Back in 2010 (Nov 6, to be ex-hact) I posted that I’d gotten down to my target weight of 200lbs. We’d been using the South Beach diet for a while, and it worked, obviously. The problem was staying on the diet; we could never get off Phase 1 without the weight creeping back up – albeit slowly – and even Phase 2 felt claustrophobic in terms of restrictions. No beer. No bread. No sweets. No ice cream (because of the sugar). No pizza. No. No. No. It’s the story of diets, isn’t it?
Well, fast forward to last year, and I’m back up in the mid 220’s again (that’s 102kg for the rest of the world, or 16 stone for Brexiters); because I only weigh myself in the morning, before food, I was probably peaking close to 230lbs after dinner. Most web sites say I should be about 185lbs for my height and age, although Monika and I both agree I was pretty scrawny-looking at that weight. I’m reasonably satisfied when my weight fluctuates around 200lbs, and it was getting obvious I needed to do something if I didn’t want to start seeing the shady side of 230.
I’d been coming across articles about Intermittent Fasting, and the idea intrigued me for a number of reasons.
- I can fast! Heck, I was made to fast. I am a naturally lazy person; it’s why I’m such a darned good programmer, and when I can harness the power of bone-idleness, well, that’s my super power. It’s easier to not get up and get food than it is to do get up and get food, so win-win.
- It’s not a diet restriction in the sense that I don’t have to eat crappy food when I do eat.
- It makes dining out really, really easy, which was always a PITA under South Beach.
So I gave it a shot. I first started out with 18/6, 5 days a week. This was basically just pushing my normal breakfast time a few hours later in the day; I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater. So I’d have dinner, and then I wouldn’t eat anything until noon the next day – 18 hours fasting, 6 hours eating. I had some encouraging results, but quickly plateaued.
But this was easy, so I thought I’d try alternate day fasting. With this, you skip an entire day. This results in about 36 hours of fasting – last meal 6pm day 1, nothing day 2, and then eating again 6am the following day: 36 hours – and this was both easy for me, and spectacularly successful.
I played with some variations in there – there are several ways to do Intermittent fasting – but the most consistent results for me ended up being doing skip-days twice a week. With this, I’ve gotten down solidly into the high 100’s, wavering around 200, although recently I’ve been staying under. I have not changed my exercise (almost none), I don’t watch what I eat on the days I’m not fasting, and I just make sure that I take in no calories on the two fast days. Because I know I can eat whatever I want the next day, it makes getting through the fast much easier; if I had to restrict my diet in other ways on non-fast days, I’m not sure I could keep up with this.
There are a couple of other factors. I stopped drinking sugary drinks a long time ago. I occasionally have a light-sugar soda, but as I’ve gotten older I don’t have the taste for them that I used to. That’s certainly had a massive impact on my weight. I also drink a lot less than I used to. I may have a beer, or a whiskey, on the weekends. That’s only because drinking anything more almost always results in a headache the next morning, regardless of how much water I drink. Getting old sucks. But it does cut down further on the empty calories. Also, as I’ve been maintaining this weight, my stomach has shrunk, so I’m eating less when I do eat. I think everyone gets that. I don’t eat heavy breakfasts after a fast – mostly just liquids like coffee, juice, milk – because I learned quickly that stuffing my face because I was hungry after a fast made me nauseous. So I get up after a fast, have some liquid calories in kefir and grapefruit juice, have coffee, and about 10am have a piece of toast or something. It works.
The most important thing about IF is that it’s a diet I can stay with. I can have my ice cream, pizza, and sushi (no sushi on South Beach; rice baaaad). I’ve been able to maintain my weight; it’s not a fussy diet requiring special shopping, preparation, or menus; I can eat out; I can drink. Except for those two days, the only way IF impacts my life is that I’m consistently at the weight I want to be at. And that’s a win.