I’d like to introduce you to my friend, LaRonda Robinson. We met on Twitter a few years ago. LaRonda is a very interesting woman, and a single blog post will never cover her many facets. The purpose of this particular blog post is to share a part of her story that she’s graciously consented to share. I have been intrigued by this part of her story and have wanted to document it for some time now. So here we are! Let me present the executive summary, and then I invite you to dig in for the details. LaRonda is a 68 year old great grandma who has lost 74 lbs over the last two years. Yes, 78 pounds! What follows is HER story. Are there learnings we can take from LaRonda’s journey? See for yourself!
She lives with her husband of many many years in rural Jamaica, in a part of the island I refer to as “Paradise” because it truly is. Hailing from the cool, beautiful highlands of St. Elizabeth on our south coast, LaRonda’s persona on twitter is the very same persona that engulfs you in the biggest, tightest, warmest hug when you meet her. Her sharp wit and zero-waffling that come through in her tweets, come through in any one-on-one interaction that you are blessed to have with her, as she freely dispenses her common-sense wisdom which is always couched in Love.
No, LaRonda did not get sick and lose all that weight. As she tells it, she chose to take control and release that weight. Yes, she was well into her 60’s when she made that choice. Why? Why not! She comes from a line of Long-Livers and if LaRonda has her way, she’ll be here for another 68 years and she plans to enjoy every one of those years in good health.
“I am worthy of promises kept, especially the promises I make to myself.”
This chapter of LaRonda’s story is her 4th time losing significant amounts of weight. She has lost 100 lbs three times before. Like so many of us who have struggled with weight throughout our lives, there is no diet unknown to LaRonda. And yes, they worked. She recalls her success in losing weight on the Weight Watcher’s program. She was hell bent on copping the prize for most weight loss in her group, and she did it. But once the program ended, you know what happened. Like so many dieters, LaRonda was capable of sustaining change long enough to achieve a goal, but she did not plan for what came next. The way of eating that facilitated her weight loss, never became a lifestyle, so she didn’t sustain it, reverted to old eating habits, the same way of eating that caused her to gain weight and yes, of course, the weight came back on. This happened every time she lost weight.
Game Changer: Mindset and Lifestyle Changes
So what has been different this time around? LaRonda came across a video on YouTube that highlighted the Nobel Prize winning work of Dr. Yoshiniori Ohsumi on the phenomenon of “autophagy” and she was intrigued. Thus began a serious quest to fully understand this process and how it impacts health and weight in the human body. This time around, LaRonda set the bar higher for herself. She has always been smart, able to absorb information and spit it back out in order to ace tests and do well. This time around, understanding the information she was seeking was more important to her. She wanted to understand in order to inform a lifestyle change which she was determined was what she needed in order to lose weight and keep it off. Her desire to understand and move beyond doing just enough to ace a test was borne out of a sense of self-love, an understanding and belief that she was worthy of every good thing, a hard-won truth that she had come into at this stage of her journey. This time around, LaRonda’s approach was not one of self-flagellation and condemnation that she had gained this weight and now had to take it all off. It was more about reviewing what she wanted to change, and then correcting.
“Is it in my power to improve this?” is the question that she applied to her desire to change her body and her health. It is the same question that she applies to other areas in her life that she considers out of alignment.
ENTER “INTERMITTENT FASTING”
So with a deep understanding of autophagy, LaRonda started fasting. Yes, she determined that she would go without food for specific periods in order to allow her body to burn its own fat stores for energy and give her cells a chance to self-clean and repair. Was it hard? At first, sure! So she started gradually. She implemented her Intermittent Fasting plan in increments. At first, she went for 12 hours without eating, then she increased that time to 14 hours, then 16 and so on and so forth. And yes, she started losing weight.
HOW DOES INTERMITTENT FASTING WORK AND HOW DOES AUTOPHAGY FIT IN WITH IT?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is confining your eating to a specific, limited number of hours each day. Put another way, IF can be defined as depriving your body of food for a defined period of time, usually a day or less. If you’re depriving your body of food for days at a time, that’s called Extended Fasting. The 16-8 or 23-1 nomenclature popular among Intermittent Fasters simply refers to the number of hours in a day that they don’t eat and defines the eating window. So someone practicing 16-8 IF doesn’t eat for 16 consecutive hours and allows themselves to eat during a defined 8 hour window.
Imagine it’s Sunday evening. Someone practicing 16-8 IF will finish their last Sunday meal by 6 pm. They won’t eat anything again until 16 hours after 6 pm, which would be 10 am on Monday. Their eating window on Monday would be 10 am to 6 pm. Your time sleeping counts in your fasting period! How good is that!
Now, with no food for your body to process, autophagy gets to happen. Autophagy is the process by which cells are able to self-repair and recycle bits and pieces, including faulty organelles and DNA. The truth is that every single cell in our body has the ability to spring-clean and repair itself – we simply need to stop feeding these cells from time to time. This self-repair of immune cells, skin cells, brain cells – and more – is known as autophagy, and it only happens when you don’t eat.
TECH-SAVY GREAT GRANDMA LARONDA AND FASTING
LaRonda is also a very tech-savy great grandma! She started her fasting lifestyle using an app called “Zero Fasting”. (www.zerofasting.com). This app allows you to set your fasting time and tells you when your eating window begins. It’s simply a way of keeping you on track, storing your fasting records, helping you to feel great when you achieve your fasting goals, gives you the opportunity to become part of a wider fasting community, really keeping you accountable and motivated.
At the beginning of her fasting journey, LaRonda used the app to set fasting goals. Today, at this point in her journey, she uses the app to simply track. You see, as her body has reset over time, LaRonda has become better able to hear her own body and distinguish between real hunger and hunger that is really boredom or something else. New habits have also formed, and she is now truly empowered to listen to and to respond to her own body.
What about her diet?
LaRonda also became very deliberate about what she ate during her eating window. She is not keto, but she is pescatarian low-carb. (Keto is short for ketogenic, and is a way of eating that reduced carbohydrate intake. Click here for more information on the keto diet). She manages her food intake based on “macros”. What are macros? LaRonda has determined how much each of of the 3 macronutrients that are protein, fats and carbs she needs per day to achieve her goals. And she sticks to that. “My body doesn’t need carbs. I know this. But sometimes my soul needs carbs.” And so she has some carbs, but always within the boundaries of her macros.
A NOTE ON MACROS AND LOW-CARB DIETS
There are 3 macro-nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. We’ve been taught all our lives that a healthy diet consists of a “balance” of all 3. However, there are some of us who struggle to lose weight and who seem to gain weight easily. The root cause of obesity (and many other chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes type 2, PCOS, arthritis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that has several critical functions in the body, one of the main ones being metabolizing glucose (glucose comes from sugars and starches, carbohydrates). For some of us, our cells become insulin resistant. The insulin that our body secretes to deal with carbohydrates that we ingest is not effective in breaking it down. So our body compensates by secreting more insulin. And because our cells are insulin resistant, our body continues to secrete more insulin as it keeps sensing increasing levels of glucose in our blood due to the carbs that we’re eating. The end result is that we are left with high blood glucose levels (because the insulin simply isn’t working the way it should) AND high blood insulin levels. Do you know what happens when blood insulin levels are high? Well this hormone quickly instructs our bodies to shut down fat-burning and that is why weight loss is so difficult for many of us. Another thing about insulin is that it interferes with our feeling of fullness. That’s why when you snack on high carb stuff like chips or crackers it is literally impossible to stop until you finish the entire bag! And you still feel hungry afterwards!
The truth is, weight loss isn’t simply calories in versus calories out. Our bodies are way more complex than that and weight loss and gain are a function of hormones and body chemistry. Get insulin low and stable and weight loss happens. Appetite control happens. This is the premise of low-carb ways of eating such as the ketogenic diet.
A very important FYI is that carbohydrates are the one macro-nutrient that the human body does NOT need provided that proteins and fats are in sufficient quantities. So how did we get it so wrong? Why do we build our meals around carbohydrates? That’s a topic for a whole other post. Suffice it to say industry agendas and egos played a big role in changing how we ate starting in the 1970s, which not coincidentally was the beginning of us as a planet becoming fatter and sicker as the low-fat movement gathered steam.
If you want to establish macro targets for yourself, there are apps that make it easy for you. Check out https://support.myfitnesspal.com/hc/en-us for example. You can select the way of eating that you want to use to optimize your weight and health, enter specific data like your current weight and goal weight, etc and it’ll guide you as to how much of eat macro nutrient per day will support your goals.
10,000 STEPS AND MORE BEFORE 7 am!
And yes, this 68 year old woman who has a history of obesity, who took control of her eating, also developed an exercise habit! Miss LaRonda sets out her stepping shoes from the night before, uses her FitBit to track her steps, and rises early. She does it right in her own house, sometimes without even setting foot outside. LaRonda walks up and down in her house, around her living room, on her verandah. Sometimes she moves to music, soca or gospel. Sometimes she listens to a podcast or audio book as she clocks those steps. And by 7am most days she has logged at least 10,000 steps. Sometimes 20,000 steps. What’s your excuse again? 😊
IS IT A MATTER OF WILL POWER?
I asked LaRonda what was responsible for what I assume was her iron will. She very quickly corrected me. “Will-power is an exhaustible commodity” she insisted. Her approach consists of 3 things:
- Goal setting
- Habit stacking
- Perspective: instant gratification vs repercussions down the road.
Goal setting is the “why” that informs her choices. Habit stacking is what allows her to continuously improve. One good choice leads to another good choice and on and on and on. Perspective reinforces the choices she makes, rooted firstly in her absolute worthiness of all things good, then taking the long view of life, knowing that indulging today could result in weeping tomorrow.
“WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL?”
LaRonda has a very pragmatic approach to goal setting and goal attainment. She sets goals that align with her belief that she is worthy of all that is good. Her approach to goal attainment is more about doing all that is possible in support of the goal, a focus on the process more than a focus on the outcome. “As long as I show up, I’ve done my part. I review and course correct if what I’m doing doesn’t result in my meeting my goal. As long as I show up, I am satisfied.” She drew this comparison to explain to me. LaRonda is doing a coding class (I told you she was tech savy and not your normal great grandma!). She turns up every single time to her online classes. But sometimes, her internet doesn’t cooperate. If she doesn’t log the target number of classroom hours that day, has she failed? She hasn’t met the target, but she hasn’t failed. “I showed up. But FLOW didn’t let me be great” is her simple response.
INSIGHTS FROM LARONDA’S FASTING JOURNEY
I really enjoyed our conversation in support of this post. What follows are key insights that I extracted from our free-flowing interaction.
People’s reaction to her weight loss: what are you taking? What are you eating? Never: what are you DOING? So many people want change but don’t want TO change.
LaRonda now listens to her body, because she can HEAR it. That’s what happens when you clean up your eating and honour your body.
Hunger is a signal, not an instruction. LaRonda now understands that she can choose to respond or not when she feels hunger. She also greets hunger with gratitude because she knows that she can end it when she chooses because she has food. This is a blessing.
Choices for Self must be rooted in Honesty and Self-awareness. LaRonda doesn’t seek to game a system of eating or look for loopholes to justify self-indulgence. She is aware of her choices and their consequences. She is honest about her needs at any point in time. And she makes choices in complete honesty, not fooling herself into self-sabotage. Whatever you don’t deal with, your body will deal with it. Resolve trauma.
The “QUEEN IMPERATIVE” After caring for people all her life, now is the time for her to prioritize her needs and goals. Ask yourself: why aren’t you choosing You?
The importance and power of CHOICE. It all comes down to the choices we make, day by day, meal by meal. Transformation is the sum of the impact of our daily choices.
Addiction vs habit: I asked LaRonda about breaking old habits and forming new ones if addiction is part of the equation. Yes, one can be addicted to food. Her simple answer came back to choice and then enabling those choices with specific actions. One can chose to be free of addiction. Identify the hole that the addiction is plugging. Then fix it by managing your environment, therapy, tapping, meditation and so on.
Change the narrative in your head. LaRonda holds on to the Creator’s truth about her, that she is “fearfully and wonderfully made”. And if this is true, then it means that she can do anything she sets her mind to, that she is worthy of the promise kept and that she can do all things.
Alignment happens when you start course correcting: mastery not necessarily control over one’s relationship with food will certainly lead to other aspects of our lives coming into alignment.
SO ARE FASTING AND A LOW-CARB PESCATARIAN DIET THE FORMULA TO WEIGHT LOSS?
There is no formula to weight loss, no one size fits all. LaRonda has found something that is working for her. I have found something that is working for me. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I too practice intermittent fasting, but I do a meat based ketogenic diet, and it is working for me. Yes, there are certain core principles that are common between us: we both restrict the number of hours we eat per day. We both recognize that reducing carbs helps us lose weight. But we both play within those boundaries differently.
I shared LaRonda’s story not to be a formulaic approach to weight loss, but to first of all inspire those who may have given up that it can be done, that age is no excuse. That even if this is your 4th attempt to lose weight that you once lost and regained, that you are worthy of another try, and that you can do it. I also shared it to explain those core principles of weight loss that work for LaRonda, for me, and for many many others. And I shared it so that you can see that you too can find your own way to weight loss and wellness and alignment. Find what works for you and make it part of your life.
SO WHAT IS NEXT FOR LARONDA?
LaRonda insisted when I ask her that she will always fast. “Fasting is a part of my life, like brushing my teeth. I’d be crazy to stop doing what is working for me.”
As at October 17, she had completed 609 fasts. She had done 566 consecutive days of fasting.
Simply put, she feels better. And it works for her.