I’ve tried every fad diet under the sun in attempt to shed the pounds. I’ve signed up to multiple gym memberships and had a few failed attempts at meal planning (more than I’d care to admit). While I did see some results, I would never stick to it and always got side tracked and in turn, de-motivated. Yes - diets may help lose weight temporarily, but that’s exactly what they are; a temporary restrictive program of eating in order to lose weight. For me it wasn’t just about shedding those few extra pounds, I needed a lifestyle change to improve my overall health.
I started looking into the benefits of intermittent fasting. I found that it promoted weight loss, which made sense because if you’re not consuming calories your body would use up fat stores for energy release, which results in fat burn. It’s also said to boost cognitive function and energy levels. The benefits alone sold it to me, it was definitely worth a shot!
Fasting is an ancient tradition among many cultures around the world. It has been around for centuries, many religions around the word actively practice it today. In Buddhism, monks only eat before noon and then fast until the next morning. The ancient Greeks were big advocates of fasting, Hippocrates even labelled it as “The Physician Within.” Intermittent fasting involves partially abstaining from food for a certain number of hours a day. The hours you choose to fast are known as the fasting phase and during this time only water, tea and coffee can be consumed. There are a few different fasting methods to choose from such as:
5:2 - This involves eating your usual diet for 5 days of the week and reducing your calorie intake (<500kcal) on the other 2 days.
12:12- The rules for this diet are simple. It’s a 12 hour fasting period and a 12 hour eating period. E.g. if a person chooses to fast between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. They would need stop eating at 9 p.m. and start their eating period again at 9 am.
16:8 – This involves eating during an 8-hour period and fasting for 16 hours including sleep.
I decided to follow the 16:8 method, where you consume absolutely no food for 16 hours including the time you’re asleep and you have an 8 hour eating window. I usually start my eating phase at 1pm and stop eating at 9pm every night. This schedule was easily adaptable to my current lifestyle as I was always a breakfast skipper, so not being able to eat in the morning suited me fine, my green tea supply kept me going until the early afternoon. During the 16 hour fast, I was allowed to drink water, tea and coffee, but nothing high in sugar. My 8-hour window finished late enough that allowed me to wait for my other half to finish work so we could eat an evening meal together. It also meant that it didn’t really affect my social life, I was always able to get my food in within the designated eating phase.
I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for 6 months now and I can definitely see the benefits. In the beginning it was a struggle, you find yourself wanting to eat everything in sight, but persevere and it will get easier. You’ll have knockbacks where you over eat or choose naughty food instead of the healthier choice, but because each day you start a new fast it feels like an achievement when you’ve completed your fasting phase for the day. I’m programmed to eating later in the day now and I find that I’m making healthier choices for myself. As I’m only allowed to drink fluids in the mornings, I stay very hydrated. I drink more water now than I did before and find myself avoiding sugary fizzy drinks when I’m in my eating period. Sticking to the regime isn’t as difficult as I initially anticipated, it actually increased my productivity as I procrastinated less to keep my mind off thinking about food. I’m able to enjoy working out more and combined with the healthy eating its helping with weight loss. I eat less than I did before, I eat when I’m hungry during the 8 hours as opposed to eating 3 meals a day and snacking in between. I’m definitely more energetic and my morning brain fog has gone.
I’m big advocate of IF, and I’d definitely recommend trying it if like me you’ve struggled in the past with maintaining a healthy weight. However, you need to make sure it’s the right choice for you, talk to you doctor first and discuss options that suit you. Fasting has been around for ages, there must be a reason for that. So perhaps it's time to focus on this ancient healing tradition instead of trying the next new fad diet out there.