As I kicked off the new year I vowed, once again, to lose the 20 pounds that have crept up on me over the past couple of years. As I ate my way through the holidays I did a lot of reading and Googling about the best way to tackle my weight loss goal without a) being hungry all the time and b) harming my health. I’m a big believer in body positivity and feeling your curves, but I’m over trying to squeeze my belly into what were once my post-partum fat jeans. Enough!
After I had my twins I used Weight Watchers (and breastfeeding) to drop the baby weight, but the thought of having to count my daily points was exhausting. My brother-in-law just lost 20 pounds on the keto diet and encouraged me to join him as he stepped back on it at the start of the year. But I have a pretty healthy diet and I wasn’t sure I wanted to throw out some of my favorite healthy foods — clementines! oatmeal! — and take the keto plunge.
So, I decided to follow the diet of my favorite Kardashian (Kourtney, sorry Khloé) and try intermittent fasting. The idea of eating everything I wanted (within reason) for eight hours and then drinking clear liquids the rest of the time seemed like something that would fit into my lifestyle without a major change. Many adherents of the 16:8 diet (that’s 16 hours of fasting and eight hours of eating in a 24-hour period) recommend adding bone broth during the fasting period to help replenish lost vitamins, minerals and salts. So I decided to have a nightly bowl of the centuries-old elixir for a month, and here’s how it went.
I’m an Amazon Prime member, so I’ve been taking advantage of their free two-hour delivery from Whole Foods. As I celebrated the new year I added two small containers of Pacific Foods chicken bone broth to my cart so I could have one the first night of fasting. Day one went well. I decided to make my eating window 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. because breakfast is my absolute favorite meal (I once ate breakfast every meal for a week) and late-night snacking is my problem area. After 2 p.m. I sipped on green tea, water and seltzer and at dinnertime I heated up a bowl of the bone broth. Oh, good lord, the stuff was awful. I think I was expecting it to taste like chicken soup, and it absolutely did not.
The next day at work I mentioned my negative first bone broth experience to a couple of colleagues, and they both recommended trying Brodo. The brand is the brainchild of James Beard Award-winning chef Marco Canora, who began offering homemade bone broth at the tiny takeout window at Hearth, his popular restaurant in New York City’s East Village. Now the broth is sold at four Manhattan locations and, more importantly to me, is sold via home delivery and at Fairway Market (which delivers to my house via Instacart). I ordered some of the Brodo signature Hearth broth (a blend of chicken, turkey and beef) from Fairway that night and heated it up in the microwave.
Ah, what a difference. When you find a bone broth you like, it is a warm, soothing liquid meal. I loved the Hearth version so much I was hesitant to try their other varieties, but after a couple of weeks I ordered one of their variety cases with all four flavors: Hearth, Chicken, Beef and a vegan broth, Seaweed Mushroom (which turned out to be my favorite). All arrived packed on ice and frozen. You can keep one in the fridge and use it as it defrosts (it keeps for 10 days in the fridge), but I found early on that the hotter it is, the better. Heat brings out the flavor; it also takes a little longer to savor and eat a bowl of very hot broth. And when it is the only thing you are eating for 8 hours, that means a lot. Of course, you can always make your own. Here’s our guide to whipping up your own great-tasting bone broth. You can also buy pods of bone broth for your Keurig, how easy is that?
The hardest thing about intermittent fasting is that hunger you get when everyone around you is eating and you are sipping on a seltzer water. I would be just fine all afternoon and during my commute home and then walk through the door to see my family eating chicken, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, fruit and yes, ice cream and cookies because we are all about dessert in my house as much as I try to fight it. It was hard not to eat! But knowing that I could warm up a nice bowl of bone broth and sit down and “eat” with the family helped me get over those tough moments. And afterwards I genuinely felt my hunger lessen.
During the month I fasted five days a week and ate normally on the other two days (usually on weekends). I found overall that my digestion was better and my immune system seemed revved up. I didn’t catch the office cold that seemed to fell all of my colleagues, and aside from one 24-hour stomach bug I felt really, really good and had energy to spare. My nails are growing and my skin is clearer. Some nagging heel pain I have been struggling with has lessened. Many people swear by bone broth to reduce inflammation, increase gut health and contribute to better joint function. Even Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are big fans of a pre-game bowl of bone broth.
I found myself craving bone broth even on my non-fast days, and one night added some cooked corn and chicken to the broth for an instant soup. One Saturday night we went out to dinner with friends and I had two glasses of wine (that’s a big night for me, especially at the end of Dry January); the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck, so I heated up some bone broth because it is also touted as a hangover cure and it actually did make me feel better. Now after a month of having some in my fridge I can’t imagine being without this new superfood staple.
If you follow the world of crazy diets at all, you’ve heard the stories about intermittent fasting and how people eat Big Macs, fries and pasta and still manage to lose weight. And maybe if you are 25 with a nice speedy metabolism that might actually be true. But I know enough about my middle-aged metabolism to know that I had to make smart food choices during the eight hours I’m allowed to eat. But I did manage to sneak three meals every day and still lose weight, which I think is pretty cool. An average 16:8 day starts at 6 a.m. with overnight oats with almond milk, chia and flax seeds, almond slivers and blueberries. Then second breakfast is two fried eggs on Ezekiel bread with Trader Joe’s everything seasoning. Lunch (my last meal, right before 2 p.m.) is usually a giant salad from Just Salad including black beans, pickled onions, chickpeas, avocado and red wine and olive oil dressing topped with either cilantro shrimp or seared ahi tuna. I made sure to always eat an apple, clementine or banana to get another serving of fruit in before my eating window closed. Then from 2 until bed I stuck with clear liquids (black coffee or tea, green tea, seltzer and, of course, my bowl of bone broth).
So after a month of intermittent fasting I’m happy to report that I’d lost 7 pounds. I’m thrilled, and excited to keep going for the next couple of months to reach my goal. By eating healthy during my eating window and adding a nightly bowl of bone broth into the mix, I feel like I’m dieting responsibly and getting all the nutrients I need to stay strong and healthy. That’s more than I can say for some of the crazy old-school diets your parents probably tried.
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