Over the past few months, I’ve started experimenting with Intermittent Fasting (IT) mainly as a way to lose weight. Intermittent Fasting is a sort of diet (well not a diet) where you choose to eat only during a particular time frame. A common pattern is that you only eat from 11AM to 7PM (8 hours each day). The obvious benefit for weight loss is that you are restricting your calories without needing to carefully count your calories. But, there are other benefits as well and many people use IT as a detox or just as a way to give your digestive system a break.
Earlier this year, I started to dial in my normal diet by adding vegetables to my lunches and dinners and sticking to a simple diet that mainly included salads with good olive oil based dressings and proteins like steak or salmon. Sometimes I would make a spinach based smoothie with added almonds. After doing this for a while, I found that I was never that hungry and I stopped snacking in between meals. Later I learned that the type of food I happened to be eating was naturally satiating. Basically, a salad and salmon with olive oil will make you feel full even though it only clocks in at 500 calories while in contrast a plate of pasta with chicken that clocks in at 1000 calories may not keep you full for more than a few hours. The difference is really the amount of fat and fiber and also the sugar in the pasta which gets used more quickly that salad greens.
As I felt that my diet became more dialed in most of the time, I started to experiment with IT. Initially it was just one or two days a week where I limited myself to a 8 hour eating window. As I realized I could do this without affecting my energy levels or feeling too hungry I gradually moved to 4 and sometimes 5 days a week. Between IT and my new diet I started to notice gradual weight loss and as I got more confident I occasionally increased my fasting periods to 24 hours and 48 hours. These experiments were really surprising because I found that I was not really that hungry (low levels of hunger would come and go) and I had plenty of energy. So last month I tried a week with two 48 hour fasting periods separated by one meal day and I found it tolerable.
So, on to my plans for June. I took a break this past week over the Memorial Day weekend, but starting today I’m going to spend June doing two back to back 48 hour fasts each week. My schedule will look like this:
- Sunday (normal day)
- Monday (11AM-7PM eating window)
- Tuesday (no eating)
- Wednesday (end first 48 hour fast with good salad/protein dinner)
- Thursday (no eating)
- Friday (end second 48 hour fast with typical Friday night dinner)
- Saturday (normal day)
This is an aggressive fasting schedule, but my goal is to lose over 100 pounds so I feel that I need to take aggressive action. My goal is to increase my fasting windows to three days, 5 days, and finally 7 days. However, for weight loss purposes and health benefits there seems to be a point of diminishing returns after 72 hours.
Perhaps more importantly than diet, I want to use June as a detox month. One of the benefits of the longer fasting periods is that your body starts to do detox. Old cells are recycled and rebuilt and your gut takes a brake. Insulin levels start to drop and cravings for processed foods seems to drop. So I want to take this opportunity to do some self-care including limiting alcohol and processed foods (even during non-fasted periods). So for the first two weeks I’m sticking to only non-processed foods and for the second two week period I’m going to a add some back in but in moderation. Just for a mental reset.
In addition to the diet adjustments, I want to start experimenting with putting more regular exercise back into my daily life. I’ve found that exercise doesn’t have nearly as much as an effect as you would like for weight loss, but the general health and mood benefits are real. But, my thought on this is to find activity I like (like hiking and biking) and stop punishing myself by going to the gym.
For June my weightloss goal is to get under 300 pounds by the last Wednesday of the month (June 30th). This brings me into the July 4th extended weekend. At the end of May I was just under 310 and so I think this goal is achievable although not guaranteed since my weight loss with the less aggressive fasting schedules have brought me closer to -5 pounds per month.