The pleasures and pains of intermittent fasting

Well I promised to let you know how I am getting on with my decision to lighten up by following the 5:2 diet.   So here after my first week is my first bulletin from the front.  I have lost a couple of pounds which I am pleased with.  Of course it would be great to lose weight really quickly but it didn't come on quickly so losing it steadily and slowly is all right by me.  I haven't found the fasting days, where I am restricting myself to 500 calories, too bad.  I have done three now, spaced apart by two to three days, and I am beginning to see a pattern emerging as to how to do it.

The morning after the first fast day I had a powerful headache, very unusual for me, and I am pretty sure I was dehydrated.  Since then I have made a big effort both to drink lots on fasting days and also to continue to take in a lot of liquid on the following day.  That seems to have done the trick as I haven't had any problem at all following the two subsequent days.  Fasting days themselves are fine.  I start with a couple of hard boiled eggs which I find fill me up for the morning.   That is not too much different from my normal breakfast.  Lunch might be another egg or a light homemade soup and this keeps me going through to around five o' clock.  This is about when it starts to get harder.  I find I need to have a cup of bouillon and some celery or cherry tomatoes before I start to prepare the evening meal or I am just so hungry the urge is to pick at anything and everything takes over.  Having a pause with the intention of taking in something to ward that off seems to work well.  For the evening meal I have a piece of fish or lean chicken with tomatoes and peppers.

All is then well until about half past eight when the munchies strike!  I need to keep myself busy until bedtime and to take in lots to drink in the way of sparkling water or fruit teas and to keep a few calories in reserve for celery sticks and tomatoes when I just need to have the sensation of eating!  I don't feel in any way unwell.  On the contrary I feel light and energetic, just with occasional bursts of hunger.  I think we have forgotten (or I certainly had) what it is like to feel hungry in our overfed world in the West.  I quite like the sense that I can feel a bit hungry and can get over it and carry on doing normal things and having a normal evening.  I admit as well that it is a huge help to know that this is only for a day at a time.  If I really fancy something I can always tell myself that I will be able to have it the next day.   I sleep well and wake up the following morning feeling pretty good.  It looked when I was researching this as though many people fell into one of the other of quite polarised camps: those who found fasting relatively easy for a twenty four period like this and felt well on it, and those who felt very unwell and gave up because they suffered from headaches and exhaustion and quite unmanageable hunger on fast days.  I think now I have realised quite how much I need to drink I will be ok and might even fall into the first camp of people who find that fasting suits them well enough.

On non fast days I am eating round about 1500 calories.  The Horizon programme on dieting which kicked off all this talked about eating normally on non fast days and not needing to calorie count.  There was also talk of "eating healthily" and "not bingeing" but I was more persuaded by the idea that even on non fast days you needed to be sure you were not taking in more calories than you could sensibly use up.  1500 doesn't feel like much restriction, in fact if I don't eat as much butter and cheese and drink as much wine as my normal diet contains I can do 1500 calories without altering the way I cook or the food that we normally eat.  I don't feel I am on a diet at all on those days and I know that if I really want something like a cheese scone or a bar of  chocolate I can have it.  Somehow that sense that nothing is actually off limits seems to have protected me from eating way too much on non fast days.  I have cut down on bread, which I love, mainly because I love bread and butter and if I am not eating much butter there is not much temptation to eat much bread!

And the important waist measurement?  The thing that really made me think I was ignoring  my health and my genes?  Well that has come down by half an inch so that is good too.

I think I will stick to this for a month or so and take stock again then.  I have a friend who lost a bit of weight on this diet a year or so ago and who tells me she continues to have  fast day a week and hasn't put any of that back on again.  It feels, she says, more like a way of life now.  So we will see how we go.  So far, so good!

Comments

  1. I'm glad it's working out for you so far. I've heard good things about this diet so hopefully your next few weeks will prove just as rewarding. x

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    1. Thanks Joanne. I think the test will be whether it proves ok to carry on doing it when the first rush of enthusiasm has gone!

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  2. I am pleased it is going well for you so far and look forward to hearing your progress ~~~Deb

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    1. I will try not to bore people rigid with dieting stories but I will report back!

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  3. This is a really interesting post Elizabeth, something I am looking at too because I think we probably all eat too much in the West and digestions can't cope with the volume of food. One of the reasons I enjoy running is that I feel really hungry about half an hour after getting back and I like the sensation- you really feel you've earnt your supper. I'll be very interested to hear how you get on.

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    1. I agree. The sensation of being hungry is not a bad one, just a different one from what we are used to. We are fortunate that in our lives it is only ever a passing sensation.

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  4. I admire your will power and resolution. I'm still considering giving it a go, but I think I need to wait until it's a little warmer or is that I feeble excuse? The tape measure might harden might resolve, but it seems to have gone conveniently AWOL. What a wimp (me not the tape measure)

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    1. It was definitely the tape measure rather than the scales which kicked me into action. Pleased to report that the tape measure as well as the scales is telling me what I want to hear!

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  5. Glad that it's going so well for you! Deborah

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    1. Hi! How good to see you again and that you are blogging. so far, so good with the diet!

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  6. Elizabeth, it's been very interesting and informative, too, to read this post about how the 5:2 days are treating you. Your thoughtfulness about how to handle both the fast and non-fast days is definitely a key to your being able to stick with the regimen. You were wise to figure out that more water would help prevent a recurrence of that headache.

    (Thank you also for your reply to my comment about eggs. I love eggs, and am happy to report that in the past year I have often had more than one egg per week. And...with my collection of china egg cups, it's been a pleasure in the past week to have a proper soft-boiled egg for breakfast. Delicious!

    I agree that many of us in the pampered west do eat far too much, and too many "empty" calories.

    Bravo to you as you continue your progress. xo

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    1. Thanks Frances. Still feeling quite resolved. Hope it lasts!

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  7. Great going, Elizabeth! It sounds like this is a great way of life, really. I think we are all eating too much.

    It is nice knowing that when you are "depriving" yourself, it is only for a day. And I think once you are on the road with this and you start to feel light and energetic (as you already said), feeling that way becomes more important than eating something you really should not eat.

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    1. I have been surprised by the sense of energy on fasting days Anneke. Think I am just lucky with this as I know it doesn't affect everyone like that.

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  8. Your last post really hit a chord with me and this week I have started my own version of the 5:2 diet. I have only done one day (2nd day tomorrow) so no results yet but I found it easier to follow than any other diet I have tried in the past. My mornings are very busy so I just had a green tea then about 11am I had a bowl of grated apple with greek yogurt and a spoonful of muesli. This kept me going until about 4pm when I had some fruit, then chicken and lots of veg in the evening. I did feel hungry but was able to keep to the plan without cheating and when the biscuit tin started to beckon I was able to resist knowing that I could have a biscuit the next day if I wanted. I think this is the key, that I never felt deprived. Like you I woke up a bit headachey but more energetic than usual and didn't feel the need to overeat the next day. I won't weigh myself until the end of the week but I hope it shows results as I think I could keep this up.

    Thanks again for the inspiration.

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    1. Your own version sounds pretty good to me! Hope it works for you. We shall have to encourage each other.

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    2. Lost 700g after week one - now for week two!

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  9. I'm sure you will succeed in losing weight!! Walking is very good for it!

    Sandra

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    1. I love walking and living where we do it is both easy and rewarding to walk quite a lot. I do admit that we tend to walk more in the summer when we often walk after our evening meal. Seems to be harder to find the time in the shorter days!

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  10. Just a query - am I the only person here to think that fasting means eating nothing? I regularly fast (don't seem to get thinner no doubt because of over indulgence on holidays and high (tea) days.) For me it means I eat nothing at all until about 7-8 o'clock in the evening. That gives the body total fast ie break from dealing with food at all, for over 20 hours. I believe it's good for us (Charles too) even if I stay rotund. I believe you can totally refresh your immune system with a three day fast. But it would mean not eating at all.

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  11. o - sorry - missed you explanatory post as I'm working backwards through your blog!

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