Health Dieting Science

Intermittent Fasting

Carrying More Pounds Than I Have To

I’m at that age where I need to be careful about a lot of things I never used to give a second thought to. Well into my forties I had little to worry about with my weight. But since then I have found that left to itself, my stomach indulges in what used to be called middle aged spread. This bothers me mainly because my self image is someone who is thin. And indeed most of the rest of me is indeed thin. If my stomach expands it is all the more noticeable.

More seriously, having a high BMI increases the risk of a number of health conditions that I still don’t really believe should apply to me. Sadly they do. And on top of that carting extra kilograms around is unnecessary work, and I don’t have the energy to waste any more.

I found a pretty good solution in the form of intermittent fasting. I went for the 5/2 option. I choose to eat only 600 calories on Mondays and Fridays. This pretty much got my BMI back into the NHS’s approved range for my height and age, and I felt generally better too. So that was a good result. It wasn’t too difficult to implement either. I could get to mid afternoon on most fast days hardly noticing I was doing it. It was more difficult in the evening though, and I breached the 600 calory limit reasonably often. But overall it was working for me and I was keeping to it.

Then came the COVID lockdown, which required me to work in my kitchen a lot. This clearly was going to make it more difficult to fast. I have a reasonable level of willpower, but not enough to cope with a nearby fridge and larder for hours on end. So I just gave up for the duration of the pandemic. I could, after all, go back to my old habits when the crisis was over.

But now we are approaching the one year mark I am beginning to realise just how bad a state I have got into. I have put on 10Kg and my weight is categorised as obese by the NHS. I don’t look it, but I know I am. I have also found my energy and concentration levels plummeting. Included in this is a loss of willpower.

We tend to think of willpower as a personality trait. But in reality it is more like a muscle. You can strengthen it a bit with exercise, but you really need the energy behind it if you want to do anything with it. I am seriously doubting that I any longer have the ability to follow my intermittent fasting regime. So what to do?

I did a bit of inadvertent research over Christmas. Due to circumstances I found myself having to move a lot of stuff out of our shop in a very limited timescale. I managed this, and to my surprise I found that when I had finished rather than being exhausted – as I had expected – I was actually more energetic than I had been for many months. Thinking it over, I realised that the physical activity combined with the tight time schedule had greatly reduced my snacking. Was there something in this?

I realised that I had been doing a less formal version of intermittent fasting. Skipping a few meals and not snacking was quite close to what is often called 16/8 fasting – only eating in an 8 hour window. The prospect of going all day without food seemed too daunting. But basically just skipping breakfast until 12 seemed doable. (I have never eaten after 8:00pm, so that was all I needed to do to get to 16 hours.)

So I gave it a try. I found that it wasn’t too difficult. In fact it was easy to skip not only breakfast, but lunch as well. As I write this, I have got through a week only eating between 5:00pm and 8:00pm. This is a very extreme sounding 21/3 pattern. I have lost an astonishing 3Kg in 8 days. I obviously won’t keep up that rate of weight loss. I don’t think even hunger strikers would generally shed pounds at that rate. It isn’t remotely sensible to lose weight that quickly anyway, but I suspect that each successive kilogram will take longer to shift.

I am going to keep up my new regime for a while and see where it takes me. If it proves interesting, I’ll post my findings.

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