Four weeks ago, I wrote a post about dealing with overwhelm and the need to get clear on my priorities in life. One of the things I talked about was embarking on Dr Michael Mosley’s Fast Diet, also known as the 5:2 diet. I’ve been on it for 4 weeks now and in this post I detail how it’s been for me.
First of all, I don’t really like to refer to this as a diet, not only because I think short-term dieting isn’t helpful but because my plan is to adopt this way of eating indefinitely, so instead I tend to refer to it as my eating strategy of intermittent fasting (not as catchy but hey!). This one is better.
What is intermittent fasting?
Essentially the Fast diet as detailed in the documentary I’ve linked to below and the book The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting is a system of eating whereby you eat normally for five days a week and you “fast” for two. It’s called fasting but it’s not what you might think, on fast days, women are permitted to eat up to 500 calories and men, 600.
The benefits of intermittent fasting are plenty, top of the list for most people is weight loss but there are also a host of health benefits to be had from fasting, including: improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity as well as the reduction of your chances of developing many cancers. But I am no expert so I recommend watching the documentary as a good way to get your head around the science of it.
What made me do this?
Months ago, when I was still living in Chiang Mai, my friend and running partner told me about the documentary ‘Eat, fast and live longer’ and encouraged me to watch it. I did watch it, felt inspired, vowed to start and then promptly forgot about it.
However, since I’ve been living on Koh Phangan, which started with an 11-day detox, my health has become more of a priority. Doing the detox, made me realise that my relationship with food isn’t especially healthy. I love food but I know that I often eat more than I should and I don’t always make the healthiest choices. I’m not mindful with my food, often shovelling it down my throat without chewing properly and whilst doing something else. Seven days without solid food changed something in me. I have, since my first detox in March completed a second 7-day detox and as of this week, I’ve completed four weeks of intermittent fasting.
How I did it
I decided to make my weekly fast days, Monday and Thursday. This, I figured, gave me the weekend off plus as I always feel more resolved to be “good” on a Monday, it made perfect sense to me.
In terms of the 500 calories, the book states that you can consume them whenever you want throughout the day, with some people opting to spread their calories throughout the day, others using them all in one meal and others, including myself, opting to split the calories into two meals with a significant break in the middle. In the main, I opted for a light breakfast of porridge (made with water) and a sliced kiwi fruit for breakfast at around 7am and a salad or stir fry for dinner at 7pm. This gave my body nearly two 12-hour fast periods over a 24-hour period, twice a week.
I love a good spreadsheet, so my first port of call with this endeavor was to create one. It contains, details of my weekly measurements: weight, thigh, waist and bust as well as my daily food intake and calories consumed.
Finding the calorific value of foods can be a bit hit and miss. I usually simply google it and if there seems to be a range of different answers for the same piece of food, I take the average.
|Day 1||Day 28||Difference|
|Weight (kg)||57.8||56.8||– 1kg|
|Waist (inches)||32||31||– 1 inch|
|Thigh (inches)||23||22.5||– 0.5 inch|
The metrics after four weeks aren’t particularly impressive. I’ve lost only one kilogram in weight and my measurements have only changed marginally, but despite the low numbers, I feel great. I actually love my fast days and I’ve noticed changes in my body and my attitude towards food that I simply can’t put a number on. Several people have commented on my apparent weight loss and despite what the scales say I feel and look slimmer and healthier. Most importantly for me however, is the fact that I feel differently about food, I’m less hungry on my non-fast days and I feel less anxious about when I can next eat. Not only that but I’m making healthier choices about what I do eat when it comes to meal times.
I love this way of eating. It has been a lot easier than I anticipated and whilst hunger is definitely a feature on fast days, as the weeks have gone by I’ve found it easier and easier to deal with. I know that giving my digestive system a break from regular consumption is good for it and I’ve definitely felt the benefits. I have no intention of giving this up any time soon and I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
If you are interested in knowing more about my experience of intermittent fasting, including my meal plans and tips for success or if you want a copy of the spreadsheet I use, then feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org