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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