Intermittent fasting for beginners

As a family doctor I get asked for a lot of advice regarding weight loss.

I used to think I had all the answers. Small regular meals, count your calories or points - whatever your diet of choice might demand and take more exercise. On the face of it these simple ideas make sense and there is no doubt that you can lose weight if you follow them.

The problem is that diets like this just don't work in the long-term.

Why? Because at some point you are going to stop your diet and after that you will quickly put on at least as much weight if not more than you lost.

It's a depressing thought isn't it?

I have always struggled with my own weight. As long as I exercise I can keep the weight down but as soon as I get out of my routine the weight creeps on. Then two years ago my father was diagnosed with type two diabetes. We have always shared a similar body shape and metabolism. I needed to find a way to avoid ending up with the same diagnosis but all I knew was that I would have to give up all the food that I love and exercise every day. I was struggling to come to terms with it all.

Earlier this year though I came across a lifestyle that would change my life. It is called intermittent fasting and it could revolutionise your life too.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is essentially a way of eating less by eating less often. I'll go into the mechanics of a week's eating in a future article but for now I want to focus on the benefits that you will notice when you start intermittent fasting.

  1. Health. There is an epidemic facing much of the developed world at present. It is an epidemic called metabolic syndrome and if you spend much of your day sitting at a desk looking at a computer screen then you are at high risk of developing it. Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of problems in the body including high blood pressure, obesity and insulin resistance and once you have this syndrome you are at high risk of developing diabetes and dying of heart disease. At the very least you are looking at a life time on medication. We are diagnosing these problems more and more often in young people. People in their twenties or thirties who should be in their best physical shape. Intermittent fasting is nature's own way of fighting these problems. By leaving longer between meals and avoiding the constant drip, drip of carbohydrate rich meals that our society has become addicted to we can re-set our insulin sensitivity, lose weight and drastically reduce our risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  2. Lose weight. I put this second, not because it isn't important but because the primary goal of losing weight should be to improve our health in the long run. You will certainly lose weight with intermittent fasting. The rate at which you lose it will still depend on your food choices to some extent but there is no doubt that if you have any excess weight to lose it will gradually come off with this approach. I say gradually because intermittent fasting isn't really about rapid weight loss. It is all about finding a way of eating that you will continue for the rest of your life. Believe me there is no hardship here. Once you have started you will never want to go back.
  3. Energy. This is probably the biggest surprise for most people. When you start to eat fewer meals you might be concerned that you will feel tired or washed out. You might worry that you won't have enough fuel to get you through the day. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. So much of our tiredness comes from the exhaustion that hits us following a meal. The sugar high followed by the sugar crash. With intermittent fasting this will no longer be an issue.

I used to be one of the people who was sleepy all afternoon after lunch. I worried about my ever increasing waistline and I worried about getting diabetes.

Not any more. Intermittent fasting has changed my life and I hope that this might just inspire you to find out more about it for yourself.

Credit: Crouching Haggis