12 Nov BEAT THE FESTIVE BULGE WITH INTERMITTENT FASTING
The year-end festive season will be upon us very soon. This is a period when many people overindulge, fall off good eating habits and then make a desperate attempt to rein in their weight or to detoxify after the new year.
To help mitigate the effects from such excesses, consider intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting does not however suit everyone. Pregnant and breast-feeding women, young children, those who are prone to hypoglycaemia or suffer from chronic fatigue should not undertake intermittent fasting. Those who have serious health issues or previous history of disordered eating should consult their health care practitioner before doing so.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. It’s not an over extended fast that lasts for weeks or months. You may drink water, black coffee or black tea during the fast. Some people complement fasting with bullet proof coffee – coffee with MCT oil and grass-fed butter or ghee.
In fact you have probably experienced some form of intermittent fasting without realising it. If you have skipped a meal because you were too busy, you have fasted. If you have cut out snacks between main meals you have fasted.
After a period of consistent practice, during fasting your body switches to burning stored fat to fuel your energy needs. You then lose weight without feeling hungry. Research has shown intermittent fasting brings a host of other health benefits.
Snapshot of benefits of intermittent fasting
Simple intermittent fasting methods
- The “eating window” – start with maintaining a 12-hour overnight fast between your last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day. You will then eat within a 12-hour time frame. For example, if you finish dinner by 8pm, the next day you eat 3 meals between 8am and 8pm. Your meals could be breakfast 8am, lunch 1pm, dinner 7pm, with no snacks in between. There should be at least a 4-5 hour break between meals, which is a mini-fast in itself. Keep practising this 12-hour time-restricted eating and once you feel comfortable, you can extend the overnight fast and narrow the “eating window”. So you could move to 14-hour overnight fast and eat within a 10-hour time frame, then move to a 16-hour overnight fast and eat within an 8-hour time frame. By then you would just eat 2 meals a day, for example brunch and dinner or early lunch and dinner.
- The 5:2 method– eat normally for 5 days but for 2 days limit the caloric intake to 500-600. The 2 days of fasting can be any day of the week so long as they are not consecutive days. For the fasting days you could eat 3 small light meals, or eat 2 slightly smaller meals. Vegetable soups, small piece of fish or lean meat or boiled egg and lots of vegetables are good options.
- Alternate day fasting – have 3 normal meals one day and fast the next day. On the fasting day you simply restrict yourself to around 500 calories with very light food like vegetables, all in one meal or split into 2 meals.
- Eat-Stop-Eat – fast once or twice a week for 24 hrs. For example, fast from dinner to dinner or any other meal combination.
- Spontaneous intermittent fast – skip a meal when it’s convenient, when you’re too busy to eat a proper meal or when you have overeaten. This casual method is not likely to achieve weight loss unless your body has already adapted to burning fat.
Intermittent fasting achieves great results for weight management for most people as it is not difficult to maintain. You have normal meals to look forward to fairly soon so you don’t feel deprived.
I recommend practising intermittent fasting for a few weeks before the festive feast to get your body adapted to burning fat. In the initial few to 10 days, some people may experience side effects like headaches. Some may experience hunger initially until their body adapts to burning fat.
Pick one of the above methods, one that you think you could implement and stick to. You could start with the casual method 5 for a few days, or if you are a regular snacker, you could skip snacking then move to one of the first 4 methods.
Cut out as much junk food and drinks as possible – refined foods, sugar-laden foods, deep fried foods and soft drinks. Focus on good quality fats, some protein, lots of vegetables and small amounts of complex carbohydrates for your meals. Good quality fats include avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, grass-fed butter, nuts and seeds. Protein could be lean meat, fish, eggs, pulses and tofu. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains like brown, red, wild rice and quinoa and root vegetables like sweet potato and yam.
Intermittent fasting yields better results when coupled with regular exercise. This can be gentle walking to gym workouts with resistance training or high intensity interval training, depending on your level of fitness. Do not undertake intensive exercise if you are not used to it, instead build up to it.
A LONG TERM HEALTHY HABIT
You can implement your chosen intermittent fasting method all through the Christmas and the New Year festivities. Eat sensibly but if you do overindulge, skipping a meal the next day or extending the overnight fast to 14-16 hours can mitigate weight gain, detoxify your body and help you get back to a healthier state faster.
After the festive season, continue with intermittent fasting to reap the health benefits beyond weight management. There are various options to fit into your lifestyle and it doesn’t cost a cent, so why not give it a try?
If more guidance is needed, please book a consultation and I am happy to customize a fasting plan that suits you.
Happy fasting and feasting.