Why I Decided to Adopt Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting

When it comes to weight loss, it’s important to choose the right diet for you. I mean “diet” in a broad way, the kind of eating habits that will not frustrate you or make you feel miserable. You get it, the best way to succeed and reach your goals resides in the “how” you’re doing it.

Intermittent fasting doesn’t focus so much on what you eat but more on when you eat and how your insulin levels respond to the voluntary abstinence of food. It doesn’t mean you can binge-eat during your feeding window though. I still stay on top of my calorie budget because it’s an easy way for me to control my intake, until I’m able to listen to what my body needs without checking calories. I’m on my fourth week and the adaptation period is roughly 4 weeks so I’m already nearly there. I haven’t found it hard at all so far, but I’m staying home without any obligations to go out so that probably helps a lot (thanks covid).

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are different ways to fast, here are seven methods of intermittent fasting but I’m going to focus on the 16:8 method as it’s the most popular and the one I’m doing myself. I only eat between 12.00pm and 8.00pm, fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day (I sleep during most of the fasting window and I’ve never really felt I needed breakfast to kick start the day anyway).

I like the fact that no food group is banned and the restriction resides mostly on the eating pattern. You can adapt your feeding window based on your own lifestyle but it’s best to stay consistent every day as much as possible if you don’t want to confuse your hormones and make it harder for you to stick to the program. While you’re fasting, it’s very important to stay hydrated. Some say you are allowed diet soda and sweeteners in your tea/coffee but if you want a clean fast I would recommend to only drink water, tea or coffee and nothing else.

What are the health benefits?

Fasting increases the body’s responsiveness to insulin, which regulates blood sugar and helps control hunger. Lowering levels of insulin dramatically when fasting makes stored body fat more accessible, improving fat loss and limiting the loss of lean body mass. It also gives more time to body cells to initiate important repair processes, reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancers. Many studies have been done and if you want more information I suggest reading this article from Huel or this article from Healthline which explain further the evidence behind these benefits. Fasting works better when you eat the right food and get the right amount of sleep.

Are there any side effects?

Well, if you’re used to eat “breakfast like a King”, you may experience excessive hunger before lunch time, which is not a pleasant feeling. Fasting can also trigger eating disorder behaviour, and binge-eating during your feeding window will not give you any benefits. It could also give headaches, light-headedness or dizziness, but it should be temporary as your body needs some time to adapt your new meal schedule. I’m unsure how fasting would work with intensive workouts, I haven’t tried it myself but the type of food you consume would have an impact on your energy levels. Also, a number of studies have suggested that intermittent fasting doesn’t work as well for women than for men (especially those trying to conceive) with a risk of irregular periods or even infertility. Here’s some advice especially for women who want to try intermittent fasting.

Is it a good method for everyone?

Shall I start by saying it’s not suitable for children, teens or anyone underweight? It’s also not recommended for anyone who has history of eating disorder, as well as pregnant women or breastfeeding mums. If you are diabetic or require medication at specific intervals with food, this is also not for you. Intermittent fasting has been studied mostly for overweight or obese adults who are otherwise healthy. I’m not a doctor so you should definitely seek professional help to find out what would be the best weight loss program for you.

Have you ever tried any Intermittent Fasting’s method? What do you think about it?

Big Girl x

Weight Loss Journey: How I Overcame the Dreaded Plateau

weight loss plateau

My weight loss journey started in August this year, I was at 85 kg which was unhealthy for my 165 cm height. My BMI was over 31 which is in the “obese” category (BMI above 30). That term is quite scary because even if I didn’t look obese, it was telling me that my body really needed to lose some fat if I didn’t want to run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So I started to reduce my calorie intake in order to lose weight, aiming to be at a much healthier range within months.

Counting calories is not always enough

2 months later I lost the first 7 kg, I was at 78 kg, which means a BMI at 28.7 and a downgrade from “obese” to simply “overweight” category. Good effort but still far off the healthy range between 50 kg and 68 kg for me. This is why weight loss is a long journey, it takes time to lose fat and it’s important to enjoy the ride if you want to stay motivated all along! I was enjoying my new routine and ready to keep it up that way but something happened: I plateaued… How do you break a weight loss plateau?

Find a method you can easily turn into a healthy habit

If you search for the solution online, you’ll see a lot of articles telling you to exercise more and eat less, because the only way to keep losing weight is to reduce further your calorie intake or increase even more the calories you spend at the gym. Personally, I found it pretty depressing and not really helping.

Thanks to Huel (a plant-based and completely nutritious meal), I already have only 400 calories for either lunch or dinner with all nutrients I need, and I keep the other meal of the day at 500-600 calories max with fresh food I cook myself. I don’t want to exhaust myself at the gym and I don’t want to eat less. I already know I don’t need breakfast in the morning as my body is not fully awake until noon. The solution for me was obvious: Intermittent Fasting.

intermittent fasting how does it work

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are several types of intermittent fasting methods, but the 16/8 method seemed like the obvious choice for breakfast skippers like me. It consists of fasting for 16 hours and eat within a window of 8 hours. I started this way 2 weeks ago and this is how I broke my weight loss plateau. My weight loss of approximately 1 kg a week resumed…

What my day looks like

  • 8.00am: I have a big glass of water to rehydrate my body and then a cup of tea (with no sugar, no honey, no milk)
  • 12.00pm: This is when I start to be hungry so I have a Huel shake for lunch (400 calories)
  • 4.00pm: I have a small snack involving nuts, fruits and/or some dark chocolate (200 calories)
  • 7.00pm: Dinner time, I stick to circa 500-600 calories per meal
  • 7.30pm: If I’m still hungry, I will have some fruit (berries are very low in calories for example)

I consider my 8-hour window being between 12.00pm and 8.00pm but sometimes I actually fast for longer as this is quite easy for me. Needless to say I drink plenty of water during the day. I can totally see this eating habits staying in my routine in the long term, even after I reach my weight goal of 60 kg. It also makes me want to document myself a lot more on the various health benefits attributed to intermittent fasting so it’s very likely I’ll come back with a post about it in the near future!

Did you (or anyone you know) also come across a plateau in your weight loss journey? How did you overcome it?

Big Girl x

My Weight Loss Journey: Past Failures & Current Plan

My weight loss journey

If 2020 will not be the best year of my life, it will be the year I decided to lose my extra kilos and become healthier, for good. To me, it’s a lot more difficult to keep the weight off than losing it. I guess I’m disciplined enough to stick to a diet and motivated enough to not give up until I reach my target. But it’s just not sustainable in the long term, the extra kilos come back easily afterwards. The word “diet” is the word to ban here, I’m now aiming for new healthy habits designed to stay.

Past attempts / Why it failed

I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. My lowest in my adult life was around 58 kg and my highest around 85, with a lot of variation in between. I’m 165 cm tall so a normal BMI indicates I should be between 50 and 68 kg.

The yo-yo effect

10 years ago, I lost approximately 10 kg with the help of a nutritionist. But it was hard, I had to control my portions and force myself to eat foods I didn’t really like. So a year later, I quickly put them back on. Then I lost them again by practising “mindfulness eating” this time. I had regular telephone appointments with a dietician and I was going to the gym a lot. But again, I didn’t manage to keep the weight off for long. It then took me until 2017 to do something about it. I lost 20 kg in 7 months on my own, simply with a lot of daily exercise (and a fitbit to keep me on track). I didn’t change anything in my eating habits. And as you would suspect, I put them back on again within the following year…

The common mistake

Did you notice a pattern? The reason why I never managed to keep the weight off is that I never really focused on nutrition. I saw weight loss as a frustrating period when I had to restrict myself “temporarily”. I was never trying to change my lifestyle for good. Now I realise I simply needed to adopt better and healthier habits from the start!

Current plan / Progress so far

I started to stay on top of my calorie intake in August 2020, my weight was 85 kg back then, the heaviest I’ve ever been. 2 months after I started this journey, I lost 7 kg as I am today at 78 kg. There is still a lot to be done, this is why I’m happy to share updates with you to help me feel accountable and maybe even motivate those of you who have a similar journey ahead. I have heard about various weight loss programs and as I’m a fussy eater, I prefer a calorie counting diet. I just need to make sure I stick to my calorie budget: between 500 and 1,000 less calories than what I would need to maintain my weight (around 2,000).

If you’re clueless about how many calories you need each day, use this calculator. Eat 500 calories less every day for a week and you’ll lose 500g. Eat 1,000 calories less every day for a week and you’ll lose 1kg. The latter could be a bit difficult sometimes so I tend to stay in between.

Put yourself first in your to do list

My dos and don’ts

  • I’m doing this on my own but I use an app to help me count calories by logging everything I eat every day. I really like MyNetDiary but there are plenty of apps available for free. It helps you stay on target, gives you some tips and motivates you with a forecast.
  • I don’t drink any alcohol (ever) or any sugary drinks (I only drink diet soda or tea, if not water). This is a personal choice, it’s relatively easy for me as I don’t like beer anyway and wine gives me headaches. It’s probably a quick win for most people to simply avoid sugary drinks as they contain a lot of empty calories. I start the day with a big glass of water.
  • I sleep at least 7 hours a day. A good sleep is very important because you’re less resistant to food temptation when you’re tired. It’s easier to maintain a good sleep balance when you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, whether it’s the weekend or not. I wear an Oura ring to help me analyse my sleep every day, but most fitness watches also offer that feature.
  • I don’t have breakfast. This one is controversial as I heard so many times breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Surely everyone is different because every time I have breakfast I feel hungrier during the day. I just don’t think my body is ready to receive food when I wake up. I don’t even have my voice back when I wake up! Fair to say I’m really not a morning person, it takes me a long time to be ready once I’ve left my bed. Tea with a spoon of honey, that’s all I need and I’m not hungry until 12.30pm.
  • I have Huel for either lunch or dinner. It makes it so easy to count calories and it also tastes great. It’s not a replacement meal as you can have it for as long as you want, it’s designed to give you all nutrients you need in a meal without having to cook anything. For someone like me who doesn’t eat a lot of green naturally, this is helping a lot. You can use it to help you lose fat, or in your day-to-day life, your choice!
  • I avoid processed food and cook fresh food every day. If I had Huel for lunch, I’ll have a nice home-made meal for dinner. I vary between fish, poultry, beef or lamb, with usually potatoes, rice or pasta (I could never do a low-carb diet!).
  • I replace all snacks and/or desserts with fruits, preferably seasonal. I’m such a sweet-tooth, this is probably the hardest part but I fortunately also love fruits.
  • I allow myself a meal out or takeaway once a week. I stay on top on calories (estimated as it’s always harder to calculate it properly when someone else cooks for you) but I try to eat whatever I fancy so I don’t end up frustrated.
  • No unnecessary calories such as sweets. Sugar is addictive and it doesn’t bring your body anything useful. Not to mention it’s bad for your teeth.

And if you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend the 3 episodes of Lose a stone in 21 days (with Michael Mosley) – available on demand on Channel 4 – they’re full of good advice! Do you need to lose weight too? Tell me about the program that works best for you!

Big Girl x

2020: The Year I Decided to Start My Blog

2020: The Year I Decided to Start My Blog

We would all agree 2020 is not the best year we’ve ever had… It didn’t start well for me when I was in Sydney for NYE, with bushfires impacting wildlife in Australia and making the sky look grey and grim. Surrounded burning forests affected the air we were breathing in the city, it was not possible to ignore it. That was nothing compared to what followed though, or maybe it was only the beginning of the consequences of human actions on the planet.

It’s only fair I give you a bit of context so you can get to know me a bit better. I quit my job late 2019 without anything else lined up, I wanted to leave the office for a while and follow my free spirit instead. The plan was to travel for 6 months (to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan) and then come back to London to find myself a new job and settle back in. I know that nothing usually happens as planned in life, you always bump into unexpected things… But it’s fair to say I didn’t see a worldwide pandemic coming.

Throwback to how the pandemic impacted my plans

18th March 2020

My last day in New Zealand felt a bit strange… The worldwide pandemic was all over the news with an increasing infection rate and I felt guilty publishing pictures of the beautiful landscapes I had in front of me. Unlike in Europe, Kiwis were not yet panicking and although some pharmacies displayed “masks + antibacterial gel out of stock”, most people didn’t behave differently.

19th March 2020

I thought we would be able to stay a few days in Fiji doing absolutely nothing at all, just staying near the swimming pool under the sun with a good book to read and a nice cocktail in hand (away from social media and depressing news). Travelling can be quite tiring and I was really looking forward to this mini holiday in between. It didn’t turn out as planned, obviously. The island saw its first case the day after we arrived and everything shut down in an attempt to limit the spread. What I hoped would be a nice and short break turned out to be 3 long weeks stranded in a depressing apartment near a closed airport where no plane was allowed to take off. The longest weeks of my life, as far as I can recall…

7th April 2020

Who would have thought Mother Nature could be our saviour?? Yep, the only reason why the Fijian Government finally accepted to let their brand new planes fly was to protect them from a strong cyclone coming up… Who better than trapped tourists to help support the costs? I can safely say I never spent so much time in a plane without watching any movies. I stayed still for the entire trip (roughly 20 hours from Nadi to London with a stopover at Los Angeles), didn’t touch anything, didn’t remove my mask, limited my trips to the loo. Also, I barely slept.

8th April 2020

It never felt so good to be back in London. “Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis. But it was not the same London I remembered from when I left 6 months ago… It was like I missed the beginning of the story, I didn’t experience the “panic” over loo rolls in supermarkets, I just arrived in the middle of a national lockdown and no idea how to behave.

Stay home 2020

2020: Not so great so far

Fair to say the beginning of 2020 made me want to skip the rest of the year and jump straight to 2021. Back in April I really thought the virus would be gone by the end of the year… Not sure if it was optimistic or just terribly naïve. We’re almost in October now and it’s sadly very much still here. So how long will it last? Who knows. There is only one thing I know: I can still focus on what I can control.

What I can control

I can control the focus I want to give to my health. Many said they’ve put on weight during lockdown, the consumption of biscuits in the UK has increased drastically over the last few months and clearly it’s easy to turn to comfort food to help you cope with emotions. Being unhealthy is not what you want to be though, now more than ever is the time to prioritise your wellbeing. So I’m thinking, why not using my extra time at home to change my lifestyle for good?

My plans for the rest of the year (and beyond)

I’ve been back from my travels for 6 months now and things are not improving anytime soon, this is why I decided to start this blog today. I want to write about various topics related to self-improvement: health topics in general with a particular focus on mental health and weight loss, but also environmental issues and travel.

2020 will be the year I planned to come back to health. I have a current situation (with a BMI at almost 29, I’m overweight), a goal (I want to be back to a healthy 60kg) and a target date (Valentine’s Day 2021 – I’m a hopeless romantic). Stay tuned for updates! 🙂

Big Girl x