Holiday Food Freedom

As the holiday season approaches, not only are the streets and stores laced with dazzling decorations, holiday treats are also beginning to crowd the scene. From shortbread cookies to exotic cheeses to Christmas edition chocolates—how is one supposed to stay on their fitness train?

I remember I used to feel so anxious and stressed about the holiday season because of the surfeit of dine-outs, gatherings, baked goods, and drinking that threatened my fitness goal. I couldn’t show up at dinners and not eat without being rude, neither would the decadent celebratory meals meet my dietary criteria. For years and years, I used to either starve myself until the party or punish myself with cardio after the parties, just to burn a little more calories.

I want to share some of my struggles and lessons-learned with you, in the hopes that could avoid some of the angst and guilt that I used to feel. There are three tips that I found particularly helpful at arriving at holiday food freedom—both physically and psychologically.

Tip 1: Ditch the All or Nothing Mentality

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post: 6 Tips for Weight Loss and Healthier Lifestyle, the All or Nothing Mentality is detrimental to one’s fitness journey, particularly if you are looking for long-term, sustainable results. For me, I had noticed that the All or Nothing Mentality had often triggered binge eating, because I’d think to myself: If I am already off track, I might as well just make a cheat day out of it and get back on track tomorrow. Except, that is not how the law of thermodynamics works. Our caloric intake and expenditure don’t cap off according to a 24-hour clock when the clock strikes midnight. All the additional calories I had consumed, was carried over to the next day or even to the next few days until my body burns them off, or stores them as fat. Therefore, instead of throwing all of your hard work away, enjoy what you wanted to eat and stop there!

Tip 2: Nourish Your Body

Tackling fitness as a lifelong goal is imperative in changing your paradigm about food. Not all calories provide equitable value to your body. Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods first will not only better regulate your hunger level, it will help keep your insulin level more stable when you consume other snacks/desserts later. Another benefit to this? You will also have less room for other treats that may make you feel guilty! Win-win.

Tip 3: Give Yourself Permission

Give yourself permission to indulge in the time with your loved ones. Since losing my grandparents some months ago, I have been reconsidering the priorities in my life. I wish I had shared more meals with them. I wish I had learned my grandma’s recipe. I wish I had focused on the conversations with them over our meals shared, rather than quietly counting calories and macronutrients in my head.

Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.

Jack LaLanne

I also want to acknowledge that these Tips are harder said than done. Even after years of practicing, I still sometimes find myself feeling guilty for having over-indulged and wanting to abstain from eating the next day to make up for the caloric surplus from the night before. But all things worth fighting for are deserving of hard work and nothing and no one else is more worth fighting for than your health and mental wellbeing. So don’t give up! Keep working on it!

Happy Holidays💙

Intermittent Fasting

I started Intermittent Fasting (IF) about 5-6 years ago. Since then, I have fasted nearly every single day. That in and of itself is rather mind-blowing to me—I have done almost 2,000 fasts! That said, the types of fast I do and the purpose behind why I fast have changed drastically. I thought I’d share my journey with you, corroborated by scientific research for those of you that require more data-based evidence (like me!).

I can think. I can wait. I can fast.

Hermann Hesse

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are many well-documented researches that delineate the physical and mental health benefits of IF.

Weight Management

It is most popularly known as a diet strategy for weight loss. The narrowed eating window is helpful for reducing calorie consumption for individuals; however, it is important to keep in mind that: the only sure method of losing weight is to be at a calorie deficit. In other words, regardless the size of your eating window or how long you have fasted, as long as your caloric consumption exceeds your caloric expenditure, you will not lose weight!

Anti-aging

Besides weight management, studies have discovered IF to have neuroprotective effects by enhancing hippocampal neurogenesis and long-term potentiation (LTP) at hippocampal synapses (Baik, Sang-Ha et al.). In short, IF activates the mechanisms that fortify our central nervous system against injuries, both acute and chronic, such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.

Another benefit of IF is the induction of autophagy, which is a metabolic process that our body employs to dispose of damaged cells. This quality is commonly associated with anti-aging! Typically, autophagy begins when glucose and insulin levels have dropped significantly (Bagherniya, Mohammad et al.).

Mental Finesse

Finally, the last efficacy of IF that I am going to share here is: mental clarity. When we fast, our norepinephrine levels increase; it is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that enhance mental focus, and memory storage and retrieval (Fung and Moore).

Types of Fasts

  • The Warrior Diet
    Eat only one large meal a day
  • Eat Stop Eat // 24 Hour Fast
    Pick one day of the week and fast the entire day
  • Time-restricted Fast
    Fast for 12+ hours every day and reduce your eating window
    A popular one is: 18/6
    18 hours fast and 6 hours eating window;
    and 14/10
    14 hours fast and 10 hours eating window

  • Alternate Day Fast
    Fast every other day
  • 5:2 Fast
    Eat as you normally would for 5 days, restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 on the other 2 days

Tips to Get Started & Risks to Avoid

In my years of fasting, I have tried all of the fasts listed above, for various reasons. I first stumbled across IF when I was trying to lose weight. I was assiduous in my fasting, so much so that I overlooked and neglected all biological signals, and subsequently lost my period. As a beginning faster, I had no way of discerning: how much I was supposed to suppress my hunger cues; which cues were derived from hunger, which ones were from boredom; when to abort the fast, etc.

I will share some of my tips (from personal experience and research) but since all of us are different, please note that what works for me may not work for you.

1. Start Slow

I leaped straight into a daily 16/8 Time-Restricted Fast (16 hours fasted, 8 hours eating window) as a beginner. After nearly a month of 16/8, I felt rather good and confident, so I increased my fasting window to 18 hours, while at the same time reducing my caloric intake because I was trying to lose weight ASAP—huge mistake! This foolishness and naïveté lost me my period, which took me months to recover. To avoid making my mistake, I’d recommend starting with a smaller fasting window, say 12 hours, and slowly work your way up.

2. Drink LOTS of Water

You may be tempted to be strictly drinking caffeinated beverages to stave off hunger but those are diuretics. It is highly—HIGHLY—recommended that you drink a copious amount of water to remain hydrated.

3. It’s Okay to Abandon a Fast

Some days you may be so so so close to completing your fast yet your blood sugar has already dropped too low and you are beginning to feel dizzy. Abandon fast. Eat. The beauty of this social construct of time is you will get another 24 hours the next day to fast! In the grand scheme of things, one incomplete fast really doesn’t make any difference.

My Current Routine

Currently, I fast 14+ hours daily, unless I am feeling unwell. My body prefers this fasted state in the morning wherein my thoughts are crisp and agile. While I fast, I drink an obscene amount of water, along with some black coffee. I no longer fast for weight management, rather mental clarity and personal preference.

That’s it! I hope this post was informative. Let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be happy to impart my flawed wisdom! 😉

6 Tips for Weight Loss and Healthier Lifestyle

THANK YOU for all your generous support of my writing endeavour! It really means the world to me.🤍

As a way of giving back, I thought I’d start a series on Health and Fitness—something that I am unabashedly passionate about, and have invested an obscene amount of time researching on—in the hope that it could be of some use to you.

If you have recently decided to embark on your Health and Fitness and/or Weight Loss journey but are not sure of where to start, here are some simple, easy-to-follow tips!

1. There Are No Quick-fixes

The only guarantees in life are death and taxes. There are no quick-fixes, no guaranteed rules that will help anyone lose weight miraculously. If anyone were to tell you otherwise, they are lying to you.

2. Calories In and Calories Out

The law of thermodynamics is strictly what governs the success (or failure) of your weight loss journey. To burn a pound of body fat, you will need to reach a deficit of around 3,500 calories. When you have reached a deficit of 3,500 calories, then you will lose a pound! No magic, just math.

In order to calculate your caloric deficit, you will need to first figure out how many calories you roughly burn every day, which is also known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This entry level calculator will help you get started. Our TDEE is more complex than what the calculator gives us, which I will dive into later in this series, but for now, this calculator will do the job!

3. Start with a Small Change

Increase your daily activity level by adding a short exercise routine that you can commit to—one that is realistic and not a daunting task for you to accomplish every day. Start with 15 minutes, which is only the approximate length of 3 songs only!

4. Eat More Protein

“Thermic Effect of Food”, or TEF, is the increase of the metabolic rate that occurs from digestion. The simple act of eating foods that has a higher TEF will biologically require your body to burn more calories when digesting them. As a general guideline:

  • Protein: 20-35% of calories burned through processing
  • Carbohydrates: 5-15% of calories burned through processing
  • Fats: 0-5% of calories burned through processing

5. Avoid Drinking Your Calories

There can be a lot of hidden calories in drinks, usually from all the added sugars. Besides the undesirable calories, another hidden pitfall of sugary drinks is the spike in insulin level. When your insulin level subsequently drops from the sugar spike, the dip is when your body sends you hunger signals. In other words, you may feel the munchies (and potentially consume more calories) that your body does not actually need.

6. Change Your Self-talk

Be kind about how you talk to yourself. You are courageous enough to embark on this journey for yourself; allow yourself the grace of patience and time. Weight loss and/or lifestyle changes are not easy nor expeditious. A paradigm shift on this journey will allow you to enjoy the process and make more lasting, sustainable changes. In the grand scheme of a lifetime, what’s a year?

Thanks reading! I hope you found this entry helpful. Stay tuned for more specific workout regiments and nutritious meal ideas.

Change begins at the end of your comfort zone

Roy T. Bennett
Your friendly neighbourhood fitness enthusiast

365 Days of Fit

Winter of 2018

This was taken in 2018, when I was the most cut I had ever been. I did it to test my physical and mental fortitude. Little did I know how much it would’ve cost me to recover from it.

Was it worth it?

No. Nothing is worth one’s health and their relationship with food.

Would I do it again?

This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous and embarrassingly absurd but yes, yes I’d do it again if I were to go back in time. This ruthlessly painful journey, from training to recovery, indelibly defined a lot of who I am today. Because of it, I now have razor sharp discipline to carry through days when my motivations may be lacking. Because of it, I now have newfound appreciation of my body, of how it allows me to live this active life.

What does my current routine look like now?

Much has changed since then. Exercising is no longer on my to-do list as a task to cross off, rather, a mindfulness break I cherish.

As an ‘Everyday’ girl, I do the following every day:

  • Exercise
  • Cover 10km (walk, run, hike)
  • Intermittent Fast 14-18 hours (almost every day)
  • Stretch
  • Meet my macro split (1/3C, 1/3P, 1/3F)
  • Eat a high protein diet
  • Obtain my micronutrients from whole foods

Today, I may not have a chiseled six-pack that could grate cheese but I am healthy, strong, and blissfully happy. I have finally healed my relationship with food and with my own body.