40 Day Challenge: Feast and Famine

In the past few months I have seen some radical changes in my body, fatigue, energy loss and radical weight gain which paired up with some serious hormonal changes. Without a doubt my yoga practice has helped to keep many of these symptoms from spiraling radically downward, and yet there has been a sense of being dragged down, a heaviness that seems to have settled all around my being.

Thoughts of inspiration have been in my mind and recently I connected strongly with and NPR interview with a scientist about Intermittent Fasting (will link the interview later). Looking into the concepts and practicality of the diet I decided to go for it. Knowing my personal eating habits, the 8 hour feast with 16 hours of fasting, also known as the Leangains Protocol would suit my lifestyle just fine. As someone who always eats breakfast and who's biggest meal is at lunch time, along with my workout and teaching schedules in the afternoon it was a "no brainer". Here is a simple outline to begin with:

  • Set the Intention: Go for a 40 day challenge.
  • Be Inspired: Connect to thoughts and actions within myself and allow POSITIVE external forces help to motivate.
  • Set the Clock: Yes, there is a daily calendar reminder to go off and remind me to begin the fast.
  • Set the Procedure: 8 hour Feast from 6:00am to 2:00pm; Famine from 2:01pm to 5:59am
  • Document the Challenge: Journal daily, only later did this blog concept begin to form as it occurred that others may benefit.

Day 1- Wednesday: Git 'er Done!: Easy, piece of cake, totally got this. Makes sense in my mind, the body will just have to do what I say. Amazing workout, great Pilates session, felt good to be alive and in control. Taught until late this evening, stomach rumbling, hope no one noticed.

Day 2- Thursday: Breakfast was simply DIVINE, tea and toast never tasted so GOOD. Lunch packed, meals and snacks planned. Tension headache developed later in the afternoon after a long meeting, did not get afternoon work out in, crashed in front of the tv, no energy to do ANYTHING. Mind reasoning this is a good, cleansing in a way. Woke up at 1:00am wide awake, stomach is in knots, it is pitta time and where is the fooooooddddd????? Wake full 2 hours, tossing and turning.

Day 3-Friday: Made it through the night, still feel commitment to the process. Better planning of meals, take a snack right at the 2:00pm deadline, ate a mixture of nuts: almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews. Drinking more water, also chewing more gum than usual. Good workout, mixed cardio and weights. Evening Yin practice for the heart meridian to help with sleep. Very mild headache this evening, nothing like last night. 

Day 4-Saturday: Slept better through the night, dog ate the chocolate orange that one of the boys left out. Hope he lives. Weekend cooking with the crockpot to stock up frozen meals for the new week, the New Year. Read the following and the third line hit the mark:

Overcome by yielding;
Unbend by being upright;
Be full by being empty;
Be new by wearing out;
Gain by having little;
Be confused by having much.
— Chinese Proverb

Later, after cardio and strength work, drank A LOT of water and opted for a large mug of herbal tea. Curious that there is more time to get things done without having to stop and think about having to eat, prepare the food and clean up. Definitely a plus! Happily no tension headache, go forward being more mindful of water intake. Yummy aromas from the crock pot did not tempt, seemed content knowing there would be some good eats for tomorrow.

Day 5-Sunday: Slept a solid 10 hours, not at all typical, maybe body is at peace with this, getting in the stride. Thoughts of WOOP in my head, remembered this program from a years ago when I was lacking motivation to complete a few tasks, even made up a form to help manifest the intention, to visualize:

Typical Sunday eating routine, had a huge conflict with the clock, hit the dojang for morning practice then to the Acme, home later than I had wanted to cook rice for the curry made last night in the crock pot. Finished eating 20 minutes past the deadline. Easy evening, settled to watch a movie and made cookies for my son, somewhat tempted, stayed clear.

Day 6- Monday, New Year's Day: Realized that the whole evening felt "normal" thoughts did not drift to my stomach, woke up this morning and was more focused on cooking than eating. Did well after meal clean-up to not nibble during this time. Super thirst in the afternoon, water felt so refreshing, clean. No evening cuppa, simply no desire.

Day 7-Time left after morning practice and noticed strong urge to drink water. Yesterday I began to notice the CLEAR and OBVIOUS difference between being hungry and being thirsty, quite the revelation after 52 years...Going into work knowing we will be short staffed and the morning will be very physically demanding, made breakfast sandwich with clear purpose. Liking the mindful connection of food having, serving, a purpose to our being. 

Day 8- Feeling brave, going to weigh myself today, knowing that it is important not to attach to the number; it is what it is and the dharma is in the effort. A friend shared this recent article in the New York Times about diet strategy; yup it's all in the timing!

Day 9- Reporting NO weight loss, but accepted it for what it was. In the past, the year of Weight Watchers (yes, I'm a Gold Member!) I would have been devastated, felt like a failure. Older? Yup; wiser? For sure! Going into a weight loss program, there is an obvious symbolic attachment as well as that darn physical attachment, we need to DETACH from that which hold us down. Report on rankings of the of the 10 "best" diets of 2018 came out from U.S. News & World Report, more than one way to skin a cat for sure.

Day 10- Snowy start, no AM practice, thirsty as H***, snow removal, early into to work, late breakfast, really thirsty, calming the hunger was EASY.

Day 11- Woke up to search out my water bottle then proceeded to carry it with me everywhere. We have become BFF's, maybe it is this new awareness, possibly the very dry heat that has been running non-stop. Very much aware in the evening that there is still a lot of Christmas chocolate hanging around, used to be a habit to pick up a few candies, will save for another day.

Day 12-Settled into routine, eating fruits and nuts around the end of the "feast" hours works well. Doing well to occupy afternoon with corrective exercises and extra cardio to keep warm! Chewing gum has become a regular habit recently, not entirely sure that it is a good one. Evening tea is a much better habit.

Day 13- Reading reports online about IF methods and effects on women, no medical studies on humans only vastly different experiences. If this new way of eating with awareness has done anything for me is to have helped me to set barriers, redefine limitations and to strategize the day. Here is an interesting look at fad diets through time :


Day 14-Back into the weekly routine, feeling much more focused and more interested in workouts, in particular having to structure them around the new eating plan to help support the fast period has been very motivating. Hate to say this, but feeling more in control, thoughts of The Matrix in my head.  LOST 2lbs!!! Today is Alex's 22nd birthday, we went out for lunch but could not avoid cake later in the evening. Could have easily skipped out on eating the cake, so the fast was broken, back on track tomorrow


Day 15- Back on track, both children will be out of the house and hopefully this will reduce some stress that I've been feeling. More time to devote to my yoga, Pilates, self-repair exercises. Excited for even more gains (or losses???). My sister sent this link, love the visuals and feel inspired:


Day 16- So, well, moon cycle started again after months of thinking everything had shut down. Not sure what to make of this, most definitely loving the return of the energy levels, something that always hit me with a jolt. Mind is clear and focused. Thought I'd go back to charting and am sharing this great link:

In the 3rd millennium BCE, Mesopotamian kings recorded and interpreted their dreams on wax tablets. In the years since, we haven't paused in our quest to understand why we dream. And while we still don't have any definitive answers, we have some theories.

Day 17- Slept like a baby but woke up having had a dream that I was eating a sausage sandwich, kid you not, with fried onions and red peppers. Not sure that I can think of a time when I was eating in a dream. Taking this as a message that my diet needs more protein. There are some other interpretations that would require more journaling...

Heading into the weekend, mindful that my son will be back and how important it will be to stay on track, stay focused, stick to the plan. The mind is inspired to continue with progress, the body is on board and my spirit feels more vibrant than it has in a long time.

Day 18-Second night in a row, slept this time nearly 10 hours solid. Woke up and saw the time and first thoughts were "oh no, I lost half an hour of eating!". Not sure what this is about, the time of year, a need to re-energize or if the body is trying to conserve energy. Felt curiously decadent, kinda that feeling when you eat a super moist, sweet, chocolate cake. Easily distracted this evening, called to snack on something, but grabbed the chewing gum instead and later sipped slowly on a cup of tea.

Day 19- A little scattered today, here there and everywhere, ended up eating a fast lunch, pizza and a salad, when I should have pulled something from the freezer. Yummy soup and curry still left over from my binge crockpot event two weeks ago, but no time to defrost. Stuck to fasting period, that makes up for it, right???

Day 20- Thinking back on choices yesterday, found myself called to being more mindful. Perhaps it was the person who left their shopping cart next to my car after I had gone into shop only to return to discover another driver pulling in next to me just walked right by the cart that she had to avoid. Really? Mindfulness seems to be everywhere today, workshops being offered, conversations on the radio. Even had to call out my youngest on his wants vs. needs. Oh, halfway there!!! Wondering if anyone is actually reading this..

Needs vs wants.jpg

Day 21- Weigh in day, no further weight loss, but still feeling more positive, more focused without being determined to loose this weight. Stay with the intention, perhaps drift a bit (who me???) and then come back to the path, walk the walk and enjoy the journey.

Back to wants and needs; that conversation with my son yesterday replayed in my head and how this concept was playing out in my 40 day challenge. Grabbing a snack or munching on something in the evening was so much more a habit, a definite "want" because my body obviously did not need to eat, most likely was just very thirsty.

Day 22- Late with this update, was travelling late into the evening which was a great way not to focus on food! Arrived at the hotel around 7:00pm but had to get a workout in, felt so good to move after driving over 4 hours. Eating fruit just before 2:00pm seems to be a good strategy to delay any hunger pangs. Was reading about collagen supplements and remembered there were some in the cabinet, so started with that again today.

Day 23- Up early at the hotel, some very light cardio and resistance training in, enjoyed breakfast, nice buffet, but somehow was called to eat a bagel and cream cheese and it was the worst EVER, but I kept eating it! Tasted like cardboard but I justified it by claiming to myself that I needed the extra calories to clean off the snow on the car. What a story! More driving today, a nice lunch provided by our hosts and then a VERY long trip home comforted by a large Starbucks coffee.

Day 24- Bored with breakfast, need something new. Sudden need to bake some breakfast muffins! Went a little overboard but found oodles of ideas for Paleo breakfast muffins that should keep me out of trouble this weekend. Check out the Pintrest board here:

Later in the evening I entered the house, which was so warm and inviting all I could think about was what could I snack on! Where did THIS come from? Thinking overactive root chakra decided to put on the kettle for some tumeric tea. If you have never tried this tea it is awesome! Also going to take some collagen with it to see if this helps to satiate the hunger later.

Day 25- First time in a long while that my energy feels like it belongs to me. Had a great morning practice, inspired to get the day going. Supermarket early am, the best time, and home to cook lunch (crock pot special). Stayed on target and made 5 different types of Paleo breakfast muffins but it was funny, the last batch was made around 4pm and it was instinct to pick on the scraps in the muffin tins, but realized the time and promptly spat it out! Because they lack gluten they are quite safe from The Boys and should last a good 2 months.

Day 26- Reaping the rewards of yesterday's baking frenzy. Funny how easy it is to get your act together once there is the commitment and determination to work towards a goal. Having set the challenge, building new awareness by changing habits seems almost too easy. Don't get me wrong, there has to be a plan to design and execute. Almost feels like I'm more in control, or at least part of the process.

Mind Power.png

Day 27- Added extra collagen, taking a total of 6g a day, 2g spaced out over the day, but this means I am taking 2g during the fast late evening. I'm cool with it because of trying to feel satiated in the evening has been really challenging. First run of the year and first thoughts in my head as I walked through the door were "what is there to eat?", this is a real problem, the mind should not have any say in the matter.

Day 28- Down another 0.5lb, total of 2.5lbs and noticing a subtle difference with how my clothing is fitting. Probably the biggest take away this week was that the slow and steady increase in weight had stopped and that change is possible if you are willing to change. As for food choices, they have been much more positive and purposeful which leads to an interesting read on decision making in Harvard Business Review:

  • Rule #1 Be Less Certain: If I eat this it is going to taste great and make me feel awesome...or is it?
  • Rule #2: Ask "How often does that typically happen?", before this challenge about 100% of the time I would allow myself to snack or eat something even if I was not hungry. When making food choices recognize the options, the choices.
  • Rule #3: Think probabilistically — and learn some basic probability; hmm..This one will ask what are the circumstances and possible outcomes and what is reality of my choices regarding food.

Day 29- Adding the collagen supplement is helping to reduce my hunger pangs, now finding the challenge is so centered in the mind and habits. It has really hit home how the weight crept up on me after my youngest son left for college, that there was some kind of void missing.  Finding the determination to stay away from food is not difficult at all, but understanding these emotional needs is playing big time with my psyche!

Day 30- This collagen supplement has be blown away. No hunger, maybe my body thinks it is feasting on a juicy steak? Ha,got you fooled! Yeah, my ego is in control again and feeling satiated.

Day 32- Weekends present certain obstacles that tend to confuse me. Where I thrive on the boundaries set by a work day followed up with a teaching schedule, things seem fuzzier when I am left to structure eating around private clients, errands, chores and getting a workout it. Perhaps that is why this IF procedure fits me well, sets a firm schedule based on the clock, can still eat what I choose, but a lot more mindfully.

Day 33-Yikes! How did we get here? Another week to go, on the home stretch and thinking about plans for where to take this beyond the 40 day challenge. Seriously thought about going Paleo again, the dairy and the beans are easy, do not eat them now any way, but the flour...not having bread...that would suck my soul. Or would it...This week will center on finding a good Paleo bread and then decide from there. Wish me luck.

Day 34- So, it turns out that I have a bunch of bread in the freezer, by my calculations enough to last 12 more breakfasts. With that said, going Paleo will be delayed until the temptation is removed, actually consumed, and shall restock with non-grain options. Funny, now that this IF challenge has nearly finished, it seems so do-able now to try going back to Paleo which has been a secret plan all along.


Day 35- Still 2.5lbs down, but so OK with it! Still very much a work in progress, feel that an energy shift is happening. "Good things come to those who wait", maybe I'm inspired by the gorgeous Super Blue Blood moon?


Day 36- In a holding pattern, still have urges to snack at night but easy to dissuade myself. The collagen supplement is working well to curb hunger pangs. Eating well, food is nourishment and pairing with physical activity but eager to get outside and run, need to sweat. Cardio on the equipment at the Y is convenient but not feeling the love. Should think about some HIIT sequences at home. Add to the to-do list...

Day 37- Waking up the last few mornings with the water ritual has been great but have also found that I've fallen into a pattern of eating a heavier breakfast; eggs are calling to me big time, need to work out of this habit and rotate through different options. Thinking about the last few days of this challenge I am not sure that this is how I want it to end, with some new habit that does not serve me.


Day 38-What to do next? Start another challenge? Will absolutely continue with the current plan, the weight that was slowly building needs to release slowly and steadily. And I continue to find inspiration in lots of different ways, clothes feel much more comfortable, motivated by my ability and determination to not take my physical body for granted. 

Day 39- Considering my imbalance in my constitution (a Pitta-Vata) have concluded that my Vata is pulling me away from Pitta, a lot of time being spent in contemplation, reading focused mind energy for teaching, work and at home with the two children. At the same time there is a heaviness that is Kapha keeping me grounded, I've found this comfort zone and am happy to oblige. So, to re-connect with the Pitta inside that I know and love I have decided to find water and fire (the two elements of Pitta). Most obvious thing to do? Hit the hot tub and go for a swim.

Day 40- Total lost: 3lbs, but what I gained from this exercise was priceless. A sense of determination, self-empowerment, self-discovery and the ability to change that which no longer serves me. Habits happen. Life happens. There is the good, the bad, the ugly and the AMAZING. Why weigh yourself down, quite literally, do not hold yourself back from all of your potential. Strive to learn, let this be a process of self-evolution.

Best of luck on your journey, may it be filled with wonder, not worry!