Intermittent Fasting: people will think I’m nuts

Until recently I had been just about the same weight since high school. Over the past few years (since I started running, funnily enough) my weight has slowly but surely started to increase. I’m talking maybe 3-4kg, which I know isn’t heaps. I love food: I love eating, I love talking about food, and I love going out for nice meals. I definitely do not want to ever be on a diet that will make me miserable and that is unsustainable.

Intermittent fasting probably appears to be a fad diet, but it makes enough sense to me to decide to give it a go. Essentially I’ve cut back on the frequency of meals. I think eating 6 meals a day to keep your metabolism revved up is bull. Our bodies does what it wants with the food that it’s given, and the only way we can make it burn more fuel is to exercise or move more. I run often enough that my issue has been more to do with kilojoules in, not kilojoules out. I was initially worried about telling J about this, but he wasn’t too concerned. He actually supports the idea that our bodies sort out what to do with the energy we give it, he just thinks that calling it intermittent fasting is silly (rather than just saying that I’m eating less often).

There are a lot of resources out there supporting this idea, all with different periods of fasting. One such resource was Lean Gains, which suggests a 16-18 hour fast each day with a 6-8 hour ‘feeding window’. He also focuses on body building so there’s a lot more emphasis on timing of protein for workouts and getting the perfect carb:protein:fat ratio. I’m not linking to the website though – the last time he posted was back in March and his most recent posts all seem to be ranting about the popularity of other fasting methods (I might be wrong but that’s how it comes across).

Eat Stop Eat seems slightly more extreme: 5 days of normal eating per week, with 1 or 2 24 hour fasts. The 24 hour period is actually dinner to dinner, so you do get to eat one meal on your fasting day!

I decided that the daily fast was a more realistic method for me, so at the start of April I pretty much just stopped eating breakfast. If anything, I figured that this was an opportunity to ‘reset’ my diet and to start thinking differently about food and about hunger. Feeling hungry is not a bad thing, but we’re led to believe that it is the devil. The cycle of constant eating means that most people don’t actually know what it’s like to be really, properly hungry. We have such easy access to snacks (even ‘healthy’ snacks) that add up to a lot of extra (and unnecessary) kilojoules.

For the past 6 weeks I have been doing a 16-18 hour fast most days, and aiming for 2 normal sized meals. I normally drink a cup of tea and a whole heap of water in the mornings, which is sufficient until lunch. The days I’m happiest are the days that I don’t snack, because I can eat decent meals! I actually don’t fast on weekends, because breakfast food is actually delicious. I also do occasional longer fasts as well (usually days off during the week). There are some days where the hunger is more extreme than others, and for the first 3-4 days I felt a little bit crappy in the mornings. My body has adapted really well, and I now don’t get that sick/hungry feeling after running either. If I run in the morning I will have a small chocolate milk, and/or a banana. In the past I would have this after a run and then feel like I needed a bigger breakfast within an hour, and I’d still sometimes feel ill for the rest of the day.

I have lost 2kg so far, but the biggest achievement has been improving my relationship with food. I really look forward to meals now, because I’m not on autopilot and eating because I think I should – I’m eating because I’m actually hungry. I have not been perfect – there are still days that I binge on junk food during the 75 minute drive home from work – but it’s a long term work in progress. I am much happier about my eating habits now compared to a couple months ago. I’d like to lose a little bit more weight (just for vanity reasons) but I’m not worried if I stayt

This is not a starvation diet. I don’t count kilojoules, but I would say that I am easily eating the recommended amount for my size and activity level.

I found this post informative, with other good links for more reading. IF isn’t something that everyone can do (or would want to do), but it’s working well for me right now.

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