Some of you have started to notice and comment that I’ve lost weight. It’s interesting that nobody noticed the difference in my appearance until I’d shed around 10kg (22lb).
Last October I realised that my weight had been creeping up for 3 years, and given my middle age, being the weight I was when I gave birth to my son 12 years earlier, wasn’t good for my health. I also have a family history of high cholesterol to contend with and carrying extra weight is also a risk for cancer and many other diseases.
It was time to take some action, I’d been thinking about it for some time, but I find every day calorie restriction very difficult. But after being inspired by one of my clients who had lost 8kg in a couple of months using the intermittent fasting method, I did some research and decided to give it a go. I watched Michael Mosley’s Eat Fast and Live Longer documentary (you can watch it below), read the book The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting
and in mid- November, started eating the 5:2 way.
If you haven’t heard of 5:2 – the concept is this. Five days a week you eat normally (not pigging out, but regular, healthy eating, with a few treats and wine here and there). Two days a week you eat 500 calories each day (these are your fasting days). I usually fast on Monday and Thursday, but if something else is on, I’ll swap my days around during the week. I limit my alcohol intake to weekends, the same goes for any desert too!
Now, fasting can seem quite difficult and when I first started I noticed it much more, but the beauty of this plan is that even though I can only eat a small amount of protein and a bunch of vegetables on my fasting day (I love a beef or chicken Pho, or roast chicken breast rice paper rolls, or sometimes just a piece of chicken or steak and a lovely big salad for my dinner), I can eat that piece of chocolate the next day when I’m not fasting. I’m terrible with diets, just can’t deprive myself of everything nice all the time (and in fact, the minute you tell me I can’t have something I want it all the more), but intermittent fasting allows you to have your cake, just not every day.
Interestingly now I’ve been fasting twice a week for a few months, I’m finding it easier and easier. In fact, these days I don’t eat til dinnertime on my fast day – that way I get to have a lovely dinner (I’m a dinner fan, never been a breakfast fan), and I get all the other health benefits of fasting (there are loads, lower cholesterol is just one of them). In fact, I decided to go off my cholesterol medication and see if in a few months this plan would lower it, and it has – not quite as low as I’d like yet (but I’ve not been taking any omega 3 which can also help), but now at the top end of normal which is much improved.
I’ve been tracking my weight on the CalorieKing app that I use to calculate calories in my food on fast days (I don’t track my calories on ‘feast’ days) and you can see my loss has been fairly consistent (with a slight bump here and there). One of the benefits of fasting, is that it shrinks your stomach, so usually the day after a fast day, I’m not as hungry as I would have been anyway, and I’ve become much more conscious of my unconscious consumption (like when I eat a bit of something I’m preparing for the kids, or when I automatically reach for food, rather than ask myself if I’m actually hungry, or is it just eating from habit).
I’ve now had to have a bunch of my favourite clothes altered to fit me, and have been expunging my wardrobe of all my other too big clothes that I don’t love enough to alter.
Last year on an airplane to the USA, I watched the other Michael Mosley documentary: The Truth about Exercise (you can watch that below too), and it inspired me early this year to start adding some HIIT training to my exercise routine.
You can read more about HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training as outlined in FastExercise: The Simple Secret of High-Intensity Training if you’re interested.
To tell you my exercise plan:
- 3 times per week, I sprint, fast as I can for 3 bursts of 20 seconds (with a minute of walking in between each sprint).
- 2-3 times per week I go to the gym, walk on incline on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then do some weights, yoga or whatever else I feel like.
Now up until February, I’ve never been able to jog for more than 8 minutes without stopping and feeling my lungs would explode. Early last month, after only 3 weeks of Fast Exercise, I got on the treadmill at the gym and jogged for 20 minutes, fairly easily. I was stunned, but the HIIT must be working!
I do try and exercise on the mornings of my fast days – that way I can burn up the 500 calories I’m going to eat that day before I’ve eaten them.
One of the realities of this ‘diet’ (it’s a lifestyle) is that once you’ve finished losing weight, to continue to have the health benefits you need to keep fasting, but one day a week instead of two (6:1). And even though sometimes I mentally really want to eat on a fast day, I also really appreciate my fasting days, particularly if I’ve had a bit of a big, social weekend with lots of eating and drinking. I feel so much healthier, I’m now in the normal BMI range (I was in the Overweight category) and have lost 11% of excess body fat. I still have a bit more weight to lose (I store a lot as back fat and around my stomach, which is particularly unhealthy), but I’m finding this new way eating so easy and the results so impressive, it’s just not hard to do!