In July of 2017 I reached my highest weight of 215 lbs. I not only could see the extra lbs. in my tight clothes but could feel its effects taking a toll on my body physically. I was always tired and unable to walk up a flight of stairs without knee pain or being out of breath. I knew I had to do something but didn’t want to do another crash diet that would leave me weak, hungry, and eventually gaining all my weight back again. I began doing research on lifestyle changes and came across intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is essentially an eating schedule where you don’t eat any calories for a minimum of 16 hours per day. The thing that attracted me to fasting in the beginning was that you don’t necessarily have to cut any of your favorite foods out of your diet. As someone who had little success maintaining a restricted diet in the past, I decided to give it a try. I started fasting 20 hours per day 5 days per week, usually only eating between 4 pm and 8 pm each day. Aside from weight loss, some of the benefits of fasting include lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. As a black woman with a family history of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, these benefits sounded consequential. It took me about 2 months to adjust to my new eating schedule and during that time I struggled with fatigue, dizzy spells, hunger pangs, and moodiness. It was definitely not an easy transition, and I would tell anyone thinking about fasting to start with a lower fasting window and then gradually increase your hours over time. With any lifestyle change, there is an adjustment period, and for someone used to eating or snacking ever 2-3 hours, my body struggled with the reduced food intake. Because I did want to better my overall health, in conjunction with fasting, I also reduced the amount of fried foods, processed foods and sugar I ate. I made things like cake and ice cream an occasional treat, stopped eating at fast food restaurants, and stopped buying as much canned and boxed foods at the grocery store. I also increased my exercise by running 2 miles 2-3 days per week and after 3 months I had lost about 20 lbs. Some other benefits I have experienced are better metabolism, increased energy, clearer skin, better focus, and reduced joint pain in my knee. My relationship with food had completely changed and my cravings for unhealthy foods had reduced significantly. It has been two years since I began fasting and I have lost 55 lbs which took me about 18 months in total to lose. I am not always consistent with exercise or always eating the right things but have still managed to maintain my weight at 155 lbs. for the past year by consistently fasting. I now only fast on average 16 hours per day, some days longer, some days shorter. I have learned what true hunger feels like, and I’m able to trust body to tell me when its time to eat. Fasting has given me that power back. I no longer need a snack to get me through till my next meal, nor do I have to sit by the clock counting the seconds till I can eat again. Intermittent fasting allowed me to reset my body, so it now knows when to send those hunger signals to my brain. If you are thinking about trying intermittent fasting, my recommendation would be to keep it simple. Begin with a reasonable fasting window somewhere between 12-14 hours and work your way up. Since you are fasting when you are sleeping, including that time in your fasting schedule helps because you are only fasting 6-8 hours while you are awake. I personally find it easier to fast at work because I am busy doing other things, so most of my fasting takes place during my workday. Staying hydrated, and drinking mineral water helps with hunger pangs. As a 36-year-old black woman who has struggled with my weight most of my adult life, I believe intermittent fasting is the best alternative to most diets out there. Not only does it help with weight loss, but it addresses many of the health issues we as black women are more susceptible to. Would you try intermittent fasting? Why or why not?
Ok ladies, we’ve all seen that photo of ourselves. You know, that one that completely horrifies you and makes you realize you’ve gained a few extra pounds seemingly overnight. Suddenly you’re on an unsustainable crash diet and exercising like a mad woman all to keep your calories at under a certain number. We’ve all heard it, “Calories in, calories out.” Simple enough; eat less, move more and the weight will melt off like butter in the sun. So why doesn’t that happen? Why do we find ourselves bingeing on empty carbs uncontrollably and eventually gaining whatever weight we managed to lose back and then some? Meanwhile, you see thin or muscular people seeming to eat like horses while still maintaining their physic. How the heck do they do it? There’s no real simple answer since various factors play a part in how the body burns fat. But the short-oversimplified answer would be food quality matters over caloric quantity. Now let me start by saying that I’m not 100% against the calories in vs out theory. Technically, the theory is true. Calories are the energy source that sustain us day and night. Overeating, or consuming more calories that your body burns, results in increased fat storage or weight gain. But let’s look at this theory a little deeper. Let’s say a set of twins, same height and weight decide to cut the same number of calories putting them both at a 500-calorie deficit each day; but one eats mainly fried foods and sugars to meet their caloric requirement, while the other eats, whole grains, veggies, and lean proteins. Who would you expect would have lost the most over a month? “Calories in vs calories out” says they should both have lost the same amount. Is that logical? Absolutely not! Our bodies are much more complex than that. The quality of the food we eat matters so much more than the caloric value because our bodies metabolize different foods in different ways. For example, sugar and carbs trigger your blood sugar to rise quickly where fats or protein would trigger a more gradual increase. Constantly eating a diet full of carbs and sugar can lead to damaged hormones (Leptin and Insulin) which eventually can cause weight gain due to increased appetite and fat storage. This is a fact regardless of the number of calories you consume. To sum it up, calories is only one part of the whole picture. Food quality is key variable that directly effects the way our body stores/burns fat. So, the next time you decide you need to lose weight, keep this in mind. Being overweight is a result of how specific nutrients from the foods you’re eating have affected your hormones over time and have caused your body to store fat instead of using it for energy. Stop counting calories and address the hormone issues by eating a balanced diet full of good quality foods so your body can naturally manage calories for you.