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Intermittent Fasting

Monday, January 06, 2014

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is gaining ever more interest in the UK and Australia, with various celebrities claimed to be doing it, though it does not appear to have become that trendy yet in the USA. There has for some time been serious medical research into the longevity benefits of severe calorie deprivation. Some research now indicates that even occasional severe calorie deprivation can have these benefits, hence 'intermittent fasting'. There are several versions of this, ranging from no food at all for 3 1/2 days every two months, to reducing calories to one quarter of daily needs for two days per week, preferably not consecutive. The latter is called 5:2 (five days of feeding, two days of semi-fasting on c500cals for women, c600cals for men--some versions allow these to be spread over the day, others suggest having these in just one meal, and nothing for the rest of the day). Books on this concept include The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, The Alternate-Day Diet by James B Johnson, MD and Donald R Laub, MD, and The 5:2 Diet Book by Kate Harrison. There is also lots of information online which you can find by googling 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting. There are different versions of 5:2 which play around with starting and ending times of the semi-fast; 16:8 restricts eating to an 8-hour window every day. The point of all these is to ensure a long stretch of no food intake at all, or severe calorie restriction.
A milder version by Dr Michelle Harvie and Prof Tony Howell is two consecutive days of protein, veggies and dairy up to 50g carbs, which ensures weight loss but does not promise the other health benefits of the more serious calorie restriction of IF, such as controlling cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure as well as activating cell renewal.
What is crucial in all these versions is that one must eat normally on the other five days of the week. 'Normal' means eating what is necessary to maintain weight. Maybe a small treat, not a binge.
One additional benefit of IF is getting back in touch with one's body's signals, rediscovering the feeling of true hunger rather than eating because of the clock, or boredom, or emotions.
One criticism of IF is that it can lead to obsessing about food, so people with eating disorders are discouraged from attempting it. I think the focus on calorie counting is a part of this problem. My take on this is that one can plan ahead a balanced meal of c500cals (women) such as protein, veggies plus one carb, either whole grains or fruit. This is to be eaten in the evening. From what I've read, the longer the interval without food, the more effective the health benefits. Also, the later one postpones the start of eating, the more tolerable the hunger is. So, no breakfast, just tea/coffee as usual. For the rest of the day, herbal tea, low-cal drinks and lots of water. If hunger becomes intolerable, eat one of the dinner items ahead of time, but then obviously one can't have it again for dinner. Knowing there is a proper meal waiting at the end of the day makes it more bearable, for me, than teasing myself with minuscule "meals" throughout the day. Also, nibbling throughout the day isn't really fasting. On some days I'm so busy that I just don't have the time or the opportunity to eat during the day, so my only main meal is the evening meal anyhow. For IF I would just need to skip breakfast as well. It also helps if the last meal on the previous day is relatively light, e.g. last night I only had fruit and nuts, or even skipped altogether to extend the fasting time. Another possibility is having protein shakes or bars up to 500cals a day, but personally I prefer real food.
There are so many versions of this IF that it is worth experimenting with the different formats to find the one that is easiest to follow. Also, if there is a plateau it may help to switch to a different version for a while. However, I don't think true fasting (only water, no food at all) should be extended beyond 36 hours without medical supervision, and there may be some medical conditions that contraindicate even that long, e.g. diabetes (?).
There is a Spark Team for IF but it appears to be inactive. I have found several 5:2 and IF communities online which are supportive and informative (and free!).
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I started a new IF subteam(check out my IF blogs)
    We would be interested to hear of your experiences with IF
    Cheers richard
    1133 days ago
    Hi Sunny, we miss you on Tips for Writing and Weight Loss.

    Hope all is well with you.
    2713 days ago
    I've read about it and find it interesting but it's not for me.
    2714 days ago
  • no profile photo CD8730394
    Hey there Sunny! emoticon I see a couple of my girls have responded to your blog. You will get plenty of support on the 'One For All and All For One' Team where we do Fast 500's and DEEf's for others.

    The co-leader Susie, TWANDK9 something, can't remember her total handle, does exactly what you do. She just has the one meal. Everyone is different, but maybe you and Susie could become Fast 500 buddies, who knows what the future will bring.

    Great blog! and once again, welcome!! emoticon
    2714 days ago
    I just read a religious book which says that fasting can cleanse your system. They mentioned daily fast with skipping a meal or weekly fast similar to the one you have mentioned. I would imagine that our Neanderthal relatives had some times of fasting due to lack of finding or killing food. So an occasional fast seems logical. I will note that as a teen I actually did a daily fast which allowed me to drop 50-60 pounds. So it can work. When you do eat--eat the healthy foods and add a supplement of vitamins and minerals and it should work very well and keep you healthy.

    Another note, The actor " Face in the TV series was told he had cancer. He did some research and left Hollywood going on a fasting diet. Since there was less "food" to feed his cancer, he cured himself. No radiation, meds, etc. Makes you wonder if modern medicine has all the answers.
    2714 days ago
  • TECH1960PS
    IF, has been around in the paleo community for some time, Brad Pillion has a ebook out on it that I have read and is very good. Lean gains is another great site about IF. IF, fits in well with any eating program you follow, it automatically gives you a 15 to 20% reduction in your overall cals for the week. I use Pillions 2 x 24 hour fast with my eating program, I fast from supper time to supper time. The only caveat being that you do need to do some sort of resistance training. emoticon
    2714 days ago
    Ok, RDEE22 beat me to the punch!!

    Hope all is well with you!
    2714 days ago
  • SUNNY112358
    Thank you PDuncan04, GoAnna, Stonecot and Rdee22 for commenting on my blog.
    2715 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/6/2014 7:20:56 AM
  • RDEE22
    The team " One for all and all for one" are doing this. Check it out.
    2715 days ago
  • no profile photo CD8634484
    I've been doing IF for 10 months now. I started off with the 5:2 and lost weight very slowly, then in November switched to alternate day fasting, though I took Christmas and New Year off. I started because I wanted to reduce my cancer risk, as I've already had it once, rather than to lose weight, though I have lost 30lbs while doing it.

    I don't obsess about food, though I do enjoy preparing my following days dinner on my fasting days, I take a lot of care over choosing and cooking it, and I will eat whatever I fancy, whatever the calorie count.

    I do 500 calories on alternate days, in one meal at about 5pm. I find that the fasting gives me lots of energy, and I exercise hard on my fasting days, including 2 hours of karate when it falls on those days. I have never felt weak or faint while doing it, and the hunger pangs quickly go away if I find something else to do. It works well for me and I'll be doing this for the rest of my life.
    2715 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/6/2014 5:20:31 AM
    Thanks Sunny. Nice to see you back on Spark. I have a
    girlfriend who does the 5:2 but I haven't seen her lose
    ny weight. HAppy New Year. emoticon
    2715 days ago
  • no profile photo CD13971616
    I am wanting to try this. I would love to hear from more people and their results.
    2715 days ago
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