I have dieted my whole life. Not constantly of course, but there is always an event on the horizon to lose a few pounds for. Upcoming family occasions, weddings, Christmas, birthdays and of course holidays, are major motivators for me to pull in the reins (and the tummy) and start to count calories. Oh, and how I hate it! Everyone around me seems to be eating the juiciest hamburgers, the most heavenly ice cream and chocolate to die for, whilst I nibble on a celery stick and try and convince myself it’s all worth it. I can usually stick it out for 3 or 4 weeks, during which time I can lose about a stone, but of course as soon as I start eating “normally” again, that stone creeps right back on. Four to six months later I have to start the whole process again. And so it goes on.
Until quite by chance, I discovered .. FASTING. I’m imagining your face now curling up into something between a grimace and a snarl. Fasting? Don’t be ridiculous, no one can give up food and still function normally. Except you can, because the key is, its only temporary.
I actually didn’t begin fasting to lose weight. At my age I’m as obsessed with anti ageing and staying healthy as I am in keeping my weight in check…and that is what piqued my interest…
I was having a chat with a work colleague one afternoon and I mentioned something about needing to get a sandwich as I hadn’t eaten for a few hours. He launched (quite without warning or invitation I might add) into an evangelical speech about the wonders of fasting. He said that Intermittent Fasting can not only reduce high blood pressure and lower cholesterol, ( I must admit at this point I was not even slightly hooked, as that would be the very least I would expect if I stopped eating), but incredibly it SLOWS DOWN THE ANTI AGEING PROCESS AND CAN PREVENT A MYRIAD OF DISEASES INCLUDING HEART DISEASE, DIABETES, CANCER AND ALZEIHEIMERS. I have put that in capitals because I really want to get your attention, as when he said that, he certainly got mine.
Feeling sceptical, I whined that I couldn’t give up food, not for days on end, I would faint, feel sick, be dizzy etc. He explained that intermittent fasting requires you to fast for 24 hours at a time and then only once or twice a week. And here is the ‘no-brainer’ for me – the rest of the week, you eat normally! I’m not sure what ‘normal’ is for you, but for me, although I love salads and veggies, there will be a more than moderate amount of chips, crisps, chocolate and pizza on my list.
So early this year I took the plunge and started fasting. There are many ways and combinations to ty and some amazing books written by some very intelligent scientists, a few of which I will list at the bottom of this post, but my system is this: On Sunday evening at approximately 7pm after I have had my usual dinner, I start the clock. I do not eat ( or drink anything other than water, black coffee or peppermint tea) from then until Tuesday morning when I have my breakfast. Tuesday and Wednesday I eat completely normally, (and I have already hinted what my normal involves) and then on Wednesday evening after dinner, I start the fast clock again but this time, it’s a shorter period and I eat again on Thursday evening. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday I eat what I choose. I have lost just over a stone since starting and most of the week do not feel I am on any sort of diet. OK, Monday evenings can be a bit uncomfortable, but a couple of hours feeling uncomfortable is a very small price to pay for being your ideal weight and (mostly) eating whatever you fancy!
Now let’s deal with those “ how can you possibly not eat for 36 hours between Sunday evening and Tuesday breakfast?” It’s not as difficult as it sounds. If you have eaten well on Sunday, you won’t want to eat on Sunday evening right? Most people don’t eat during the night and therefore the first pangs you are going to have are on Monday morning/lunchtime. By Monday evening you will be feeling hungry but I drink lots of water and keep busy. The best way to describe it is it’s a feeling of being a bit uncomfortable when you first begin. But you do NOT faint, have dizzy spells or generally collapse. Nor does your blood sugar get dangerously low. You simply feel a bit empty, but while are feeling empty this is what is happening to your body: Firstly your metabolic rate increases. The body releases hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline to help sharpen the mind and keep the entry levels up. These hormones instruct the fat cells to break down the fat in the body and to stimulate the metabolic rate. So basically the body becomes a fat burning machine approximately 14 hours after your last meal!
I have never experienced any need to binge eat on finishing a fast, I don’t feel any hungrier in a Tuesday morning than I would do on any other day of the week and there is no feeling that I need that I make up for the food that I have missed.
Aside from weight loss however there is significant evidence that Fasting also slows down the ageing process, reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases and increases lifespan. Don’t believe it? Read up on the science. It really is fascinating. I’m not going to go into the science too much as I don’t want to bore you but please look up Autophagy: Autophagy is a process whereby the body seeks out damaged and defective organ cells, cell membranes and proteins: think of it like a maintenance garage for your body where problems are identified and rectified by eliminating damaged or disfuctioning cells. It’s a clean up, and our bodies need it to allow and promote new cell growth. Unfortunately the lack of this function working properly means that cells are not repaired and new growth does not take place. Start fasting and the signal for your body to start checking into that garage and doing some much needed repairs is switched on!
So what have you got to lose – except a few pounds! I lost over a stone altogether and have kept it off so far with minimal effort. Fasting for me is a lifestyle now and not a short term diet, and I am so utterly delighted with the results I wanted to share it with you!
The beauty of it is you can work it around your lifestyle. I generally fast on Mondays, but if it there is an event to attend on a Monday or a nice meal out planned, I fast on Tuesday instead! I decided not to fast on holiday but came back to no appreciable weight gain: I also have not been ill since I started this regime and previously was very prone to colds and sore throats. I genuinely believe that fasting has not only allowed me to forever drop that annoying extra half stone, but is having hugely positive effects both now and in the future, on my health.
Of course, please be sensible, fasting should always be approved by your doctor and is not suitable for pregnant women, people who are underweight or who have eating disorders. Check with your doctor first but let me know how it goes, I would love to hear about your experiences!
Books you may like to start with…
Eat Stop Eat Brad Pilon
The Scientific Approach to Intermittent Fasting Dr Michael Vandershelden
The Fast Diet Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer