding doors » feeling if you will. A view into what could/would have been.

Despite all the mixed feelings, I am glad to be where I am now, and to be able to know what is beyond The Company.  I spent at least a good year feeling frustrated with my job yet scared about taking a leap into another role, so at least I am no longer stuck in the « what if » cycle.  Possibly I would have been best off taking one of the other job offers and making a clean break, but for now, it is what is.