Let me preface this post by saying I loathe the pressure on women to “lose the baby weight” within weeks or months of birth. Our bodies go through SO much from the beginning of pregnancy, right through the months to years of breastfeeding. When I studied Naturopathy, they taught us that women generally need at least two years between pregnancies to recover nutrient stores so as not to leave themselves chronically depleted. Dr Oscar Serrelach says post-partum depletion can affect our health for up to a decade, so this is a time to nourish our bodies, not punish them. I’ll never forget a woman I used to work with who had to have her crumbling teeth removed that had been affected two close pregnancies some 25 years prior. Nobody wants to go through that physical & emotional pain.
Those of you familiar with my blog may have read my story from a few years back about how I released 30+kgs. I started that when my eldest daughter was 7.5 years old and it was honestly the best thing I’d probably ever done for my health. It was certainly the first time I’d dropped a significant amount of weight and my fatigue symptoms disappeared, along with much of my back pain from a herniated disc and bone degeneration. I felt amazing & like the outside finally matched the inner me, without all those protective layers that had built up since childhood.
Whilst the majority of women who breastfeed lose weight faster than those who don’t (lactation uses around 500-700 calories/day), I’m not one of them. With both my girls, I was back to pre-baby size within a week of birth, but then around 2-3 months postpartum, I started ballooning – and fast. Not quite as fast the second time, but there were spurts where I’d suddenly gain & could not get it to move back down. As such, all the good work I’d done between kids came undone & I maxxed out around 104kg by the time my youngest turned 4yo, despite not really having an appetite.
My nervous & endocrine systems had also suffered in that time, with a health crash mid-2016 that saw me in the hospital with sudden-onset convulsions & muscle weakness that started just after I climbed into bed in the wee hours one morning, having finally gotten my then-toddler to sleep. Laying there in the ED, the right side of my body flapping about madly, all I could think of was the worst case scenario & not being around to see my girls grow up. After they ran some tests, I was diagnosed with “stress”. WTAF???????????? I was certainly not feeling stressed (until that point) and had been through some traumatic situations in my life without ever experiencing symptoms like that. The feeling of having no control over my body & not even being able to drive at times was excrutiating.
As it turns out, shortly after that happened there was a show on TV one night about Functional Neurological Disorder, where people had symptoms of neurological disorders, but no physical cause. Essentially, the brain does not register stress, so you don’t “feel” stressed psychologically, so the body (in all its wisdom) has to find another way to release the stress, hence the somatic symptoms. I decided to try Chiropractic care to calm my nervous system (I’d received Chiropractic care on & off since childhood, but hadn’t been in several years) and I saw a local Integrative GP to get some further testing done. The GP agreed with me that testing for MTHFR defects & Pyroluria were well indicated, and both came back positive, along with low Vit D & B12 levels & cortisol levels about 3x the normal range. They explained my lack of appetite along with a raft of other symptoms I’d had throughout my life (and that were prominent in other family members). The long-term lack of sleep combined with IBS, poor appetite, an increased load on my endocrine system & reduced ability to detox had all combined to create the perfect storm.
The general advice was to wean my daughter and go away for a couple of nights for a break. Pfffft! That was not going to happen. Leaving her at that time would have created more stress for both of us. I needed to do what I could to nourish my body & reduce the physical stress of the aforementioned issues. I continued regular care with my chiro, had some B12 shots, took some other supps and slept when I could. Over the next few weeks, the “episodes” reduced & I was able to function much better. I was doing the best I could with the circumstances at the time.
It was shortly after that that the opportunity to start Unity Wellness arose. I always say it was the best & worst of timing. With all that was wrong healthwise and with the way I looked, I was acutely aware that I didn’t present as the picture of health, but then I hoped my own journey to better health might inspire others who are ready to make changes, which is why I always share openly & honestly.
Breastfeeding my youngest had never been as easy as it was with my eldest (oh, how lucky I was the first time). Her latch was never the best and the older she got, the more I dreaded feeding her due to pain. By the time she was 4.5yo, I felt like there was not really any milk being produced and feeding was more about comfort. A couple of months later, I realised we’d gone a whole day with her being OK with just a cuddle instead. Then the next day, and the next. This sudden change brought about ALL the emotions. Whereas my eldest had weaned in her own time, I kind of felt guilty this time because I felt like the timing was more due to my pain than her readiness to finish. I felt like if I let her have another feed, I might miss this opportunity to wean and focus more on my health, but then it was such a sudden change that I felt a deep sense of grief (even writing this has the tears flowing). This was the end of my breastfeeding journey not just for her, but forever.
Mixed in with the grief was a sense of relief and excitement. Finally, I was in a position to make choices about my body without worrying about anyone else. Looking at photos of myself, all I could see was tiredness, inflammation, gut issues (which had improved, but not completely) and aging. Now, I’m in my mid-40’s, not mid-20’s, so I don’t have unrealistic expectations or believe I have to look a certain way but again, my body did not accurately represent the way I felt inside. I almost didn’t recognise the person in the mirror, and not in a good way.
In April this year, just after her birthday, my eldest daughter was ready to do another round of the Changing Habits Fat Loss Protocol and I was ready to join her. It was time for me.
I had grand plans to blog a daily diary, but nearly four weeks later, I’ve realised that’s just NOT going to happen 😆
As such, a weekly review will fit much better into my schedule and still gives you an idea of what’s involved in the protocol and what you can expect if you decide to try it. As with the first three rounds I did years ago, this is about improving endocrine health & reducing inflammation, with fat reduction being an added and most welcome benefit.
Phase 1 (P1) of the protocol is about loading the body with good fats, whilst minimising carb intake. There is an optional 5 day cleanse you can do before this phase, but as I’m already gluten-free, mostly dairy-free & eat organic when possible, I didn’t feel the need but it can be useful if your diet has been poor in the lead-up or you struggle with sugar cravings and the like. As I don’t eat much dairy, I focused more on coconut products, fat on meat & olive oil. We also did a 3 day loading period as I only started eating half way through the first day, so it was more like 2.5 days. Loading well can make the transition to the next phase easier as the body becomes accustomed to using fat for energy. This is also the time to start taking the Support Drops that help the body to release the unwanted fat stores rather than the structural fat, so we don’t end up looking gaunt.
Some P1 foods we enjoyed include chia pudding made with coconut milk served with coconut yoghurt and hemp seeds, loaded berry smoothie with coconut cream, MCT oil, hemp seeds and assorted powdered superfoods, and roast chicken with the skin & veggies roasted in oil. Soooooo gooooood!!!!
One the first day of P1, I weighed 100.2kg. While it’s not usual to lose weight in this phase, I tend to and weighed 99.8kg on the next 2 days.
Phase 2 (P2) is the fat burning phase, with people releasing an average of 300g a day. In nature, where no shops or markets exist, food tends to be more scarce in Winter so we would have to live off the fat we’d stored on our bodies in the warmer, more abundant seasons. Meat would also be leaner as their food sources were also scarce. Phase 2 of the 4 Phase Protocol replicates that pattern, with limited quantities & variety of food – lean protein, vegetables & fruits. That’s one of the reasons I like to do the protocol in the cooler months. They describe it as “Keto without the fat” to give you an idea of the sorts of foods allowed. I’ll be doing 40 days (and 40 nights) in P2. The maximum time allowed is 43 days, but I want to be finished in time for my birthday so I can celebrate by reintroducing fat when cooking.
NOTE: This program does include meat / seafood as the protein source. If you’re vegetarian, there is the option of eggs or cottage cheese, with vegans choosing from Inca Inchi Protein Powder or tofu (ideally, organic and non-GMO), although be aware that results may differ if using plant-based proteins.
P2, Week 1
Well, I’m not going to say it was a walk in the park. I experienced more headaches & tiredness in the first week than I have any other round of the Protocol. Maybe I should have done the pre-cleanse after all? On Day 2, my bleed started, which was terrible timing. I’d normally start a round of the Protocol just as I was finishing my monthly cycle, but in starting this round when I did to support my daughter, it didn’t work out that way. It could also have played a part in the way I was feeling. It could also by why I found myself feeling much more hungry this time, which I offset with drinking more herbal tea. Working on Instagram certainly didn’t help, with all the photos of goodies being posted in the lead-up to Easter. I don’t think I have ever salivated so much, which is probably a good thing for my digestion….not so good for my chocolate-loving soul! 😆
My favourite meal of the week was probably the Herbed Roast Beef with Peppercorn Jus created by Nikalene at Skinnymixers (we did the protocol at the same time years ago, so I’m proud to see the success she’s had since then). It made 10 servings, so it was also great to have enough food cooked for the next few days.
I started this phase at 99.2kg & finished the first week down 3.2kg, which is still good considering the less than ideal timing.
P2, Week 2
The hunger and headaches continued until about half way through the second week. I woke up around Day 11 & suddenly felt much better. My hunger was gone, my headaches had stopped, I had more energy and my head felt clear for the first time in a lonnnnng time. Definitely settling into the groove this week and enjoying another Skinnymixers recipe, Chicken Zoodle Soup (seriously, try it even if you’re not doing the Protocol). I also made us some Berry Fruity Dream from organic frozen strawberries & an eggwhite which was delicious, but I only had a small weight drop the next day. Given that strawberries can be touch & go for me, I decided to stick more to apples (we’re lucky to live down the road from an organic apple orchard, so get them at a good price). We can have 2-3 fruit serves a day, so I’ve been using one of the apples to make my Green Smoothie. It’s a great way to incorporate the food-based supplements that are included in the Protocol.
This week also coincided with Easter, but I discovered that my body does well with hot chocolate made with a teaspoon of organic cacao powder mixed in hot water with 3 drops of stevia & a little vanilla. WINNING!!!!!
Another 2.5kg released this week. Here’s some of the food I’ve been eating in P2:
P2, Week 3
I woke on day 15 to my first weight increase. I tried prawns last night, which had previously been fine for me. Nooooo! Not the prawns!!! The weight stayed the same the next day as well, but I was also having ovulation symptoms which may have caused some inflammation or fluid retention, and sleep was lacking. Either way, I’ve decided to avoid prawns for the moment and I’ll test them again down the track.
I’ve been using stocks & broths for cooking in place of oil. As a bonus, the bone broths are good for healing a leaky gut and increasing collagen in the skin & joints. The only one that’s “officially” allowed on the protocol is the Changing Habits Naked Beef Broth, which has been skimmed of fat before being dehydrated into a powder, but I’ve also used the ‘Meadow and Marrow’ a.m. Cleanse & Natural bone broth concentrates, as well as ‘Best of the Bone’ Turmeric and Ginger concentrate, all with good results (just don’t tell anyone, mmmkay? 😉 )
As mentioned above, I’ve been reminded this week about the importance of sleep for proper endocrine function. On the nights I only get around 6 hours sleep, I find my weight doesn’t change or goes up slightly, which has been an issue over the last 5 years of pregnancy & child-rearing.
My daughter has found that she hasn’t got the stamina to get through four dance classes a week during this phase. A gentle daily walk or some restorative yoga are fine on the protocol, but it doesn’t really provide enough energy for an active lifestyle and more intense exercise can trigger inflammation, which is counter-productive with this program. As such, she’s decided to cut this round short with a view to moving to the Hunter Gatherer Protocol, which is better suited to those who do a lot of physical work, who are breastfeeding or otherwise not suited to the Fat Loss Protocol.
Down 1.5kg this week after a couple of stalls. Halfway through P2 and I am starting to see my jawline again as the puffiness subsides. Huzzah!
P2, Week 4
Well, this week’s been a mixed bag! After the hunger of the first couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling to eat my second meal of the day. I just didn’t really feel like it at all for a few days, but knew that insufficient protein can cause fluid retention & my body needs the nutrients from the veg. My weight has been bouncing around after the steady losses of the first 3 weeks, with gains happening on the nights I get less than 7 hours sleep (usually more like 4-5 hours). Sufficient sleep really does make such a massive difference on this protocol to regulate the metabolism & gut microbiome. Thankfully, the gains were offset somewhat by some good losses (1.3kg one day, 700g a couple of days later). On the day I dropped 700g, I also dropped into the 80’s, for a total loss from the start of 10.3kg. Here’s Debra Messing reenacting my reaction (the subdued version, according to my daughter):
P2, Week 5
I was reading a post in the Facebook Support Group for the Protocol that others have experienced stalls at the changing of a “decade” of weight, so my week of bouncing just either side of 90 was normal! Once my cycle started, the weight started moving again. I’ve also noticed a return of hunger some days. Not gnawing, but a feeling of emptiness that I can generally fill with some extra water, herbal tea or a hot chocolate. It essentially means my body is having to access more fat stores for energy, so it’s easy to deal with.
Unfortunately, I’ve run out of colloidal minerals (I didn’t buy a new bottle this round as I already had some in the fridge) so despite making efforts to get to sleep earlier, I had some sleep disturbance from muscle twitching (I tend to be low in magnesium), but I sorted that quickly with some Magnesium Chloride spray on my neck, shoulders & thinner-skinned areas of my body.
There were a couple of physical changes I really noticed this week. First, my 4yo daughter wanted me to climb under some equipment with her at gymnastics. I was able to crawl and get up quickly and easily, without the feeling of having to haul myself up. It’s at moments like that you realise what a difference the reduction of weight and inflammation makes. The following day, it just feel like my whole body was sucking inwards and tightening. It was weird, but good. I also noticed I kept feeling my glutes 😆 which are more prominent & feel higher without as much padding.
We found a few clothes when op-shopping earlier this week, including a free pair of black denim jeggings in a size smaller than usually wear, but by the end of the week, they were getting roomier, as were some of my other clothes, so I started off as an 18-20 and am now heading towards size 14 (size 10 if you’re reading from the US). It feels great to be feeling more comfortable in my clothes and in my skin.
Even if the stall I had means I don’t quite reach my goal for this round, I’m really happy with and proud of what I’ve achieved already. I finished the week with an 800g drop, with my weekly total being 2.4kg for an overall reduction of 12.2kg.
Only 5 more days left of P2 before I stop the drops for the 3 days of Phase 3 then enter the reintroduction phase. I could go another 3 days in P2 if I wanted to, but have decided I want to celebrate my birthday next weekend by reintroducing good fats 😀 , which after 6 weeks of P2/P3 will be even better than cake!
P2, Week 6
I started this week with a 200g gain. Inflammatory gains are 700g or more, so whilst not a major concern, it’s still not what anyone wants to see when trying to reduce weight. The only thing different diet-wise was sourcing apples from a different place. Whilst still organic, they were a different variety, which can sometimes make a difference.
The next 2 days I had drops of -100g & -400g respectively, before my youngest child came down with a cold & sleep went out the window as she felt miserable for the next couple of nights with a blocked nose & sore throat. As such, there was only a net 300g loss over the 5 days. More than a stick of butter, but much less than previous weeks. I also had more bloating & gut pain this week, which could also be attributed to poor sleep quality as there weren’t really any dietary changes.
So, final results for P2 are 11.5kg down on top of the 1kg in P1, for a total of 12.5kg to date. Measurements-wise, I’ve shed 47cm (or 18.5″) and I’ve dropped 2 dress sizes. I’m moving easier & my chiro was amazed by the difference in my appearance.
Phase 3 is exactly like Phase 2, only you stop taking the drops and allow your body time to adjust to not having them for 3 days before testing new foods. I went down 200g, but also had ovulation signs, which could also have contributed to the reduced losses, bloating & fluid retention a had a few days prior.
Here’s how I looked at the start of the protocol vs the end of P3:
Much less “jowly”, which was one of things that really made me look old and hopefully, I’ll no longer have any questions about my “pregnancy”. Obviously, I’ve still got a way to go with another round to do later in the year, but I’m feeling much more comfortable in my skin and clothes!
For the chart geeks amongst you, this chart over the 3 Phases so far shows that fat loss is not always a smooth journey, more akin to rolling down a bumpy mountain 😆
Phase 4 is the final & probably most important phase of the protocol. It’s when we reintroduce other foods into the diet, with a new food every 3 days for 3 weeks, with the aim of stabilising our weight at the lowest point we’ve reached so far by learning which foods agree & disagree with our bodies. It is this individualised approach that makes this protocol so powerful as not all foods suit all people (even those deemed “healthy” in various eating approaches). We get to eat the fat/skin on meat and food quantities and combinations are no longer restricted (although it’s about eating until you are just full). There is a recommended order in which to reintroduce foods, which I followed roughly.
Phase 4, Week 1
Happy birthday to meeeee! Day 1 of P4 started off a little more rushed than I would have liked, but my celebratory breakfast of organic t-bone steak with the fat was a perfect start to the day. I also snuck in some grilled Trevalla for lunch and tested MCT oil as my first extra fat. All of that went well, with another 700g gone the next day. By day 3, I started noticing some bowel issues, most likely due to an increase in food quantity & not drinking enough water due to busyness over the weekend.
Olive oil had been problematic for me in previous rounds, but is fine for me this time, which is great news as it’s one fat all the family can eat. Even though Phase 4 is about stabilising, the more gradual food re-introductions this time & sticking with more of the foods that work for me mean I’m another kilo and a bit down by the end of the first week.
I tried doing a dance class with my daughter at the end of this week (it was a Def Leppard song, so I HAD to give it a go), but my blood pressure, which tends to be low anyway, didn’t really cope with the spins & changes in position 😥 Woe & dammit! Nothing a lot of water, an apple & staying still for a while couldn’t help, though.
Phase 4, Week 2
Carrots, sweet potatoes & ghee were re-introduced this week. All good with ghee & sweet potatoes, but carrots will be relegated to the ‘sometimes’ list for me. Dark chocolate (85%, no soy or dairy) is also a yes for me, so praise the Aztec Gods! White fish is also on the ‘yes’ list, but I’m hanging off on trying shellfish for a little longer.
I did have a couple of small gains this week – one due to lack of sleep (always happens on a Saturday when I have to be up early) and another on the day I started spotting ahead of my cycle. My teen was hit with the flu this week & was “kind” enough to share with me a few days later at the end of the second week. Another half a kilo down.
Phase 4, Week 3
I don’t think there’s anyone in this country who has either not had the flu this year or known someone wiped out by it. It had me in bed for 3 days with a killer migraine and an impressive fever with chills. Just as I was coming out of it, the 4yo got it. My husband also got it, but the cough got him first, rather than the migraine. It’s the first time I can remember us all being sick at the same time, and certainly the worst flu any of us have ever had.
Between lack of appetite from being sick & then sleeping lots, I haven’t really been eating much. I have reintroduced coconut in various forms, though – yoghurt, cream & water – along with hemp & chia seeds. I know that’s more than recommended to reintroduce in one week, but I’ve just been trying to recover & rehydrate. Luckily, they’ve all been fine and chia pudding made with coconut water & vanilla served with vanilla coconut yoghurt & hemp seeds has become my staple breakfast option. So quick and easy to make ahead, full of good fats and minerals and absolutely delicious!
1.6kg down this week (credit to Influenza A 😆 ), for a total reduction in P4 of more than 3kg – something I haven’t experienced in previous rounds. Taking the reintroductions more slowly really is beneficial. On the last day of P4, I was 15.9kg less than when I started.
Phase 4eva is…..forever. It’s about taking the lessons learnt about the way your body reacts to different foods and making choices that support your body. The foods that work for me may be completely different than what works for you, but the process of discovery is what I wanted to share throughout this post.
There are probably many foods to keep testing, which you can do as long as you like. You don’t need to obsess over every morsel of food that passes your lips, but why would you want to go back to the foods that cause inflammation, gut issues, autoimmune disease, pain and weight gain? This protocol is about educating and empowering you to make lasting changes. Following the 80/20 rule (or 90/10) is a good guide; eat what works for you 80% of the time, but don’t stress if you go out for a meal occasionally or have a celebration to attend. Life’s for living!
Many people also find that incorporating Intermittent Fasting is useful to help keep inflammation at bay and balance the endocrine system, with the 16:8 version being most popular (eat within an 8 hour period, then fast for 16 hours overnight), but it’s not an official component of this Fat Loss Protocol.
I had a couple of inflammatory gains at the start of P4eva , along with a nasty post-flu head cold and went up 2.4kg on my lowest weight. By increasing the foods that are good for my body and avoiding the grains that lead to the gains, I’m back to my lowest weight and holding stable around 84kg (can vary 100-200g either side) 4 weeks into P4eva. We’re deep in mid-Winter here so the thought of doing outdoor activities is really unappealing, even though I’d love to get out into the garden. Instead, I’ve just started enjoying the new yoga mat I got for my birthday and have been working my way through some of the free yoga routines on YouTube. It really feels great to be doing that again now that my back pain has lessened again (one of my favourite benefits of the protocol!) and I look forward to the strength that will bring.
On that note, I am finishing up this marathon post happy with what I’ve achieved to date. I really wanted to feel more comfortable in my skin, beyond just weight loss, and that is happening. I’m a work in progress, but hopefully my story so far can help others who are facing similar challenges. I love that I was able to nourish my kids for so many years, but possibly more, I love that I am now taking the time to nourish my own body and mind and caring for the carer.
Thank you to those of of you who have followed along with me this round (especially those who waited so long for me to post the Phase 4 results!), sent beautiful messages of support & have been inspired to do the protocol yourself. If you have any questions about what you’ve read, please feel free to comment below or send me a message.
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