First Fast: initial explorations of intermittent fasting diets

Posted: November 12, 2012 in Diet and exercise
Tags: , , , , , ,

When I first overheard a colleague telling the canteen staff he couldn’t have any more than the measly cup of luke warm soup nestled in his palm because it was a ‘fast day’ and he was restricted to 600 calories, I looked aghast at his 6 foot 6, cyclist frame and told him in no uncertain terms that he’d lost the plot and that I ate more than that just walking past the fridge.

At precisely 3.45pm this afternoon, I finished the first of what may or may not become regular 24 hour fasts as part of my initial experimentations with the world of intermittent fasting.  No sooner had I informed my colleague that he needed to have a serious word with himself, he was delivering – eager and bright-eyed as always – a surprisingly convincing collection of reasons why this wasn’t so absurd after all.

I went away mildly intrigued by the idea, chiefly as I’ve been looking for something to adapt in my diet in an attempt to stop the sugar-purges of late evening.  I’m by no means a serial dieter; in fact, my approach to food and exercise is always that I won’t start something that I do not believe sustainable.  No crash diets here.  And I tend to do quite a bit of reading before trying anything new.  And so, the more I read about intermittent/alternate/5:2 fasting, the more fascinated I became…which culminated in watching BBC Horizon’s August 2012 documentary ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ in which Dr. Michael Mosley researches various people who incorporate fasting into their diets – whether voluntarily or not – and indeed tries it himself.  And the really interesting part is that weight loss, though a welcome addition to the host of potential benefits (though still very much under-evidenced in human subjects), is not the primary motivation, with a lessened risk to diseases such as diabetes and cancer being more marked possibilities.

Anyhow, after a excellent slice of carrot cake and a strawberry and cream flavoured tea at Bristol’s Cox and Baloney’s tea shop yesterday at around 3.30pm, I figured that was that.  I just wouldn’t eat until 3.45pm the following day.  I got on the train back to Devon, admittedly had to shelter from view of my chocolate stacked fridge by getting a very early (but much needed) sleep and did a day’s teaching with no food.  And I was fine.  Needless to say, we don’t fall down and collapse if we fail to receive the traditional three square meals a day.  Not at all.  A mild headache crept in about an hour before I finished but all-in-all, not at all bad.  And I felt less like I’d spent the day cramming whatever food came my way in between writing reports, marking books and trying to entertain rooms of teenagers – a feeling I usually have and generally am not so fond of.

I finished the fast with a fair-sized bowl of my favourite cereal, a banana, some grapes and a cake.  Not the best choice really, given that’s a fair chunk of sugar right there and one of the key hopes I have for this new way of eating is to reduce the sugar cravings that plague my every evening.  But still.  It’s early days.  Dinner was a very large pile of fish, quinoa and greens (and I’m just about to have a little chocolatey night cap!)  Tomorrow, importantly (and much emphasised in the literature I’ve started to read) is a normal eating day.  Then on Thursday, I think I’ll have another stab at it.  Not planning to necessarily pursue total fasts long-term, possibly the reduced 500 calories day (600 for men) but just going to see how it goes.

Is anyone else dabbling with fasting and has had any major success/tips?

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