My first year of intermittent fasting

I’ve now been doing Intermittent Fasting for a year. I saw the article by Michael Mosley on the BBC website, and thought I’d give it a try for a month, and started on 7th August, 2012. My original plan was to fast two days a week, but I immediately found it so much easier than expected that I went straight up to three days a week. (I didn’t want to try the Alternate Day Fasting, as I wanted a fixed weekly pattern, to fit around Krav Maga classes, a team pub lunch, and a brunch after church on Sundays.) My weight loss started quickly enough to motivate me into carrying on after the trial month.

At first, I could only just stick to the 600 calorie limit on fasting days, but once I got used to it, I found I could eat less than that, sometimes going down to around 80 calories (one tin of tomatoes).

I had already been recording my weight daily for some time (in a spreadsheet on my phone), and started to plot graphs of it. I noticed that my weight loss wasn’t steady; it tended to fluctuate on roughly a two-week cycle. However, looking back over my earlier weight records, I found my weight typically varied at that frequency already.

My weight, 2012-2013

My weight, 2012-2013

In the graph, the green line is my daily readings, which of course fluctuate (typically by about two pounds) between the morning after a fasting day and the morning after a non-fasting day. The red line is a seven-day average, to smooth the curve a bit; and the blue line (on a different vertical scale) is the difference between that day’s seven-day average and the corresponding figure from seven days earlier.

After a while, my weight loss slowed down, and became steppier and less regular; presumaby as I had less fat reserves, what I ate on any one day had more short-term effect. In particular, the plateaus between phases of weight loss became longer.

Now, after a year, I’ve lost just over 4 stone (56 lbs, 26kg), from a starting point of 16st 6lbs; so, I’ve lost just under a quarter of my starting weight. I reckon I’ve still got between half a stone and one stone to go before being actually lean; the remaining fat mostly shows just when I’m undressed, as a small roll of “loose skin” (actually skin with subcutaneous fat) on my lower abdomen; I gather that the skin will tighten gradually as it goes through its replacement cycle. It’s certainly a life-changing amount to have lost; I can exercise better, and feel better about how I look, and more importantly it should improve my general health and longevity. My cholesterol level has come down enough that my GP is now letting me try coming off statins for six months, and a liver function test (transaminase) that has been raised for as long as I’ve known it be monitored has come down to normal. And some old trousers and shorts that I’d kept in hope of eventually being able to get into them again are now far too loose!

My diet on the fasting days has varied as I’ve gone along; at the period of fastest weight loss, I was eating tinned tomatoes a lot; low calorie, low fat, rich in lycopenes (which may have beneficial effects). At the start, when I was still getting used to 600 calories a day and not ready to go any further, I’d skip breakfast, and for each of lunch and supper I’d eat a bag of ready-made salad and a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce. Tinned ratatouille is a handy variant on tomato (actually it’s largely tomato anyway). Some days, I just have instant soup; reasonably filling, easy to count the calories, but typically a bit saltier than is medically recommended (although possibly containing less salt than an uncontrolled day’s food). Small tins (200g) of pasta and similar foods are also conveniently sized. (Baked beans have more calories than tinned spaghetti, to my surprise; I think the sauce included with them is usually sugarier.) Currently, I’m back to mostly eating salad with fish; it certainly gets me at least “five a day” of vegetables, and I’m looking at co-ordinating it with my non-fasting days to approximate a “polymeal” (incorporating salad, fish, nuts, garlic, red wine, and chocolate; probably a bit tricky to get all of those in on a fasting day, unless I have just one meal for the day).

An observation that I’ve heard other people make, and have found for myself, is that “eating makes you hungry”. On a non-fasting day, once I’ve eaten something, I’ll often want to eat more.

My plan is to continue Intermittent Fasting for life, although now the first year is up I’ll sometimes let myself have just two fast days in a week (but still with three as the norm); that’ll give me a bit more flexibility for social eating.

To celebrate completing a year of the diet, I’ve bought a weight vest, that can be loaded with up to 30kg of weights. It’s interesting to feel how much weight I’ve lost; loaded appropriately, the vest is so heavy it’s quite hard to lift it over my shoulders to put it on. I’ll soon being using it when doing bodyweight exercises!

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  1. […] at the start by a lady I met the previous time, and partly through having improved my appearance by intermittent fasting; I had been quite overweight before). This year, I was fully confident, and decided to clown around […]

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