I have been doing Intermittent Fasting (IF) since the end of October 2020, this was at the end of the lockdown and the effects of IF are visible with the weight and inch loss that has happened these past few weeks.
I will not explain about IF or its medical effects but I will share what worked for me. In very simple terms during IF the day is divided into an eating period and a fasting period and for obvious reasons the fasting period is longer than the eating period.
So the first question for many will be Why fast? The answer is that fasting is a normal human activity and outside the common religious considerations, fasting helps in a few ways that includes detoxification of the body and giving the body enough time to digest the food.
Fasting as a religious practice is common to many religions and fasting brings discipline, it also purifies / cleans up the body. Probably why the wise people used fasts in religious practices to encourage moderation before a feast. IF is basically the same thing and it disciplines the mind and body to eat better. The benefits including weight loss follow naturally.
IF is easy and we usually fast every day; which is why the first meal of the day is called “breakfast”. If our last meal of the previous day was at 8 PM and we break the fast at 8 AM we have effectively fasted for 12 hours. The critical point here is that once the last meal usually dinner is done there is no more calorie addition. Midnight snacking, desserts, beverages are a strict no as they break the fast. What is permitted is water, the elixir of life in large quantities and almost no calorie drinks like black coffee or tea, green tea taken without sugar and milk. Even tender coconut has calories and breaks the fast so there is no room for the healthy diversions during the fasting window.
The first step therefore in IF is to maintain the 12-hour window strictly. The preferred option would be to have the dinner early as the next meal will be after 12 hours. What can you eat in the other 12 hours? Good wholesome food is the best option. This would mean less of junk and more of unprocessed healthy food with generous portions of vegetables and fruits. Protein rich diets with comparatively lesser carbohydrates will help in weight loss more than eating the reverse combination. Eggs, lean meats for the non-vegetarians and panneer for the vegetarians are good protein sources.
Once the first step has been done successfully for a fortnight then the fasting window can be increased by another two hours. This would be to simply advance the dinner to 6 PM. While this may seem difficult due to practical reasons, the benefits of an early dinner are many, most important being a sound sleep. The new IF schedule would be 14/10. Eating will slowly become a focused activity where the timing of meals become as important as the components of the meals themselves.
The third fortnight should move to 16/8 and the fourth fortnight should result in 18/6 which is what I usually follow. An 18 hour fast may look like a big challenge but having worked into it gradually it will be a relatively painless exercise. The benefits by now will be the discipline of the mind and the body to avoid food cravings outside the eating window. Also the mind will become conscious of the food being consumed and junk will no longer excite.
There are other options like 20/4 and OMAD or one meal a day which is almost a 23 hour fast. These are based on individual preferences. I have done OMAD once and it is not that difficult actually. Since we are in the post lockdown phase and it is less of work from home I have persisted with the 18/6 window on most days and my eating window begins with breakfast and usually ends with lunch by 2 PM. After that it is only black coffee and water till I break the fast.
If you have read the earlier lines carefully and have noticed the term “most days” it means that there are days when IF fails due to unavoidable reasons like festivals, functions. When they cannot be avoided then it becomes a cheat day when some indulgences creep in. On the next day the clock is reset and a fresh IF cycle begins. It is obvious that the cheat days should be well spaced out and rare. My OMAD trail was after one such cheat day and it can be an option to reset the schedule but is not the only option.
Lastly the weight loss will taper off after the body settles down to the new normal. Then it is good to supplement IF with exercise if not being done at all. The important point here is that the exercise should be done in the fasting window which will aid fat burn. The choice of exercise is open: walk, run, cycle, HIIT the options are many. IF and exercise combination will help increase the weight loss
The benefits of IF and running (my preferred exercise option) for me are:
- - Weight loss 14~ kgs
- - BMI improvement from Obese to overweight
- - Clothes not fitting anymore J
- - Sleeping well
- - No junk snacking, binge eating etc
- - Eating better
Before I sign off the role of the better half in this journey is critical. It was her suggestion to go for IF and she planned the meals and the timings till it became a system for us. Today even our outings fall into our window, so the support of the other half is critical for the success of the IF schedule. This is specially for people like me whose culinary experience begins and ends with Maggi.
You are what you eat, so eat well.
Caveat: Everyone is different and what worked for me may not work the same way for you. Please see if this works for you.