Let’s talk about bodies and diets, shall we? Nothing controversial there.
First, I am not a doctor. I don’t play one on television. I am not giving medical advice. You should talk to your own doctor if you are considering diet or exercise changes. YMMV. Etc. Also/and, this is not shared as “the right” or “best” or “necessary” approach to body-owning – your body is good enough as it is and you are beautiful as you are; your value is not a number on a scale or a waistband. I didn’t feel my best; I didn’t feel I looked my best; I didn’t feel like I was in control of the body I’ve been given, and this addressed those feelings quickly and sufficiently and easily, so I’m sharing my experience. That’s it!
It took me six years to figure out how to get pregnant. One of the things that contributed to our eventual success was a combination of oral steroids and intravenous intralipids. Both were helpful in my attempts to get and stay pregnant. Both were also phenomenal at wonking up my body’s insulin-regulating abilities and promoting rapid weight gain.
When I became pregnant in November of 2014 I was 36 years old and weighed about 127 pounds (I’m 5’3). When I gave birth to twins in June of 2015 (35.5 weeks), I weighed 172 pounds, for a total weight gain of 45 pounds. The first 30 of that was gained by week 24! I had managed to lose all of the baby weight through exercise and slight diet modifications by 3 months post-weaning (I weaned when they were between 9-10 months old after mostly-exclusively pumping and supplementing with formula). Within a month of the weight coming off, I realized I was pregnant with my third in the summer of 2016 at the age of 38.
When I gave birth at 38.5 weeks, I was in the high 150s (+30 pounds). I don’t know if it was the repeated steroids and intralipid therapy, age, repeating pregnancy within 18 months, extended breastfeeding, or a combination of these things, but my weight-loss experience was wildly different after my third. I lost 20 pounds easily, but hovered around 138-142 (with the exception of a bout with Norovirus when Lolo was 10 months old and colonoscopy prep in 2019). I would get as low as 133 for a hot minute with restrictive eating and regular exercise, and then slowly creep back up to 139-140 as soon as I relaxed either one. Weaning didn’t help – I was 142 when I weaned my third, and three months later, I was only down 1.5 pounds.
This wasn’t working. I decided, after hearing about it everywhere, to try intermittent fasting. I read about it extensively, and decided to ease in with a 14:10 eating plan (fast for 14 hours and eat during a 10-hour window). My kids were in preschool three days a week from about 9-noon, and I wanted to be able to have brunch and eat lunch and dinner normally with my family, so I decided to push my coffee to 9/9:30 and close my window after dinner between 7/7:30 most nights. My original goal was about 6 days a week, not too strict, but water-only fasting when my window was closed.
Over the course of two months, I only lost about two pounds (138.5), but my clothes felt better, I didn’t feel bloated and tired as much, and I felt like I looked better. I fasted through the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020 but things fell off by mid-March, after my kids were pulled from school and things closed down. Zoom happy hours late after kids’ bedtimes made it impossible to participate inside my window. My sleep went to hell in a hand-basket, making a later coffee start unfathomable. My eating habits went from middling to “give me all your chocolate, please”. By my 42nd birthday, I hit a new high of 143 pounds. Outside of pregnancy, I have never weighed 143 pounds. I recommitted and started 14:10 fasting again four weeks after my birthday, on July 27, 2020.
This time it stuck. I diligently followed my 14:10 eating plan, and fasted water-only during my fasting window. The bloat, once again, immediately dropped off, and a meaningful three pounds slipped off with negligible effort. And then I hovered between 139.5-140 pounds. I quickly realized that drinking even moderately and in my window stalled my progress (whether slowing my metabolism or just the extra 100 calories, I don’t know), and I tried a Facebook and booze fast from September 1-October 30, 2020. This restarted my losses and I was able to drop three pounds. I rationalized that if I was putting on 1-2 pounds per year but could maintain a loss of half-to-one pound per month, I was moving in the right direction, avoiding any sense of deprivation, and figured I could live with slower weight loss and enjoy a few glasses of wine per week. I started drinking moderately again with Halloween/the election, but then the election didn’t end after a day or so of reporting. And by November 8th, I was back up to 139.6 from my fasting low of 136.6. OK. That’s not maintenance or slow loss. That’s gain.
I kicked booze to the curb again through Thanksgiving and was able to hover around 137. The Thanksgiving holiday hit and I drank moderately over the long weekend and popped right back up to 139.8. I stopped again until just before Christmas, and hit 136.6 again, and by New Year’s Eve was back to 138.6. Dammit. There’s a pattern here.
I did a dry January and almost immediately hit a new low of 135.4. By early February, I hit 134.8. I allowed myself few drinks after that and guess what? Back up to 139 by Valentine’s Day. CLEARLY, the 14:10 + wine is just not effective for me beyond cutting out bloat, no matter how moderately I drink. I cut out booze again for Lent, and that’s where I am now. I was back under 135 pounds by the end of the month.
By March 1, I also realized my fasting was more frequently becoming 15:9 with little effort, but I struggled to push my coffee to 16 hours. I’ve tried black coffee, and it’s OK, but always rationalized that I’d rather just have water and wait to have my “bulletproof-adjacent” coffee when my window opened around 9/9:30, maybe even 10AM. Then one day, I made myself a small cup of black coffee. I’d slept terribly the night before and didn’t want to wait for my window. I didn’t even drink all of it, but when it occurred to me to make my fancy-fatty coffee, I was already 16.5 hours into my fast.
I tried black coffee again the next morning. And again. And I still prefer my fancy, calorie-laden coffee by a mile, but that bit of black coffee and flavor is enough that making it to 16 hours is easy. I even hit 17 without effort one morning. Yesterday, I weighed in at 133.8, a weight I haven’t seen since mid-colonoscopy prep.
I’m now within ten pounds of my goal weight (125). I’d be thrilled, frankly, with anything under 130 (and that’s less than five pounds away). I continue to feel so much better when I’m fasting. It feels like second-nature now to grab a cup of black coffee early, have a cup of “fancy” coffee and meaningful brunch and relax in the half hour before my kids have lunch, and then have a nice dinner with my family, maybe with a snack in between. My goal feels attainable, and I feel like I’m in control of my body for the first time in… what. A decade? More? We started trying to have kids in mid-2008. So, almost thirteen years?
I share this anecdotally, because folks’ anecdotal experiences were hugely helpful in determining what I wanted to do or felt I could do in my own journey. It’s not appealing to everyone: my husband is super anti-fasting and not interested in windows opening or closing. He prefers to count calories and work out. Good for him; not for me. That stuff also works for me, but I’m no longer interested in gains that don’t stick around as soon as life gets in the way or I just want a break from being super-diligent about my food or workout schedule. This is a lifestyle change for me and while I don’t see myself pursuing OMAD (one meal a day) or alternate-day fasting or any of the long-fast periods, I do feel good about 14:10 to 16:8 as sustainable long-term options. My intent is to get to my goal weight and then figure out if I need 16:8 to maintain or can relax back to 14:10. If I can maintain with 16:8 but allow myself a glass of wine 2-3 nights per week, that would be my preference, because I enjoy a glass of wine, but not enough to have one if it’s going to derail my progress and make my goals elusive.
I have not been working out, other than trying to hit my steps most days and doing some serious decluttering that has pushed my steps north of my goal with some frequency since 2021 started. My goal is not fast. It is slow, steady, and lasting change. I don’t look wildly different. I’m not really aiming for anything radical – just a little less stubborn roundness in my tummy, a little less hang in my face, and a little less wobble in my arms. I see those changes, and I’m pleased enough with them. I’m not trying to look like something my body doesn’t want to be or do — on either end of the spectrum.
Delay, Don’t Deny by Gin Stephens (used @ Thriftbooks)
YouTube: Autumn Bates
My “bulletproof-adjacent” coffee:
(my goal isn’t ketosis or calorie-driven, but just coffee that tastes really good and is more filling/substantial than black or sugar/cream coffee on its own):
-10-12 ounces of black drip coffee (5 calories)
-1T salted organic butter (~100 calories)
-1T coconut oil (~120 calories)
-1T brown sugar (~50 calories)
-2 to 4T half & half (40-80 calories)
Total is about 350 calories.
I have one of these a day. Any coffee before this is black, and any coffee after omits the extra fats and just has about 100-150 calories from sugar and half and half (still a lot, but I’d rather have that than 1.5 glasses of wine, so).
A “normal” eating day:
8-11AM Black Coffee (4-8 ounces) (2-3 calories)
11AM-12PM Bulletproof-Adjacent coffee (350 calories)
11AM-12PM Brunch (most days: two hard-boiled eggs, 1 ounce almonds, mandarin orange, maybe something carby if I’m in the mood for it) (~350 calories)
2PM-4PM “Normal” coffee (150 calories)
2PM-4PM (if no or minimal brunch) Nutrition Shake, eg Vega One, with added fruit and vegetables and milk ~ 300 calories. If I did have breakfast, then I’ll have a small snack between 100-200 calories, like trail mix, chips, fruit and/or yogurt, etc.
6PM-7PM dinner (400-800 calories, not restricted, but aim for half plants)
TOTAL: 1400-1800 calories most days, not tracked. (And some days I still have too much chocolate above and beyond this…)
I’ll check back in on this later – perhaps closer to my 43rd birthday in July. I’m curious to see if the 16:8 produces continuing weight loss, or if I plateau again at this three-pound drop. I’ll also be checking in with my doc in May for my annual physical and will have panels run to make sure my levels all look good (they were fine after two months of fasting a year ago). Feel free to ask questions if you have them – I’ve tried to cover all the bases here, but I’m happy to try to answer more if they arise.