Throughout March I experimented to find out what worked for my body and what didn't. I am NOT saying that this will work for you. I'm not even suggesting you do what I do. But I do think it's a good idea to experiment and find what works for you.
Here are the results: I lost 15.5 pounds and 8.5" in that one month.
My arms stayed the same but I lost 3" off my waist and 2" off my hips and 1.5" off each thigh. Not too shabby!
My Rules (adapted from The Four Hour Body)
1. No white carbs. No bread, pasta, rice, potato....anything with gluten. No grains. This part was easy since I was already doing that.
2. Eat the same few meals over and over again. No need to worry about what I'm having for breakfast because I already know. Lunch? Same variation as yesterday. It made it a no brainer for me. Boring but effective. The only thing that changed day to day was type of vegetable and type of protein.
I ate as much as I wanted and did not count carbs or calories. I also did not worry about fats.
I had a LOT of salads with protein. Also a lot of fajitas. I ate mostly cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) and leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale). My fats of choice were butter, olive oil and coconut oil. I used a variety of seasonings like Montreal steak, lemon pepper, etc. But all of my meals were very simple.
Out of the three food groups animal, vegetable and miracle, I tried to stay away from miracle. I did indulge in one Diet Coke per day. Miracle= "I have no idea how this food came to exist. It must be from the gods." ie Diet Coke, margarine, Twinkie
3. Avoid sweeteners of all types. My only exception was one Diet Coke per day. I drank my coffee black and my tea without sweetener. Strangely enough, I lost cravings for sweets very quickly. The food kept me satisfied.
4. I always had my first meal within an hour of waking and I made it pretty big. Usually 3-4 eggs scrambled, spinach and maybe a little extra protein from bacon or sausage or leftovers. I tried to get in 30g of protein at that first meal. The rest of the day I tried to get in around 20g of protein per meal.
5. For each meal choose a protein, a veggie and add some fat. Even breakfast needed a veggie serving. Four Hour Body suggests adding a legume instead of the fat but I know how I react to carbs so I switched beans for fat. If I hadn't added a fat the caloric intake would be way too low and since fat doesn't cause an insulin response it seemed like the best choice.
6. No dairy except up to 2 tablespoons of cream and some butter. Six day a week.
7. Don't drink calories. No fruit juice, smoothies, milk or regular sodas. I limited my Diet Coke to one per day because aspartame can stimulate weight gain. I also allowed myself one glass of wine per night. Only wine. No beer.
8. No fruit. I know this is insane to some but I didn't want the sugars. I was getting vitamins and antioxidants from my veggies. Fructose is also converted to glycerol phosphate more efficiently than most other carbs. Glycerol phosphate is turned into triglycerides in the liver which means fat storage. But don't despair: I only avoided fruit six days per week.
9. Have one cheat day per week. This is mandatory. Eat as much as you want of whatever you want and get a good calorie boost. The idea is to make sure that thyroid function and conversion of T4 to T3 doesn't downshift because of calorie restriction. The boost in calories once a week is supposed to stimulate thyroid function. Also, I experimented a couple of times with intermittent fasting (IF) after cheat day. I would fast for 16 hours after my last meal and since I was sleeping during a good portion of those hours it wasn't a big deal. For example, if I stopped eating at 10:00pm I wouldn't eat again until 2pm the next day. I was not hungry at all doing this and I only did it after cheat days and it seemes to minimize my weight gain. Before IF weight gain might be 5.5 pounds. After IF weight gain was 1.5 pounds.
10. I did 30 squats, 30 wall push ups, and 30 chest pull before each meal to stimulate my muscles' GLUT-4 receptors to open up and be more sensitive to insulin. This was an important experiment since I have such an issue with insulin resistance.
11. I used an ice pack on my back and neck to stimulate brown adipose tissue (also known as brown fat). Brown fat supposedly is an active fat-burning fat, which sounds strange. It helps dissipate excess calories as heat. Cold stimulates brown fat to burn fat and glucose as heat. I came to enjoy my daily ice pack time. I only let it set for about 20 minutes. I noticed that I slept better at night if I did it right before bed. I have no idea why. Just an observation.
12. Supplements. I took Alpha Lipoic Acid, Green Tea extract, Garlic extract and a multivitamin without iron. I also took magnesium, potassium and calcium just to make sure I was covered. I ran out of a few supplements so I stopped taking them a couple of weeks ago.
After cheat day I would typically show a 5.5 pound gain on the scale the next day but it would go away after a couple of days and the weight loss was dramatic. We're talking 1-2 pounds per day usually. It wasn't always the case but most of the time it was.
The cheat day made it much easier to stick to the spartan diet during the week. I was not hungry!! At all. Not even a little bit.
My experience: The first week I lost the most weight. I don't even remember how much it was now. My mind felt clearer and I was in a very good mood. I didn't have any of my anxiety issues at night unless it was cheat day. My heart always pounded and I had anxiety after eating carbs. I wish I understood why that happens. I slept hard at night and instantly went to sleep. Hunger was not an issue. I lost my sweet cravings. If/when I did have a craving I'd write it down and tell myself that I could have it on "cheat day." I prefer calling it splurge day. I wasn't cheating. I still had energy to work out and go about my daily life. I felt happy and overall fantastic. I am not suggesting that you'd have the same results. This is what happened to me.
The speed of the weight loss during the week made it easy to stick to it.
Do I plan to continue this and for how long? Yes, I plan to continue it. It works so well! For how long? Until I reach my goal weight. Then I'll probably live more of a paleo/low carb lifestyle. My body does the best eating that way and it's not difficult. Gluten is right out for me though. Darn it. I just notice greater results when I cut it out.
During the experimentation I had stopped taking my thyroid meds. 1) to see if I could lose weight without them because my doctor said I couldn't and I hate to be told I can't do something and 2) I ran out of my meds so there were none to take. Honestly, I'm not sure the meds were doing much anymore. I've read in other places where they work for a few months then they lose their effectiveness. I have no idea if this is true for everyone but I did notice many of my hypothyroid symptoms returning after a while. I'm hoping things are starting to work again because I don't have as many hairs left behind in the hairbrush and instead of being cold all the time I'm like a furnace! I feel warm! I'll be discussing all of this with my doctor when I go for bloodwork this month.
ALSO during March was my 3.1 for 31 days challenge. Every single day I walked, ran or biked 3.1 miles. It was just a way to make me get outside and do something active every single day.
I came to like those daily walks/runs/rides. I did it in the morning, at night, during the hot and cold, high winds, rain, barefoot....all kinds of conditions. Nothing would stop me.
So do I think that the exercise had anything to do with my weight loss? Hmm....I'm not sure. I don't think so.
My BMR (basal metabolic rate) is approximately 1590 calories per day. That's 66.25 calories per hour I burn just by living. I burn approximately 100 calories per mile whether I run or walk (I've verified this with a Bodybugg). Let's say I walked those 3.1 miles in 50 minutes. I've only burned a little less than an extra 233 calories. That's not much. But maybe it raises my metabolism for a while or something. I don't know. But the math doesn't seem to add up to much.
I did, however, enjoy that time each day. Even on the days when I really didn't want to get out there I still felt so much better afterwards. Exercise is the best mood enhancer I've encountered. Well, besides vicodin, morphine or Ambien. Ambien does not put me to sleep and that's all I'll say on that subject.
In March I got in a total of 144 miles according to dailymile.com. Wow! That's further than my house to Lake Charles, LA!
This is my second 5K a Day Challenge. I'm sure I'll do another one in the future just because it really does get me moving more.
I'm pretty pleased with my March results. I'd say losing 8.5" is a success! My clothes are certainly fitting better.
So what do I have in store for April? I would like to continue experimenting with food but also start concentrating on building muscle. It's time to firm up. I'll also be trying out kettlebell swings for the first time. I get my first kettlebell tonight. Yay!
In addition to building muscle I'll be training for my first duathlon! I'm pretty excited about this. It's going to be on Mother's Day (I can't think of a gift I'd like more than a homemade card and a shiny new medal.....and a winning lotto ticket). This is one step closer to my goal of completing a triathlon this year. It's only going to be a super sprint duathlon but I really just wanted to learn how transitions work. I'm clueless about all these things so I figured why not just jump in there with both feet and learn how to do it during a race. Haha.
April: build muscle, train for duathlon, continue food experiments
After March, I really feel that my goal is attainable. And soon! I should be at goal this summer and that brings a big smile to my face. I swear there were times when I thought it was impossible. Especially when starting out it seemed like such a huge task that I wasn't sure I'd ever reach it. I've had a lot of ups and downs. I think I've lost and gained the same 20 pounds about 10 times. I could kick myself for those times I've gained but at least the overall trend has been that I'm shrinking.
I've learned a lot since starting this weight loss journey. I've certainly learned what not to do! Gosh, I remember trying a juice fast for two weeks. I did nothing but juice all of my veggies and fruits. After two weeks I had gained weight instead of losing! Now I know why. I've done all kinds of crazy things. But I think I'm finally on the right track.
The most important thing I can say is that setbacks are not defeats. They're learning experiences. If I can do this, anybody can do it. Not just the weight loss but the exercising and obstacle races and half marathons. Nothing is holding you back either. You just have to want it bad enough to make a change. We can do it!