Friday, December 23, 2016

Self Experimentation

I stopped eating breakfast. While I was in Russia I decided that, while I was on my own, two meals would be the order of the day. After all, I've read enough about the "overfed American" to feel pretty bad about how much I eat. (It's a lot.) Just before leaving, I'd also read a comment someone made saying that we all still eat as if we're manual laborers even though pretty much none of us are. Plus, I'm cheap and didn't want to pay for more than one meal a day. (Free hotel breakfasts for the win!)
I'm sure other people in the hotel thought that I was, uh, rather piggish with the way I chowed down at breakfast every day, but I was also walking pretty much all day every day while I was there so even two large-ish meals stretched pretty thin.
At a park in St. Petersburg. I didn't notice any hunger
when I had such pretty sights to occupy my mind instead
But, not as thin as I would have expected. In fact, it was great! I'd start to feel quite hungry about an hour before my planned meal time every day (somewhat early, about five o'clock) but I usually didn't notice it too much because I was too busy looking at amazing things to bother with my appetite. So when I got home, I decided to keep it going and see if maybe this would work for me over a longer period of time. Not only would I be eating less (good for my waistline and my bank account), but it would be a heck of a lot easier too. I'd only do this on work days, and eat like normal for weekends and holidays. In part, this is because the Munchkin is small and skinny, and she eats more if I'm eating too.
I realized that, at home, the easiest meal for me to skip would be breakfast. After two weeks at home, getting over a severe cold and normalizing my sleep patterns again, I dove into my experiment. I thought it would be rough to hop on my bike each morning with nothing in my stomach (except, sometimes, water) but I haven't noticed a difference at all. I thought I'd be a slave to the candy dish on my desk (no getting away from it) but I hardly notice it most days. I do drink tea with a splash of half and half in it, but those are the only calories I take in until about 11:30.
It quickly became my new normal. It's streamlined my mornings so that I can sleep in an extra few minutes (yes!!!) and I usually have my lunch all ready to go in the fridge the night before. I pack a filling lunch, but make sure it's quite nutritious since I'm conscious of the fact that I'm taking in fewer nutrients overall. Gotta make them count! It's also not extra large, and I haven't noticed a lack of food.
To make life even easier, a lot of the time I'll make one big meal that I can portion out for quick lunches all week. One of my favorites is this (but with spinach instead of kale, partly because I'm growing spinach).
After a few weeks of this eating pattern, I found out that this is actually a thing called intermittent fasting. There are plenty of studies surrounding the health benefits of fasting, I just hadn't realized that such a short time period would be beneficial. Nor did I think of it as "fasting", which I tend to associate with religious periods of deprivation for spiritual reasons. I know people fast for all kinds of reasons, not just spiritual, but that's the connotation it has in my mind.
Obviously it's far too early to say that it's a huge health boost or anything, but I'm also not feeling deprived at all, the way I thought I would be. In fact, I feel good enough to keep eating this way most of the time. I'm not going to get all super dedicated ("Oh no, I can't eat that, it's out of my eating time period....") but for most days this is what I'm going to keep doing for the foreseeable future. I've not noticed a reduction in small measures of my health, such as my nails (which tend to get brittle and break easily if I'm not getting enough/the right mix of nutrients) and, again, I don't feel deprived in the least. In addition to the lack of ill effects I've felt, I've also noticed already that we've saved a bit on groceries in the last month. Cutting out one whole meal a day, as it turns out, can really drop the grocery bill.
As for weight loss, that's hard to determine. If I was losing weight it was happening very slowly. That's fine, as I wasn't really doing this as a way to lose weight. But mucking up any results I might see in myself, in the last couple of weeks I've been down with a horrible bout of the flu that's made even the thought of food repulsive. When I do eat, it often makes my stomach grumble in protest. In effect, I've been involuntarily fasting. (Which led to me complaining to HusbandX that I ended up eating Christmas cookies "because they took the [hunger] pain away," then trying to redact it. "Wait, forget that I just said cookies take the pain away." Too late.) I've lost several pounds because of this illness but do not recommend that as a method of weight loss. It's been horrible. Get your flu shots.

I am trying to eat from my garden, at least a little bit, every day. Don't worry, I'm failing all over the place. My fall crop of peas didn't come in as quickly as I expected them to, my carrots ran out in October, and the gallon of peas I'd so carefully picked and stashed in the freezer was used up sometime in September. I was really counting on my spinach to carry me through. And for the most part, it has! But it's still not growing as quickly as I'd like, and critters have been nibbling at it from time to time. While I can harvest a few leaves most days, I really do mean a few leaves. Also, sometimes it needs a rest.
One of my plans for the weekend is to pull one of my large planter pots inside and fill it with lettuce and spinach seeds. I can stash it near a window in the garage where it will be protected from the harshest weather but still able to grab enough sunlight. I figure that any little bit of food I grow at this point is a win.
Naked baby in the garden, just before I planted.

But since my winter growing capability is still limited, I've decided to include the pantry items I stashed away over the summer - jams and canned tomatoes of various sorts and applesauces and whatnot - because those are things I either grew or gleaned as well. Why shouldn't they count? It's all food that I don't have to buy, and it's local, and healthy. Plus, this way I can't forget about my pantry items until they get dusty and old.
That has made this experiment more of a success. Having the applesauce on hand has been especially happy during my illness, as I can choke down a few bites of that without having my stomach yell at me for hours afterward. And the kiddo (also sick) will eat an entire (quart) jar in one sitting, practically.
We don't eat much jam in our house, however we discovered a while ago that mixing homemade jam into plain yogurt (basically making your own "fruit on the bottom" yogurt) is fantastic.

In case you're not familiar with it, there's a "no shampoo" movement about. For over a year I washed my hair with baking soda and rinsed with white vinegar. I tried several homemade shampoo recipes, but they were all awful.
In the end, no 'poo failed me. Not because it was actually bad for my hair, it just didn't end up fitting my lifestyle. I have very fine, straight hair. Many people who go no 'poo are able to go for a week or longer without washing their hair, but the most I was ever able to do was four days. Then I'd be a greasy mess. And if my hair got sweaty (hello, exercise) or wet (hello, rainy Seattle) or, worst of all, was ever in a bike helmet (nearly every day), then my hair would get greasy faster and I'd end up needing to wash my hair more frequently. When I started working every day, I quickly realized that not using shampoo wasn't nearly as important to me as actually having hair that felt nice. So I'm back to shampooing nearly every day, albeit with a very gentle baby shampoo. (The same stuff I use on the kiddo.)
What did I keep from my experiment? For one thing, I still use vinegar as conditioner. It's seriously awesome, and my hair doesn't smell, the way you might expect. It's gentle and my hair ends up both shiny and soft, without being over-conditioned and getting greasy really fast.
The second thing I kept was homemade dry shampoo. There are a few recipes I've seen online, and what you use will depend on what color your hair is. I like mine, though, and as a bonus I end up smelling faintly of chocolate. Yum. It's especially useful on my bangs, which tend to show grease faster than the rest of my hair.
Would I recommend that others try going no 'poo? Absolutely. It seems to be most effective for those with coarse or curly hair, many of whom say that they can effectively switch to washing with water only or that they can go for a month between washes. That would be lovely, and good for them. Many also say that their curls are far more manageable and that they've stopped using all hair products. Can you imagine how much money you would save if you never bought any of your hair products? And the time savings....

Switch to a menstrual cup. Seriously, do it. They are life changing. Even better than the money savings and the lack of disgusting garbage, many users (including myself) report that cramps either become less severe or go away entirely, and many people also say that their periods are less severe than they were using disposable tampons or pads. What woman doesn't want those things?
I don't feel my menstrual cup when it's in, to the point that I sometimes forget that it's there. I don't have any problems (like leakage) while biking or running or weight lifting, either. It's seriously been one of the best things to come into my life. (Thanks for the recommendation, Lucy!) So that's why I'm telling you.
I have not (yet) experimented with Thinx panties, of which I've heard nothing but good reviews, nor do I have any reusable pads, but at least one of those options is in my future. I know several women who, for whatever reason, can't bear to use tampons. Either of these options would be great for them, or for those who are squeamish about using a cup. I plan to get one or the other to use as backup for my cup, as my copper IUD means that, some days, I have to empty the cup 4-5 times. That's a little tricky while at work, so I'd rather have Thinx or a pad so that I just don't have to worry about it.
There are so many ways to hack having to deal with a period, and making it less awful, that there are no excuses not to.

Oil cleansing is the shit. Seriously, you have to try it. My best friend mentioned to me once that she'd started washing her face with oil and, curious, I looked it up. Then I tried it. OMG, I'm never going back to normal face cleansing again. This is, like, washing and lotioning in just one step. Only, it's actually better than that.
The only thing I do differently from some (most?) is that I still use a gentle exfoliant on my face about once a week: baking soda dissolved in water. Not much water, mind you, it's like a very liquidy paste. It feels kind of silky between my fingers. When my skin starts to feel rough or like it needs a good scrubbing--every few days--I use the baking soda scrub first and then oil up my face. My one regret is that I do this at night, right before bed, so my skin looks dewiest and pink with health right at the time when no one's going to see it. (Yes, I'm including HusbandX in that. He comes to bed later than I do most of the time.)
Seriously, it's awesomesauce. You should try it.

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