Note to readers: this post contains information about my experience with intermittent fasting. If you think this type of post might bother you, please skip it. My intention is to share my journey. That said, you can also feel free to express your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!
[Editor's note: please see my comments at the end of this post about the update on my fasting experiment].
Hi there and welcome to another round of What I Ate Wednesdays (WIAW). As I mentioned in my WIAW post last week, my meals have changed recently as I’m experimenting with intermittent fasting for health reasons and weight management. I thought this might be a good way to briefly share what I’ve learned so far and also show what some of my food days are looking like now.
You might recall that I wrote about intermittent fasting (IF) a bit last spring. I tried it for several weeks and it worked really well for me in terms of weight management, but I stopped when I felt it triggered some old binge-eating habits. Since then, I’ve done a lot of work on my overall stress management and emotional health and felt like it was worth trying again.
The science on catabolism and insulin sensitivity is fascinating and I’ll likely be putting together some future posts on this topic. And, since I believe in putting things out to the universe, I’m making the bold statement that if there is any chance of me writing a book (several of you have suggested that to me and I can’t tell you how amazing that makes me feel), then some sort of a high-nutrient, plant-based diet program incorporating intermittent fasting or a more personal book on my experience is what I want to write about.
Besides being super effective for weight management, the largely-anecdotal research I’ve done on IF and disordered eating is really hopeful including my own personal experience. Again, I know this is a very sensitive subject and it’s probably controversial to say that not eating is helping me with my emotional eating, but that is what has happened for me.
I also want to take a brief moment to say that my disordered eating has nothing to do with my veganism. I started binge eating when I was about 9 or 10 during a very stressful time with my family. The behavior continued throughout my young adult life and was primarily focused on sugar and candy. Although some people may use dietary restrictions to justify their eating disorders, there are absolutely plenty of healthy reasons to consider veganism, primarily animal welfare, which was the driving force behind my decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle just over three years ago.
So you are probably curious to know what I’m eating now? I’m following the Fast-5 program as outlined by Bert Herring, M.D. The essence is that you eat your day’s worth of calories within a 5-hour eating “window” and then fast for 19 hours. It might be helpful to point out that most of us fast for at least 12 hours a day between dinner and breakfast, so this adds on 7 more hours to the catabolism phase when we are not eating calories and using stored energy for fuel.
What has happened for me is that I eat slightly bigger breakfasts and lunch meals and then skip dinner. I’ll show you some of my typical day’s worth of food below. Many people using this program eat later in the day, like from 5 to 10 p.m. I’m an early bird, though, so I’ve adapted it to fit my needs. As long as all calories are consumed within 5 hours, then it’s considered Fast-5.
I’ve found that this is a very easy way for me to maintain my weight, because I am only eating when I am truly hungry. Any weight loss I have had has been at a very slow pace. I have been at a stable body weight, plus or minus five pounds, for about a year now, so I am focused more on weight maintenance now than weight loss. The absolute best part of this program has been overcoming my emotional eating tendencies by putting some limits on when I eat.
Again, I hope to write more about this in the future, plus how I navigate the program when I travel or have social engagements. With the guidance of some other Fast-5ers, I’ve tried extending the eating window to 8 hours on days when I’m away from home and that seems to work pretty well. Also, it could be that this is a phase that I’m going through, but I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening.
Now, onto the food! Some of these pictures are new, some you’ve seen before.
My mornings still almost always start with a green smoothie bowl topped with cocoa powder, cacao nibs, and dehydrated buckwheat groats:
Here’s another version:
I am so happy that pomegranates are now in season; my smoothies now include the fresh arils:
Since I’m only eating two meals and fewer overall calories when I’m following Fast-5, there is a heavier burden to make sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need (I still, after all, follow Dr. Fuhrman’s high-nutrient dietary guidelines). So, my second meal is usually a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, plus a protein source like tempeh, beans, or tofu, with some sort of fruit-based dessert.
Here are some pictures of some of my second meals of the day:
A crockpot dish of butternut squash and other veggies served over greens with chopped onions and homemade non-dairy yogurt:
Cooked beans served with black rice, salsa, onions, and non-dairy yogurt with a corn tortilla:
Although sometimes I can get away with having fruit for dessert, more often than not I’ve been ending my meal with a dessert like my Sweet Potato Pudding from yesterday:
Dessert hummus served with sliced apple is another favorite:
I made a Sweet Kale Dip using almond butter and dried fruit recently that I served with chopped veggies and an apple. I’ve been too embarrassed to show you the picture until now. It’s disgusting-looking, I know, but it tasted awesome. The recipe needs some tweaking and I need to photograph it in a way that doesn’t make it look like baby you-know-what. So, let’s just say this it’s a work in progress:
If I find I’m hungrier later in the day, an herbal tea usually does the trick to get me past any passing desire to eat:
The natural question at this point I suppose would be, why not just eat three or more smaller meals throughout the day? My answer to that is that at this point in my life, perhaps because of my background of binge-eating, the “off” switch for eating is hard to control and it’s actually easier for me to eat bigger, fewer meals than to stop eating when I’m not really full.
I’m not sure if this is related, but I was intrigued by this video from Dr. Greger last week that discussed how fatty foods can cause a dampening of the dopamine pathway in the brain. It’s funny because the therapy program that I’ve been working with promotes natural pleasures that release dopamine such as going for a walk, appreciating the sunrise, or connecting with a friend. This is another topic of great interest to me that I’ll be addressing more in the future.
That’s it! I’m very curious to know what you think of this post. How does it make you feel? Do you identify with my experimentation with fasting? Talk to me, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Again, apologies for the weird timing on the post about fasting right before Thanksgiving. Maybe it makes sense, though, to connect food with energy as opposed to comfort and think about holidays in terms of being thankful for the wonderful parts of our lives and not an excuse to eat outside of our limits? For those celebrating tomorrow, may you have a day filled with love and gratitude. Thank you for reading and for all the support you have given me. I am truly thankful to be able to pursue my interest in health and wellness and to connect with all of you through my blog and writings.
And, if you have an iPhone or iPad, be sure to download my recipe app, Vegan Delish, featuring over 145 healthy, whole food recipes.
[Editor's note: hi everyone. This is an update from 12/4/13. I thought it was only fair to say that I'm not actively practicing the 5-hour fasting experiment anymore. While I found the program and IF to be really helpful in re-discovering my appetite, it does seem to be too restrictive for me to continue long term. That's not to say I don't think there are incredible benefits to fasting and that I won't practice it occasionally, but a more moderate approach to eating based on my hunger is the evolution of my routine. If you have any question, please feel free to e-mail me: carrieonveganATgmailDOTcom and thank you for your support].