I stepped on the scales on January 1st this year and I burst into tears. I’d gained 3 kilos between Christmas and New Year. I actually wailed in anguish, I was so distraught.
You may think I’m overreacting but I had spent the entire week drinking vodka and soda to save on calories and I’d been for a 5km run every day. Sure, I’d had some chocolate and wine but I didn’t touch the cheese and crackers at the BBQ on the weekend and when everyone else ordered schnitzels at the pub for dinner I ordered a grilled chicken salad. If I’d spent the week stuffing my face with potato chips and beer like everyone else had, I would have worn the weight gain. Instead, I’d spent the week saying no to spring rolls and sugary cocktails and I was rewarded with a fucking 3-kilo weight gain. Not happy.
So I started experimenting. Again. I stopped drinking alcohol for three months. Apart from being more productive and my skin looking amazing, nothing happened. For real, I didn’t have a single alcoholic beverage for 3 months and my weight stayed the same. I wanted to punch someone. Next, I tried the ketogenic diet, which is basically low carb/high fat. I lost 3 kilos. In 3 months. Which is obviously fine but I generally like my weight loss to be a bit faster than a dying turtle. Mr Smaggle managed to lose 10 kilos in the first month of going keto so I knew it wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t possibly be one of those lucky people who could drop a pants size eating nothing but cheese and cream. It was worth a shot though and to be fair, I lost a little bit of weight on the keto diet and I didn’t gain weight which is amazing in itself. I now know I can go to Italy on holiday and eat mozzarella without doing too much damage which is such a gift to someone like me.
I then cut out dairy which helped a little, particularly with period pain which has been an ongoing issue for me and then finally I went back to what worked for me a few years ago. Fasting.
About 2 years ago I tried the 5:2 diet. That’s where you eat just 500 calories for two days per week. It worked really well, but after a year, I found I was not coping on fast days. I was cranky, tired and unproductive and I got worse and worse at successfully having 2 days. They’d start out as a 2 day and then by the afternoon I was slumping in front of my computer and I’d have to eat something to rescue the day.
I’d heard about the 16:8 where you fast every day and only eat within an 8-hour window. This sounded much harder because it was an everyday thing but then I thought about it. If I stop eating at 8 pm, I can have lunch at 12. So really I’m only fasting from 7 to 12 in the morning. I decided to give it a try.
I did it for 8 weeks while I was doing a fitness challenge at my local F45 and I lost 6 kilos. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t change how much I was eating or what I was eating, I just changed the time frame in which ate it. I’ve just kept doing it and I’m now down 9 kgs in the past few months. I’m eating pretty much the same stuff – I still have 3 meals a day at 12, 4 and 7. I probably snack less and I don’t eat after dinner which has possibly cut down on calories but that seems to be exactly what I needed to do. I also don’t eat sugar and I only drink alcohol on the weekends if at all. It’s not a total get out of jail free card but when you’ve spent most of your adult life living off salads and egg white omelettes while trying to squeeze into size 16 jeans, cracking the diet code has been such a relief.
I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and try fasting. I have a rubbish metabolism and I spend a lot of time researching and experimenting on myself. Most people can lose weight quite easily with just increasing their exercise and lowering their calorie intake. This doesn’t work for me because I’ve already been exercising 6 times a week and eating a low carb diet for 15 years, so I’ve always had to try different methods for weight loss than everyone else. I’m writing about this because I had some people asking about it so here are a few thoughts about fasting.
1. You need to get comfortable with your hunger
I don’t think anyone really enjoys being hungry but I can tell you right now, being hungry for 16 hours a day won’t kill you. I promise. I also go to F45 every morning and I exercise hard. I asked my doctor if it was a problem doing that in the middle of a fast and he said it’s fine. It’s really a mind over matter thing. Most mornings I don’t even notice but if I’m having a particularly hungry morning, I’ll drink a few cups of herbal tea or some water and just slowly and steadily make it through until lunch time. I’ve also found it’s become a lot easier the more I do it. Occasionally I’ll break my fast early if I’m doing prolonged physical activity like hiking or moving house but I’ve very strict the rest of the time – I don’t eat until midday and that’s just the way it is now.
2. It’s not a license to binge
When most people fast, they tend to eat less when they’re allowed to eat anyway but if that doesn’t happen naturally for you, fasting doesn’t give you permission to eat non-stop for 8 hours. I still fit my three meals in my 8-hour window but I rarely snack in that time and I also work out very hard every day so I need to make sure I’m getting enough food in that window. Even if it’s healthy food, you can’t spend your whole 8-hour window eating constantly.
3. You still need to eat mindfully when you do eat
Even if you naturally cut back on your portion sizes while fasting, you still need to make healthy choices. Before I started doing the 16:8, I was already eating extremely healthily. Omelettes for breakfast, salads with good fats for lunch. You can’t undo the damage of a hamburger, chips, milkshake and a Mars Bar with a 16 hour fast.
4. It doesn’t work for everyone
Some people aren’t built for fasting. My body responds extremely well to it but for other people, you might find it easier to follow a meal plan. It’s also not ideal for people on certain medications and pregnant women. Make sure you ask your doctor before you start any new diet regime and pay attention to your body. The Keto diet was awesome for Mr Smaggle but it was pretty average for me. Just pay attention to what’s happening in the first few weeks of any dietary changes.
5. It’s not a miracle answer, it’s just a different way of creating a calorie deficit
All diets for weight loss create a calorie deficit, which is how you lose weight. Low fat, low carb, ketogenic, Weight Watchers… they all essentially do the same thing. I respond very well to rules and boundaries which is why this works for me. I’ve always had the most success on eating plans where there are strict regulations. If I have any kind of freedom on a diet, I use it irresponsibly.
‘How many points in a bottle of red wine???’ – Me on Weight Watchers.
With fasting, I can have a few drinks on a Saturday night without doing too much damage and that’s all I’ve ever wanted. I love eating healthy and exercising but I damn well want a few glasses of wine on the weekend without totally destroying all the work I did during the week.
This week on Straight & Curly, Kelly and I are talking about calorie counting VS fasting and what works better for us. You can listen to it on any podcast app but we’d love if you listened on iTunes because that improves our ranking. #cheeky.
Again, please consult a medical professional before trying a new eating plan. I’m not an expert, this is just a thing I tried that worked for me. I’m going to keep fasting because it’s working for me but it’s still hard work. It’s just the best of all the hard work solutions for me.