Intermittent fasting is becoming one of the most popular methods to lose weight and for good reason. It has been used for centuries for both physical and spiritual reasons and has stood the test of time to become more than just a 'fad'. Some people swear by fasted cardio for fat loss while others utilise the principles of the 5:2 diet to help them shed the pounds. But when you fast, a lot more happens to your body than just weight loss. I gave fasting a go and here's what I discovered.
It was the easiest weight loss I've ever experienced
I really struggle with my weight due to, honestly, being so greedy and essentially addicted to food. I exercise a lot which helps, but I'm just not one of these people who can eat 'everything in moderation'. If I have a tub of ice cream, the whole thing is getting eaten. That's 1,000 calories in one sitting without a second thought. I've tried 'dieting' before but I know as well as the next person that fad diets don't work and that restricting your favourite foods day-in-day-out is just miserable and you end up gaining back all the weight when you snap.
The difference with fasting was that by fasting 2 days a week (following in the vein of the 5:2 diet), my overall weekly calories dropped without me having to really do much else. What amazed me was that by fasting for those 2 days, my control over food increased and I was able to stop eating so mindlessly on the days when I did eat.
I took it day by day and gradually reduced my intake of unhealthy foods (especially at the weekend). I'm fully aware that there's no point in fasting/restricting during the week only to eat back all the calories at the weekend. However, it's important to point out that I would have been eating those calories at the weekend anyway due to my lack of self control, so if I had also eaten more calories during the week, my weekly total would be much higher and I would keep gaining weight.
Fasting gave me an easy opportunity to reduce my weekly calories and gave me time to think about my unhealthy relationship with food rather than feeling like I had to restrict myself every single day and feel like I was 'on a diet'.
I had so much more free time
I spend a lot of time preparing my lunch for work and doing the washing up when I get home which can really feel like a chore. I chose to have my fasting days on days when I'm in the office (I sometimes work from home), which meant I saved a lot of time not having to think about what to have for lunch in advance, prepare it, and then hand-wash the Tupperware afterwards (putting plastic in a dishwasher is such a disaster!)
Not only did I save time on lunches, I was able to have around 20 more minutes in bed in the morning because I wasn't preparing and eating breakfast before work. It worked out well for me because I usually just eat lunch at my desk, so I didn't miss it when I was at work and it actually freed up my time to focus on something else.
I saved money
I am very conscious of my weekly expenditure and pay careful attention to my budgeting. However, I'm hugely guilty of spending way more money on food than I should. This includes the weekly grocery shopping as well as takeaways, going out to eat, and top-up shops (usually for unhealthy snacks when the craving hits in the evening). By fasting 2 days a week I saved a huge £30 ($40) a week! That's £120 ($170) extra at the end of the month to go towards more important things.
I learnt to control my impulses
I'm definitely guilty of eating when I'm not actually hungry. By fasting, I was able to re-learn how to listen to my body and understand the difference between real hunger and 'toxic hunger'. It also taught me to be patient and not give in to cravings as soon as they hit. Instead, I learnt to wait until I was actually hungry to eat and not just eat 'because it's dinner time' or because other people were eating.
I didn't get hangry
The hunger I experienced when I was fasting was totally different to the hunger I feel normally. It was something I was totally in control of and it was easier to handle emotionally because I knew why I was experiencing it as I was the one causing it. Rather than being hungry because there was no food available to me, or because I wasn't letting myself give in to a craving, or because I was just bored, I was able to block out the hunger and ignore it. My brain was able to tell my stomach, "Yes, you're empty. Get used to it." As such, I didn't experience any of the usual symptoms that come with being hungry, such as anger and frustration.
A new lifestyle
My overall experience with intermittent fasting was hugely positive in so many aspects that I will continue it indefinitely. As it is such a tried and tested lifestyle choice, it is something that can be sustained for a long time. It's important to point out that I never fasted for more than 24 hours at a time and I did not exercise on days when I was fasting. If you are going to try fasting, it's vital you do your research first and only do it if it suits you.
As a method for weight loss, it worked for me because I'm an 'all or nothing' sort of person and so I'd rather eat nothing at all than be able to eat but not eat what I want (hence the entire tub of ice cream example earlier). This was only my experience and it won't be the same for everyone.