It seems as though there’s a new diet almost every single day. If you’re a 90s baby you’ll remember the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Blood-Type diet, the Zone diet, the list is endless. One of the reasons why I’ve never stuck to any of these diets is because I don’t like being told what to eat. In the blood type diet my blood group (A+) is meant to avoid mangos and potatoes which is crazy for me. Intermittent fasting is less about what you eat and more about when you eat. It’s not a diet but an adaptation to your eating pattern. I became curious about intermittent fasting after having picked up a tiny bit of weight that made me feel uncomfortable in my skin. I love having breakfast…when I remember to prep so IF seemed like a good way to eliminate my morning forgetfulness around eating. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital have found out in a study called HELENA – the largest investigation on intermittent fasting to date, that there are many paths leading to a healthier weight and it’s all about finding the path that fits you best.
Right now, IF is the path that fits me best. I was interested in losing weight and keeping it off, with intermittent fasting because you’re not constantly eating, you give your stomach and gut a chance to recover from the usual churning of stomach acids to digest food which in turn can reduce inflammation. The first week of IF, I watched a million and one videos on IF (my favourite being anything by Dr. Jason Fung, I even follow him on Twitter!) and read countless articles (I would recommend that before you commit to IF, do as much research as you can and consult a doctor or nutritionist if necessary) on the experiences that people have had with IF.
There are three main ways to do an intermittent fast: the 5:2 diet, in which you eat regularly for five days a week and reduce your intake to 600 calories during the next two; alternate-day fasting, where you rotate between standard and 600-calorie days; and time-restricted eating which is what I’m doing where you limit your eating periods to four-to-eight hours. What works best for me (since I wake up at 5 and am in bed by 22h on most days is to fast from the time I wake up until 12 noon and on some days I’ve even pushed that time out to 14h. This gives me a total of 16 hours fasting and on some days when I’m a superhuman…17 hours.
How am I feeling?
The first two weeks were hard. I had to make a conscious effort to drink not just more water (which is something I’m constantly practicing) but also more tea to ‘fill’ me up. One thing I realised is that once I made the decision that I wouldn’t be eating before 12/13h, it’s almost as though my stomach shut up aka stopped grumbling. The less I thought about food, the easier it’s was for my stomach and the less it complained. The mental aspect for me is what plays the biggest role in ensuring that you commit to IF. In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. I wake up with zero bloating which does a lot to lift the mood. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha!) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month and I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. In the first two weeks I battled with extreme fatigue and feelings of hanger (hunger that leads to anger), luckily having to maintain good work relationships was enough of a reminder to keep me from lashing out in hunger!
In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month though.I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. I am not a fan of the feeling of hunger that is present during non-eating periods and in light of my 2019 body goals (which I’ll share in a later post) IF just isn’t going to work for the long-term. A girl is trying to get stronger and fitter as she approaches 30…damn did I just address myself in 3rd person!
For an eating plan to be successful, it should be sustainable and improve your performance not just as an athlete (where I’m concerned,) but as a human. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt through IF, food should be tasty yes but it’s even more important for the food you eat to fuel you. When I am eating, I am 100% more conscious about what I put into my mouth. Along the way I have had some treats but what I’ve noticed is that I have more self-control and those naughty treats are few and very far in between in comparison to when I was eating whenever I wanted. I will say the one thing I truly miss is having breakfast at breakfast time!
How to make IF work for you?
- I cannot stress this enough: plan, plan plan! You’ve heard this cliché before and it’s because it’s true: fail to plan/prepare and prepare to fail. Fill your water bottle the night before, make sure that the tea you have is one that you won’t get sick of drinking during your fasting period and prepare your meals in advance.
- If you’re going to snack during your eating period, make sure your snacks are healthy. I love to stick to raw nuts. Cashews, walnuts and almonds are my favourites but you can go with whatever you like best. Hummus & carrots will also NEVER go out of style.
- Get an accountability partner. Friends, I consider myself so lucky to be with the man I call my boyfriend. I tell him about every single lifestyle change that I make and he holds me accountable; whether it’s running more often, eating healthier and now sticking to this new eating pattern, he is SO good at reminding me of the goals I set for myself. I can’t tell y’all how much I love this man!
- Plan your training at least an hour after you’ve had your meal during your eating period. I found that this worked best for me. Training in the morning while still in a fasted state left me feeling hungrier than usual and we all know that hunger can quickly transform to hanger. I also found that when I took pre-workout on an empty stomach, it’s almost as though I could feel my body disassociating with reality, can’t explain that.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt in this intermittent fasting journey? A healthy lifestyle is not just about the food you eat but the choices you make in your everyday life. It’s not just about losing weight, although it does start that way. When you remove the toxic elements that aren’t serving you well in your nutrition (if you’re consistent enough), it then extends to your physical environment. One day you’re making healthier food choices and the next you’re making healthier life choices! Constantly work towards being in the best physical, mental and emotional shape of your life, it’s what I’m focussing on and it’s what you should be focussing on.