I know, I keep mentioning Trim Healthy Mama, and I’ve posted a bunch of Fuel Cycle menus, but I haven’t really taken the time to talk about the Fuel Cycle and what it does for me. The Trim Healthy Mama Fuel Cycle is a week where we try to shake things into gear in terms of weight loss. It’s not for beginners, or even for ladies who are consistently losing, but instead was created for those with stubborn weight that are stalling and not losing. As a Turtle who loses, on average, no more than 0.2 pounds a week, I do a Fuel Cycle every couple months to shake things up. And it works. I lose anywhere between 2 and 7 pounds anytime I do a Fuel Cycle! Now I’m working on keeping it off in between Fuel Cycles!
Recently, someone asked for my best advice for a Fuel Cycle and I responded that planning is key. Plan a menu, plan the week, etc. But as I thought more about it, I realized that planning is key, but the way that I plan is crucial to my success. In other words, it’s not just the planning, but the way I go about it that seems to make a difference for me. So today, I’m sharing my top 5 hints on how to plan for a successful Fuel Cycle. Without further ado, here we go…
- Know the Plan – The Fuel Cycle week completely fits in with THM guidelines, but it follows a more restricted set of regulations. Reading (and re-reading) the chapter on the Fuel Cycle is a must for success – if you don’t know the rules, how can you follow them? Even if you’ve read and re-read, you still may miss something. I was on my third Fuel Cycle before I realized that I was not supposed to be having ricotta cheese on FP days. I know, how did I miss that?! Anyway, read and re-read, make some little cheat sheets to help you out, lock the cheese drawer and hide the nuts. Or am I the only one that needs to do that?! Basically, know what it takes to do a Fuel Cycle, and you’ll clearly be more successful in it’s implementation.
- Keep it Simple – I don’t really do elaborate meals or snacks on my Fuel Cycle. There are tons of recipes in the book, but I find the most success when I just keep it really simple. A big salad with pan-fried salmon on top, doused in olive oil and a little balsamic, is the perfect Deep S lunch, while eggs and bacon for breakfast start the day out right for me. If it’s a busy week at work, I’ll cook as much as I can on the weekend so that I have less to do during the week. In short, I like quick and easy, and I find that to be the best thing during the Fuel Cycle as well. If I have to think too much about it, or take too much time preparing it, I’m probably going to break into the cheese drawer! But if I keep it simple, I can enjoy the delicious food without stressing over preparation, and my week just goes better that way.
- Go Tried and True – On my very first Fuel Cycle, I was super-excited about trying a new recipe that I hadn’t previously made. Imagine my horror and frustration when the end product was just not appealing to me. I was on a Fuel Pull day, was very hungry, and needed to leave for work in just a few minutes. A failed recipe meant a recipe for failure at that point. Since then, I have stuck with what I know for the Fuel Cycle. That generally means something like my fabulous peaches and cream oatmeal for E mornings, and a berry version for FP. I know I love these, and they are quick and easy to prepare. By going tried and true, I ensure that my day – and my overall week – is a success.
- Expect the Unexpected - Face it, things happen that we don’t plan for. As a teacher, I am one of those that ALWAYS has a Plan B in case something is not working in the classroom, and I’m just the same when I am doing a Fuel Cycle. I generally always have at least one easy-prep additional meal of each type that I can fall back on in case things don’t work out. Often, this is something like frozen kai si ming (see page 331) or freezer burritos that I just tend to have in my freezer all the time anyway. But I like to know that there is something on-plan for the Fuel Cycle that can be my emergency plan if I need it! I also plan way more snacks than I ever actually eat, simply because I want the security of knowing that I have some choices. By expecting the unexpected, I’m prepared no matter what happens!
- Expect the Expected – Expecting the Unexpected is great, but on a Fuel Cycle, it’s really important that you also Expect the Expected! The Trim Healthy Mama book recommends not doing a Fuel Cycle until you’ve free-styled for 6-8 weeks first. There’s a good reason for this: knowing how your body responds to different fuel types. When you plan a Fuel Cycle, you need to think about how your body will react.
- For instance, when I eat Deep S, my body loves all the fats and finds them very satiating. The problem with this is that I sometimes don’t eat enough on those days, and I get light-headed. So I always plan for very regular snacks every 3 hours, even if I am not feeling very hungry. I find the basic whey smoothie with coconut oil (page 243 in THM) to be a perfect choice for these snacks, as well as for when I’ve gone a little too long without eating.
- For FP days, my issue is the opposite: I tend to be hungry more since the calories and primary fuels are so low. I try not to graze all day long, but I realize that the lighter calories of FP meals will not always hold me for a full 3 hours. So I plan snacks, especially things like pepper strips or cucumber slices, that I can eat as needed. And having a Fat-Stripping Frappe (FSF, page 240) a couple hours after a meal often helps me make it through the day. I cannot afford to allow myself to get TOO hungry, or I will not finish the day successfully. Also, since FP day calories generally run below 1000 for the day, I do not plan strenuous exercise on those days. If I do any type of exercise, even walking, I make sure to have a snack beforehand as well as right after.
- E days, like FP days, are days I tend to be hungrier. This is normal for me after E meals, but I get cranky when I am hungry, and I cannot simply be hungry for several days in a row. So to help with the hunger, I make sure that I get plenty of protein with my E meals. I love fat-free dairy like cottage cheese and yogurt, and these items help me plan my snacks around a significant protein component as well. Just like with FP days, I make sure to have a light snack, like an FSF, when I need one. By thinking about how my body generally reacts to E meals (and S meals and FP meals), I can better plan for success on my Fuel Cycle.
Because of the restrictions on the Fuel Cycle, and the fact that I work outside of the home, planning well for the Fuel Cycle is crucial to my success. With these factors above in my mind, I make a menu that works for me, and I plan for a successful week as I cycle my fuels.
How about you? What are you best hints for success on the Fuel Cycle?