Saturday, 29 June 2019

Intermittent Fasting: My take on it after 3 months on IF

If you still aren't familiar with intermittent fasting (IF), you must have been living under a rock!

IF is simply a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, hence the name intermittent fasting.
Although some overzealous IF-ers will strongly advise that you stay away from carbohydrates (keto-fasting) or at least, (greatly) limit the amount of carbohydrates that you eat per day, IF actually does not specify which food you should (and shouldn't) eat, but only WHEN you should eat them.
Hence, if you view it from that aspect, IF is not a diet, but more accurately described as a lifestyle, or just an eating habit.

There's quite a few methods of IF currently practiced by many, namely:

 - The 16:8 method: Also called the Leangains diet, you simply eat in an 8-hour feeding window and fast for 16 hours.

- The 20:4 method: Also called the Warrior diet, whereby you restrict your daily eating window to 4 hours and fast for the next 20 hours.

- The 23:1 method: Also called OMAD (One Meal A Day), whereby you literally just eat 1 meal everyday, typically over the course of 1 hour.

- The 5:2 Diet: It's a weekly based method, whereby you consume extremely low calories (500 - 600 calories) on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat as you would usually for the other 5 days.

- Eat-Stop-Eat method: This involves a 24-hours fast, once or twice a week.

The main reason of practicing IF, is for health aspects such as autophagy (cellular repair) and improving insulin sensitivity. It also increases the levels of human growth hormone in our body, and brings about changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection again diseases.

But all those health sciences aside, I'm just going to focus on one of the biggest (and most popular) "side-effect" of IF, and that is weight loss. With IF, you're forced to shorten the amount of eating time everyday and hence, most of us will unknowingly reduce our calorie intake, resulting in an overall weight loss. But of course, this only happens if you do not "compensate" by mindlessly overeating during your eating windows.

Since embarking on my IF journey, I've joined a few FB groups to learn more about this new eating lifestyle from others and I have to say that there's a group of Dr Fung's followers who seems to have a misunderstanding of his theories put across in his book titled: The Obesity Code and goes around giving misinformed advice to IF newbies, telling them calories do not matter, simply because Dr Fung has said that the traditional diet method of CI/CO (calories in - calories out) is a failure.

Well, I have to admit that I have not read the book, nor do I have any intention to, especially after seeing how those seemingly brainwashed readers behaving in a cultish, aggressive manner towards anybody who mention "counting calories" or "tracking what you eat".
I mean... I don't know, was it the book or was it food-deprivation (being hangry all the time) or what?

Anyway, I'm still going to say that CI/CO is a FACT. If you eat in a deficit, you lose. If you eat in a surplus, you gain. This CI/CO equation sets the basis for any form of diet plans you're seeing out there.
As to why the theory of how this CI/CO model is doomed to fail, it's simply because the conventional way of how this model is practiced is not sustainable. Dieters usually gets obsessed with simply counting calories, ignore the fact that a calorie is (in fact) NOT a calorie, and seems to think that our body works on a 24-hour clock and resets our calorie intake/expenditure every time the clock strikes 12 midnight. Following the CI/CO model, dieters also tend to put their bodies on a FIXED amount of caloric deficit every single day (eg. never exceeding 1200 calories a day), which leads to the onset of metabolic adaptation, whereby your body lowers its basic metabolic rate to fit the lower amount of calories you've been eating. As a result, to continue losing weight, you'll just need to further reduce your calorie intake, until you simply cannot keep up with the ridiculously low amount of calories and eventually falling off the wagon.

Now, while I'm still not all familiar with the science of IF (about the hormones and insulin sensitivity), I got myself started on IF simply because I believe that IF is the way to get around the issue of metabolic adaptation, as research studies has shown that dieters doing IF on a calorie restricted diet tends to lose more body fat than muscle mass as compared to those on just a calorie restricted diet. In other words, IF helps us to burn body fat while preserving our muscle mass.

And so, before I get into how I personally did the 3 months of IF, I would first like to share my results!

7 April 2019
Weight: 143 lbs
Fat %: 28.3 (yikes!)
Muscle %: 30.9

23 June 2019
Weight: 135.6 lbs
Fat %: 21.9
Muscle %: 34.2

And in spite of losing nearly 7 lbs, my estimated metabolism has only dropped 18 calories, which... really is negligible.

And so, how did I plan my IF schedule?

While 16:8 is the most common (and easily followed) method, I have to admit that an 8-hours eating window is still too short for me to fit both my work and gym schedule into it. Hence on weekdays, I'm actually doing 15:9, breaking fast during my lunch break at 130 pm and closing my eating window usually with my protein shake 1 hour after my dinner at 1030 pm.
On weekends, as I do not work (I do work half day on Saturday though) and do not go to the gym, I can easily stretch out my fasting hours to do up to 18:6 (not gungho enough to do 20:4).
And of course, I'm on an eat-clean diet for 6 days a week, and every Sunday is my cheatday!

And here's typically what I eat for my lunch on my eat-clean days.

My most commonly eaten carbs is red cargo/brown rice.

And sometimes I treat myself to some quinoa or multigrains (barley, millet, brown rice, and other wholegrains). 

My typical choices for dishes to go along with my self-packed complex carbs will be 1 vegetable, 1 animal protein, and 1 plant based protein from the economic mixed vegetable stall. On my more active days (when I go for two hours workout at the gym), I may throw in one more hard-boiled egg to my lunch for some extra protein. I'll also eat a pre-packed box of fruits (strawberries, blueberries, grapes) along with my lunch meal everyday. :) 

And on some rare occasion when I have dinner plans after work and can't pack lunch, I might even grab some McDonald's too. But it's only their grilled chicken salad with cup corn, guys. Nothing else. And if you've tried the salad, you should know that it's actually pretty tasty but it's such a miserable portion size, hence I prepared my own wholegrain toasts (that also happened to be gluten free but I usually do not avoid wheat) and fresh fruits. 

And while most people skip their breakfast altogether to shorten their eating window into 8 hours, I merely shifted my breakfast to mid-day (and gave up my mid-day protein bar). 
Most of the time, my "mid-day snack" will be a cup of sugarless coffee and two slices of wholemeal bread with 1/2 tbsp of low-fat powdered peanut butter (I'm using PB2) and 1/2 tbsp of sugar-free jam (I'm using Smuckers) or normal peanut butter/almond butter for more taste, as PB2 really lacks the peanut butter taste.

And of course, from time to time I get some "sinful" treats for my mid-day snack as well. This is my favourite "red bean pau", handmade by my lovely neighbour. She calls it Wo Wo Tou (the steamed bun is actually made with rice flour and corn meal instead of wheat flour) and the filling is just mashed up boiled red beans wrapped in a layer of pumpkin mochi. Sounds simple but it's sooooo good! 

And so after my gym sessions, I will get back home for dinner (and try to eat my meal within 1 hour after gym), which is very similar to what I have for lunch (but usually with fish as my animal protein), but all home-cooked (hence less oily, less saucy and less heavily seasoned) and without the starchy carbs. Instead I will have a bowl of soup (such as lotus root pork ribs, radish pork ribs, sweet corn potato pork ribs, korean spicy soft tofu soup etc) for added satiety factor. 

And of course, as I've mentioned earlier, I'll close my eating window with a protein shake at 1030 pm every night. Sometimes, I'll switch out the protein shake for some greek yogurt with frozen berries. On days when I realised that my caloric deficit is too high (I usually target 500 - 600 deficit), I'll give myself a treat of either a serving of Enlightened Ice Cream (low calories, less sugar, more protein), a serving of Khong Guan Marie Biscuits, or a serving of baked almond nuts. 

Predictable, boring diet plan? NO WAY!
Have you forgotten about my Sunday cheatday? Every Sunday, will be the day whereby I forget about the existence of myfitnesspal app on my phone, and eat literally whatever I fancy without caring about my macros or calories. 

The fact that I'm doing 18:6 method on my weekends helps a lot with preventing me from overeating during my cheatday as well. 
I mean, how much can you eat in just 6 hours, right? 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

NZL Travelogue: Cape Reinga, Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes and Waipoua Kauri Forest

And so, day 5 of our New Zealand road trip started off really early, before daybreak, at 5 plus in the morning as we're out to catch the sunrise at Cape Reinga Lighthouse, which opens at 6am. The drive from Tapotupotu campsite up to the lighthouse was pretty short, around 10 to 15 minutes, but extremely winding and dark, for the sun wasn't up yet and there's no man-made sources of lights at all, so do take extra care while driving if you're doing the same as us.

The car park is pretty spacious (and empty, duh it was only 6 plus in the morning) when we got there, with just another vehicle that pulled up shortly before us and another CV/motorhome parked right in the middle, which I assumed that they've stayed overnight at the carpark. The toilets here were spacious and clean, but seemingly locked up (with shutters) at specific timing and do not have electrical lights installed. If I'm not wrong, this area is not listed as a free campground, so you may end up getting evicted if the DOC guy drops by (will they?) and since the public toilets comes without light source and gets locked up after a certain time, do not attempt any (possible) illegal stays if you do not have a self-contained CV.

The actual lighthouse was a 15 minutes BRISK walk away from the entrance, so do buffer in some more time for leisure walking if you're planning to catch the sunrise or sunset. If you're viewing the sunrise, you can consider walking up the hill that's beside (or rather, before) the lighthouse, as the sun rises from the other side of the lighthouse, up from behind the cliffy area of the sea. Hence, I believe the sunset here will be much more stunning as the sun will set at the other side, which will be along the sea horizon directly behind the lighthouse.

And here's a mandatory shot with the lighthouse. HAH!

We came out of the premise/park shortly after the sun has risen, around 7 plus am, as there really isn't much left to do and the crowd is slowly pouring in, rendering photo-taking without any photo-bombers impossible. Seeing that we still have a short while to spare since our next destination is only a 20 minutes drive away and won't be "open" until 930 am, we... went back to sleep for another hour or so before getting up again to make a simple breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches, ham & scrambled eggs and making use of the public toilet to wash up (yayy, saving our own limited water resource!) the dishes.
And after tidying up the CV (switching from night setup to day setup), we set off in the vague direction of our next destination with a unresponsive GPS (there were no signals here around Cape Reinga!) and hoping we'll just get there....

And we did. Whew!

And this is the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes. Sandsurfing, here we come!

Various travel blogs has mentioned that there's a number of sandboard rental kiosks (opening at 930am to 1030am), and the rental fees gets cheaper and cheaper as you go further in. However, when we're there at around 10am, there's only ONE sandboard rental booth in sight, right at the "entrance" to the sand dunes and prices were $10 for a small board (more for kiddos) and $15 for a large board. The guy manning the kiosk will ask for some sort of ID from us, probably to prevent customers from running away with his boards. But since we parked our CV a distance away and we obviously kept all our valuables well locked up in the CV, we offered to hand him the keys to our CV, which he gladly accepted. (Found someone to take care of our keys, yay!)

To get to the sand dunes, you'll need to wad across a small stream of ankle deep water, so do prepare proper footwear (flip flops!) when visiting.

I love how endless the entire place feels (and looks). Like, other than a few other tourists in the far distance, there's just you, sand and sky. And while I did seem very happy and totally "ready for the gram", I have to admit that moving around on the sand dunes, especially climbing up slopes (however TINY they are, as long as it's not horizontally flat), is a total b*tch! As the sand were very soft and just slides off at the smallest disturbance, climbing up a slope is effectively just like walking on a ridiculously elevated treadmill.
I step and I step and I step and I step and I stopped and looked, and I've gotten nowhere. NOWHERE!

But since we've already rented a sandboard, let's take some posey pictures with it like I'm a total professional sand-surfer.

But the BF did make good use of the sandboard for just one time of a serious sand surfing though, and he nearly died climbing all the way up.

After we're both half dead from literally just walking around on the sand dunes, we took a quick shower in our CV (there's no public toilets nor showers nearby, so thank goodness for our self-contained Jucy Chaser!) and headed off to our pit stop destination for lunch, Kaitaia town, which is a 2 hours' non-stop drive away.

I was deciding between The Gecko Cafe or The Wild Belle, both of which has pretty good reviews online, and decided on Gecko in the end for the reviews of their coffee was all pretty good.

Unfortunately, luck wasn't really on our side, for their kitchen was closed for the day and we were left with just a small selection of cabinet food for our lunch. 

And so we got a potato-mushroom (??) salad and a quiche to share. And their coffee didn't disappoint though! 

And the quiche was pretty decent too!

And so, after a quick lunch, it was another 3 hours drive (143 km) down to Waipoua Kauri Forest. 

 But we did have a pit stop in the middle (totally had no idea where were we) for the BF take a short rest.

And after a grueling 3 hours' drive, we managed to arrive at around 5pm. The entrance to the walking trail/park is right at the roadside, so you won't be able to miss it (even though the GPS actually pointed us further in when we set the location to "Waipoua Kauri Forest").

This forest is the home of Tane Mahuta, the country's largest kauri tree, which is approximately 2,000 years old and still growing. Nearly 18 metres to the first branch and 4.4 metres in diameter, Tane Mahuta is rightly called 'The Lord of the Forest'. Another significant tree in Waipoua Forest is Te Matua Ngahere – 'Father of the Forest' – which is estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000 years old. There are 4 walking trails you can take, namely the Tane Mahuta Walk, Te Matua Ngahere Walk, Four Sisters Walk and Yakas Walk.
As we're really pressed for time that day, we just took the 5 minutes Tane Mahuta walk to see the Tane Mahuta tree.

If you're taking the Te Matua Ngahere walk, it will be a 20 minutes walking trail to see the 'Father of the Forest', which has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree. Close by are the Four Sisters, a graceful collection of four tall trees in close proximity. From the same access road you can follow a half-hour walking track (Yakas Walk) to the Yakas Tree, the eighth largest kauri in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, as of June 2019, all of the walks are currently closed for either maintenance or due to discovery of pathogen causing kauri dieback.
Do check out their website for their current status if you're planning to make a visit!

And after bidding our goodbyes to the short encounter with the majestic kauri tree, it was another grueling 4+ (nearly 5?) hours' drive for the BF to get us back to Auckland City for the night.

We were also running low on petrol (yikes!) and if you've been to NZ, you'll know that most petrol station DO NOT open till late. Thank goodness I've CamperMate app downloaded on my phone and with better signals here and there along the way (VERY unstable signals), we managed to find one that closes at 6pm instead of the usual 5pm and made it just in time as they were closing (we reached at around 5:55pm).

And this petrol station definitely has the best scenic view, ever. 

And it's also at this petrol station when I found Barista Bros Coffee Milk. YUMS!

And of course, a road trip in NZ means randomly stopping by the roadside to take however many pictures you want.

By the time we reach Auckland City, it was already nearing 10pm. Was still hoping to be able to meet up with Ron and his wife again for a quick dinner, but everywhere is closed by then. :(

Anyway, our "campground" for the night is Maverick's Yard, a private yard that you can book on CamperMate App. It's just like airbnb, but for only CVs. Charging merely $20 NZD per vehicle per night, the house is a little rundown but still acceptable for the budget pricing. Bathroom is really big but floors were quite wet (probably due to others who has showered before us) and there's no accessories for you to hang your clothes/towels, and the windows won't shut properly. The toilet is dry and clean, but without any toilet paper inside so you got to bring your own. There's extra charges for usage of kitchen, which is in a very bad shape so we're better off cooking in our own CV.
We're also not able to refill freshwater nor dump waste water here, and there's no hookups to CV power, but we're able to use their household power to charge our devices, though not exactly very convenient because you have to leave them charging in the house.

And here's a shot of our humble CV dinner for the night. Scrambled eggs with green peppers and tomatoes, mushroom soup, toasts and hotdogs! 

Day 6 is up HERE

Till then,
Mia Foo

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