About Dietitian on a Diet

Becki Parsons is a dietitian with a Master's degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. She wanted to pursue accurate and up-to-date nutrition recommendations, as well as a way to understand the struggles of patients, clients, and well, everyone who eats for health. Thus, dietitianonadiet.net.

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Today marks the completion of my first week on intermittent fasting! I’m sitting here waiting for my eating window to open, so I figured I might as well hammer out a blog post. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go here to read about my intermittent fasting experiment. Here’s a quick rundown on my week:

How it went:

It’s been a little rough, to be honest. I’m starving in the mornings waiting to eat, pretty much no matter what I’ve eaten the night before. My hunger was a little better when I hit my macros perfectly (or darn close) the day before. At the beginning of a day, it feels impossible to be satisfied once I start eating, then I find myself stuffed with only two hours left to go in my eating window. Then I’m feeling like I should eat because my window is about to close and I know I’ll be starving in the morning if I don’t eat. As I am generally a promoter of intuitive eating (creating an eating schedule based around your body’s own natural hunger cues), this is totally backwards to me. I’m not eating when I am hungry, and I’m eating when I’m not hungry. Not to mention the fact that when I’m starving, I’m much less likely to choose healthy options. For me, my desire for Cajun tots and nachos with cheap, plasticky cheese is directly proportional to the length of time I’ve been hungry. Thus, I struggled to stay within my fat goal. Hunger cues are adaptable, so I’m curious to see if these issues improve in the next two weeks.

I haven’t been hungry most evenings, even though I stop eating at 6 pm and don’t go to bed until around 10 pm. That’s not too much of a surprise, since I’m typically hungry every 4 hours or so normally.

One pleasant surprise: working out while fasted has not been that tough. I like to work out in the mornings and did not want to change that schedule even though I was fasting, but I was worried. I get low blood sugar, especially when exercising, so I was really concerned about completing my normal workouts while fasted. Turns out, working out actually distracted me a bit from my hunger. I did schedule my workouts to end right at 10 am as my eating window opened, because I’m always extra hungry right after my workout. That part has been going great!

What I’ve learned:

Intermittent fasting is probably a great option for a certain type of person – an intermittent fasting “candidate,” if you will. This person is probably not used to eating breakfast or can easily skip breakfast without too much notice, likes to eat larger meals, doesn’t have issues with high or low blood sugar, and has irregular or non-existent hunger cues.

On top of that, a good fasting candidate has a schedule that can work with their fasting instead of against it. Because I work from home, I am mostly able to eat when my window opens, but I have thought about the fact that if I were working my former full-time job, it would be very difficult to follow intermittent fasting. I can’t imagine waiting any longer to eat than 10 am, and 10 am would not be a realistic time to eat at my desk job.

It’s also possible that this person has a sedentary lifestyle so they do not need to eat often to meet their energy needs. I often teach about matching energy needs with energy intake throughout the day, which is tough to do if you’re active for 12 hours but only able to eat for 8.

If these characteristics describe you, you may be a great candidate for intermittent fasting.

How I did and what changed:

  Goal Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6    
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams    
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams    
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams    
Weight change   0 lbs    
Body fat % change   -.5%    
Waist measurement change   -1″    
Hip measurement change   0”    
Thigh measurement change   -1″  

 

Even though my weight stayed the same, I did lose an inch from my waist and another from my thighs during this week. One of the claims of intermittent fasting is that it will promote fat loss, particularly in the abdominal area. My scant week on the diet shows that could be the case! Keep checking in for more updates on what the research says about intermittent fasting.


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Emily Arger, Certified FASTer Way to Fat Loss Coach

For some, intermittent fasting can mean a significant lifestyle change that can have challenges to implement. I myself have struggled a bit with hunger and fullness at inconvenient times throughout my few days on intermittent fasting. I chatted for a few minutes with Emily Arger, Certified FASTer Way to Fat Loss Coach and creator of the 7-day Whittle Your Waist Mini-Course. Emily coaches women on following an intermittent fasting lifestyle and also provides 25-30 minute home workout plans to these ladies. Check out her answers to some of my questions about intermittent fasting:

How did you first learn about intermittent fasting?

I actually heard about it before I had my kids – I read a book called Eat, Stop, Eat by Brad Pilon about the benefits of fasting. It’s a great book, but it was actually a bit different from what I teach now. I read it and it was intriguing, it was different. At first it was never something I intended to coach. I thought people might think I was crazy, because we are so ingrained with the idea that we need to eat 5-6 meals per day. It wasn’t until much later that I actually picked it back up again, after my kids were a little bit older.

What made you want to teach intermittent fasting?

I had done a lot of measuring and using containers to portion foods and I was so over that. I kept asking myself if that was a lifestyle that I wanted my clients to live forever, and the answer was no. When you master the intricacies of intermittent fasting – making sure you get in your macros and eat enough – and once you adapt to [intermittent fasting], there is so much freedom in it. That’s why I wanted to start sharing that with the ladies I work with.

What is your favorite thing about intermittent fasting?

Honestly, the ease. The ease and freedom of it. The ladies who go through the first few days of Whittle Your Waist start off thinking that they can’t do it, but once they adapt to it, they love the freedom of it. They say, “Hey, I’m not that hungry and I’m not spending my entire day thinking about food anymore.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge of intermittent fasting?

I think it’s definitely making sure you’re getting enough. I know that sounds crazy, but once you get used to it, it can be tempting to get to 10 am or noon and say, “Hey, I’m not hungry yet” and they try to push that window a little bit farther, but when they start so much later, it’s a big challenge to get say, 1800 calories in in only 6 hours. It’s important to plan things out, especially at the beginning, and get a coach if you’re struggling to meet all your macronutrient and micronutrient needs in such a small window.

What’s your #1 piece of advice to someone wanting to try intermittent fasting?

I would say to seek out the scientific-based research on it, because we’ve been inundated with these myths like “you have to eat every 2-3 hours” or “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It’s important to read the research yourself to understand the benefits of intermittent fasting and how it’s good for you. Otherwise, you’re going to read a magazine or something that tries to tell you that what you’re wanting to do isn’t right and it gets confusing. It’s important to ground yourself in the research so you can really understand why intermittent fasting works and what it does for your body.


Yesterday was my first day following an intermittent fasting lifestyle. I’m using a 16:8 protocol – if you want to know more about that, you can read my last post here. I chose to make my eating window from 10 am to 6 pm. Read on to see how the first day went!

6:30 am Woke up. Usually this is when I get my breakfast ready, but not today! Got my boys sent off to school.

7:00 am Made and drank some green tea. Since I’m a big breakfast eater I was a little concerned that waiting until 10 am would be a struggle. I made genmaicha green tea because it’s made with toasted rice and has a bit of a savory flavor – I thought maybe it would help trick me into thinking it’s a little more substantial. Then I got to wondering: genmaicha has actual bits of toasted rice steeped in it…does it have calories or carbohydrates?? Had to look it up. Good news – it has neither! Genmaicha is good to go during my fasting window.

7:30 am Had my first teeny desire to eat. Drank more tea.

8:00 am This is my normal workout time. I decided to postpone it half an hour so that I could eat right after my workout. In the past I haven’t done well working out on an empty stomach. We’ll see…

8:30 am Workout time. Tummy is growling big time…I’m 32 oz. of tea in. This not eating has been great for my hydration!

10 am Food! Finally! Toast with avocado, poached egg, curry, and garlic.IMG_3796

10:30 am Still feeling hungry – I went ahead and made my typical post-workout protein smoothie and drank it. Still not totally satisfied.

11:45 am Ate lunch – leftover salmon, stuffing, and salad. Still not satisfied…this is getting old already. I need to work on adjusting my portions to fit a smaller eating window.

2:30 pm Feeling hungry, ate a yogurt.

4 pm Realized I have to start dinner soon if I’m going to get it ready, take my son to practice, and eat before 6 pm. That will take some getting used to!

5:30 pm Ate dinner – whole wheat pasta, chicken breast, and roasted vegetable sauce. I got a little panicky about the thought of not eating until 10 tomorrow so I overdid it a bit…I had two bowls of pasta then chased them with some apples and caramel sauce. I ended up hitting my protein goal for the day but being a bit behind on calories (200 calories), carbohydrates (20 g), and fat (12 g). I felt stuffed.

7:30 pm I’m still stuffed, but it’s nice to be all done with worrying about cooking, cleaning, and snacking so early in the night.

 


 

 

Photo from medium.com

Photo from medium.com

Intermittent fasting is a big time buzz-phrase these days. I see people posting about it on Facebook and Instagram, some of my fitness-savvy friends advocate for it, and I read an article about it in Women’s Health magazine. I’ve seen a teensy bit of research floating around but I’m ready to dig in and really see what it’s all about and whether or not it’s something I might incorporate into my practice.

Today I started my own intermittent fasting experiment. I will be trialing an intermittent fasting lifestyle for the next 3 weeks to practice it, research it, and teach you about it! Along the way, you’ll get all the details of how I’m feeling, whether or not my weight, measurements, blood pressure, or heart rate change, and how cranky I am (I’ll let my husband score that one – for objectivity’s sake). For today, let’s go over some basics of intermittent fasting:

What is intermittent fasting?

Boiled down, intermittent fasting basically means alternating between eating normally and restricting your food intake on a regular schedule. This manifests in many different styles. Some of the more popular protocols are detailed here:

  • 16:8 or 20:4 – This is a daily goal to limit time spent eating during the day, making the nighttime fast longer. In a 16:8 schedule, people fast for 16 hours each day and limit their eating to an 8-hour window each day. This is the protocol I will be using. In a 20:4 schedule, people fast for 20 hours per day and limit the eating window to four hours.
  • Alternate-day Fasting – I’ve read about a few different schedules under this name, but the most common is a 5:2 schedule. In a 5:2, you would eat normally 5 days of the week, and 2 days during the week (you can split them up) you fast entirely or restrict intakes to 500 calories per day.
  • Extended Fasting – In extended fasting, folks avoid eating or restrict the types of foods they eat for longer periods of time, anywhere from 2 days to several weeks or months.

 

Can you eat anything during the fasting period?

That depends on the type of protocol you’re following, but best I can tell, most protocols recommend only calorie-free beverages like black coffee, tea, or water during the fasting period. Anything with calories breaks the fast.

 

Are there limits to what you can eat during your eating window?

Generally, no. Most websites and researchers recommend eating healthful foods, of course, but there are not too many limits. Some protocols advocate for tracking what you eat to make sure that you meet your macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) needs during the eating window. Other plans allow intermittent fasters to eat however much they choose. The end goal is to eat as much food as you need, just in a shorter period of time.

 

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

There have been many claims about the purported benefits of intermittent fasting. I’m working through the research on a bunch of them and I will let you know what I find out in a future post! In what I’ve read so far, supporters of intermittent fasting report improvements in:

  • Focus, productivity, and mental performance
  • Stress resistance
  • Longevity
  • Resistance to chronic diseases like diabetes, cancers, and Alzheimer’s
  • Fat loss, especially belly fat, while maintaining muscle mass
  • Inflammation levels
  • Blood pressure and heart rate

 

How does it do all that?

Honestly, I have a bit more research to do in this area but I will keep you up to date as I learn more. In the initial articles I’ve read, the authors credit ketosis as the cause of many of the benefits listed above. When humans fast for or avoid carbohydrates for a prolonged period of time, they basically run out of glucose energy from food, so the liver starts producing ketones to use as an alternative energy source. It’s sort of like a tank of gas on a hybrid car – if the battery runs out, you can run on gasoline instead. What I need to learn now is why supporters of intermittent fasting believe these ketones are so beneficial. I have some reading to do!

 

What changes will you be making?

I’m starting out by using a 16:8 protocol and setting my eating window from 10 am to 6 pm. There will likely be a little trial-and-error involved, I imagine. I’m keeping my workouts the same (30 mins cardio, heavy weight lifting, and 30 mins yoga 5 days per week) and eating the same types of food I usually do. I expect that I may have to play with my workout schedule a little bit since I haven’t done well with working out on an empty stomach in the past. Tune in tomorrow to see how I did on my first day!


Thanks for your votes! You have selected my next diet – intermittent fasting!

Starting Monday, I will follow the intermittent fasting lifestyle for three weeks. There are many possible ways to implement intermittent fasting, and I will be researching and detailing them in the days to come. Stay tuned to learn more about this popular diet!

 

We have a winner!


TIME TO VOTE!Be sure to enter your vote for Dietitian on a Diet’s next feature! The runners-up are:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This is a style of exercise training that involves training at…well, high-intensity intervals. This pattern of exercise involves alternating between lower- and higher-intensity bouts of exercise. Research shows that incorporating high intensity intervals can provide many of the same benefits as lower-intensity exercise, but with a shorter amount of time spent exercising. HIIT workouts are often promoted for fat loss, aerobic fitness, blood sugar management, decreasing inflammation, and improving cholesterol.

Intermittent Fasting

The term “intermittent fasting” has been used to describe a wide variety of eating styles and schedules, all based on the premise that fasting has metabolic benefits. These eating styles incorporate regularly scheduled “fasts”; some include complete fasts for 1 or more days per week or 1 week per month, but often (and for the style I would be following) intermittent fasting involves limiting the “eating window” to a certain part of the day and fasting for the remainder. The primary goals with intermittent fasting are often to 1) lose weight, 2) increase energy, or 3) reduce inflammation.

Budget-driven Meal Planning

This is actually a brain-child of mine, compiled from everything I have learned about how to drive the cost of healthful groceries down as far as possible. This way of purchasing food and eating has cut many of my clients’ grocery costs by 25%, even while eating healthful food. One particular client, with a family of 8, decreased her grocery bill by 50%! In this I will share what we spend on groceries, where we shop, how I save money, and how I do it all while eating healthfully.

Be sure to vote for the diet or exercise plan you most want to learn more about!

Note: If you’re on a computer, the poll will be in the left-hand sidebar. If you’re on a phone, scroll down to vote.



The kids are back in school, the weather is cooling down, and all the stay-at-home parents let out a big sigh – some time! All to yourself! What to do with it?

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The start of school is a great time to start a new plan to improve your health. Create a new routine early on, and you’ll be on the straight and narrow to the healthy life you want. Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started.

1. Dream a little. If your life was exactly the way you imagine it to be – if you could be anything, feel any way, and do whatever you dreamed of, what would your life look like? Spend part of this time focusing specifically on your health and fitness. It doesn’t matter how unrealistic your dream may seem, you can address details later. This is time to think BIG.

 

2. Be honest. Now take some time to honestly and realistically assess the current state of affairs. What do your life, health, and fitness look like now? How much time do you devote to your health? Do you worry about your health or does your health limit the things you want to do? Take note of where things are at now. Compare your big dreams to your current reality. What’s different? Ask yourself what would need to change in order to gradually head you in the direction of your dream. Don’t anticipate that you will achieve the dream in weeks or months – the goal is to always be moving toward the dream.

3. Select your long-term goals. Choose some realistic goals (1-2 is usually a good number) to achieve in the next 3 months. Make sure these are designed to head you toward your dream. Give yourself a deadline to complete them! Note: If one of your goals is to lose weight, 1-2 pounds per week is a safe and realistic amount of weight to lose. Losing faster than that can cause some major long-term negative effects on your metabolism, and can cause you to lose muscle.

Examples of long-term goals:

Lose 20 lbs by December 15, 2017.

Play outside with my grandkids for 30 minutes without feeling fatigued by November 15, 2017.

Run 6 miles without stopping by January 1, 2018.

Lower morning blood sugars to less than 120 mg/dL 5 days out of 7 by December 31, 2017.

4. Break it down farther. Time to break the long-term goals into smaller, short-term goals (2-4 is a good number). These are the things that you will do on a daily or weekly basis that will inch you each day a step closer to your dream. Be very specific – instead of making a goal to “eat healthy,” say “eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.” That specificity makes it easy to track and gives you a very clear target. Another key piece? Choose things that won’t make you miserable!IMG_3116

Examples of short-term goals:

Use a calorie tracker to eat 1600-1800 calories per day, 5 out of 7 days per week.

Begin walking 10 minutes per day, 3 days per week. Increase by 5 minutes per week to goal of 30 minutes per day.

Complete a Couch to 5K training plan.

Focus on limiting carbohydrate intake to 30-45 grams per meal.

5. Now go get your dream! Be diligent and faithful to complete your short-term goals. Share your goals with a couple of people close to you (or your 500 closest Facebook friends!) to help hold you accountable. If you need extra support, knowledge, or resources to create or meet your goals, find a Registered Dietitian, exercise physiologist, or personal trainer to assist you.

Once you’ve done these five things, lather, rinse, and repeat! The key is to continually create new goals – keep dreaming, keep setting goals, and keep smashing them. If you miss one, make a new one or try again. This is your one and only life and body – don’t give up on them!

Need some help? I’m having a back-to-school special! If you’re interested in getting started with a new healthy routine, call 360.358.3179 during the month of September and schedule an initial appointment, and receive a FREE body composition assessment!



Do you have a favorite family recipe that you’d like to improve on? Are you interested in learning how to be a more mindful and health-conscious cook? Use this list of cooking substitutions to improve the nutritional quality of your favorite recipe!

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Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Think of substitutions in cooking as “trial and error.” Sometimes they’ll work out great and other times they might flop, but it’s all part of the process. Every recipe is different – you’ll never know unless you try!
  • If you’re tweaking an old favorite recipe, try changing just 1-2 ingredients at a time. Then, if it doesn’t turn out, you’ll know which change didn’t work.

Happy cooking (and eating)!

If your recipe calls for… Try this instead… For this nutritional benefit…
Condensed milk or evaporated milk Evaporated skim milk
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
Sour cream Nonfat plain Greek yogurt or (depending on the texture desired) nonfat cottage cheese
  • More protein
  • Less saturated fat (compared to whole sour cream)
Cream cheese Neufchâtel cheese (find it right next to the cream cheese in most grocery stores)
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
Bacon Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, or lean prosciutto
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
  • Less sodium
Mashed potatoes Steamed, pureéd cauliflower
  • Fewer carbohydrates
  • Fewer calories
  • More vitamins and minerals
Potatoes Sweet potatoes
  • More vitamins
White rice or pasta Whole grain pasta, brown rice, bulgur, couscous, barley
  • More fiber
  • More vitamins and minerals
  • More stable blood sugar response
No vegetables Add any vegetables you have around!
  • More fiber
  • More vitamins and minerals
  • Improved satisfaction after the meal with fewer calories eaten (veggies take up a lot of space!)
Butter Canola oil or avocado oil
  • More omega-3s and healthful monounsaturated fats
  • Less saturated fat
Salt Herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, sage, basil, chives, garlic), spices (turmeric, cumin, curry, lemon pepper, black pepper), lemon juice, or use half the salt
  • Less sodium
  • More anti-inflammatory properties