You’re probably thinking that being a doctor that is passionate about nutrition that I love cooking… this is not really the case.
The truth is I enjoy the connection to food, but I am so busy I don’t like to spend time 3-4 times a day preparing and eating. So for me I regularly fast. There are many ways to fast, which basically means have periods of time where you consume a few foods or none at all. The one I want to highlight with you today is called intermittent or alternate day fasting and is probably one of the most effective methods my patients find they use. Intermittent or alternate day fasting means one day you fast, meaning ~500 calories a day, the next day you go back to your normal but healthy food, and then the next day you fast again and so on, alternating from one to the other. For weight loss it works really well, but also it works for reversing other disorders like diabetes and fatty liver disease. It is convenient because it means you only need some strictness every other day and you can relax often too, but also almost every patient tells me that after 2 weeks of this they don’t find it strict at all anymore and it just feels normal for them. Also it means on your fasting days you save money and time which is really convenient for busy people. If the one for one is too intensive you can reduce the fasting days a week to 2 and hence 5 normal days but this will be less effective.
In intermittent fasting we are aiming for a total of ~500-600 calories max on the fasting days. So that is 2-3 meals between 150-250 calories each. Below are 3 links for 100, 200 and 300 calorie recipes. It is easy to google search for others and find those that are most convenient for you. Most the time you find the 3-5 meals you find quick, easy and tasty that you like and you will stick with these. The more you do them you quicker you become. Some people also use meal replacement shakes on those days.
In regards to hunger – my experience fasting myself and helping many patients is that it takes about 4-5 fasting days until the body and brain realises you are fasting today and it stops sending you strong hunger signals. After this it gets more routine. There will naturally be days you just don’t want to fast and other days you naturally do want to fast when you wake up and feel “nope, not hungry today. The more you get into this journey the more you will learn the difference between genuine body signals and emotional brain signals. So for these days I encourage you to do with the flow – just relax remember, enjoy the process. Yes absolutely some days you will need willpower to push you through but if you really don’t want to fast that day for whatever reason, then don’t, just catch up later with an additional day. And if you wake on a non-fasting day and feel like you just don’t want to eat – then great. Go with that.
Remember the foods to make you feel more full are foods high in vegetables and high in plant or animal protein like lentils, chickpeas, beans and fish. Also drink lots of water which will help. Some of my patients like low salt vegetable or chicken stock soups with a few veggies. You can have teas and black coffee or with a very small dash of milk but no sugar added. There are various low calorie drinks you may be able to add to but remember – it all adds up!
My final point is when you do your fasting or low calorie days – notice two things. The first is how much more time you have in your day. When you are not spending it cooking and eating and cleaning, suddenly you might have 2-3 hours more in your day. Great! How will you use it?
The second thing is how much money you are saving. Once you appreciate these two things I suspect you will be more motivated to continue this.
As always there are a few safety considerations. One is that you have to careful you still get enough vitamins and minerals for health and sometimes you might want to consider a multivitamin supplement and fibre supplement. When you are starting out, start slow and go gently, don’t do prolonged periods. Be careful as some people get a bit lightheaded when they first start, so be careful driving or operating heavy machinery. And if you have diabetes or any other medical conditions including mental health conditions you absolutely must see your doctor first. In fact it is recommended to do this under the guidance of a qualified health professional.