I am very careful when it comes to diet topics because I do not encourage fad diets. I have not tried one and won’t endorse anything to you. Reason being, there is no quick fix to losing weight. Barring serious medical conditions, you and I don’t gain weight overnight. Obesity in general is borne out of unhealthy lifestyle choices. When I was still working at big pharma (late 90s to mid 2000), the constant dining plus work pressure (I found comfort in food) made me gain weight, much to my disappointment. I was short and chubby, I didn’t like the way I look and worse, I was quite sickly. If you’re interested in my weight loss journey, I shared about it here (very old post).
Although recently gaining popularity, I don’t consider intermittent fasting a fad because it’s nothing new! Our very own ancestors all fasted whether as a way of life, religious practice, or to boost mental and physical aspect (via detoxification). More than diet per se, intermittent fasting in my opinion is a discipline. Mind over matter. You still eat but you train your mind when to eat. But there is a science behind it: each time we eat, the glucose that is stored in the liver called glycogen takes about 12 hours to deplete. Once the glycogen is used up, our body starts to burn stored fat. So if you eat every so often, you are not burning those fat. There are several benefits attributed to occasional fasting such as weight loss, reduced risk in cardiovascular problems, improved blood sugar and cholesterol level, cellular repair, among others.
I started IF (intermittent fasting) June of last year. I was intrigued to try it myself because some of our patients have had success with IF in terms of weight loss, A1c level (primary test for diabetes) as well as cholesterol. My numbers were quite okay from last year’s annual test but I know I can do better. I don’t take any medications and I’m pretty much active. I don’t have any medical issues or complications that will put my overall health at risk. I am saying these because IF isn’t for everyone. It’s best to discuss your health goals to your doctor or dietitian for proper food choices and guidance.
There are several types of intermittent fasting. It all boils down to one’s preference. Personally, and as with any kind of diet or fitness plan you want to engage in, anything that fits your lifestyle and schedule is usually the one that works. Let me begin with what works for me because it is easy and coincides with my daily routine.
1) 16:8 (technically no breakfast). I fast 16 hours and eat within the 8-hour window. I am not a heavy breakfast eater to begin with and my mornings at work are usually the busiest hence coming in with full stomach affect my productivity. This 16 hr fasting suits my lifestyle and routine. My last meal is usually done by 7 pm, hit the sack at 11 pm, and wake up at 7 am, 7 to 7, that’s easily 12 hrs of fasting. Then I drink coffee or tea in the morning, answer few emails, and get ready for work. Around 11 am, I may drink coffee or tea again but I pretty much survive with water. And long before I know it, it’s already 1 pm, my lunch time.
So you can drink when you fast? Yes of course. Coffee, tea, as long as there’s no cream or sugar because they contain calories.
Do I get hungry when I do 16:8? Initially I was because I was looking forward to lunch and my mind was fixated with food. But as my mind (and body) get accustomed to this discipline, I don’t feel hunger or loss of energy at all. In fact, I think it made me stay more focused and alert.
Any result? I lost total of 12 pounds in 3 months and kept my ideal weight since then. I am due for my annual labs in May so we will see if my triglyceride and blood glucose are better, I’ll keep you posted.
How often do I fast? 5 days on average M-F, again it works with my schedule.
What do I eat for lunch and dinner? what I normally eat, either sandwich, homecooked, sometimes takeout, but everything in moderation because what breaks any kind of IF is to overcompensate with food. The principle is simple: you subtracted one meal, hence less caloric intake for the day.
2) 24 hr fasting. Quite simple if you think about it. Lunch to lunch or dinner to dinner. Some do it once per week but some have had more successful results if done two or three times a week. Knowing that I get hangry, this is quite an overkill for me. But who knows, I may experiment in the near future.
3) 5:2 or The Fast Diet. Popularized by Dr. Michael Mosley, this kind of IF means 5 regular days of eating and 2 days of diet restriction by consuming only 500 calories of food, whether eaten throughout the day or as single meal. Again, it’s like shooting for the moon. I tried to count calories in my early stages of weight loss (mid 2000) and while it made me lose significant weight, the constant counting of calories was annoying.
To each his own, whatever floats your boat. Diet is one thing, staying active is another. We have 11 months to make 2017 the best year ever!
Disclaimer: If you want to try intermittent fasting, please consult your doctor. My opinion does not replace your doctor’s advice and protocol.