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When the wheels fall off

You know how, sometimes, things don’t go bad all at once? They go bad so slowly that you almost can’t even tell what’s happening?
Let’s turn this into a car analogy.

Say you’re on a road trip – a big, long, epic road trip – and things are going great. You have your music. You have your snacks. You have your drinks. You have a Spotify playlist AND some podcasts AND two audiobooks queued up and ready to go. Things are GOOD. You’re CRUISING.

And you’re driving, you’re driving, and suddenly your car’s speakers go a little fuzzy. That’s weird, but no big deal. You turn the volume up and keep driving.
Then the car starts to pull a tiny bit to the right. Nothing drastic, just a little drag. Whatever. You pull a little harder to the left on the steering wheel to correct, and you keep going.
Then one of your side mirrors breaks. You find some duct tape in your trunk and you patch things back together. It’s not perfect, but it works. You keep going.
And then the engine starts to smoke a little bit when you drive too fast. Whoops, ease off the gas a little. It’ll be fine.
Now one of the tires feels a little…funny. Is it going soft? The tire pressure gauge isn’t lit up, so you shrug it off and drive on.

But these little things keep happening; things keep going wrong. You don’t feel the need to stop at a repair shop – you’re on a road trip! Things are supposed to be so fun! You can handle this!

And then, all of a sudden, all the wheels fall off your car at once.
And the engine explodes.
The whole useless car is engulfed in flames.

You’re now stranded, in your burning car, wondering what the fuck has happened. Trying to get out of the wreckage. And you look back on all the little things that had been going wrong the whole trip, and a light goes off in your mind. Things add up now. The warning signs make sense.

That’s… me right now, with my mental health.

The last few months have been full of little things, tiny warning signs that I brushed off. I’ve struggled with mental health issues since I was a kid, but I’m still *really* bad at recognizing the signs until things implode. And things…. imploded this week.
I don’t particularly want to discuss the details, but let’s just say that the Binge Monster has come back with an ugly vengeance, I really just want to lay in bed and stare at the wall all day (very conducive to having a job, I assure you), and I feel like I’m on the side of the road, standing next to my burning life, wondering what the fuck has happened. Things were going so good! And then the minor bumps came. And they piled up. And they got harder and harder to deal with.

Here’s the thing with mental illness: you cannot necessarily force yourself through it. All the inspirational gym memes of never miss a Monday, put up or shut up, something something apply motivation daily blah blah blah… they don’t always work. Sometimes you need help. AND THAT’S OK. I’m in a place where I need help. I finally got that through my brain, and stopped trying to dig my heels in and force my way through this. I’m working with my doctors to get back to a good place.

Please don’t pry into my health history – revealing that I have mental health issues is not the same as wanting to discuss my exact diagnosis and what medication I’m on/have been on in the past and what my symptoms are and have I been in therapy and what I’ve been bingeing on and how much and when (yes, all questions I have been asked – no, not questions I will answer. I like my privacy, too).

I just… wanted to be honest with you guys. I’m struggling, and in a larger way than I originally thought. We’re all human. Some of us have different struggles than others; I’m one of the ones who has a messed-up brain that’s kind of a mega asshole to itself. That’s how the cards got dealt. I’m working on it, working through it, and I’m trying to figure out a way to go forward.

Because you’ve got me FUCKED UP if you think I’m just going to stop trying and gradually gain all the weight back. Hell no. This isn’t over by a long shot.

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Burned out on fat loss

I’m switching things up. Again. I know, I know, I just switched to high protein keto macros like…last month…and I’m keeping that bit! The high protein is still going great. my body loves the protein, and I love eating all the meat.

But.

Fat loss—weight reduction—isn’t my focus anymore. I just…can’t keep going how I have been. I’m burned out and I’ve hit a wall. To be totally honest, this has been building for a while, but then I’d have a good week and recommit and convince myself to keep going. But after this vacation I’ve reached my limit. I’ve been working on fat loss/weight loss for 3.5 straight years. That’s a LONG. FUCKING. TIME. I’m not seeing results anymore, and I just need a break! I’ve been busting my ass with low macros (under 1400 cals a day) and working out 5x a week with hardly any scale results. It’s discouraging and infuriating. I know that the scale shouldn’t matter, blah blah blah, but it does matter to me. It does. The number on the scale had meaning when it said 250 and I was fat as hell, and it has meaning now that it say 150 and I’m more… average-ish.

So I’m changing my focus. I’m going to be eating to maintenance calories (food! I get food! So much food!) and putting my focus fully on strength and body recomposition [aka losing fat and replacing it with muscle; staying the same weight but altering my body fat %] I’ve pretty much *been* in maintenance and doing slowwww body recomp for the past 9ish months, even though I was still trying to lose weight. I’ve lost inches (2 from my waist!) and clothing sizes, I look different, but the scale is saying pretty much the same thing.

And thus, I’m throwing in the towel for now. Not forever! I’m more like, placing the towel gently to the side, all washed and folded and ready for future use. I do still want to be *S K I N N Y* someday (I know, I know, ‘strong not skinny,’ pero like… ¿por que no los dos?). I’ve never been skinny in my life, and it’s a goal I have, but I’m finally admitting to myself that I can’t achieve that goal right now without resorting to mentally and/or physically unhealthy methods. I’m not going to cut calories to 1100/day and do hours of cardio just to see the scale budge. Nope. Nope nope nope. Been there, done that, the result was bingeing like crazy and I’m soooo over that.

Anyway! I’m excited but also a wee bit… scared shitless? I haven’t had this many calories per day (near 1700) on a regular basis since the verrrry beginning of my journey, when I weighed 250 pounds. So yeah, part of me is terrified that I’m going to start ballooning up and gain all the weight back overnight (impossible, duh) and part of me is like I CAN HAVE SO. MANY. FOODS. — it’s a mixed bag. I’m going to keep an eye on the scale with weekly (not! daily!) weigh-ins, just to make sure I’m not overdoing it with the calories. If I start steadily gaining, I’ll adjust. But the scale isn’t my main focus anymore—for now.

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Refeed????

Alright, I’ve been getting this question a lot, so here’s the fast explanation to the question “WHAT’S A REFEED DAY?”

On Friday, I did my first refeed day – instead of my usual rest day calories, I ate slightly above maintenance calories. About 700 extra calories.

BUT WHY?

1) I was getting hungry from being in a sustained deficit for 6+ weeks

2) The scale had been bouncing around in the same 3 pound range for about 2 weeks and I was getting antsy

3) I was noticing more frequent binge urges and temptation

4) I wasn’t progressing in some of my lifts, and was getting fatigued easier from cardio

So: refeed.

But what IS a refeed? Here’s a great article about it (it’s not keto-oriented so the carb talk is a little off, but the basics are the same), but essentially: just fucking eating more for a day to refuel your body, send the message that Hey! You’re not starving! There is food available! It’s all good, fam. And reset your hunger + satiety cues

What it wasn’t:

– A cheat day. I kept my carbs under 30g net, just ate more fat and protein. There was no pizza, no bread, no cheats. Still keto, just more food.

– A binge. Everything was planned – I logged everything beforehand in MyFitnessPal and stuck to it. I wasn’t eating for the sake of eating – I was eating with a purpose. There was no frantic, out-of-control desire to keep going. I ate, I stopped eating, the end.

– A carb-up. I’ve done (one or two) carb ups, and this wasn’t one. I kept my total and net carbs low, and just added more fat and protein. When I do a carb up, I keep my fat low and raise carbs and protein.

So that’s the quick and dirty basics on refeeds! I’m going to use them strategically and experiment with how often to refeed – probably no more than once or maybe twice a month. I’m going on vacation at the end of August and will likely be eating at less of a deficit then, so I’ve done my one refeed for the month 😊 vacation will be…an extended refeed 😅

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The gym: What I do, what I’ve done

Let’s talk about working out! This is going to be a long, rambly post. You’ve been warned.
So.
I worked out a grand total of maybe…….30 times in my first year of losing weight. And that’s a generous estimate. Those “work outs” were beginner’s yoga classes at my campus gym, mostly, and I dropped those once it got too cold to walk the mile to and from class at 7pm (it was New York, it got *cold* ok).
And I still lost 70 lbs that year. With minimal to no exercise. It was all! about! diet!

But since I went to grad school on Long Island (Roll Pride!) and didn’t have a car, I got really – REALLY – used to walking places. The bus was my lifeline, and the nearest bus stop to me was over a mile away. All my life, I’d been like “OMG A MILE, SO FAR” and after a while of living in NY, it changed to “Hunh that’s only 2.3 miles away? I can walk that no problem.” So after the first year on keto, I got more active, but still not a gym-lover by any means. In the second year on keto, I’d go to zumba every now and then (2x a month, maybe) and do the elliptical at the gym for a bit (30 mins), but it wasn’t serious. I wasn’t a gym person. I didn’t work out at home, either, before you ask. Nuh unh. Never really been my scene.

Third year on keto: I graduated and moved back to AZ and uh… walking isn’t a *thing* here, especially not in the summer. Everything is really spread out, there’s nowhere to…go… in walking distance, and anyway it was like 105F every day. Not optimal for walking when you’re trying to avoid dying of heat stroke. After all that walking in New York, I felt gross sitting around my house all day – and I had all this free time to think about how I was going to continue losing weight

So I joined a gym! I didn’t feel comfortable there at first. I felt lumpy and soft and out of place (and fat, even though I was like…. 5 pounds overweight at that point, by BMI standards), and I sequestered myself in the CARDIO MOVIE THEATER every day. “What’s this cardio movie theater you speak of?” I hear you asking.
Well.
It’s the best thing of life. It’s a separate, cool, dark room at my gym with a big screen on one wall, and risers of cardio equipment set up. Bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, and a stairmaster. There’s also a stretching area down on the floor. And they just…. play a movie. On a loop. ALL. DAY.
I hid in there for a LONG WHILE. It was dark, it was cool, nobody could see me, and I could watch Planet of the Apes or whatever to take my mind off the monotony of cardio.

I did a LOT of cardio at first. Strictly cardio. An hour on the elliptical, or an hour on the bike, or 45 mins on the lateral trainer (a cool sideways elliptical)…sometimes more. After a few months, I started to experiment with weight machines, but nothing serious, and never with a structured lifting plan. I did whatever I wanted every day. It was fun, but not very… productive. I gradually added in more weights, but I was primarily a cardio girl.

Around November, I hit a wall with all the cardio. I just couldn’t keep spending 2+ hours in the gym all the time, slaving away on the cardio machines. I was bored, I was exhausted, and I felt really soft. Like, my body wasn’t *changing* from all this time in the gym. I’d lost about 8-9 pounds since moving home, but it was impossible (for me) to tell.

AND THAT’S WHEN I GOT INTO LIFTING!

I started with the Ketogains program in December, and learned by people-watching and looking up exercises on youtube. I started light with all my weights, and worked my way up. By March, when I started my job, I’d gotten a little tired of spending 90+ minutes in the gym on lifting days (Ketogains has a lot of exercises per workout). I switched over to the Jamie Eason LiveFit! program from bodybuilding.com, but gave up after 19 days (lol) when I got too stressed and tired from work… and my bingeing got really bad around that time. No motivation to gym. It was a rough patch.

Then I found Bodypump classes, and really enjoyed those for a few weeks! But… it didn’t feel like enough. I missed lifting. I missed how my body looked when I was lifting (muscles!!!). I missed the structure of a lifting plan. I tried LiveFit! again for a hot second but um, didn’t actually look into what Phases 2 + 3 entailed – hell no to those 2+ hour workouts. Nuh unh. I don’t live that kind of life.

And now I’m doing Stronglifts, which is a lot like Ketogains but with less accessory work (Ketogains is based on Stronglifts). It’s just 3 exercises each lifting day – squats, rows, bench press; squats, deadlifts, overhead press. I add hip thrusts to my workouts because I’m trying my gotdang hardest to grow a booty, but that’s the only tweak I made. I track using the Stronglifts 5×5 app (here’s the iPhone link) on my phone, and love it! I paid the $10 for the full version (this is not a promo, I’m not associated with them, I just like the app) and it was totally worth it.

So my gym schedule looks like this:
Sunday: Stronglifts
Monday: Cardio 20-30 mins
Tuesday: Stronglifts
Wednesday: Cardio 20-30 mins
Thursday: Stronglifts

As per the program, I alternate between A and B workouts with each lifting day. One week will be A / B / A, the next will be B / A / B, etc.
I specifically chose this workout schedule FOR ME because it gives me 4 days of work + gym; 1 day just work, no gym; 1 day just gym, no work; and 1 day totally free. Perfect for me!

Oh, and as for WHEN in the day I work out – I go on my way home from work M-Th, and in the afternoon on Sunday. I just cannot drag myself out of bed to go work out before work. I can’t. I already wake up at 5:30 to get ready and commute, so I’d have to be up at like 3:45 to get to the gym right when it opens at 4 in order to work out till 5, then shower and get ready for work. I – nope. Not for me. I’d much rather deal with slightly-more-crowded gyms at 4:30pm than put myself through that torture. Some people can do early-morning workouts – I’m not one of them! And, after all, the best time of the day to work out is WHEN YOU’LL STICK TO IT.

So that’s like…. every single possible thing I can think of when it comes to me and the gym! If you’ve read this whole post – you’re a trooper.

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All about egg fasts

Egg fasts! I’ve done a few of them, and I think they’re a really useful tool on keto. Some people use them to bust through stalls/plateaus, and I personally love using them to really do a hard reset after a period of…. not great eating. June was basically a dumpster fire of a month in terms of eating and going to the gym: after 3 years of proving that counting calories works for me, I suddenly was like, “Hey, what if calories didn’t matter and I ate whatever I wanted?” and then… proceeded to use that as an excuse to binge. A lot. I only went to the gym 10 times, and it really showed. I went up to 164 (14lbs up from my usual ‘comfortable’ weight of 150) after vacation, though a lot of that was water weight, and a good 5lbs of it was from air travel. But still. Not a number I wanted to see.

ANYWAY. I got back on track, but some of the water weight was still stubbornly sticking around and I was getting super frustrated. So to shake things up, I did an egg fast!

HERE is the post from ibreatheimhungry.com that explains all about egg fasts and HERE is her post with some FAQs and a full diet plan for an egg fast. Go read those for more info!

Basically, an egg fast is exactly what it sounds like – you eat eggs and that’s it. Kind of. The rules are:

  • At least 6 eggs per day, but as many as you need to feel satisfied
  • 1 tbsp fat (butter, olive oil, full fat mayo, lard, etc) per egg
  • Up to 1 oz of full-fat cheese per egg

However….. I’ve found that it works better for me to do an either/or with fat and cheese; ie, I have EITHER 1tbsp fat OR 1oz cheese per egg. People say calories don’t matter on an egg fast buuuuuuuuut I get better results when I’m mindful of calories. Also, I allow 1oz of heavy cream to count as an ounce of cheese, just because I dislike coffee without cream and I’m not doing an egg fast to torture myself. I’ve done egg fasts with no HWC in the past, and didn’t notice any difference when I added in 1oz of heavy cream. So, there you have it. My modifications.

This time around, I did 4 days of strict egg fast and I’m on day 1 of 2 of transitioning – that’s where you eat 2 egg fast meals and one regular (low carb) meal to transition back to keto. However, because I’m combining my egg fast with intermittent fasting, it’s just 1 egg fast meal and 1 regular meal.

This egg fast was definitely frustrating. The first day, I *gained* weight. Gained. On 1200 calories of just eggs, butter, and cheese. Second day, I lost was back to where I started. Third day, I was down 0.2 and starting to FUCKING RAGE at my body because, like ????? What the shit???? aaaand then day 4 I woke up to a nice whoosh, and another one on day 5 (today)! So far, I’m down 4.2 pounds. Not my most successful egg fast in terms of weight loss, for sure, but still – progress is progress. I’m only 3 pounds away from my comfortable weight again, and only 6 up from my lowest ever. Totally manageable and I feel good about losing that on regular keto.

So there you have it! Egg fast! Now, here’s what I ate each day:

DAY 1
Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled in 2tbsp bacon grease; coffee with 1tbsp Brain Brew (mct oil) and 1oz heavy cream
Lunch: Egg salad – 3 hard boiled eggs with 2tbsp mayo; 1 cheese stick

DAY 2
Breakfast: 4 eggs scrambled in 1tbsp coconut oil, topped with 1oz cheese; coffee with 1tbsp Brain Brew (mct oil) and 1oz heavy cream
Lunch: 4 hard boiled eggs with 4tbsp butter

DAY 3
Breakfast: 5 eggs scrambled in 2tbsp coconut oil, topped with 1oz cheese; coffee with 2tbsp Brain Brew (mct oil) (I tried coffee with no HWC out of desperation since I still hadn’t lost weight – it was not enjoyable)
Lunch: Egg salad – 3 hard boiled eggs with 3tbsp mayo

DAY 4
Breakfast: 4 hard boiled eggs with 2tbsp butter; coffee with 1 packet of House Blend F-bomb oil (from dropanfbomb.com) and 1oz heavy cream
Lunch: Buttery baked eggs – 4 eggs with 3tbsp butter, topped with 1oz cheese

DAY 5 – transition
Breakfast: 4 eggs fried in 1tbsp avocado oil, 2oz cheese; coffee with 1tbsp mct oil and 1oz heavy cream (and 1 scoop collagen peptides, just because I wanted them)
Lunch: Chuck roast

DAY 6 – transition
Breakfast: Buttery baked eggs – 4 eggs with 3tbsp butter, topped with 1oz cheese; coffee with 1tbsp mct oil, 1oz heavy cream, 1 scoop protein powder
Lunch: Pulled pork with Simple Girl Carolina-style BBQ sauce; 2 Tillamoo cheese snacks

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Making changes – and breaking up with Diet Coke (again)

Alright.
Let’s shake things up, shall we?

Lately, instead of being a stress-eater, I’ve become a stress-Diet-Coke-drinker. Fewer calories, yes, but…. ultimately, I’m starting to question its efficacy. It doesn’t magically fix my stress; it doesn’t actually make me feel better; and every single time I’ve binged in the last month… guess what I’d had that day? Yup. Diet Coke.
Now, I’m not saying that Diet Coke causes bingeing. Buuuuut for me personally, it seems like my brain has established a stress -> Diet Coke -> binge pattern, and I want to break it. I’ve been drinking more seltzer waters lately – I really do like carbonation (and I’m trying to nut up and buy myself a carbonator, but that $$$ startup cost is intimidating. Maybe next paycheck…) – and I ordered some stevia glycerite to see if I can beck back into the stevia-sweetened life. I did ok with it for dairy-free February. There’s an adjustment period while you get weaned off artificial sweeteners and your taste buds adjust back to the stevia taste (pls stop trying to bullshit me into believing there’s a magic brand with NO taste. There really isn’t; I can taste it. I just get used to the taste after a while). I’m hoping that less artificially sweetened stuff will lead to fewer Diet Coke cravings and help with the bingeing. I also need to develop better stress habits, ofc, but let’s start with this.

Another change: raising my calories a little bit for a while. I get bingey when my head *feels* too deprived, so raising my calorie limit for the time being – with the knowledge that I don’t have to eat all those calories if I don’t need them, but they’re there if I do – will hopefully help. Once I have a few solid binge-free weeks under my belt, I can tinker with my deficit amount again.

So that’s where I’m at right now! Trying to find things that work, experimenting with cutting out things that don’t, etc. I’m not saying NO to Diet Coke or artificial sweeteners forever… just trying to really limit them for the time being. Definitely no Diet Coke for the rest of the month, though.

 

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Moving on after a binge

[You may have guessed by the title, but this post is about binge eating and disordered eating habits. If that’s triggering or upsetting for you…. skip this post]

So.
This past week and half has been… not great, food-wise. Super not great, binge-eating-wise. Basically as not great as it’s been in a long, long time.
And I’m not exactly sure why, to be honest. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’m adjusting to a massive life change (going from 0 hrs/week of work and 0 hrs/week of commuting to 40 hrs/week of work and 10 hrs/week of commuting – that’s a big change). But there wasn’t some big….trigger. It just happened. I fell back into old habits and was out of control.
Anyway. I binged a lot the past week and a half. Like, a lot a lot. Like, up-10-lbs-in-mostly-water-weight-but-also-some-real-weight a lot.
And I don’t know what was different about this time, but it lasted…. so long. It wasn’t a one-night binge, it was a 10-day bender. I had a few non-bingeing days in there, but for the most part… nah, it was bad.
Like, unable to sleep because my stomach was so painfully full of food that I *wished* I could throw. That kind of bad.

SO. Yeah, I didn’t really talk about in on instagram while it was happening, because while I know that (the vast majority of) you guys don’t judge me for this issue, it’s still really personal and occasionally I do get a dickhead commenting shit like “Well why don’t just stop eating” or “Didn’t you just binge last week” or some thoughtless, uncaring garbage like that, and that’s the last thing I need to hear while I’m still in the grip of a binge monster mindset. Trust me – I don’t enjoy this. Disordered eating habits aren’t fun; they aren’t cute or sexy or cool; I don’t stuff my face with thousands of calories an hour just for shits and giggles. I know I’m not alone with this issue, but there are still some times where I just need to keep it to myself while I work through it. That’s how I process.

And I’ve finally come out the other side of this binge episode! Hooray! So anyway, here are a few tips that help *me* in moving on after a binge. They may work for you, they may not – but here you go.

  1. Drink water. I know, I know – sometimes you’re so stuffed full of food that the idea of putting *anything* else in your body is revolting, but it helps.
  2. Take a shower. Obviously this isn’t as applicable for a weeklong binge, because you’ve (hopefully) been showering regularly already; but for a one-nighter, this helps me a lot. Like literally washing myself clean of it. Bubble baths are also very nice.
  3. Write down how you feel during/after. It’s hard to think back and remember exactly how horrible bloated and distended and gross you feel – write it down. Keep a binge journal. Look back at it when you feel the urge next time.
  4. Get some physical activity. Now, this comes with a word of caution – I am not advocating trying to ‘undo’ a binge by exercising the calories off. NO. That’s a further sign of disorder, and it’s not healthy. But just getting up and going for a nice, relaxed walk can help – at the least, it’ll get your digestion going a little faster. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t. If I have even the *slightest* inkling that I’m going to push myself too hard as ‘punishment,’ I abstain. That’s not worth it. I will say that, for me at least, it’s much harder to do the disordery over-exercising when I go for a walk outside. The gym setting makes it much more tempting for me to try to ‘make up’ for a binge with 3 hours of cardio. Being outside just feels nice and healthy and good.
  5. Grit your teeth and fucking do it. Sometimes it’s HARD. AS. HELL. to get back to eating right. Trust me. I know. I KNOW. Luckily, I usually reach a point of ‘ok, this is *enough* already’ where I get sick of my own bullshit and force myself back in line. It’s tough, but….nobody ever said that this was going to be easy.
  6. Bribe yourself. I’ll admit that sometimes I set myself food rewards – like, if I’m ‘good’ for a whole weekend, I can have {insert x} food at the end of it – as long as I log and track it and it fits in my macros. That part is key. It’s not ideal to reward yourself with food while….dealing with food issues……….. but you know what, desperate times call for desperate measures, and often times I’ll reach the reward set-point and realize I don’t want it. Like, I bribed myself with in n out for dinner tonight – but now I don’t want it. I’d rather have it for lunch some time later this week, like I usually do.
    • if food rewards are too tempting for you, use something else. 5 days binge-free = new nail polish. 15 days binge-free = massage. Whatever. Use your own reward system.
  7. Find a self-help resource that works for you. I personally love “Brain Over Binge” by Kathryn Hansen; I FINALLY bought my own copy of the book and workbook so that I can refer to it whenever I need. There are lots of books about binge eating, and different people respond to the advice differently. I never really connected with the school of thought that binge episodes are because of some deep, underlying emotional issue (I’ve had mental health/emotional issues my whole life; bingeing is new), so those books didn’t help me. Find something that resonates with you! I highly recommend checking your local library to see what’s available for free, first.
  8. Forgive yourself. Beating yourself up about it – “Ugh, I binged again, I’ve failed, this is awful, there’s no recovering, I undid all my progress, I may as well eat like shit forever” – isn’t healthy or helpful. Life doesn’t end with a binge. Like, yeah, I binged for 10 days. I gained 10 pounds. Did that undo the other 92 pounds I’ve lost? No. Does it erase the past 3 years of work? Nope. Is is permanent weight? No. 6lbs of it is already gone in *2 days* of eating on plan. Water weight is a fucking bitch. Binges are setbacks, not failures.
  9. Clean up. Get rid of all the wrappers and trash from your binge foods. Staring at them as punishment won’t make you feel better. Also, clean your fucking room. Wash your sheets. Wash your towels. Clean your toilet. Scrub your shower. CLEAN UP. For me, anyway, living in a lot of clutter makes me anxious and sad. I don’t notice it right away, but then I tidy up and it’s like a breath of fresh air. CLEAN UP. Unfuck your habitat. Start fresh.

So…. yeah. There are some tips. I hope they can help you. I hope (someday soon) that I can be DONE with binge eating, once and for all. But I’m trying to be patient – food issues are hard. They are. If it was as easy as snapping my fingers and being cured, I’d have done that already. I’m a work in progress. We all are!

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Wrap up: dairy-free February

So, as part of an experiment inspired by Maria Emmerich’s book “The 30 day Ketogenic Cleanse,” I cut out dairy for the month of February. She says that as many as 50% of her clients have dairy sensitivities, and many don’t know it because they’ve always eaten dairy. So I wondered – is that me? I’ve eaten dairy basically since birth, so I’ve never known a life without it. Thus, #DairyFreeFebruary: no cheese, no butter, no cream cheese, no cream… none of my beloved Wake Shake protein. No dairy, full stop.

My results?

Basically… nothing. I didn’t lose more weight. I didn’t feel better. My acne actually got worse, which was a real kick in the teeth. My waist got slightly slimmer, but not a big enough change to chalk it up to anything but weight lifting, which I do 3x a week. I wasn’t less bloated (I’m never bloated to begin with) or any of the benefits that some people report when they cut out dairy.

So it’s bittersweet – on the plus side, I’m confident now that dairy doesn’t cause me to stall, or negatively affect my body. I’m one of those lucky people who just metabolizes dairy really well! Which is awesome, because cheese is the love of my life (my boyfriend and I joke that our wedding vows are going to be, “I love you and cheese the same amount.”) and creamy coffee is the reason I get out of bed some mornings.

But I can’t pretend like I’m not slightly disappointed. I went *hard* on being strict this month – keto without dairy is a real challenge! – and I lost a pound and a half. Yeah, that’s a bit of a bummer. I also cut out artificial sweeteners and stayed under 30g total carbs a day – aka strict strict keto – and my results weren’t any better than how I was doing it before (crystal light, diet coke, low carb tortillas, etc). It does feel like a lot of effort for not a lot of payoff, and I think anyone would be frustrated by that. I’m human. I’d seen people cut out dairy and lost 7 pounds in a week! There was definitely a part of me that hoped for a big whoosh like that. It didn’t happen.

And – as added proof – I weighed myself this morning after a full day of dairy (literally in every meal I had) yesterday – and I’m down 0.2 lbs. No regain from going hard in the paint on re-introducing dairy right away. Maria Emmerich recommended easing into it, adding in goat cheese first, then butter, etc – nah. I just went for it, and I not only didn’t gain weight, I lost it! That’s firm proof to me that dairy and I are pals, and I can go back to eating cheese and cream and butter with no worries.

Overall, it was an interesting experiment – but it was just that, and experiment. I don’t plan on trying this again. I gave it a full month with NO dairy, and I didn’t see improvement. I’m glad that I learned more about how my body tolerates food, I’m ecstatic that I can go back to eating my beloved cheese on the regular, and I’m proud of myself for making it through a whole month with no dairy!

If you’re interested in trying it, I say go for it! We’re all different, so your body may react differently than mine; you might feels worlds better and lose a bunch of weight, and discover a food sensitivity you didn’t know you had. Or you may be like me, and not see a change. You won’t know until you try it!

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Battle of the macro calculators

Fuckin macros, man.
Macros – macronutrients – are the breakdown of how many grams of fat, carbs, and protein you eat in a day. There are all kinds of calculators online to give you the right macros for your height, weight, and diet.
But…. they can all tell you different things.
And it fucking sucks.
And it’s frustrating as hell.
WHICH ONE DO YOU TRUST?!

So here’s my comparison of 4 different macro calculators for keto!
For all the calculations, I’m using the same information (of course)
Height: 5’5
Weight: 151.4
Body fat: 30%
Deficit: 20%
Net carb level: 20g
Protein level (if asked): 0.8g per lb of lean body mass
Activity: sedentary

I’m sure I just lost a few of you there. Me? Sedentary? I go to the gym 5x a week! I work out for 1-2 hours a day! I burn 500-800 calories in a gym session! How can that be sedentary?!
Well. I had the same question. So I went to keto reddit and searched for “activity level” to look at the posts about it. The resounding conclusion: pick sedentary, unless you’re on your feet ALL the time. Like ALLLLLL the time. The activity level charts are based on a time when we, as people, were a lot more active – more walking as transportation, more active jobs, more playing outside, less TV/internet/etc. It’s misleading, and not really explained anywhere.
I spend 90% of my day sitting or lying down, and that’s sedentary af. The 3-5ish% of my day that I spend busting my ass in the gym just isn’t enough to qualify me as ‘lightly active’ or ‘moderately active,’ imo, and reddit agrees. So. Sedentary it is.

Up first: keto-calculator.ankerl.com (aka The Keto Calculator)
This is the calculator that I’ve used from the beginning. It’s the one recommended by /r/keto, and it’s nice and simple. You just plug in the information it asks for, and boom. It spits out your information.
My macros from the Keto Calculator: screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-05-43-pm

So. 1260 calories. Um… I’m going to be hungry on that, I know it. I’ve been that low before, and that was when I was binge eating a LOT. Because I was hungry all the damn time!! So let’s see what the next calculator says.

Number 2: Ketogains.com/ketogains-calculator (aka The Ketogains Calculator)
Since I’m following the ketogains 5×5 workout program, it’s only natural that I should check out the Ketogains Calculator. This one is a bit more…. involved than the first one. It breaks down your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and TEF (thermal effect of food – how much you burn by chewing and digesting) to get your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure.
This one also says to set your activity level not including additional exercise, aka, going to the gym. So for me, that’s a no-brainer – sedentary.
Then, you fill in how long you do certain exercises (cardio, weights, other) each day, and how many calories you burn doing them. Basically, you get 3 numbers for this calculator: cardio day calories, weight day calories, and rest day calories.
Here are my calories for a weight day (60 mins; I rounded down conservatively to account for time spent racking weights, etc):

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-21-45-pm

So my rest day calories are 1239; pretty close to my sedentary calories for the Keto Calculator – indicating that by sedentary, the Keto Calculator really *meant* sedentary (good to know! Bc it’s not explained ANYWHERE!!!). Weightlifting calories are a bit higher, which is nice!

Here are my cardio calories (45 mins, 8 cals/min, a conservative estimate):

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-24-46-pm

Almost the same – just about a 40 calorie difference.

Then you take this info, figure out your protein needs (mine is 0.8, as mentioned before, to preserve muscle mass), fill in your desired carbs, and manually adjust the fat grams to equal your non-exercise, cardio, and weight numbers. Definitely more work than the Keto Calculator, but I can work with these calorie amounts much better. However – not sure I want a different calorie goal for each day. I’m not paying $$$ to MyFitness Pal for premium to unlock that feature, and I don’t want to calculate it all by hand.
So. I could average these 3 numbers out, and get 1,445 calories per day, with this breakdown:

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-30-09-pm

That’s 20g carb / 85g protein / 114g fat

Number 3: Ruled.me/keto-calculator
This calculator is a new find for me. It’s by Craig, the ruled.me guy, who’s a big name in the keto community. It’s based off the formulas for the Ketogains Calculator, and it does things a little differently.
First of all, it asks whether or not you exercise. The first calculator doesn’t do that, and doesn’t say anything about eating back calories. This one uses the same descriptions of activity levels (sedentary = desk job; lightly active = daytime walking; moderately active = active day job) and that’s where I get confused. I do lift heavy 3x a week and workout for 5-7 hours… but is that really equal to an active day job? Idk. I’ve never had one of those.
A big difference of this calculator: it has my TDEE as a full 200 calories higher than the other 2, which puts my sedentary + no exercise calories at 1426/day.
But let’s see what happens when I add in my exercise. This calculator asks how many minutes of cardio and how many minutes of weights you do a day, and how many calories you burn per minute doing them – just like the Ketogains Calculator. I took the Ketogains 6.87 cals/minute value for weightlifting, stuck with 8/minute on cardio, and averaged out my times exercised for the week (so – instead of doing a cardio day number, weight day number, and rest day number, I took cardio 2x a week at 45 mins each [90 mins] and divided by 7 to average out to ~15mins a day; for weights, I did 60 mins x 3x a week / 7 days = 25 mins)
The result?

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-41-30-pm

So…. higher than the other calculators, for sure. That’s higher than my weight lifting day calories from the Ketogains Calculator, and almost *400* higher than the Keto Calculator.
But wait – there’s one more

Number 4: Ketodietapp.com/blog/page/ketodiet-buddy (aka The KetoDiet Buddy)
This is another new one for me, and I think I found it through instagram? I don’t really remember.
This one asks the same stuff – height, weight, body fat percentage, activity level, net carbs. However – it gives absolutely ZERO explanation of activity levels. Nada. None. Zilch. Doesn’t matter, since I’m putting ‘sedentary’ anyway, but that’s a bit of a flaw.
And then it gives you a few different eating level options, which is cool. It breaks down your maintenance needs, then a small (11%), moderate (22%), and large (33%) deficit. But I decided to stick with a 20% deficit, so I had to go to ‘custom’ goal and enter -20 to get this:

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-46-41-pm

Which is… not… really… like any of the other numbers I’ve gotten. The protein is LOW, in my opinion, and probably not sustainable with heavy lifting. I probably wouldn’t be hungry on 1388 a day, but it might be rough on cardio days.

So there you go.
I plugged in the same numbers to 4 different calculators, and got 4 very different calorie results, with over 400 calories/day difference between them.
1260 / 1445 / 1659 / 1388

So which one am I sticking with?
I…… don’t know. I really don’t know! All this work, all this research, and I’m still confused. For the time being, I might just average them all out and use that!

That would be 1438 calories:
20g carbs
85g protein (I’m sticking with this number)
113g fat

That’s almost exactly what the averaged result of the Ketogains Calculator told me (1g fat difference), which is interesting. That’s definitely the most involved calculator with the most explanation of the numbers, and I’m inclined to trust it. Or at least try it!

A note: If you DO use the Keto Calculator (which I have! For a long time!), this is the one where your activity level is all-encompassing; I would qualify as “moderately active” on this calculator. For shits n giggles, I went back and re-did my macors on the Keto Calculator as moderately active, and this time it told me 1588. Much higher than before, 100 cals higher than my averaged result, but still not the highest of them all.

SEE WHAT I MEAN? THIS SHIT IS HARD! I’ve been doing this for 3 years and I’m still not sure how much to eat right now. I’m going to try my averaged result (1438) until the end of the month and see how I feel. Hungry? Bingey? Tired? Or satisfied? We’ll see!
Edit: the non-round-ness of 1438 was driving me nuts so I rounded up to 1440 😂

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Intermittent Fasting: It’s worked for me, and then it hasn’t

Ok. So.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) seems to be especially huge in the keto community. Basically, for those of you not up to speed on it, here we go: you set an eating window and you only eat in that window each day. There are other versions – fasting every other day, fasting on weekends, water fasts, dry fasts, all kinds of fasts, every fast – but the most basic is that one. A common split is 16/8: you fast for 16 hours, and then have an 8-hour eating window. Some people push it to the extreme and do 23/1! But 16/8 and 18/6 are generally the ones that I see the most.

From a quick Google search (I adore Google; I live and die by the all-powerful Google), here are some benefits touted by IFers:

  • Hormone changes and cellular repairs: as you fast, insulin goes down, human growth hormone goes up, and your cells heal themselves.
  • Metabolism increase, weight loss, and reduction specifically of belly fat
  • Reduce insulin resistance, which is a big problem for those with type-2 diabetes
  • Reduce stress and inflammation of the body (ok, this one I didn’t know about, and I’m pretty stoked about it because the cholesterol book I’m [still] reading talks a lot about how oxidzed cholesterol and chronic stress are the leading factors in heart disease, NOT saturated fat! So maybe there’s a link here too??)
  • May be beneficial to heart health (ah ok yup, there it is, I kept scrolling and literally the next bullet point is about that…)
  • May prevent cancer
  • Good for your brain
  • May prevent Alzheimer’s
  • Help you live longer

Ok, so those are some pretty big claims. But mainly, I’m interested in point #2 – the weight loss and belly fat one. Because let’s be real here… I want to lose weight and the belly is a good place for it to vacate. If it caused booty fat loss I’d be RIGHT OUT. But I can definitely get on board with losing a little belly. Or a lot of belly, I’m just saying.

I didn’t start start out doing IF when I first started keto in 2014. I don’t believe I took it up until the late summer, when I had already moved to New York for grad school. I can GUARANTEE I heard about it on reddit, my source of all keto info back then.

And for a while, it worked for me! I didn’t drink coffee back then (only afternoon and evening classes, so no need to caffeinate myself awake), I was never a huge breakfast person, and then I would just… push through and have a big dinner. A huge, fucking dinner. I mean 1600 calories in one meal dinner. Do you know how hard that can be to eat? HARD. But I stuck with it, because it was ~the thing to do~ on the keto boards, and I didn’t want to feel left out, or like I was doing keto ‘wrong’ by eating 3 meals.

Looking back, I can pretty much tell the point where it stopped working. A little background on me at the time: I was massively depressed but refusing to admit it, all alone from my family and friends on the other side of the country, dealing with a horrible roommate situation, stressed out of my mind about grad school, and spending many, *many* days in bed trying to avoid life. Healthy, right? What better thing to add onto that than… periodically starving myself? Because if I’m being honest, that’s what it turned into (right around October, when it got colder and darker. Whaddup, SAD). I’d get hungry around 2pm, and I’d stubbornly refuse to eat. NO LUNCH. ONLY DINNER. THE IF WAY. I’d just drink more water, return to my bed, and scroll through tumblr and feel bad. It was… definitely on the very cusp of disordered eating, I can admit now. At the time, I felt like I had no control over anything else in life – my roommates, my lack of a job, my depression, my environment, feeling too stupid for school – so I could control my eating, and lose weight, and that would be productive.

And then it came crashing down and I was sitting in a psych student’s counseling office, sobbing about my life, and it became clear that what I was doing wasn’t working – in many ways – and trying to push myself to be hungry all day, and then painfully full, certainly wasn’t doing me any favors. So I gave up IF, got on medication, and felt better. And still lost weight, I’d like to add.

And then I tried it again last year – right around the same time, September/October. It worked great at first, again! I wasn’t hungry, I enjoyed having a huge 4×4 from In N Out as my dinner (I did learn my lesson and try to have lunch and dinner, as well as black coffee in the mornings), and I lost something like 3lbs in 5 days. Whoosh, goodbye weight! I did fasted cardio in the early afternoons, came home, had lunch, waited a bit, had dinner, and was done by 8pm. I liked having the structured cut-off point: no eating past 8pm. It was nice. Comforting. I’ve been a late-night snacker for a long time, but this was a good way to put a rule on myself to stop it. I liked the reduced hunger. I liked not having to plan out more meals: just coffee, lunch, and dinner. Less thinking. I felt great!

And then it stopped working again. I struggled more with binge eating. I’d feel doubly bad for bingeing and “failing” at IF for eating at 9pm. Or, I’d use the IF window as an excuse – “It’s only 7:45, I have 15 minutes to eat! Better eat everything I possibly fucking can, because *{insert dumb, wrong, disordered, binge-eating reasons}*. Sometimes I drifted back into pushing myself and ignoring my hunger cues, but with an added level of weird competition – ‘someone on instagram did a 19 hour fast? I’LL DO A 20 HOUR FAST TO BE SUPERIOR.’ It was dumb. They weren’t competing with me. It’s not a competition. Eating is not a competition unless YOU’RE IN A FUCKING EATING COMPETITION (capsing that for myself, mostly. I’m a competitive bitch).
I looked into more resources about binge eating, determined to fix that problem. I started reading “Crave” by Cynthia Bulik after a particularly bad binge (on an IF day), and one of her biggest starting tips was to eat breakfast. Every day. I scoffed – but I intermittent fast! Breakfast, schmekfast. And then a few days later, I binged again, and had to face the realization that…. this wasn’t working.

So I stopped again. This time, the tipping point was my birthday. I treated myself to a biiiiiiiig creamy coffee in the morning, instead of my usual black coffee with sweet n low. I love heavy whipping cream, I love coffee – put them together and I am in heaven – and I was just like, “What the fuck? I gave this up? Willingly??? And I’m still binge eating?????” It was like it just… clicked. What I was doing (IF) wasn’t working. May as well try the opposite of that (not IF) for a while. So I got more serious about reading about binge eating (again) and using the tips (like eating breakfast). That was 4 months ago, and I haven’t intermittent fasted since then.

So why am I attempting IF again, if both times I’ve done it, it’s led to… definitely not good mental results? I’m not sure I have a good answer for you on that. Maria Emmerich recommends it in her book “The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse,” and I’m trying to draw a lot of knowledge from that book this month while I get back to keto basics. I feel more prepared this time, more eager to experiment without holding myself to weird, impossible standards. I’m not pushing it to the extreme with 22/2 fasts (yup, I did that a few times. Not fun. Do not recommend). I’m starting slow with 16/8 fasting, and seeing how I feel. If I feel restricted, or tempted to binge, no more IF. If I feel fine, I can try 18/6 – but that’s my limit this time. I want to focus more on spreading out food to take up the whole window, not making the window as short as possible. If I’m starvingly hungry outside of the IF window, I’mma eat. I’ll try drinking water first, of course, because that’s just the smart thing to do – but I don’t want to use IF as a punishment for my body. I want to see if, by being smarter about it, it can actually help me for a little longer this time. In the future, maybe I can stick with 18/6 and do a day of 16/8 a week. Or something. I don’t know! I’m trying to find what works for me – really, really works for me – and this feels like the fairest try I’ve ever given IF, while being in the right mindset about it.

So…. that’s kind of my thoughts on intermittent fasting. And a whole lot more info about my mental health than I’ve ever really shared with you guys (surprise, it is not great, lmao. Ya girl’s a lil cray)
It works for me for a while. And then it doesn’t. But I like to keep trying, because it has all these benefits, and dammit I want those benefits, too! But this…. this feels like my last try. Third time’s the charm, right?

It might work for you. It might not. All you can do is try, and listen to your body.