Since February or thereabouts, I have lost 22 lbs through a combination of a quasi-keto no-carb diet, high intensity workouts and daily fasting. I know that sounds awful, but it isn’t, especially when you kind of ease into the routine. The thing is, I have the good peeps of Facebook to thank for my (ongoing) transformation, along with a confluence of events – including an upcoming wedding – that forced me to stop, drop and lose.
My plan might work for you; it might not. But here’s the backstory in case you’re interested:
In December, I turned 54 and weighed more than when I was pregnant with my daughter and O.D.ing on so much Breyer’s mint chocolate chip that I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. (That she was two weeks+ overdue didn’t help.)
Let’s be honest; I didn’t step on the scale every morning. Even when I went for my annual physical last fall, I shut my eyes while the nurse jotted down the numbers, though my doctor, who also happens to be my friend, gently (again) brought up the value of daily exercise, ahem. Still, the evidence could not be ignored. All my clothes were super tight, even the size 14 jeans I’d once purchased by accident that used to hang in the back of my closet.
More alarming, my brain was getting fuzzy. I often had difficulty recalling names. I felt sluggish, fat, and…old. My knees started to hurt, along with other joints, including a spot of arthritis in my hip. Was this the end? Would I end up like my mother who died of a stroke at age 75, partially because of a tragic event in her life that caused her to give up, gain weight and quit moving?
All my life, I’d battled fat. It had ruined my adolescence and contributed to an underlying inferiority complex that took me years to overcome. Finally, at age 32, I’d gotten down to 127 lbs through Jane Brody’s no-fat, high carb diet. (Hah!) And then I got pregnant with Sam and, well, that was that. The stinker.
I was young then. Now I was middle aged, in the middle of menopause. Everything I read was that I was doomed. Women in their 50s couldn’t lose weight. They just couldn’t. Might as well give in to elastic-waist pants and blue sweatshirts with embroidered eagles and belly up to the early-bird special down at the Wayside.
Or maybe not.
On a whim, I posted a question on Facebook asking writers how they kept from gaining weight. It was Pulitzer-Prize-winning Geraldine Brooks’s (Caleb’s Crossing, etc.) comment about an exercise program she underwent with a personal trainer that got me thinking. The reason middle-aged women struggle to lose weight is largely due to muscle loss. Find ingenious ways to fit in strength training and watch the pounds drop off. Amy Hatvany, one of my favorite authors and a critic of body shaming, touted the value of an exercise bike. Stephanie Rice, on the other hand, had chiseled down her frame with a keto-based diet.
Meanwhile, Chris, my husband’s law partner (also my age), had dropped 25 lbs in the course of a year simply by reducing his “eating window” into four hours, from 3 PM to 7 PM each day. One of the first benefits he noticed was improved memory and mental alertness. Joints stopped hurting. He had more energy for his young children.
So, in late January, I got on the scale, realized I was technically “obese,” burst into tears, railed against the universe and started fasting. In the morning, I had a cup of coffee with a splash of half and half (sorry, but this was a MUST) and white knuckled it through the day on water and gum until about 5 PM. I was under the impression I could eat anything after that and this was wrong. But it got me started at least thinking about taking control, something I hadn’t considered in decades.
In March at Town Meeting, I ran into a voter who practiced yoga and kept to a strict vegetarian diet. He was also obviously slipping into dementia. (I am NOT saying vegetarian diets lead to dementia.) However, after that I started researching theories behind the rise in Alzheimer’s and came across a theory that it was actually a form of diabetes. Low-carb, high-fat diets might offer some protection.
After a bout with the flu, I chucked all carbs aside from vegetables. At first, I was so desperate for anything dessert-like that I was making “fat bombs” out of coconut oil, coconut and unsweetened chocolate sweetened with Stevia. They were so disgusting that I simply gave up.
The first 10 lbs were gone in a matter of weeks. It was kind of stunning. My husband, Charlie, had the same experience. Wake up. Step on the scale. Another pound gone. Woo hoo! Easy peasy!
Then that came to a grinding halt. Bummer. So, I bought a Spinner exercise bike and a kettlebell. The Spinner cost $750; the kettlebell $20. While I love the bike, you can save yourself $730 and just go with the bell. That thing is a beast and there are tons of YouTube videos with free exercises that will get your heart pumping while strengthening your muscles.
Immediately, my abs flattened and my arms toned, along with my hips. I went down 2 sizes, lost 7 more lbs and plateaued again. This time, I ditched the high-protein power bars with 23 carbs, of which only 3 were “net.” Yeah. Don’t believe that. I’d gotten over my desert cravings anyway. Good riddance.
I stopped cheating on weekends. I lost 5 more lbs. In three months, my BMI had gone from obese, to overweight, to normal. (Just barely, but hey!) Charlie, meanwhile, is freaking wiry through almost no effort. (I hate men.)
So, here’s my routine:
Morning – coffee with half ‘n half or cream. Non negotiable.
No eating until @ 6 PM. Tons of water
During the weekday, I usually go with a big salad featuring spinach, bell peppers, red cabbage, cucumber, avocado (key), tomatoes, chopped broccoli and a variety of protein: bacon, hard-boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, even leftover steak. A sprinkle of blue cheese. Caesar dressing. A few blueberries. Done. Oh, and a glass of wine. (This, too, is non negotiable.) When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll make bacon and eggs.
On the weekends, I’ll cook more. Here are some favorites:
Steak with mushrooms sautéed in Kerry butter, roasted broccoli & a salad.
A cauliflower-crust pizza with pesto, whole-milk mozzarella & arugula
Cheddar-broccoli soup with bacon + a salad
Coconut-chicken curry over cauliflower rice.
Spiralized zucchini with bacon, chicken & arugula
Pork tenderloin in mustard-cream sauce + salad
Here’s what I don’t eat:
Sugar. This is harder to avoid than you’d think. It’s in almost all processed food, even my secret love, liverwurst. Sugar is evil. It messes with your system. It feeds tumors. Better off without it.
Flour. You can actually make awesome cheese crackers with cheese, eggs and almond flour. But wheat flour is a no-no. I thought I’d miss that the most. No bread? No cookies? No PASTA? Heaven forfend! Actually, ever since I ditched it, my brain cleared. Just saying.
Oatmeal. This is a toughie. I used to love oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon on cold winter mornings.
Rice. I know, sucks. But there’s always cauliflower in a Cuisinart!
Beer. Never was a big beer drinker anyway
Bananas. Since I’m not eating oatmeal, what’s the point?
I do take supplements, calcium + magnesium along with vitamin C and vitamin E. And if I’m going out to dinner or eating with friends, I can slacken on the above forbidden foods just as long as I get back on the wagon.
This has been just five months in. My goal is to lose another 10 lbs, at least, and maintain with exercise. The fasting, though, is so ingrained now, I might never go back to my old ways (weighs?). The idea of lunch seems incomprehensible.
If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears – or eyes. After all, it was by observing the methods of others that got me on this path. So thank you, all!