At the beginning of a new year, I always read my previous years’ journal. And last year, a lot of my journal was about THE DIET. And diet-wise, you might say I’ve made a major lifestyle change. In some respects it was a sudden change, in others, more gradual, and always a work-in-progress.
In January of 2013, before they finished sweeping the confetti off Times Square, totally surprising myself since I’m the gal who said she’d never diet again, yet who was growing weary of the roll of jell-o spilling over the top of her jeans, I let myself get swept up in the a New-Year’s-Resolution-Diet-Frenzy via the Today Show.
The diet that captivated me: David Zinczenko’s 8-Hour Diet. (A version of intermittent fasting.) The next day I quit eating breakfast and never looked back.
The flip-side of skipping breakfast was that by noon I was ravenous... I wanted to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down... but I was banking on the 8-HD promise that if I limiting eating to an 8-hour window there would be a magical metabolic-shift allowing weight to effortlessly disappear. There was the added incentive that I could eat “whatever I wanted,” as long as I included at least 2 of the 8 “power foods” at each meal and snack (lean protein, walnuts, seeds, berries, other fruits, green leafy veggies, dairy, and whole grains) and did an intense 8-minute cardio workout first-thing every morning to jump-start my metabolism. (The “power food” thing was easy... I was already eating that way, but I prefer a slower paced workout later in the morning or afternoon, so I wasn't getting the promised metabolic jump-start. Maybe that’s why my weight loss was so painfully slow.)
Anyway, it didn’t take long to realize that if I ate “as much as I wanted” at noon, I was asking for a serious case of heartburn. I learned that I needed to eat light for my first meal, after not eating for 16 hours, to give my stomach a chance to wrap itself around food more gradually. So instead of eating a large brunch I started breaking my “fast” with a normal-sized lunch: a sandwich, a few chips, fruit, veggies, a little chocolate...
Truth be told, if you skip breakfast, depending on how many calories your breakfast adds up to, and mine was running about 400 calories, what you’ve actually got is caloric deficit masquerading as a magical metabolic shift. I’m convinced that Zinczenko is hoping that you won’t be eating as much if you only eat during that crucial 8-hour window. (By the way, you can pick any 8-hour window you want, but for me, the noon-8 p.m. time frame works best.)
By limiting eating to an 8-hour window, the potential for cutting calories, for some, is huge, since some folks eat every waking hour, and 20% of Americans report that they get less than 6 hours of sleep on average. But for me, that 400-calorie daily deficit, while significant, didn’t provide much quick-weight-loss excitement. But I stuck to it, and within 6 weeks, I’d lost 3 pounds. My waistbands were starting to feel a little bit looser.
Remember the part about the diet being a work-in-progress. My initial goal was to get under the “overweight” range for my height. When I started the diet I weighed 172 pounds. The top “normal” weight for my height is 160. After that first 3 pounds came off, every few weeks, whenever I felt like I was hitting a plateau, I downsized how much I was eating just a little bit. The first thing to go was the chips at noon, then I switched from mayo on my sandwich to mustard. I never gave up chocolate. The only way I’ll give up chocolate is at gunpoint.
The less you weigh, the less you need to eat to maintain that weight. For instance, if you want to weigh 160, and you eat the amount of calories that your body needs to maintain 160 (based on age, gender, and activity level) eventually you will weigh 160. It might take a while though. It’s sort of an inexact science, and I’m sort of an inexact statistician, but I must have been doing something right, because sure enough, by mid-June I weighed 160. 12 pounds off in 23 weeks. About a ½ pound a week.
My next goal was to be a little under the absolute top “normal” weight for my height and go for 155 pounds. That’s when I discovered the smoothie lunch. Since July, I’ve been drinking my Elixer of Life Smoothie at noon... 400 calories of nutrition-packed deliciousness with a side order of almonds and a little dark chocolate adds up to 600 calories. Another caloric down-size and within 11 weeks, that last 5 pounds melted away.
Fast in the morning, smoothie at noon, and for dinner... I FEAST... I eat what I want... a delicious meal with all food groups* represented. I don’t count calories, fat grams, carbs, or anything else that’s countable. (Well, that’s not totally true. In order to maintain 155, I did a little research and know that need about 2350 calories a day. I’ve done a few random calorie counts and I’m in the ballpark.)
I’ve been at 155 pounds give or take a ½ pound for the past 6 weeks. Since I don’t plan on eating less or exercising** more that’s probably where I’ll stay. I don’t need to be any smaller. I’m at a good weight. I feel great. And all my clothes fit.
My newest goal is to maintain this weight for a year... because maintenance, by definition, means maintaining weight loss for at least a year. If I keep doing what I’m doing, and I’m planning on it, I will.
*I consider dessert a food group
**I exercise 5 days a week. Walk. Bike. Yoga. Light weights. In varying combinations.
This post is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be medical or dietary advice. Please consult a reliable health care practitioner before starting any diet/fitness program.