I’ve been 10-15 kb (22-36 lbs) overweight for well over a decade. I’m vegetarian and eat quite a healthy diet, although I suffer from sugar addiction. I go months at a time where I rigidly control my calories, avoid sugar. I exercise a lot. In that time I ran a marathon, ran an olympic length triathalon (the XTerra in Switzerland), exercised regularly including strength training, yoga, and endurance work. With hard work I could get my weight down to about 88kg, but I always plateaued around there. Inevitably and injury, illness, stress, or a holiday season would come by, and the weight would creep back on, the trousers would get tight, and I’d have to buckle down again. I never let myself get much past 93kg, but I’m pretty sure my wife never knew me with less than 88.
This last summer I started experimenting with with fasting. I started out doing a couple of 22 hour fasts (dinner to dinner), then tried a 48 hour fast, a 4 day fast a few weeks later.
I went down from 93 to 89 pretty quickly with that stuff, and felt pretty good about it, although I did find the longer fasts difficult. I bought a book The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung, who has a pretty strong internet presence and makes pretty compelling arguments in favor of giving fasting a try.In that book I learned that there are some pretty serious researchers who are pretty convinced that fasting for a week a year dramatically reduces the probability of getting cancer. So I tried a week long fast.
That got me down to around 87 kg, and I’ve maintained that with two or three 22 hour fasts most weeks.
For months after I hit 87 I felt pretty good about my weight. I was using a notch smaller on all my belts, my formerly tight trousers were looser and more comfortable, although I had to retire some of my looser stuff as it got too baggy. When I looked in the mirror I saw the difference to my 93 kg self and felt pretty good about it. When I noticed the weight creep up a little, I just did a 20 hour fast or two, and didn’t overeat too much in the non-fasting time.
The great thing about this approach for me was I could still enjoy food. I could pig out during an evening out or a really good meal without worrying about my weight, since I could just do a day-fast or two to compensate for it. By now going 22 hours without food takes virtuall no will power, and involves no discomfort. I’m saving money and hassle since I now seldom buy or pack a lunch for work – going from breakfast till dinner without eating is peanuts for me.
After carrying ~87kg for a couple of months, it’s now normal for me. When I look in the mirror I see the paunch and the flab, not the reduction. I still don’t fit in those size 34 jeans that have been sitting in my closet for 10 years, and I now that all I have to do is stop eating for a few days to level it down. Christmas is coming, and I’d like to impress my family with my newly slim figure.
So Saturday I told Bettina I’d skip dinner. Suday I told her I’d continue my fast. Monday I rode my bike through the snow with Scotty in the trailer to take him to swimming lessons and I was surprised how energetic and fit I felt. The last time I’d done a longer fast I’d felt a bit schlap, and found myself quickly out of breath. This time I didn’t bike noticeably slower than normal. So when Bettina came home I told her I would just keep on fasting until I got fed up.
I’m being a little less strict about the fast this time around – I’m putting a little almond milk in my tea. I’m taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day. Therefore I’m doing a lot more sports. Today I rode in to work – 22 km and 200m climbing, and I feel pretty good so far. Let’s see how I feel coming home. In fact I feel more energetic than normal.
So now I feel comfortable making some observations about fasting:
- It’s convenient and easy to integrate into my life. The short fasts make life easier – no food preparation, no lunch breaks, no sluggish feeling after work. The longer fasts mean missing family meal time, but with a little planning that can be compensated for. I take advantage of meal time to get chores done that have been lingering.
- It feels healthy. When I mention the fasting to people I encounter a lot of people (most of them overweight) who think it must be unhealthy or dangerous. I reviewed what’s known on the subject and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it’s dangerous or unhealthy for well-nourished individual. What evidence is there does seem to indicat that it’s extremely healthy; not just because being overweight is unhealthy, but because going into a fasting state for lengthier periods of time has serious health benefits like reduced risk of cancer, and reduced risk of alzheimers and dementia. Wow. It also passes the ‘listen to your body test’. While it sometimes is uncomfortable – especially at the beginning of the fast, or when you aren’t used to it – when you later eat you feel great. In my case my skin has improved significantly. I’m now at the point when I feel sluggish or down, my instinct is to try having a fast, as it often seems to help.
- It’s a form of physical training. Fasting is like doing sports, if you train at it, you get better at it. If you’re like me and not used to going more than 8 hours (at night, sleeping) without eating, it will probably seem really uncomfortable. With repetition it gets easier. My first 24 hour fasts were more difficult than my current fast, which is on its fourth day now.
- It’s a form of mental training. When you resist your urges to eat for a longer period of time you come to a better understanding of your bodies signals, and change your relationship with your appetitites. You practice controlling your appetite rather than letting your appetites control you, which is an incredibly useful skill in our overmarketed existances as consumers where we are constantly bombarded with messages telling us we need more and more – when in reality what we really need is less.
Well, that’s all I have to say for now. I dont’ really have a goal with my current fast. I’d like to get down to 82 kg at some point in the next 6 months, which would hypothetically be possible if I don’t eat until Christmas vacation, but I’m not going to force the issue. My current plan is to eat again when I get fed up with fasting. Let’s see how it goes.