My Intermittent Journey

My journey from five meals a day to only eight hour eating window per day.

For a person who runs away from the thought of skipping a meal and considering fasting my biggest nightmare, I was lucky to be introducedto Intermittent Fasting as Intermittent Eating… think po-tay-to po-tah-to!

Let me begin with a brief about Intermittent Fasting (IF)

There are over 3 commonly known variations to this eating schedule

  • 5:2- here you eat normally for five days of the week and the fast for two days with a maximum calorie intake of 500-600 cal.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat- here you fast for 24 hours (zero calorie intake), once or twice a week.
  • 16/8- here your eating window is within 6 to 8 hours and you fast (zero calorie intake) for 16 to 18 hours.

For obvious reasons my choice was the 16/8 method of eating(as I like to call it instead of IF).

Coming to what is IF?

I wouldn’t call it a diet because it doesn’t tell you what to eat. I would rather refer to it as an eating pattern since it only tells you when to eat!
So, did I have to skip a meal? Not necessarily. I just had to time them better, or if it suits me, I could choose to skip a meal.

How did I move from 5 Meals per Day to an 8hr Eating Window?

  • I took some time to notice my existing eating patterns, the average time difference between my dinners to the next morning’s breakfast. It seemed like I was spacing them by 14 hours already, but the issue was that of snacking after. I took it one week at a time.
    The first week I made sure that I wasn’t snacking post dinner
  • The next week I added an extra hour to my fasting period and came to 15/9
  • The third week I glided into the 16/8 schedule

(Since I tend to have migraine attacks due to acidity from skipping or spacing meals too far apart, this gradual glide-in helped enormously)

The Mechanism of IF
The entire schedule of IF is based on Fed State and Fasted State
The Fed State begins when we start to eat and lasts upto 3-5 hours after, because that’s how long our body takes to breakdown and absorb the food. During the Fed State our insulin levels are high, making it difficult to burn fats
The Fasted State begins at the end of Fed State; it is the time when our body is resting and not processing our meals. The fat burning state begins only 8 to 12 hours after our last meal (post-absorption of all the meals).
Since we don’t easily enter the Fasted State with the habit of unconscious and/or mindless snacking, we store fats. But with IF the fats that pack Glycogen get the chance to be converted into Glucose; AKA Fat Burning State, leading to loss of fat without changing what one eats!
(Interesting fact: the human body can survive on zero calorie diet for eight days)

Working out while on IF?

When I first began this eating plan I was regularly running in the mornings. So, I went ahead with my morning routine of returning from a run by 7 am and made it to breakfast by 10am, which when clocked in for eight hours allows me have my last meal by 6:00 pm.
I wondered if I’d have enough energy for longer runs, but I was surprised that I could comfortably do it provided I had a meal after. Eat Dates (1-2 a day), Otherwise I was bound to feel dizzy and drained.

A friend who has been on IF for more than 18 months now, shared that he practices MMA; so high intensity workouts shouldn’t be an issue either.

What can we consume during the 16 hour zero calorie period?

There are three options. Water. Green Tea. Black Coffee (all of this is without any form of sweetner).

No, fresh fruit juices aren’t allowed either. They carry a certain amount of calories, putting the stomach back to work.

What about the dinner parties and events?

Stay liberal, don’t get obsessed- it’s never healthy. I spent time and created a list of priorities and enjoyed a late meal once in a while. But the very next day I was back on the schedule; no slacking there.

Benefits of IF

  • A better and timely eating system, allowing my digestive system some rest
  • Reduced hassle and time spent on meal preparation
  • Burn body fat and build muscle, and improve body composition
  • Lose weight (mostly around my abdomen region)
  • Feeling light and energetic
  • Reduced workout time without putting on weight or feeing lethargic
  • Learned to say No!

Research based facts: IF can help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It also helps keep neuro degenerative diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay and improve brain health.

Who shouldn’t try IF?

  • Anyone who has a history of any form of eating disorder
  • Those who are pregnant and breast feeding
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system
  • Those with thyroid, adrenal and hormonal issues

Hope my experience helps you start your own story if you’re looking at starting with IF. I personally love it because of its simple rules and the convenience it provides (no extra gadgets or supplies needed).

More love and power to all you guys. Hope all of you had a great V-Day and week!

Churning Wheels: Potion Quotient

There are four chemicals that are responsible for human happiness.

(This is the second article of the Churning Wheels series)

With a whirlwind of ideas that I couldn’t address all at once I was left restless for a day or more. So I did the best things that I could think of- ponder, wonder, ignore, convince myself that it’s not my monkey hence not my circus. Over time I tried digging deeper, finding articles or asking people if they knew what I felt; well let’s just say there wasn’t much success there either. Internet is smart but it didn’t know the answer to my unsure questions and left me clueless.

After some more time of self-tormenting I decided that the best way to understand what an individual goes through is by looking at it from a two-fold system:

  1. Their chemical proportions
  2. Their needs as individuals

With better clarity than before, there finally was a direction to look at.

A little reading and some permutation and combinations later, I realised that there are four chemicals that are responsible for most human happiness. The beauty of such chemicals is that they needn’t be injected but we can learn to produce and help product more of them within ourselves.

  • The first chemical is ENDORPHIN. It’s the one responsible for making us feel good after a session of physical exercise, despite all the muscle strain, by reducing the perception of pain and are also responsible for feeling of euphoria; also known as the body’s ‘feel good chemical’.
  • The next one is DOPAMINE. This motivates us into performing better and being achievers. It creates a sense of contentment and high through achievements. It is also called the brain’s ‘reward and pleasure centre’ ; more the dopamine more the productivity. Lowered motivation and enthusiasm is an indicator or low levels of dopamine.
  • Third in line is SEROTONIN. This motivates us to indulge in pro-social behaviours. Its released when we perform acts of kindness towards others, making the world seem like a better place. Commonly known as the ‘happiness hormone’, it can affect the body temperature, cause migraine and regulate appetite.
  • And finally OXYTOCIN. This is the social potion, often also called the ‘love hormone’. It is released through proximity. It’s the reason why sometimes hugs feel more therapeutic than words. It works on the trust, warmth, openness and empathy of individuals.chemicals.jpg

On gaining this new information, the next seemed obvious. I had to know how I could improve the production of these hormones in my body without resorting to chemical substitutes. With it began the next phase of my research and I was surprised at how simple it is to make myself happy!

Here are some steps that can be adopted easily in everyday:

  1. Soak in the sun as vitamin D is fat-soluble and directly effects the production of Oxytocin.
  2. Exercise regularly as it has many mind-body benefits. Staying active helps the physiology and is directly related to the production of Endorphin.
  3. Sleep well because your body needs the rest. It is said that most of these hormones are produced when the body is in a resting state that’s why when we wake up after a good night’s sleep we feel energised and refreshed. By the end of the day, the body has usually exhausted its supple of these hormones, making it tired and deserving of the rest.
  4. Eat a protein rich diet and avoid processed foods. Veggies, unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds are the best way.
  5. Quit or limit your sugar consumption*
  6. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine. They create dependence and interfere in the natural hormone production process.
  7. Listen to music that you enjoy as it triggers the pleasure centres.
  8. Try aromatherapy; esp. lavender and chamomile, as they are known to have relaxing properties.
  9. Practice yoga and meditation as they are known to relieve stress and relax the body and mind.
  10. Practice the art of giving, volunteering and donating in-order to feel good.
  11. Cuddle with loved ones and your pets because love spreads positivity and joy.
  12. Laugh! Laughing in real time is the best medicine for all kinds of situations.
  13. Take up hobbies, do creative things and invest time in yourself**
  14. Have celebratory rituals for all small and big accomplishments (eg. A celebratory dance, treating self with favourite food, etc).

As an adult most of us can consciously put in an effort to improve our own happiness. But as adults we should also take up the responsibility of equipping children with the ability to do so by providing them an environment to be happy and helping them inculcate little activities into their routines. What could be better than a generation of humans being brought up with happiness improvement mechanisms?

Note:

*Refer to “Sugaring it Down” https://thehazywhisperer.com/2018/10/10/sugaring-it-down/

**Refer to “Try It” https://thehazywhisperer.com/2018/07/26/try-it/

References:

10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine

33 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Your Productivity. (2018, March 15). Retrieved from https://helloendless.com/10-ways-to-increase-dopamine-to-boost-your-productivity/

Email OF The Day. (1970, January 01). Retrieved from http://emailday.blogspot.com/2015/09/wwwkeralitesnet-4-happy-hormones.html

Jason Nutzman. (n.d.). What Are Endorphins And 7 Ways to Boost It Naturally. Retrieved from https://mindhealth.co/what-are-endorphins-and-7-ways-to-boost-it-naturally

Mojor, C, (2018, November 06). Te Mystery of Serotonin:Can It Really Make You Happy? Retrieved from http://www.developinghumanbrain.org/serotonin-mystery/

Sugaring It Down

I was known for being the person with a stash of candies and a backup stash and a backup-to-the-backup stash.

On being a sugar fanatic for over two decades, my usual intake of something sweet a.k.a. desserts; ranged anywhere between four to six helpings a day. So, imagine my horror when I find out one afternoon of an unwelcoming hot weather and a gloomy mood that we had run out of treats!!

To understand the intensity of my reaction to this situation, I think its only fair to explain my love for food first. I hold the principle of never wasting food on the highest pedestal in life, next being never-say-no to trying something new or something familiar out of a different kitchen. I also believe that I’m a growing child who needs her three full meals and two mini-meals each day. I was known for being the person with a stash of candies and a backup stash and a backup-to-the-backup stash.

So, given my horror of not finding anything sweet, I left my lunch on the table like an unappreciated ex and waltzed out to first procure my fix. While the gooey cake appeased my mind and I got back to my meal eventually, it was at night when the conscience was innocent and my demons crept out. It was in the darkness that I became privy to my situation. Not only had I disrespected the hot meal waiting for me, I’d also acted like a little brat!

Coming to terms with my actions, I took a decision. I promised that I’d not touch sugar and sugared items for a whole of 30 days starting that very night. Was this a punishment? I’d like to think that I was just trying to prove to myself that I’m not a brat and definitely not a sugar-dependent (we all knew I was fooling no one but myself!). But what is the fun in a challenge if everyone thinks you can do it, right?

Beginning the next day, I started declaring to just about anyone and everyone that ‘I Quit Sugar’. It didn’t matter if they asked or not, whether they cared or not, whether they thought me capable or not. All I needed was to make myself believe that I was doing it. I mean if enough people knew about it, some were bound to ask me about the progress after a few days, weeks or a month and someone was bound to see me when I almost slip and ask me what happened to quitting, right? I thought it the best way to keep me in check without anyone really crowding me about it.

While it was all things gay and jolly for the first couple of days, it took a whole lot of detours to avoid dessert stores, cafes and ice cream stalls and birthday parties to stay away from the temptation. But the issues arose when my body figured how I was fooling it every time it craved something sweet and my mind refused to co-operate. By the end of the first week, I realised how vulnerable I had become.

So starting week two, I made some rules.

  • I told myself that not all things sweet have sugar and non-sugar can still be sweet
  • I decided to spend time physically buying fruits and picking the season specialties along with the round the year offering
  • Don’t be too harsh on yourself for craving, but do not cheat

Now that I look back I’m surprised how six months have gone so fast. I’ll admit that I’ve had occasions when I didn’t just think but did go all out with a large ice-cream, a cupcake or just some brownie. But for most of it, I know I’ve made tremendous progress. Now I can go multiple meals with no dessert craving. I’ve come up with innovative ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. And most of all, I feel like a winner!

Here are some things that had me sailing through it all:

  1. DON’T GO HUNGRY

I realised that staying hungry for long made me an irrational thinker. The moment I started paying attention to my stomach, I wasn’t munching on cookies or candies thoughtlessly.

2. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED WATER

While listening to my stomach better I also realised that a lot of pangs were just false alarms. I just needed to hydrate myself better, so I started carrying a water bottle everywhere I went.  (BONUS: I was unknowingly being an environmentally more responsible person by not buying single use plastic bottles as often)

3. TRY THE FRUITS

Like I mentioned I started to physically go and select fruits for my consumption. On looking back, I think I felt more involved and in control when I spent time picking each fruit. It also made me look forward to consuming my purchase. I used these when the need for dessert after a bad day or a fancy meal got uncontrollable.

4. EAT THOUGHTFULLY

IMG_20180916_153151366

I started spending time on reading the ingredients on the boxes that claimed to be sugar free. From healthy cookies to breakfast cereal and energy bars, they were all loaded with sugar in one form or another. There are so many synonyms to sugar, you’d be surprised (https://www.powerthesaurus.org/artificial_sweetener). As an Indian, I found myself drifting towards Poha (flattened rice), Suji (semolina), Puffed Rice and Daliya (Indian Quinoa) as my go to options, with a huge volume of vegetables.

5. CARRY YOUR S.O.S. PACK ON THE GO

I designated a zip lock pouch to a mix of raisins, almonds, unsweetened dates, dried apricots and figs, with some cashews and pistachio. (Eating more than a date a day is usually not advisable due to its high natural sugar level and fibre content)

This was my SOS pack that was with me at all times, just like water. It was for times when I needed that instant energy rush or had an unexpected craving. (BONUS: by not buying packaged snacks on the go, I saved money that I didn’t know I could in the first place.

6. THE RIGHT ENERGY DRINKS

From Gatorade to RedBull, I was left with rummaging through alternatives. I found fresh coconut water, salted lemonade (with water not soda) and buttermilk as my new frequenters. Since I wasn’t really big on packaged juices and colas ever, this was a relatively easy shift. (BONUS: this made me environment friendly with reduced consumption of packaged drinks and also improved savings.

7. BLEND IT ALL

On some days, when I wished for a thick shake, I started blending my own smoothies. With unprocessed oats as a common ingredient to make it thick and filling, I tried-

  • Banana and strawberryIMG_20180729_111957256.jpg
  • Apple, muskmelon and cinnamon
  • Kiwi, strawberry and mint
  • Guava and ginger
  • Pear, apple and raisins
  • Mango and mint
  • Carrot, apple and ginger
  • Kiwi, watermelon and mint

I found Drunken Monkey (a smoothie bar), for lazy days and also for inspiration.

(BONUS: I’m more open to experiments and creative with my food. And a reusable glass bottle that I try to carry every time I’m going to the juice bar)

8. GO BLACK

On days when I couldn’t open my eyes, I moved my cappuccino to an espresso or Americano. I was introduced to an ‘Americano Mojito’, which worked well too, it was an Americano with a dash of lime and some freshly crushed mint leaves. (BONUS: unintended savings by skipping sides and fancy brews).

And on days when I wanted chocolate, I’d eat a small piece of dark chocolate (85% to 95%). I had to eat it slow and never managed to eat more than a piece or two at a time, but the taste grew on me. (BONUS: bribing me isn’t as easy anymore, and I developed the taste for something fine and classy)

9. SALTY PEANUT BUTTER

On days when I wanted a breakfast bowl, it was getting difficult to like them without the side of peanut butter. So I tried making my own batch. Followed the easiest YouTube DIY recipe and just skipped the adding sugar step, instead added some rock salt, to taste. This works well as a dip for fruits and vegetables, with toast and in wraps as well.

10. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

And the most important thing- fake till you make it. I spent a good portion of time pretending to be okay and unaffected. And before I knew it my mind started believing that I was alright without sugar and that I wasn’t really missing out on much. And today, it isn’t a challenge but just how I’d like to eat.

Now that it has become second nature to do most of the above things it doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. Some days I do slip but I don’t want to be too harsh on myself provided I don’t make slipping a habit. I do allow myself cheat days (birthdays, anniversaries and other such celebrations) where I don’t fix a set number of servings, but just am all ears to my body.

You wonder what I gained from putting myself through all this?

  • Me enjoying my meal is not dependent on the dessert at the end of it anymore
  • I’m now naturally active without the artificial glucose intake
  • My body has re-learned to breakdown the glycogen to glucose by burning my body fat
  • My skin is acne-free and hair is relatively healthier
  • I have a sense of achievement and better self control