Sat on the (delayed, surprise) tube currently, with a slightly rumbly stomach, plus a bit of an odd taste in my mouth, which can only mean one thing –
I am mid-fast.
There are a few different reactions you always get when you say you’re fasting.
The SHOCK HORROR from (your mum usually) that you’re suddenly going to waste away, (I always look down at my thighs and arse and sigh, don’t panic mum, think I am okay for another stone or two) or the “I could never imagine not eating for like a whole day”. Or like “You want me to give up dinner? Dinner is the best meal!”, and sometimes even “OMG isn’t that DANGEROUS? It can’t be good!!!”.
Well actually yes, yes naysayers – it can!
Fasting smashed its way onto the diet agenda when Dr Michael Mosley came along and revolutionised the way that people understood food deprivation. This dude actually explained that it was GOOD for your body to go for periods without food. If somehow you missed this, (and I don’t mean that rudely because I missed Breaking Bad, which everyone recoils at like I have a contagious disease, so it’s understandable if you missed this) then watch his ground-breaking programme here. You wont regret it.
Understand you might not have the time/attention span, and I want you to have the facts here.
As you know I am not a scientist – I am just someone who has tried everything and know what works for people who struggle with their weight. So here is a 101 guide to give you the bare facts and information if you want to start fasting.
So lets go back to the fact that…FASTING is GOOD FOR YOU!
HANG ON. WAIT A MINUTE. (LETS PRETEND THAT YOU DON’T KNOW ALL THE GREAT FACTS NOW. Or if you didn’t watch the programme, and you were waiting for me to give you a topliner, here she is).
When this diet and premise came about I was confused, as like you I was definitely brought up on two premises:
~ If you’re not losing weight, ‘you’re probably not eating enough’
~ If you deprive yourself of food for prolonged periods your body goes into “starvation mode” and actually long-term clings onto the fat for survival
Actually, both of those ideas are (mostly) bollocks.
Otherwise off of the first point, no one would ever put on weight. And from second, no one would ever lose it.
The truth is, if you create a long-term daily deficit of calories (a caloric deficit is simply the number of calories you take in, minus the number of calories you burn) then shock horror you will decrease in mass.
Your body has to use energy to survive – so if it ain’t eating food, guess what – it’s going to eat you.
(My friends find this analogy disgusting. But it’s the simplest way of looking at it).
Now I am not saying that swinging your poor body from starvation to binge is in any way going to help your metabolism or your energy levels for that matter. No, your fasting needs to be planned, executed correctly, and working to benefit your body – not to limit the damage of a heavy eating weekend.
“Lucy, why the hell would I want to be hungry, when diets such as Weight Watchers/Slimming World etc. let me eat all the foods under the sun and I am never hungry”.
Well if your lifestyle is working, and you’re looking in the mirror mentally high fiving the svelt schmoking hot body in front of you then WHAT YOU DOING ON MY BLOG?!
No sorry that was an aggressive joke. (A Christmas joke for Peep Show fans).
But if that ISNT YOU let’s work through your current programme:
⁃ How much weight are you actually losing? Have you plateaued?
⁃ How much energy do you have? Do you find your energy levels peaking and crashing?
⁃ Have you ever felt how pleasant it is not to be full or hungry, but to actually find out what “true hunger” is?
⁃ Have you ever thought about your poor stomach constantly digesting and processing, not to mention your other organs?
⁃ Have you ever thought of THESE health benefits that kick in once you start fasting, which have genuine science behind them?
- Your body initiates cellular repair processes, such as removing waste materials from cells (think less ageing)
- Your INSULIN levels DROP – which facilitates FAT BURNING
- Short-term fasting INCREASES your metabolic rate (which helps you burn more calories, woop!)
- Studies show that it helps to reduce BELLY FAT – which we know is a. the toughest to remove, and b. can indicate disease – so GOOD NEWS!
- It has been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall heart health
- Some studies say it can provide protection against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease
- It can IMPROVE brain function (genius alert!)
- And FINALLY, all of this means you’ll LIVE LONGER, HAPPIER and SLIMMER 🙂
You can read more about all of this here.
If you are naturally slim (ectomorph), and your body processes calories and food quickly, then massively restricting them don’t really sound like a plan Stan. But, read on below and you might find that a version of intermittent fasting could work for you.
But if you’re like me – look at a jeffing piece of toast/chocolate bar/chips and watch your thighs expand like the sun on a horizon, then you can imagine that your body not only processes calories slowly. But the bastard fats cling onto us for dear life.
As an Endomorph we are actually DESIGNED not to EAT ALL THE TIME.
For f*cks sake. Really? Like really Lucy you’re telling me this to upset me? I thought we were getting along.
I know right?
But the good news is you don’t have to starve ALL the time, else you’d die.
And, as mentioned if your fasting is timed, measured AND you can still feel “full” (ish, caveat the ish)…Then come on… give it a whirl! You might even LIKE IT!
So these are the top three types of fasting, that you could try – to fit in with your lifestyle.
Mr Popular: 5:2
This is the one favoured by most because in THEORY you can eat 500 (female)/600 (male) calories for two days of the week, and live a much less restricted one on the other days. Great, fantastic, phenomenal in THEORY.
But the problem is, as humans – give us an inch and we will take a bloody mile. My massage client (who thought slimming world was tricking her here, also, love her) used to literally wait till it had been the allotted 24 hours and then crack open a family sized chocolate bar. Hands up who thinks this is a good idea?
Good, you’re learning.
I would recommend fasting more like 3 days a week, 4 if you feel comfortable (remember you can ‘fill’ up on loads of delicious and nutritious low calorie foods that I’ll come onto). Then you can enjoy the other days without going MENTAL.
If you’re doing 5:2, or 4:3 – just keep a diary on what you’re clocking up on your days off – and steer clear of the usual weight gain suspects. (Crappy carbs, sugar and trans fats).
Intermittent Fasting/Lean Gains/Eight Hour Window
This is my preferred method as it is so easy to stick to. You’ll find different versions with different names, but for simplicity and ease I would recommend to pick an 8-hour window – and only eat within this timeframe. I usually start eating around 8/9 and finish around 3/4.
So I have a smallish breakfast: OAT BRAN – this stuff actually expands in your stomach. Have a tablespoon with unsweetened almond milk, whack it in the microwave and you’ll get tasty porridge that fills you up. Throw on some blue or raspberries if you’re feeling fruity. This will keep you full till mid-morning.
Then move onto EGGS! Have a lovely brunch around 11 – 1 x scrambled egg – then you can also chuck in spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms… any low calorie, delicious and filling vegetables. Jalepinos are a favourite for me, which get your metabolism going too. (Just be prepared for the spices leaving you a few hours later if you know what I mean, see below).
Lastly, around 3/4 I have what my sister calls ‘Linner’ – usually a soup, salad, or vegetable based deliciousness. Try my Moroccan Veggie Medley recipe.
Then go home, drink tons more water, herbal teas – and go to bed nice and early. Whack on a ten minute meditation app, and feel ready to feel REFRESHED tomorrow, with an instantly flatter stomach.
24+ hour fast
I read that Chris Martin does this once a week. I don’t know how true this is, but he does look pretty good!
I really enjoy how refreshed I feel the day after intermittent fasting, and wanted to try a bigger non-eating window, so I went for it. You have to choose a day you’re not doing much else – I usually go for a Monday as it re-sets me after the weekend.
WATER. IS. KEY.
Drink a shed load of it! In all forms. I have a lot of herbal teas – TUMERIC ROOT TEA – and sparkling water as a cheeky afternoon treat.
This isn’t for the fainthearted the first time you try 24+, but the more you do it the easier it is! I find a few days later I still feel more vibrant. Skin seems brighter, stomach flatter. I once did over 40 hours and then ran across the Malvern Hills, cried twice because the emotion and beauty overwhelmed me, and sat at the top contemplating the happiness in the world. (YES I AM SLIGHTLY MENTAL, BUT WHO WANTS TO BE NORMAL?)
Saying that, it’s normal in a lot of religions to do this (fasting, not running round crying), and actually it’s nice not to have to think about food for a day – I just punctuate the day with water and teas.
It gives you clarity.
Recommended fasting foods
- Slim Noodles – made from some MAD Japanese yam or something. They’re like 20 calories and if you add low salt chicken stock and close your eyes tight enough, you can just about imagine they’re Super Noodles and you’re in your first year of University. Or you can behave like a normal person and add them to dishes to bulk them out
- Homemade Soups – Whizz up some greens baby and you’re full up, all for like 150 calories
- Fish – Especially salmon which gives you a nice dopamine (happy hormone) hit too. Very filling
- Eggs, egg whites – Scramble them, or boil them and have with you at all times (awkward if you spend a lot of time on trains like me and don’t want to stink everyone out. Eating hard boiled eggs in the toilet is a new kind of low)
- Oat Bran – as I said it expands in your tummy! Result!
- Veggies in general – big huge piles of cauliflower roasted with some spices. Or broccoli in the oven with roasted tomatoes and a ton of garlic. Mmmmmmm
So there you have it. The fasting 101. Let me know how you get on!