I Love My New Diet!

Finally, I have something to report! The last diet I blogged about here was The Plan, which started out promising, but I couldn't keep up with it while I was on vacation (way too complicated), so I gained back the weight I had lost. I never went back to the planned days, I just tried to avoid wheat during the next few months. It didn't do much for weight loss, although it did reduce my bloating and made me feel more comfortable, so that was useful at any rate.

I watched the Michael Mosely documentary about diets, and it featured variations of "intermittant fasting" (IF). On November 22, 2013, I decided to give it a try. The first two weeks I would eat only 500 calories on my two "fast" days, and then ate whatever I wanted the other days. I lost a few pounds the first week, but then even at the end of my second fast day during week two, I was back up a few pounds. So I determined that I am not one of the lucky people who can eat whatever they want on their eating days. The next step was to cut out wheat on the days I ate my full portion of calories. That wasn't enough, either.

By this point, I was really tired going through all this trouble and still not losing weight. So I made the decision to cut out ALL carbs, every day, and continue to fast at least twice a week. WOW, what a difference. I started eating a high-fat low-carb (HFLC) diet on December 14th. I immediately began to lose weight. From a high of 189.5 lbs on December 10th, I was down to 180 lbs on December 21st. After just one week on this diet, I lost 1.5" from my waist and 1" from my hips. Part of the amount off my waist was probably just getting rid of some bloat, but there was no bloat on my hips, that was a full inch of fat loss.

There are several additional things I'm liking about this diet. First of all, my appetite has dramatically decreased every day. Fast days, non-fast days, I am just not as hungry as I used to be. At first, I could only fast on days I had leftovers to feed the family since I couldn't cook something fresh and then NOT eat it. But now it's not a big deal. I just don't need to eat the way I needed to just a few weeks ago. The other day my sitter made dozens of sugar cookies, and I have been able to dole them out to my family without eating even one. I do take a small nibble now and then (cookie tax), but I have yet to eat even the equivalent of half a cookie. It's not willpower as much as I just don't feel like eating it. Weird, right?

At first, I would get verrrrry tired during the evenings of my fast days (right around the 24 hour mark since "normal" eating) and would be ravenous the next morning when it was time to break the fast. But now, several weeks in, breaking the fast isn't such a big deal. I'll often skip breakfast after my fast day, and just wait until lunch to eat. Although if I do that, I do tend to consume a lot of calories for lunch, in the 600 range, so it's like breakfast and lunch together. But then, I might not be very hungry for dinner.

Because I do not want my metabolism to slow down, I do continue to track calories on my "eat" days, and was at first trying to keep them up around 1900 calories (my maintenance calorie level). But it was hard to keep the calories up when I just wasn't feeling that hungry, so now I just make sure I eat when I'm hungry on my eat days, and try to include a lot of high-fat foods to keep the calorie count up. Nevertheless, I'm finding that I am now routinely satisfied with only 1,000-1,200 calories per day. And I still keep up with the IF two days per week, although here is less and less difference between an eat day and a fast day, I still suspect there is something about the fasting that is at work here, and so I'm happy to keep up with that.

I also try to exercise in a fasted state, then I'll have a whey protein drink to break the fast and recover. The exercise must use up fat, since after 36 hours with minimal food, there really shouldn't be anything floating loose in my bloodstream to use for energy. And I'm not feeling lethargic or weak or anything, just a little more tired at the very end of the day, which makes it easier to sleep.

Without the carbs, I haven't felt bloated in weeks, either. This is a big relief, since when I was on the vegan diet I felt bloated and gross much of the time. Now I just feel thin. Occasionally I'll feel hungry, but that passes. I am now much thirstier than I was before. On The Plan diet, I was supposed to drink just under five 20oz canteens of water per day, but I found it difficult to keep up with. Now, it's much easier to drink all my canteens, since I'm much more frequently thirsty than I am hungry.

I've lost weight down to 179 lbs a few times during the past year, but it's always crept back up for one reason or another. I am hopeful that THIS time, I will break through that barrier and continue to lose weight right down to my goal weight.

The Plan

After 12 weeks on a vegan diet, I was feeling fatigued all the time and actually gained .6 pounds from my start date (although my weight fluctuated quite a bit over those three months). I don't have the results of my cholesterol test yet, so I don't know if eating vegan impoved that or not, but even if it did, my body rejects a vegan diet.

In my search to find a different way to lower my cholesterol naturally, I found this new diet called "The Plan." It's less of a diet that way to find out if foods are "reactive" for you. The author claims that no one has to deal with constantly fluctuating weight, because you can eliminate the fluctuations by eliminating foods that "react" negatively with your body. She claims that when your weight goes up a pound from one day to the next, it's not from the volume of food you ate, but because your body is having a negative reaction to something you ate, and you're suffering from internal inflammation, which takes a toll on your body.

I was an even 188 lbs when I woke up the morning of my vegan-ending cholesterol test. Over the next two days I was on no particular diet and I ate two bacon burgers, a Choco taco, mayonnaise potato salad, green beans with butter and bacon, and other foods that I had been missing. By this point I had finished reading the new book, and was ready to start the 3-day cleanse on Saturday.

So far, so good. One thing I was skeptical about was that you would lose weight EVERY DAY on The Plan (let's just call it TP from now on). But so far, I've lost weight every day, eating about 2k calories daily. I'm not hungry, and the food tastes good, so I feel it's pretty sustainable, and I'm just on the "cleanse" part, which is the most strict. It's Tuesday morning, and I've already lost over 7 pounds since Thursday. This is one diet that works as advertised, and I'm not taking any supplements or anything, and just eating food that I've prepared myself.

Now, the food preparation does take a long time, because I'm not familiar with the recipes. Once I get used to them, I'm sure I'll be able to knock them out as quickly as I cook anything else. The carrot ginger soup is delicious, the spicy vegetable soup is ok, the flaxseed granola with rice milk is pretty good, especially if you add fruit. So far, I have only lost weight every day, and not gained weight, so no food yet is "reactive" for me. This is not surprising, since I'm still on the "cleanse" and the author has only included foods that are non-reactive for nearly the whole population. I tested raw almonds yesterday, and I seemed to have passed that test. Today is the first non-cleanse day, and I'll test goat cheese, wine, and chocolate. If I can eat those without gaining weight, then they can be a regular part of my "diet".

The author claims that the reason your body is overweight has less to do with the number of calories you consume, but your body's ability to process what you feed it. And as you age, your body can efficiently process fewer foods, but people don't stop eating them. What caught my interest is that some of the problem foods are the very ones that doctors and the media tell everyone to eat "for their health" like salmon, turkey, oatmeal, beans. I eat a lot of "healthy" food, and have not been losing weight. I was 190, my pre-Max baby weight, when Max turned one last year, and now he's two and despite a VEGAN diet for three months, I was only two pounds lighter a whole year later. But now, eating non-reactive healthy foods, I'm down 7 lbs in a few days.

I know, I know, you're all thinking, "harrumph, it's just water weight." But it's kind of the point of this diet to lose the water weight. Your body is holding all this water in the inflammation. When you get rid of the inflammation, the extra water is released. Sure, I'm losing water weight, but there is no doubt it is making me thinner and lighter, and that is the goal, isn't it? The difference with this diet is that water weight gain is unacceptable, since it indicates a digestive problem. If you ever gain weight on any given day, the food you tested the previous day must be suspected as triggering inflammation in your body, and should be eliminated from your diet if you want to continue losing weight. She says if any food has tested "reactive" you can always wait a few months and test again, sometimes if you have a lot of existing residual inflammation (like in the beginning of this process), your body will be more sensitive than it will be once its had a chance to heal itself.

I was skeptical when reading the testimonials of 40-something women who all claimed to lose 10-20 pounds during the first 20 days of the diet. But I'm on that track, and am pretty excited about the results! Bloat was a real problem for me throughout my vegan experiment, so there was something I was eating that was distressing my system. Now is the time to systematically figure out what it is.

I got the Kindle version of TP and it's not a great format since I have several clicks to get from the meal plans to the recipe section and back, but I was able to start reading it as soon as I discovered it (at night after all the bookstores were closed), so that was worth it, plus it was way cheaper as an ebook, about $11. The book is a bit confusing, and not particularly well-written or well-organized, but so far for me the program really works. I have had to modify some meals because the author presumes you have a ton of ingredients on hand or have ready access to them. If I were back in NYC, shopping for ingredients for the evening meal just before I cooked it (there is little room for storage in small apartment fridges and kitchens (pantries exist only for the mega rich), I could do all meals as prescribed. But for me it's a 30-minute drive to the nearest health-foods grocery, so if something is not in my pantry, it's not available until my next shopping day, which is not every day. But when I've had to susbstitute, I've just used a similar food to what I've had before, one that has already tested negative for weight gain.

I've also snacked a little at night-- that is the only time I get hungry, and I've had a handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds and it's done the trick.

Anyway, I'll update the results after I've been on this plan for a few weeks, to see if there is any progress past the initial waterweight loss. The author claims that if you eliminate reactive foods, your body will just steadily lose weight until you reach your goal weight, presuming your goal weight is reasonable and not what you weighed in high school. I've chosen a goal weight that is just over where I was the summer I met Terry, when I was in my mid-20s. Although my figure has changed quite a bit since childbirth, so I might still look fine 10 lbs heavier than I was then, so we'll just wait and see. Either way, I've got at least 30 pounds to go even after my recent 7 lb drop. Wish me luck!

Crazy Vegan Alternatives

Today I decided to swing through the Whole Foods for a few vegan alternatives to things I'd ordinarily use. I came home with flax seeds, vegan mayo, nutritional yeast flakes, and a cream cheese substitute.

I've already tried one-- the cream cheese substitute. I chose the chives flavor, since I recall from past experience that often the plain Frankenfoods taste too bizarre for me to deal with, and sometimes the added favors sufficiently mask the weirdness to enjoy them. It was not so in this case. Not that I don't suspect the flavored spread is better than plain, I certainly do think I made the right choice in that respect. But in this case, the added flavor is not enough to overcome the ick factor.

When I saw the tub of "vegan cream cheese substitute" I had my hopes up, it wasn't trying to emulate "real" cheese, after all, I did not need it to melt or anything, how bad could it be? Fairly bad, in my opinion. I put a smear on my homemade sourdough bread, and the first thing I noticed was a pronounced "off" taste. If it were the real thing, I'd have to think about what would be giving it the off flavor had it picked up fridge flavors? was it too old? were the chives bad? But in this case of course I knew the answer right away, it tasted off since it was made from oil instead of milk. It tasted oily instead of creamy. Which is not bad for something like a tapenade. But for this, well, it seemed like they were trying to coax a creamy flavor from the oil, and failing. I am undecided if I will try to cook with and see if I like it better over pasta or something, or if I will just throw it out.

For breakfast, I was in a hurry and just sliced a few pieces of my bread and smeared them with some of the black bean paste I made a few days ago. I was very satisfied with my breakfast at the time, and in retrospect even more so, since my own spread was vastly superior in taste to the stuff I just bought. Yet I really don't see much like it in the prepared foods section of Whole Foods. They do have a million varieties of hummus, but at exorbitant prices. My bean spreads cost less than $2 for a big old batch, and that's using canned beans, I presume it would be even less if I could be bothered to soak and cook the beans myself. The WF ones were $4 for a small container, $6 for the large. I guess my batches are usually about the same size as their large container. I wonder if they only offer varieties of hummus because that is something the average consumer is familiar with and will accept, or because people really prefer the taste of spreads made with garbanzo beans over those made with other types of bean. I like hummus and all, but without the added flavorings it can be dull. I actually like the added flavors I achieve in my own spreads from using various types of beans.

Thoughts on Vegan Eating, Week 1

I've had a few thoughts about vegan eating during this first week of my experiment, but due to a busy schedule then illness, I've not had a chance to post until now.

First, it has not been difficult to stick to it. There are plenty of foods that I enjoy and I'm never going hungry.

Second, the downside to the never-going-hungry part is that when I eat until I feel full, shortly afterwards I feel bloated and gross. What I have come to realize over the course of the week is that this low-protein diet does not send the "I'm full" signal to my brain as quickly as when I was eating animal proteins. So I need to adjust my habits to eat way less than I think I need, then just wait to see if I need more. I think my body may adjust its signals, but it might take a few weeks or longer to get that worked out. Until then, I must just experiment with vegan portions of various dishes until I figure out the minimum that will satisfy me. This is annoying, but not so difficult as to sour me on the diet.

Third, I really like fried bean patties. I like them hot, I like them cold, I like them for snacks, I like them as a meal. And they are infinitely variable, so I think they may become the mainstay of my existence. They can be mild or spicy, crispy or soft, hot or cold, light or heavy. Vary the beans, vary the oil, vary the vegetables, vary the herbs and spices, vary the breadcrumbs. And if you keep the bean paste in the fridge unfried, you can spread it on toast for an entirely different flavor.

Fourth, I'm probably better off just coming up with my own recipes than trying too many from online. So far, everything I've followed from a vegan recipe, tastes, well, vegan. And everything that I've just come up with on my own has tasted better to me. This could very well be a matter of personal taste more than some problem with vegan recipes, per se, but time will tell. Once I master a repertoire of vegan dishes that meet my non-vegan taste standards, I might be in a position to sell a cookbook! I made a vegan spanikopita this morning that wasn't half bad, but I suspect that as I continue learning new techniques I could make it even better. I really would like to get things up to the level of "good" before putting the recipes out there for public trial.

I haven't gotten on the scale since my unfortunate bout of stomach flu (my first as an adult), but I don't feel as if I lost weight by eliminating animal products. According to my online food log, it has not really reduced my calorie intake, it's right about where I used to be. Although I am overheating because of the problem with the fullness signal (point number 2 above) so maybe once I get that worked out it will end up being fewer calories, the jury is still out on whether this change of diet will lead to weight loss for me.

The Vegan Experiment

I'm back to diet blogging, since now I have something interesting to report! I'm experimenting with a plant-based diet.

I've been keeping track of my food intake through the MyFitnessPal site as I described in a previous post, and I intend to continue logging food there. I have my diet set as info visible to friends in that app, so feel free to "friend" me (username MrsThorsen) if you're curious, it's free to sign up.

But I will blog here about the process of switching from a standard diet to a diet without meat, fish, butter, eggs, cheese, or other dairy products. It seemed daunting, but the more I thought about it, the more ideas I came up with to make it work. And the motivation behind it is primarily to lower my cholesterol, although I'm hopeful that I will also lose weight, have more energy, and improve my complexion. If all those things happen, it could motivate me to stick with the diet long-term. But I'm currently willing to commit for at least six weeks, although I might increase the trial period after I discuss it with my doctor.

I got my blood drawn this morning for a cholesterol profile, so when I get the results that will be my baseline. If the vegan diet lowers the cholesterol enough that I have room to spare in the healthy range, phase two of my experiment will be to see what happens when I add back meat/fish/dairy/whatever one or two days per week.

I decided to do this after watching the film "Forks Over Knives". I thought the most compelling testimonials were from the athletes whose performance didn't suffer when they went vegan. Of course they didn't include interviews with people who started the vegan diet under doctor supervision but later dropped out. It does make me wonder whether it really has health benefits for everyone, or just those who happen to process this type of diet well. But the only way to find out if it will work for ME is to do the experiment on myself.

Although I'm officially starting this change of diet today, I've been experimenting with vegan meals for several days already, and have noticed the biggest adjustment will be figuring out the proper portion size. I've been assuming that I'll starve unless I eat large portions, which are very easy to eat. But I'm finding that I'm probably eating too much at once since I feel bloated after a vegan meal. I'm also still figuring out the proportions of beans or grains to vegetables that will best suit me.

What I haven't had a problem with yet is food that is lacking in deliciousness. Now, it's my first day, so I have focused on eating my favorite vegan dishes that I used to make even before I restricted my diet. But I will run out of those in a few days and will have to come up with a bunch of new favorite recipes. But since I am in charge of the cooking, I don't think it will be a problem finding things to suit my taste. I am curious how I'm going to get around the lack of eggs or cheese (butter is easy, I just use oil instead, and I presume that coconut milk or other subs will be fine in place of cow milk). As of now, I don't have any plans to use tofu, but will keep my mind open once I have exhausted all the other vegan cooking goals I have set for myself.

My weight this morning was 187.4. Just slightly under my pre-Max baby weight. I'm about the same weight I was this time last year. I consider the first rule of losing weight to be "Don't gain weight," so at least there's that. But after a year of sideways weight fluctuation, I'm also eager to try something new to maybe kickstart some more meaningful changes. I care less about my ending weight than about fitting into my jewelry and shoes-- I have quite a collection that I have been unable to wear for years, first due to pregnancy, but then because I've never lost all the baby weight. I'm still nursing my youngest, but he's old enough he doesn't need to be nursing, so I don't have a big worry about how this change diet or weight loss will affect my milk. If he doesn't like what happens, he can give it up. My firstborn pretty much weaned himself during my pregnancy with my second son because he didn't care for the change in flavor. My baby is older now than my first was then, so I'll probably just leave it up to him.

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