We’ve been told a lot of things when it comes to food: don’t miss meals, but skip snacks, eat intuitively, but not too much…
It can all get very confusing! So it’s easy to see how the simplicity of intermittent fasting — where you stick to your usual calorie intake, restrict food intake at certain times of the day — can sound appealing.
What’s more, if you’re keen on losing weight, which many of us do – this summer saw a massive 1,100% increase in Google searches for: “how to lose stubborn belly fat”.
According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, intermittent fasting sees a typical weight loss of 7-11 pounds when followed for 10 weeks.
Ten weeks seemed too little on my first try, but would two make a difference to my health and happiness—and the number on my bathroom scales?
“Low insulin during fasting appears to facilitate fat burning. Growth hormone levels may also increase, which may support fat burning and muscle formation,” says nutrition expert Rob Hobson, co-author of The Detox Kitchen Bible.
“Fasting also appears to improve insulin sensitivity, which helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes,” Rob says.
Studies have also found that fasting can help ward off arthritis*, chronic pain** and high blood pressure**, while increased levels of healthy gut bacteria that come from intermittent fasting aid digestion, and a happy gut is linked to better mental health. .
So far, fasting sounds too good to be true, and I’m not a person who counts calories either, which makes it more appealing.
As someone with IBS, cutting out my eating window, avoiding late-night snacking, and letting my digestive system do its magic also seemed like something I could benefit from.
I choose the 16:8 diet, which involves eating during an eight-hour window, then fasting for 16 hours (other variations include 14:10 and 5:2, where you fast two days a week).
In theory, you sleep through the greater part of 16 hours, with your eating window set to 9am-5pm or 12pm-8pm, so you can fit in your usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner times.
But you can decide which watches suit you. During the first week, the fasting window was hard to handle.
Due to a busy schedule, I had to switch the hours I ate to avoid being antisocial, which sometimes meant not eating for a full 24 hours.
As a result, during the eight hour period I was able to eat, I was eating everything I could get my hands on, which was counterproductive.
“There is a lot of room to give in to hunger, which can lead to binge eating and unhealthy snacking,” says Rob.
To keep energy levels high, I’ve been snacking a lot on apples, which are said to curb hunger pangs, and bananas, as well as chips and crackers.
I was very tired and irritable, and annoyed with silly things, like eating my boyfriend when I couldn’t.
I even canceled plans because I couldn’t bear to do anything.
On the plus side, by the end of the first week, I noticed that my bowel movements became more regular, because my body had time to digest what I was already eating, and as a result, I felt less bloated.
However, the number on the scale did not budge.
on the list
Over the course of the second week, I wanted to be more aware of what – and when – I was eating.
I set up my eating window from 12pm to 8pm, and I stick to it and eat three meals. It was difficult though.
Rob told me to increase my fiber and protein intake to stave off hunger pangs.
Breakfast (most often eaten at lunchtime) was peanut butter on toast, overnight oats, or Greek yogurt and fruit.
I’ve been trying to make falafel wraps for lunch, and for dinner I found myself eating carbs like potatoes or pasta to keep me full for longer.
When I ate lighter options, like salmon and broccoli, I would wake up at night starving.
I assumed that fasting meant avoiding tea, coffee, or other rumbling drinks, but you don’t have to rule them out.
In fact, Rob suggests that you get creative with your choices. “You’ll feel hungry, so stock up on miso soup and low-calorie hot chocolate to eat during the fasting window,” he says.
I increased my fluids throughout the day and realized that when I thought I was hungry, I sometimes got dehydrated.
Even though I haven’t dropped any weight for the past two weeks on the 16:8 plan, at times I felt a little less puffy and could fit comfortably in a tighter skirt than usual.
I also drank more water, became aware of what I was eating to stay active and ditched evening snacking (which is the real culprit when it comes to piling on kilos).
However, I underestimated how difficult it was to fast.
Cavemen were professionals in this, they would fast until they grabbed their next meal and kill it, some religions regularly feature fasting periods, so this can be done, but my concentration, endurance level and sleep suffered greatly, plus I ended up avoiding exercise because I also felt weak .
Rob suggests exercising between meals so you get energy and protein to boost muscle recovery, but I found it exhausting.
Logistically speaking, fasting is difficult. When I prepped the meals in advance, it felt easier—but knowing that those healthy meals were waiting for me in the fridge, I wanted to eat them sooner, made sticking to the feast window even more difficult.
For me, fasting for weight loss wasn’t sustainable for more than two weeks – even if it did spice up my late-night snacking habits!
Plan your banquet meal
Follow Rob Hobson’s list to keep you from reaching for snacks…
Milk porridge topped with honey, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and fruit. Add yogurt to get more protein and calcium.
Whole wheat bread or pita bread stuffed with salad and protein (meat, fish, tofu or cheese). Add a handful of grains like brown rice or quinoa and mashed avocado.
Grain salad with vegetables, protein, and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, and seeds). Grease the salad with olive oil and lemon juice. Followed by a dessert of yoghurt and fruit.
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