We are told many things when it comes to food: don’t skip meals but skip snacks, eat intuitively but not too much…
It can all get very confusing! Therefore, it is easy to understand how simple intermittent fasting is – where, following the usual calorie intakeyou restrict your food to certain times of the day – may seem appealing.
Especially if you want it lose weightwhich many of us are – Google searches for “how to get rid of stubborn belly fat” increased by 1100% this summer.
According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, intermittent fasting a typical weight loss of 7-11 pounds is seen at 10-week follow-up.
Ten weeks seemed like a long time for my first attempt, but will two affect my health, happiness – and the number on the bathroom scale?
“Decreasing insulin during fasting promotes fat burning. Growth hormone levels can also increase, which can help burn fat and build muscle,” says nutritionist Rob Hobson, co-author of The Detox Kitchen Bible.
“Fasting also improves insulin sensitivity, which helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says Rob.
Research has also found that fasting can help relieve arthritis*, chronic pain** and high blood pressure***, while the increased levels of healthy gut bacteria that result from intermittent fasting aid digestion and a happy gut is linked to improving mental health.
So far, fasting sounds too good to be true, and I’m not a fan of counting calories either, which makes it even more appealing.
As one who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, Shortening meal times, avoiding late-night snacking, and giving the digestive system time to work its magic also seemed to be helpful.
I choose diet 16:8which involves eating during an eight-hour window and then fasting for 16 hours (other options include 14:10 and 5:2, in which you fast two days a week).
In theory, you’ll sleep most of the 16 hours by setting your eating window to 9:00-17:00 or 12:00-20:00, so you can stick to your regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner times.
But you can set any time that suits you. During the first week, I had a hard time coping with my fasting.
Due to my busy schedule, I had to alternate meal times to avoid being anti-social, which sometimes meant going without food for 24 hours.
As a result, during the eight-hour window that I could eat, I ate whatever I could get my hands on, which was counterproductive.
“There’s a huge opportunity to succumb to hunger,” says Rob, “which can lead to overeating and unhealthy snacking.”
To keep my energy levels high, I snacked a lot on apples, as they are said to curb hunger, and bananas, as well as chips and cookies.
I was so tired and irritable, getting upset over stupid things like my boyfriend eating when I couldn’t.
I even canceled plans because I couldn’t do anything.
On the plus side, by the end of the first week, I noticed that my bowel movements were more regular because my body had time to actually digest what I was eating, and I felt less bloated as a result.
Despite this, the number on the scales did not budge.
IN THE MENU
For two weeks, I wanted to be more careful about what – and when – I ate.
I set a feast window of 12pm to 8pm, stuck to it and squeezed in three meals. But it was difficult.
Rob told me to increase my fiber and protein intake to keep the hunger pangs at bay.
Breakfast (which I ate more at lunchtime) consisted of peanut butter on toast, overnight oats or Greek yogurt, and fruit.
For lunch I tried to make falafel and for dinner I ate carbs like potatoes or pasta to keep me full longer.
When I ate light meals like salmon and broccoli, I woke up hungry at night.
I assumed that fasting meant giving up tea, coffee, or other drinks that help get rid of a rumbling stomach, but you shouldn’t rule them out.
In fact, Rob suggests getting creative with the options. “You’re going to get hungry, so stock up on miso soup and low-calorie hot chocolate to eat while you’re fasting,” he says.
I increased my fluids throughout the day and realized that when I thought I was hungry, sometimes I was just dehydrated.
Even though I didn’t lose any weight in two weeks on the 16:8 plan, I did feel less bloated at times and could comfortably fit into a tighter skirt than usual.
I’ve also been drinking more water, being more mindful of what I eat to stay energized, and cutting out late-night snacks (which are the real culprits when it comes to packing on the pounds).
However, I underestimated how difficult the post would be.
Cavemen were pros at this, fasting until they caught and killed their next meal, and some religions have regular periods of fasting, so it’s possible, but my concentration, tolerance level, and sleep all suffered, plus I avoided exercise as a result because he felt weak.
Rob suggests exercising between meals to give you energy and protein to aid in muscle recovery, but I found it exhausting.
From a logistical point of view, fasting is difficult. When I prepared my meals in advance, it was easier, but knowing that these healthy meals were waiting for me in the fridge made me want to eat them sooner, making it even harder to stick to my feast.
For me, fasting for weight loss just didn’t seem sustainable for more than a couple of weeks – even though it did kick my late night snacking habits!
Your holiday window meal plan
Follow Rob Hobson’s menu to keep you from reaching for the appetizers…
Porridge with milk and honey, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and fruit. Mix in yogurt for extra protein and calcium.
Wholemeal or pitta wrap filled with salad and protein (meat, fish, tofu or cheese). Add a handful of whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, and mashed avocado.
Grain-based salad with vegetables, protein and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds). Season the salad with olive oil and lemon juice. After that, serve a yogurt and fruit dessert.