Sometimes the Status Quo Just Doesn't Suit You Anymore: How I'm Changing my Entire Approach to Healthy Eating

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I'd like to preface this entiiiiiiiiiire blog post by saying that this is an experiment. I'm not yet willing to suggest that this is the correct approach for me long term, or for you, or for any of my clients... BUT I think that it's important to push the envelope. So that's what I'm going to do.

On paper I am the healthiest I have ever been.

I have spent the past year digging into my nutrition, cleaning up my habits, focusing on well rounded exercise, and have brought my running pace down significantly.

...Let's focus on the running for a minute, because that is where I really started to notice this strange shift in my health that caught my attention.

I have been a runner for a few years now... I've run many half marathons, a full marathon, and have averaged about 20-30 miles a week for the past couple of years in addition to my strength training or Beachbody programs.
Nothing crazy, no extreme training plans or anything. But, as I began to train this Spring for another half marathon (at a time when my nutrition is BY FAR the most consistently clean it's ever been) I felt kind of terrible.

Long runs were kicking me right in the gut-- and even as low as 7 miles was causing me all kinds of issues that my fellow runners know all too well. I was also experiencing soreness and fatigue in areas of my body that never have caused me issues before... even after much more strenuous training.
I was baffled. Like seriously, truly baffled. 

When I trained for and ran my first full marathon a few years ago, I didn't give any thought to my nutrition other than that I should be consuming a fair amount of food to make up for the calorie loss, and probably I should be eating like... you know... 1/2 a Freschetta pizza before my long runs.--- haha yeah, true story.
After those runs I'd come home and eat... I don't know... junk probably. Maybe a PB&J or a giant bagel. The point is: I didn't really pay attention at all.

Fast forward to 2016 when I am actively working to improve my health every day and have seen great results from those efforts! 

I have seen great results, but I also feel stuck. I feel stuck with results-- having just completed a new program and not having seen much change at all, feeling like my insides are talking back to me when I'm doing the activities that I love the most, and just wondering in general is there is something more or different that I should be doing.

It was while I was having this back and forth with myself that I happened to listen to a few different podcast episodes that made me question THE ENTIRE WAY we have been approaching nutrition.

...check them out if you're interested in learning more details!

1st was School of Greatness with Lewis Howes; interview with Mark Sisson, author of Primal Blueprint. Listen HERE
   In this episode Mark discusses a bit about his history as an Olympic endurance athlete, the reasons that he came to discover a new way of fueling his own body for greater health, and then the practical ways that he has made the shift in his own life. He's an advocate of a diet that is high in healthy fats, mostly free of grains, and a very limited eating window. We're talking like SUPER limited... like 1pm - 7pm kind of limited.
   I was on board when I listened to this the first time with much of what he said.... EXCEPT for the short eating window. It went against everything that I was learning, teaching, and had used in my own life to experience results! AH! It made me cringe! 
   I put his info in my back pocket as a reassurance that my inclination to have a higher fat diet was good, but other than that I brushed it off as nothing more than thought provoking.

THEN was The Chalene Show with Chalene Johnson; interview with Melissa McAllister, author of The MADE Diet. Listen HERE
   Melissa goes into detail about some experiments that she ran on herself over the course of a few months, with the help of her doctor so that she could have cholesterol and other screenings done throughout the process. She did everything from being completely vegan to having her diet composed of 75% fat. She found that her heart was healthiest during the time of..... DUN DUN DUN... extremely high fat! And that she had more inflammation and cholesterol during her time following a vegan plan.
   She also utilizes the limited eating window that Mark Sisson discusses a bit in his podcast-- but hers a little little bit larger (8 hours), and she also went into a little more detail about why she has chosen to eat this way.

Important points:
- Back in the good ol' days before obesity was running amuck in our society, people didn't eat breakfast until they'd already been up, feeding the chickens, milking the cows, etc. She argues that in order for you to "break" the "fast" there actually has to be a period of fasting. 
- Our bodies don't start burning fat until about 12 hours into a fast... if we don't even let our system get to that point, we can not become efficient fat burners. (insert muffin top)
- Who has pushed the idea that "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!"?.... could it be Kellogg's? Or Quaker? Or any of the other food companies who are merely trying to sell a product? OH CRAP. Had I ever thought about it that way before? NOPE.

After listening to those two podcasts, and doing some reading on my own... I thought, 
"You know what? It can't hurt to try!"

So I decided that after this most recent half marathon I would give this whole limited eating window thing a try!
I already eat a pretty low carb (from grains) diet, and I lovvvveeee my healthy fats... so the types of foods wasn't going to be difficult for me.
What IS going to be difficult is the fact that I am STARVING by 7 am, and anyone who knows me knows that when I get hangry, you better get ouuuuttaa my way!

So here I am! 
I'm taking a couple of weeks to transition, as is recommended by both Mark and Melissa.

I'm going to track my progress each week, along with my food, how I'm feeling, and if I notice any other changes taking place in my body.

*I will be going from a nutrition plan where I ate 6 meals every 3ish hours between about 7 am and 8 pm to a plan where I will consume that same amount of food between 11 am and 7 pm.

I spent last week pushing my breakfast time back... the first couple of days it pushed back an hour, then 1 1/2 hours, then 2 hours... then the half marathon jacked up my whole system and this week I've jumped right into 11 am.
I'm going to stick to my normal foods for the first couple weeks, and then may consider making some adjustments there-- but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it :)

I love the idea of being able to turn my body into a fat burning machine... not only for the obvious appearance changes that that would bring (like finally bringing those abs to the forefront ;) ...just bein' honest!), but because it truly seems like a more efficient way of functioning. We weren't designed as humans to have food readily accessible, so it makes sense that we would be better off by allowing our bodies the fasting periods that they evolved to have.

I'll be pairing this nutrition plan with Body Beast for muscle building, some sprint work for additional fat burning, and some good ol' fashioned regular runs for my soul.

If you're interested in following the journey, I'll be sharing my results and what I learn along the way!
Here's hoping for great results!

With some hesitation, much excitement, and a whole bushel of avocados to eat,

ps...This is a podcast that I listening to this morning from Art of Manliness who also featured Mark Sisson, and that was exactly the reassurance that I needed this morning to start this strange journey!
Listen HERE

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