Experiment 4: Intermittent Fasting

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Summary

+ Gained 4.2lbs of weight
+ Gained  1.3 lbs of fat.
+ Felt healthier
+ Reduced snacking
+ Helped to control cravings for food

 

After watching a BBC documentary  on the benefits of fasting, I was curious to see what effects fasting could have on me and how practical it would be as part of my lifestyle.

The prospect of going without food for days  was scary and seemed impractical. However, just as the thought of going vegan in my previous experiment was initially daunting, the knowledge and experience gained made up for the initial discomfort. I wanted to experiment with fasting to see the results and also to see what I could learn about myself.

One of the most interesting takeaways from the BBC documentary for me was:

 

“When our bodies no longer have access to food they switch from

“growth mode” to “repair mode”.

 

I learnt that the digestion of food is very labour intensive for our bodies, if you can reduce the number of times that you are eating, it will allow your body to divert it’s energy to repair and rejuvenate itself. This made me wonder if fasting could help repair my body more effectively than a normal eating schedule.

Other highlighted benefits from fasting included:

+ Reduce weight
+ Reduce Fat
+ Reduce aging
+ Reduce risk of Cancer
+ Reduce risk of diabetes
+ Reduce risk of age related diseases.

The documentary also dispelled the myth that fasting involves going days without food. You can fast for as little as 16 hours, eating during an 8 hour window each day, allowing your body’s digestive system to rest for 16 hours.

The Plan

+ Eat during an 8 hour window
+ Eat what I want during the 8 hours.
+ Have a late breakfast between 10/11am.
+ Have an early dinner between 6/7pm
+ On Sunday, have a large breakfast/brunch and not eat until breakfast the next day, allowing for a 24 hour fast, 1 day a week.

The Results

I didn’t make this experiment easy on myself. As soon as I started, I went on a road trip through some of the most culinary decadent states, including South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

It would be wrong to travel through these states without trying all the wonderful cajun and creole foods, as well as the tacos in Texas and the many offerings from the food trucks. The last time I was in New Orleans and Texas was in college. Myself and some other Brits did a road trip from the East Coast to the West Coast, and we didn’t have the same level of appreciation or finances to justify going to many of the restaurants that I wanted to go to on this trip.

November is also the marvelous month of Thanksgiving, a holiday I need to make up for lost time with. Despite these roadblocks to my experiment, I gave my best shot.

My weight before the experiment:

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On my first day of the experiment I finished eating at 6pm. At around 9pm, I could feel murmurings in my stomach that it wanted food. I didn’t like the feeling of being restricted by the experiment, we are so used to having food within easy reach and being able to satisfy our craving at a whim and this experiment was already teaching me to control this urge.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt is that we let our feelings control us. I noticed this when I stayed in a monastery in Thailand to study meditation.

Our bodies have an expectation, a habitual wanting of food of certain types, amounts and at different times of the day. It’s uncomfortable to change this habit (or any habits), however once you take the time and effort to do so, it can have lasting and compounding benefits.

Despite not surcuming to my hunger pangs, I thought to myself, if I am hungry now, imagine how hungry I would be the following day. Surprisingly, the next day I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I would be. I didn’t need the food my stomach was demanding, it was just a craving, which, with a little will power could be silenced. I’m sure we all like the idea of not being a slave to our food, allowing us to decide when we eat, not our stomach telling us when to eat.

Fasting during my road trip and Thanksgving was easier than I thought it would be. Despite the resitrctions, there is a great deal of flexibility. I could eat what I wanted during the 8 hour window, and if I had a late dinner, I could simply change the time that I had breakfast the following day or cut it out altogether, something I did on a number of days.

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Torchy’s Tacos Were some of the best I had in Austin

As I did not weigh myself over the road trip, I was interested to see what my weight would be when I returned. I knew I had gorged on more tacos than I had thought any reasonable person could consume in Texas and enjoyed some of the best food I have ever tasted in New Orleans, however despite the fasting I still put on over 4.2lbs of weight and 1.3 lbs of fat.

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It would be a good excuse to do another road trip without the intermittent fasting to see how my weight would be affected in a control group setting! I do wonder if my previous experiment of being vegan for 30 days had an affect on the result as this lack of freedom of eating meat, dairy and cheeses was something I certainly made up for over this current 30 day challenge.

Despite not losing weight, I gained a better understanding of myself and my feelings of hunger. I learned to snack less, and forgo food for up to 24 hours. There are also health benefits from fasting that may take longer to materialise than 30 days and because of this I am going to continue to fast into the new year.

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