Update on The Joy of Less

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Grain-free Banana Chocolate Chip Donuts or Muffins

I found this recipe on Facebook first. I clicked on the photograph because it looked so freaking delicious. Irresistible! When I read the list of ingredients, I said YES! Healthy AND yummy! I ran straight out to Trader Joe's to purchase some coconut flour and fresh bananas. I already had everything else on the list.

Here is the link to the original recipe (baked into donuts instead of muffins.) http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/coconut-flour-chocolate-chip-donuts-glutendairy-free.html?t=JERF

You can bake this batter into either donuts (if you have a donut pan) or muffins. I changed the recipe slightly, as usual. I decided to delete the cinnamon as I wanted the nutmeg to shine through, and I find its flavor gets lost when combined with cinnamon. I used regular milk, but you could substitute coconut milk or any nut milk. I used honey for the sweetener, but you could substitute agave syrup if that's your preference. I also substituted vanilla for the almond extract which I find overpowers everything. I added some shredded coconut on top of my donuts, too.

Do NOT substitute wheat or nut flour for the coconut flour. The ratio of wet to dry ingredients will be WAY off! Coconut flour needs LOTS of moisture (in the form of eggs!) to make it work properly.

  • 6 eggs
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil , slightly melted
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 6 tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 ripe bananas, diced
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate) 
  • shredded coconut, optional
Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, melt coconut oil. Add honey and stir to combine. Add eggs and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients, in the order given, stirring after each addition. Do not add shredded coconut! Spray muffin tins (or donut pan) with coconut oil. Fill tins 3/4 full as this batter will not rise much. Top muffins or donuts with a sprinkling of shredded coconut. Bake at 350F for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Test with toothpick for doneness. Let sit in pan until cooled. Remove and enjoy! Makes 9 donuts or muffins or a combination of the two.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Questions about Fasting

If you are considering joining me on my exploration of fasting, you might have questions. Today, I'm going to try to answer some of these. If I neglect to cover your particular concerns, please be sure to leave me a comment below. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find out for you!

To clarify in advance- I am discussing a particular type of intermittent fasting today: a daily fast of 16 hours (8pm-12noon) with an 8-hour feeding window (12noon-8pm). This is only one specific method of fasting; there are numerous other possibilities.

Q: Can I drink while I'm fasting?

A: Yes! During your fasting window, it is highly recommended that you drink plenty of water. This will help reduce your hunger pangs, keep you well hydrated, and help you feel better while not eating. Other excellent beverages are herbal teas, black coffee, black or green tea, bone broth, and sparkling water. During the fasting window, it is important to eliminate all sugars, so no juices of any kind. And while diet soda might not contain sugar, it has been shown to produce a reaction in the body similar to that of sugar, so better to avoid this.

Q: What about alcohol?

A: Alcohol contains sugar, so this should be avoided during the fasting window. However, during your feeding window, alcohol is not prohibited. In fact, nothing is prohibited.

Q: So what can I eat during my feeding window?

A: Anything you like. There are no wrong foods when it comes to your feeding window. Of course, it is preferable to eat nutritious foods whenever possible! But if you feel like having a treat, there is no need to tell yourself no. However, you don't want to go hog wild. It is recommended that you eat whatever you want, but a reasonable amount. Eat until you feel satisfied, but not stuffed.

Q: Does my fast have to be 16 hours long?

A: No. 16 hours is an arbitrary time limit. However, you will want to try to extend your fast for at least 10-12 hours, or more if possible. It takes the body about 10-12 hours to run out of glucose and switch over to fat burning. The longer you spend in the fat-burning part of your fast, the more benefits you will accrue, including fat loss. If 16 hours seems impossible, you might start with 14 hours. Keep in mind that you are in charge! You can adjust your fast as you see fit. When 16 hours becomes comfortable, you might choose to extend your fast even longer.

Q: Does my feeding window have to be from 12noon-8pm?

A: No. You can adjust your feeding window to make it work for you and your lifestyle. If you cannot skip breakfast, you might want to eat breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, and an early dinner at 3:45. You could then fast from 4pm to 8am. If you like to sleep in late and stay up all night, you might like your feeding window to be from 4pm to 12midnight! I personally find 12noon-8pm to be very comfortable, but you can arrange your fast any way you like.

Q: Will I get headaches? Feel weak and dizzy?

A: Everyone is different, so it is impossible to say for certain how your body will respond to intermittent fasting. Despite the fact that fasting is natural for humans, most of us do not practice fasting on a regular basis. If you tend to rely on carbohydrates for the bulk of your diet, it is possible you will have to deal with low blood sugar issues when fasting. This might mean headaches or dizziness. One cure is to make sure you consume plenty of protein and fat, and cut back on sugar, during your feeding window. Also drink plenty of water, before, during and after your fasting window, and add some bone broth during your fast.

Q: Should I avoid exercise while fasting?

A: There is no need to avoid any activity while fasting, as long as you feel up to it. Exercise is recommended as it uses up any glucose still floating around in your system, and thus promotes increased fat burning. If you are trying to lose fat, exercise plus fasting will be doubly effective!

Q: How much weight will I lose?

A: Again, everyone responds differently to fasting. The good news is that short bouts of fasting, like we're discussing here, lead to fat loss without the loss of muscle mass. Low calorie and crash diets tend to mean muscle loss which leads to decreased metabolism and the tendency to quickly regain the weight. On average, people using intermittent fasting for weight loss lose about 1-2 pounds per week. The more fat you have to lose, the more quickly you tend to lose it, so this will vary.

I hope I've covered some of your questions and concerns about fasting. If not, leave a comment below and I'll do my best to get you some answers!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Let's Get Started with Intermittent Fasting

So you've heard about the MANY benefits of fasting and you've decided to give it a try? Great! But where do you start?

The answer is absolutely anywhere you please!

Fasting sounds formidable. (At least, it did to me.) But you are the choreographer of your own fast. You can be kind and gentle with yourself when you're fasting. You can listen to your body. You can take baby steps, like me, or bigger steps if you feel ready.

It is perfectly fine to begin the foray into fasting with a longer fast. Of course, a longer fast (24-48 hours, perhaps) might feel a bit too intimidating as a starting point. Many doctors recommend doing longer fasts (like a 4-day fast) under supervision. There are clinics all over the world which offer this exact service. If you have loads of money, you might want to go this route. Of course, with any fast, whether you are at home or at a clinic, you can simply stop if you feel sick or just uncomfortable.

I have decided to begin with fasting for 16 hours out of every 24. This leaves an 8-hour feeding window each day. I have chosen to skip breakfast (gasp!!!) on a daily basis. My feeding window opens at 12 noon and closes again at 8pm. For me, this is totally doable and very comfortable. (I must confess, I have never been a big fan of fasting. I HATE deprivation of any sort. And going without food seems like the very worst form of deprivation. I have never managed to fast for a full 24 hours. But I assure you, this type of intermittent fasting is not difficult at all.)

Now, you might already skip breakfast most of the time. This is pretty common. If you aren't much of a morning eater, fasting for 16 hours each day will probably be super easy for you. You can even enjoy your morning coffee or tea during your fast! (Black is recommended, as this has close to zero calories, and definitely do not add sugar.) Just hold off on eating anything else until noon. I find that staying busy and active during the morning hours helps take my mind off eating. I have hunger pangs, but they are very minimal and nothing disturbing. I have lifted weights, walked the dog, gone shopping, practiced zumba, cleaned the house, led bootcamp workouts, all while fasting. I find I have plenty of energy.

The really nice thing about using intermittent fasting for weight loss is that you can eat as you please during your feeding window. If you are craving a treat, you can have it. Strangely enough, it has been shown that eating the exact same amount of calories spread out throughout the day causes weight gain when compared to eating them within an 8-hour feeding window. Fasting switches the body over to fat burning AND helps insulin work more effectively once eating resumes. WIN WIN!

Over time, fasting will shrink the size of your stomach, so even when you have the opportunity to eat, you may find yourself naturally eating less. This will help you continue to lose weight as you acclimate to longer fasting periods. Again, you will not feel deprived. Instead, you will feel full and satisfied with a smaller amount of food.

My next step might be to reduce the length of my feeding window. But I don't plan on changing this any time soon. I've only just started this regimen and I want to continue for most of December to see if it works. I am using my waist measurement as a yardstick for my progress. I'll keep you updated!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The MANY Health Benefits of Fasting

For those of us who love food and eating, why on earth would we choose to put ourselves through the "horrors" of fasting? Abstaining from the sheer joy and pleasure of constant eating? Who would willingly choose such misery? Yes, I'm still on about The Fast Diet and the concept of intermittent fasting.

First of all, let me assure you that there are zero horrors involved in this diet. Quite the opposite, in fact. Fasting can induce feelings of happiness, even euphoria, in many cases. Although many of us avoid hunger as if it heralded certain death, hunger is really just a passing state. When we fast, hunger doesn't grow and grow until it becomes a terrifying boogeyman the size of Godzilla. Instead, hunger comes and goes. If you wait a few minutes, those pangs will pass.

Second, there are many valuable benefits to fasting. These benefits go way beyond weight loss. Fasting is a form of hormesis, similar to exercise on a cellular level. When you lift weights, you inflict tiny tears in the muscles. The reparation of these tears is what makes muscles stronger. When you fast, you cause a similar type of stress on a cellular level. This stress switches on "repair genes" which can "clean up" areas in the body where inflammation is causing trouble. Studies have shown that fasting can even switch on stem cells and regenerate the immune system. (See The Fast Diet for more information on this process.)

Fasting might also make you smarter! Studies using mice have proven that fasting actually stimulates stem cells in the brain to grow into new nerve cells in the hippocampus--the memory center. Researchers believe that this type of cell growth may have helped our ancestors survive during times of famine.

Because fasting forces the body to switch over from burning glucose (which will always be burned first when it is available) to burning body fat, the pancreas can take a break from pumping out insulin. This is crucial for those who are developing insulin resistance or diabetes. This switch makes cells more sensitive to insulin when food is reintroduced, thus lowering blood sugar levels. In order to switch over to fat-burning, one must fast longer than 10-12 hours. Increased insulin sensitivity will reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

Are you convinced yet? Would you like to experiment with me using intermittent fasting? Tomorrow I will discuss step one!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Who Should NOT Fast?

As I mentioned yesterday in my post about The Fast Diet, I am experimenting with intermittent fasting. Currently, I am exploring the possibility of losing weight, feeling better, and getting healthier by narrowing the window of time during which my body is dealing with food. It appears that extending the number of hours per day during which the body is fasting can produce lots of positive health benefits.

Intermittent fasting isn't difficult. Basically, it involves skipping a meal. I have chosen to skip breakfast, so I am eating between 12noon and 8pm daily. My goal is not to add any extra calories during my feeding window--only the same amount I'd normally eat during those hours. This amounts to a 16 hour fast. It seems to take the body about 10-12 hours to use up all the glucose normally in the blood stream; once the glucose is gone, the body should switch over to fat-burning. Thus, the 16 hour fast should result in at least 4 hours of fat-burning daily.

Most Americans, about 66%, are overweight. At least a third of us are obese. Many are dealing with diabetes, pre-diabetic conditions, or insulin resistance. Most of this population will benefit from this diet. However, some people should avoid fasting.

1) Anyone pregnant or nursing should NOT cut back on calories, especially protein and fats. Growing and feeding a baby is hard work and demands a lot of nutrition.

2) Children should not limit their nutritional intake by fasting.

3) Anyone with an eating disorder should not fast. Get professional treatment instead.

4) Those who are underweight, or currently ill, should avoid fasting until healthy enough.

5) Anyone concerned about the possible repercussions of fasting should check with a doctor to make sure it is safe.

In the coming weeks, I'll be posting more about fasting, its benefits, how to succeed at it, and my own progress. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The 5:2 Diet (AKA The Fast Diet)

As usual, I am way behind the times. My aunt told me about this diet while I was visiting England this past summer. A friend recently shared that her daughter and her husband have both lost significant amounts of weights using this plan. The Fast Diet, written by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, is not a new book; it came out originally in 2013. And fasting is certainly not a new concept in the field of weight loss.

I've written several blogs about fasting in the past. (I went back and reread them to make sure I cover new ground here, even if this concept is less than new.) I even tried intermittent fasting, although it's been a few years, and I'd completely forgotten I gave it a go back in 2012.

If you are a fan of the whole Paleo lifestyle--eating and working out like our ancestors--then fasting should fit right in with your plan. There is nothing more "natural" or "ancestral" than fasting. Back in the old days, there were times when food was scarce. Winters meant doling out the preserved food in the pantry, little at a time, to make it last until spring. Hunting for food meant there might be times where nothing could be caught. People had to be able to cope with hours, days, and possibly even weeks when little or nothing was available to eat. And we are built to endure these times.

More than just endure, in fact. Fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. By reducing inflammation of a cellular level, fasting reduces the chance of diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's--all diseases linked to inflammation. Cleansing happens at a cellular level when we abstain from eating.

But don't worry. The 5:2 diet does not encourage long periods of starvation! Quite the opposite. This diet takes the concept of fasting and simplifies it so that absolutely anyone can do it. The diet is flexible, forgiving, and so easy, I think I might even be able to handle it.

Basically, you select 2 days per week to "fast." However, during those "fasting" days, you are allowed to consume 500-600 calories. (500 for women, 600 for men.) Because the calorie count is kept so low, you will reap most of the benefits of pure fasting. But eating a small amount might feel more doable than a complete fast. On the other 5 days of the week, you are free to eat as you please. If you desire a treat, that's perfectly acceptable. As long as you don't go hog-wild and replace all the calories you missed out on during your fast day, you will lose weight on this program. And you will gain in many other ways!

This diet has been thoroughly tested on both men and women. A group of 200 women in one study lost an average of 8 pounds of body fat over the course of 2 short months on this diet! Now 8 pounds may or may not sound like a lot to you, but this is not an 8 pound weight loss--this is body fat loss. And quite impressive! (Not water weight, not muscle loss!) This is the ideal for dieting: fat loss without muscle loss. As we all know, muscle mass is crucial for maintaining your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the more calories (and body fat) you tend to burn.

The Fast Diet contains a vast Q&A section where you will definitely learn all your need to know about how to implement this diet. In addition, there are photographs of possible fast day menus and recipes for all the meals included. The foods you are encouraged to consume on fast days are nutrient-dense, mainly protein and veggies, along with some fruits. Caffeine is fine, but alcohol is definitely discouraged, along with all empty calories. When you are only eating 500 calories in a day, you want every single calorie to count!

During the month of December, I will be experimenting with The Fast Diet. I may just try intermittent fasting again (eating during an 8-hour window) or the 5:2 plan. I'll be sharing my discoveries with you along the way. Anyone interested in joining me?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Two Pies are Better than One!

Although I am only cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the four of us this year, I still want our dinner to feel like a feast. A whole turkey, plenty of side dishes, plus two pies for dessert. I think that should do the trick!

Originally, I was contemplating two different kinds of pumpkin pies. I already shared a link with you for Christopher Kimball's new Thanksgiving recipes. I made the Pumpkin Tart (see photo above!) from this collection. But I made a last minute switch after reading through this fabulous cookbook I found at the library:

Dora Charles worked for Paula Deen for 22 years. She managed the kitchen in The Lady and Sons for Paula during her rise to fame and is clearly responsible for a large portion of Paula's success. Her cookbook features down home recipes that make my mouth water. In my opinion, Southern cooking cannot be beat. I am a New Yorker by birth, but a Southerner as far as my tastebuds are concerned.

So I switched from a second pumpkin pie to a Coconut Pecan Pie. The recipe looked so easy, so yummy, and so unique, I had to try it! Most pecan pies call for corn syrup, which I don't particularly like, but this one doesn't. Dora Charles recommends using a store-bought frozen pie crust, and I got right on board with her suggestion. Who doesn't love saving time and effort? And I absolutely abhor making pie crust from scratch. I hate every step of the process, especially the rolling out of the dough and fitting it into the pie pan. So many steps; so many opportunities for me to screw it up! My sweet husband searched the frozen foods aisle until he came up with a frozen crust made from lard. Perfect.

Pre-bake your pie crusts by lining them with tin foil and filling with pie weights (see photo above). In this case, I used dried black beans. After using, you can recycle the beans over and over as pie weights.

I made a few very minor changes to Dora Charles' recipe. Instead of 4 eggs plus one extra yolk, I skipped the extra yolk. I substituted coconut oil for the melted butter. I think butter would also be fabulous, but I was going for a deeper coconut flavor. The vanilla extract is prominent in this pie, so do not omit this!


One deep dish pie crust, prebaked for about 25 minutes at 350F
4 large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or grassfed butter)
1 teas. vanilla extract
2 teas. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, beat the 4 eggs with the 2 sugars until completely dissolved. Add melted oil and beat thoroughly. Add the rest of the ingredients. Pour into pre-baked pie shell. Bake on top of a cookie sheet for about 50 minutes, or until completely set. Let cool. Serve topped with whipped cream. Makes about 8 servings.