Time is an abstract concept with as many interpretations as there are intellectuals and pseudo intellectuals. Sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down to a crawl. When you’re enjoying what you are doing, you stop watching the clock and time flies.
For the past four odd years I’ve been on some version or the other of Low Carb, Keto, or Paleo. Intermittent Fasting, of course, has been my savior and mainstay through thick and hopefully through to thin.
When I hop on to a somewhat-strict version of a diet, I usually start with the awareness that by around the 6 week mark I will start losing steam. Then I white-knuckle it through to day-60. I usually end the challenge by dragging myself over the finish line – blood tests – with the last remaining shreds of my will-power. After the blood tests, I officially get off the strict diet and the fast with a much anticipated – wait for it – bag of plantain chips.
Of late, I’ve been on OMAD – One Meal A Day – not exactly a new beast for me, as Dr.Bert Herring and the 3-5 hr eating window have been my besties for the longest time. This time however, I kicked it up a notch by limiting my eating window to 30 minutes – an intense, action packed, emotionally charged half-hour, as I would soon find out.
I was never too confident or too keen on going much beyond the 2-month mark. Well whaddayaknow! I reached day-75 before I realized that I had been at it for more time than I had initially planned on. The whole experiment was much easier than I feared and was so supremely do-able that I didn’t want to stop just yet.75 days is good, but 100 days is even better. So here I am, celebrating 100 days of strict OMAD, a 100 days of love.
If you are curious about what I eat, how I eat and why the whole world hates me for half an hour every day, there is no way to find out but to read on. Brace for impact!
I plan all of my meals around proteins. I use a generous hand while adding fats. Carbs are the also-rans required to complete the recipe: onions, tomatoes, peppers, greens, cauliflower, cucumber … The fats I use the most are butter, ghee and coconut oil. Cheese has also become a near-permanent fixture on my plate. I end my meals with 5-10 gms of bloomed gelatine.
There are a few takeaways that I got from this experiment. Adequate protein ensures that I stay satiated through the day. Fat is non-negotiable, as is Salt. If I don’t make sure these three critical components are on point, by evening my body makes its protest felt – and sometimes heard – by way of angry growls.
I made this amazing discovery (duh!) that a glass of hot water can quickly help to calm even the most persistent and annoying hunger pangs. On exceptionally demanding days when I am mentally and physically exhausted, I indulge in a cup of Hot Chocolate or Butter Coffee outside of my window. Coffee, even when it is a single serving that is apologetically light, upsets my sleep pattern, so hot chocolate is often what rescues me.
I need to clear the air a bit at this point. Let me put on record that all of the above apply to an ideal ‘good day’ scenario. Alas, as you and I both know, life seldom is a series of fortunate events one after the other. Crap happens. Crappy people happen. Some days you feel like crawling into a cave and living there forever. Life and diet must go on, regardless. Fortunately, as you and I both know, life rarely is a parade of mindless tragedies one after the other. Good things happen, lovely people happen, celebrations follow. Life and diet still must go on, regardless. It is the very nature of Life that at any given time, there will be one too many moving parts, all of which cannot always be under our control. I’m learning to make my diet work for me instead of turning into a slave to my diet.
As a general rule, I’m NSNG – No Sugar No Grains. I don’t eat added sugar or grains. My meals are generally low carb, leaning heavily towards keto. I generally go with keto recipes because that gives me a safe buffer zone even if I miscalculate or over eat. Having said that, I also have the occasional fruit. Mostly it is berries, but I’ve also scarfed down Mangoes, Jackfruit, Guavas and Grapes at times, justifying it with a “But, but, but I’m actually on Paleo!”
Low carb/Keto friendly sweeteners make me feel bloated and give me GI upsets (simply because I overdose on it) and it also makes me headache-ish. Come to think of it, I haven’t had a proper headache in four years since going low carb. Aaaah is there no end to the side-effects of this “restrictive” lifestyle?!
I HATE the taste of ‘regular’ sugar now. The sweetness of fruits, I can tolerate and still enjoy without incident. I have to remind myself though, that there is such a thing as moderation in the dictionary and it might be a good idea to exercise it while raiding the fruit basket.
Relenting to extreme pressure bordering on violence, I tried a bit of chocolate ice-cream recently and spat it out at double speed – to the horror of those watching. I am a notorious chocaholic, and my reputation has been well-earned and well-documented in the past, just in case you were wondering. Correction: make that ‘ex-chocaholic’. Never thought I’d live to see such a day, but here we are eh? My all-time favourite dessert now is almonds blitzed in the blender with one Medjool date, a pinch of salt and a smidgen of ghee. I will eat it straight out of the blender. Yum!
Not all my days are created equal. There are days when I’ve gone off plan. I’ve had off-days ranging from a 3 hour eating window to an 8-hour window. Some days I’ve had two full meals and there are other days where I had these big airy French windows thrown wide open, and grazed throughout the day. When I stray from my plan, I enjoy it fully without much guilt or remorse because I then follow it up with a 36 hour fast. Fasts are always much more difficult after going carb heavy so that in itself is a deterrent to indulging too often.
I eat until I’m comfortably full and sometimes actually push my plate away when my body signals, “Enough, I’m done”. I have great appreciation and gratitude for the food I eat. I have sit-down meals that I eat mindfully, elevating the whole experience to an almost spiritual one. I’m also deadly dangerous during those 30 minutes. Nobody, but NOBODY messes with me while I’m eating. Not if they value their lives.
I’ve reset my system to this “new normal”. I’ve found my niche and I’m comfortable here. A lot of my head space is freed up, now that I only need to plan for ONE meal a day. Unavoidable situations where food plays a central role no longer upset me or my routine. I have the flexibility to choose to fast or to nibble on whatever low carb alternative is available without calling too much attention to my “weird diet”.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Today is day 111 of my “diet” and I know for certain that this is THE ONE that I want to spend the rest of my life with. This is an arrangement I’m happy to follow till I fall off the earth. All diets work for a while and all diets fail after a while. It takes some time and effort to figure out what exactly is your best fit, so when you find it stick to it, because as we constantly remind ourselves, this journey is a marathon and not a sprint.
If you think fasting requires you to fortify all your nerves with TMT steel, think again. I for one, have will power that can be compared to cooked noodles more than anything else. There is an old Arab proverb that says, “Thy strength shall be according to the measure of thy desire”. My desire to be healthy and stay healthy, is pretty strong. I’ve briefly been on the other side of the wellness fence and it is not a pretty or pleasant place to be in. Being the best version of yourself is essentially what self-actualization is all about and if diet helps you to get there, then let’s just say Amen to that.