My weight loss and diet struggles
I have always looked for something that will become a lifestyle rather than a short term fad diet. I have done my fair share of tricks on my weight loss journey. Some worked and some didn’t. One thing that I have discovered is that it doesn’t matter what you eat but when you eat or how often you eat.
For the most part of my adult life, I did not have issues with my weight until I started taking Prednisone for joint pain. I gained weight so briskly that within two weeks on being on the medication I gained two dress sizes. I adjusted to being a big girl and pretended to be ok with it for a while.
I was then diagnosed with depression and started taking Lithium which tripled my weight. I was the biggest I have ever been in my life and that was depressing in itself. I could not stand long enough to wash the dishes without my feet throbbing with pain. I remember shopping for jeans and the biggest size the clothing store had was size 44 and it didn’t fit. That was the breaking point for me and started my journey of a lifestyle change and lose weight.
I wasn’t sure where to start, what to eat, and what not to eat. I had always been health conscious so vegetables were always a big part of my diet but that didn’t help much. I remember a friend of mine told me that his girlfriend is a big girl but is vegetarian and that didn’t make sense to me. I have always believed that if I ate veggies the whole day I would be as thin as a match stick but I was so wrong.
Diets and lifestyle programs that I have tried
Manna Weight-loss Program/Diet: This program is mainly targeted to people with diabetes. Though I am not diabetic I decided to give it a try because their meal plans look reasonable to me. The major changes I had to do with my meals were to swap white rice for brown, normal bread for wholewheat or rye bread, more fruits, more vegetables, white meat instead of red meat, and also include snacking in between meals.
For drinks, I had to drink lots of water, green tea, diluted fruit juice, or carrot juice. Exercise is also encouraged but I have never had the energy to go to the gym or do any form of exercise. The diet did work to kick start my weight loss journey, but I could not sustain it due to the restrictions of not being allowed to eat some of my favorite foods. I gained back all the weight I had lost and I was back to square one. I needed a change and I was getting more depressed as a result.
Calorie Counting: I have a love-and-hate relationship with the calorie counting concept. Calories are normally used to describe the amount of energy your body gets from what you eat and drink. They can also be used to describe the amount of energy your body needs to perform physical tasks including breathing, thinking, blinking, and maintaining your heartbeat.
For the most part, it is effective when you have the energy and time to count everything you put in your mouth and are active as well. The most important thing is to be in a calorie deficit. Simply put, you need to eat fewer calories then you burn in order to lose weight. I must say, calorie counting did push me out of my comfort zone and I started exercising, which I didn’t think I would actually enjoy. It is a tedious process and not so easy to be accurate unless you use a calorie counting app and weigh your food over and above that.
Banting/Keto Lifestyle: The Banting lifestyle is a low carb, high fat, and medium protein (LCHF) diet that mostly restricts starchy, processed, and sugary foods. The term “Banting” has become popular particularly in South Africa, due to the work of Prof Tim Noakes, author of Real Meal Revolution, a professor of exercise science and sports medicine, an athlete, and an advocate of the low-carbohydrate/high-fat approach to diet.
This is the program I enjoyed the most I must say. I love meat and fatty foods and there were very few restrictions on that front. In fact, with Banting, fats are your friend but not just any.
Foods are grouped according to how frequent you are allowed to eat them: Green list for foods you could eat anytime, Orange list for foods you can only eat occasionally, and Red which is foods you should never eat. The most important thing about this lifestyle is to eat only when you are hungry and stop when full. To be successful you need to make sure you say away from foods with high carbohydrate content (bread, rice, pap, burgers, pizzas, fries, and other fast food), any sugary drinks, and processed foods.
I managed to follow this lifestyle for a couple of years but to be honest, you miss comfort foods. Yes, the results were fantastic but this is not something I can be able to do for the rest of my life without cheating and indulging in food that is considered red-list. This lifestyle program takes a lot of discipline and is great for gradual weight loss that can be maintained long term.
Choosing Intermittent Fasting over everything
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t restrict which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them.
The reason I started IF after I had tried all these other programs was that I was stagnant and not losing any more weight. I was not willing to go back to any of the strict diets but needed a change, that is when I discovered Intermittent Fasting. There are a number of methods to choose from when it comes to intermittent fasting and I have tried them all. Some are not so easy but the results are worth it.
Intermittent Fasting Methods:
The 16/8 method: Basically you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window. It generally requires you to skip breakfast, for example only eating between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. or midday and 8 p.m. Since you are already fasting while they sleep, this method is very popular. Finding the right eating and fasting windows for this method might take a while to figure out, especially if you’re very active or if you wake up hungry in the morning.
Alternate day fasting: This method cycles between days of fasting and normal eating. Simply put, you starve yourself by fasting one day and then you eat whatever you want the next day, and then repeat that pattern again and again. I know it sounds extreme but the body can adapt to the sudden change and you won’t even feel hungry as you get used to it.
One Meal A Day (OMAD): This method involves fasting completely for a full 23 hours and eat one meal during a 1-hour eating window. This is the method I found to be most effective for me to accelerate weight loss while still eating whatever I want. Most people fast from lunch to lunch or dinner to dinner. For example, eating your one big meal at 2 p.m. every day and stop eating by 3 p.m.
Warrior Diet: It is a type of intermittent fasting that revolves fasting for 20-hours, followed by a 4-hour eating window. Basically, there aren’t any off-limits foods on the warrior diet. It’s encouraged that you consume nutrient-dense foods and get in plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein, but you could just as easily reach for a pizza during your four-hour eating window.
My Benefits for Intermittent Fasting
- Weight loss and increased stamina during workouts.
- Reduced joint inflammation.
- Increased energy levels and not feeling sluggish in the afternoons.
- Diet freedom. No counting of calories or weighing your food.
- Eating whatever I want.
What to eat during Fasting Window
If your goal is weight loss then you are not allowed to eat anything during your fasting window. You are however allowed the following drinks:
- Sparkling or carbonated drinks (with no flavoring or sweeteners)
- Black Coffee or Tea including green tea (with no milk or sweetener)
Essentially you are not allowed to eat anything that will spike your insulin. The goal is to force the body to use stored fat as the source of energy which will result in weight loss. This is not for everyone I must say but if you have reached a plateau in your weight loss goals, it is worth considering the fasting lifestyle. The best way to start is following the 16/8 method which is the easiest. When you start to see results then you can push your body even further.
It is important to note that there are no quick fixes to any lifestyle change or weight loss journey but with time, patience, and consistency, you will surely see the results.