Many of you reading this will think "WTF?!" and "that's far too hard-core", or perhaps even "that's utterly nuts" or "i couldn't possibly do it"


So what are we talking about?


well it's the principles of Intermittent Fasting (I.F.) or eating When Hunger Ensues Naturally (W.H.E.N.)

Basically choosing a time during the week when you stop eating anything for a fixed period, usually 18-24 hours, which includes sleep! Or you eat when you're actually properly hungry, whenever that is, and don't eat if you're not...!

If you thought getting off your backside was a challenge, or cutting down on carbohydrates was bad, this may be a bridge too far.


Or will it...?


Is, as my parents used to put it, "giving your mouth a rest" actually as difficult, painful or as unachievable as you would have yourself believe? 


Well, the first few times, once the novelty has worn off can be quite "fun" in a not very fun way. There are lots of reasons for this, the biggest being getting out of certain in-grained eating habits and your system having to get used to the idea of tapping your fat reserves for energy as opposed to getting food energy.


So why do it?

1) When was the last time you were truly, properly hungry? We're talking almost painful abdomen grumbling, and an almost pathological fixation with your next food source? Being ravenous? Starving bom-barving? It's quite the novel sensation, and one that's a few million years of genetic evolution we've now overridden with our fixed meal times and/or constant grazing! 

2) Constantly feeding yourself means that your body gets all it's energy from food, with any excess dumped into reserve. See the belly and wobbly bits. At no time do you give your body a reason to tap those reserves, so your waistline gradually yet constantly increases. The majority of people don't physically work nearly as hard enough to warrant that amount of constant energy influx, so the occasional stoppage forces the body to look elsewhere for energy, namely your fat reserves.

3) We've evolved over millions of years to hunt for food. Farming is a relatively new introduction, grain consumption even newer, and simple carbohydrates and sugars are evolutionary so new they almost don't factor in our history. So were there load of fatty cavemen trying to hunt mammoth? Of course not. They had to spend a lot of time in between eating utilising energy from their fat reserves trying to locate meals. We just have to head to the fridge! Not exactly arduous. But periods of no food is what our body has evolved to do; store fat in times of plenty, and use it in times of scarcity. Constantly feeding it just gives it reason to carry on storing! As far as the body is concerned it's never-ending mammoth time!

4) It gives your body a natural break from having to deal with food consumption, digestion, absorption and expulsion. All very chemical and hormonal intensive processes that divert attention away from other areas such as repair, autophagy and so forth. Using a heavily simplified analogy, if you didn't have to go to work for the day, how much could you get done around the house...?

5) It makes you truly appreciate the meal that puts an end to the fasting period, whatever it may be. It makes you really look forward to whatever you're going to have. As opposed to a "that'll do" meal, or just ramming something down your throat, you spend mental time imagining the taste, texture and feeling of satiety that will soon come.

6) From a purely financial point of view, and one that's often forgotten, your food bill goes down, as does your use of toilet roll!!! :)

7) It gives you back a sense of control over what you are doing. You are in charge of your nutrition, your body is not in control of you.


So what are the payoffs?

1) You want weight loss without feeling constantly deprived? Bingo.

2) You want to push past a plateau in weight loss that doesn't involve starving yourself? Bingo.

3) You want control back over your eating habits?

4) You want "detox" or just simply a chance for a rest?

5) You want an easy way to dump quite large amounts of calories a week?

6) You want to convert your body over to a more efficient fat-burning system as opposed to carb-craving one?

7) You want to increase your insulin sensitivity so it is better able to deal with food and energy release?

8) You have extra time during the day not having to prepare and cook food!


So what's the way i did it?

I started small and easy to get used to the idea, and here's what I did. Saturday is my "cheat day" or my "20%" day. Basically i can eat what the hell i like at any time if i fancy it. Basically I should just call it Malteserday and be done with it :)

Come Saturday night after the last meal and nom-noms, I will not eat again until Roast Dinner Time on Sunday, probably about 3pm. Because that is usually a big meal, with plenty going on it, I won't need to eat again until Top Gear time when I then hit the toast :) I enjoy my simple pleasures! Effectively then, I've missed Sunday breakfast and lunch. I've also given my system time to process and deal with any and all crap I've shoved in my face on cheat day.

So lets' see. Say I went to bed at 10pm, I've been asleep a good 8 hours. Get up, go for walk, go swimming or something, do chores, watch the rugby or Formula 1 whilst doing the ironing, play with the kids, prep the Sunday meal. Basically keep mentally active and physically busy! Hunger pangs hit at about 11am, fended off, but by about 1pm I'm starting to really, really count the minutes. Time for some will-power, backbone, self-control...Come 3pm, game on and it's all over. I've fasted for 17hours; no real hardship. I survived. Ethiopians would be very proud of me ( I always like to have a little sarcastic perspective about this)

Once I managed this, I added in another day.

I chose Tuesdays because I do a Krav Maga training session at 7pm to 8.30pm and I rarely want to eat after that, so that seemed the most logical day. I`ll probably be knackered anyway, so I `ll go to bed relatively early, and once asleep I don't care! I don't eat before the session as I don't like the feeling of heavy food resting in my stomach when I'm training, and more often than not, once the intensity of training rises I would have felt sick; not pleasant. So it made sense to make Tuesday lunch my last meal, and aim for Wednesday lunch being my "break-fast" in the truest sense of the word! That's a 24hour fast, but only missing out on two meals. Again, easy. Again, the various starving populations of the world would be stood in rapturous applause...

So what do I recommend?

1) Do the Saturday method first for a month. Get used to the idea and how it works. Read around the subject in the meantime. See if it's for you.

2) Then pick another day, one where you have an activity in the evening (like one of our boot camps!), and go for the 24 hour one. It just needs to take you away from either the presence of food, the thought of food or the desire for food. A martial art, an intense gym session, a boot camp, something like that where your mind is concentrating on something else or because of your work rate you have no desire to eat.

3) Get a nice herbal tea (freshly grated ginger, boiling water is good, and I'm not a fan of ginger!), or a decent black coffee, and some water. Have as much of those as you want during your fast to deflect the hunger pangs. The key is no milk or any added "calories", you just want empty fluid, so if you're unsure, stick with water. Caffeine encourages fat release, so that's OK, but no sugar or sweeteners. Reading around the subject will let you know what's acceptable, but basically I do fresh ginger tea or water.

4) Keep busy, otherwise you'll start clock watching and we all know what that does to time...it slows it down! Chores or physical activity, don't just sit there feeling sorry for yourself!

5) Try and plan a workout toward the end of the fast, then shower then eat. It makes the time go quicker for a start, but also encourages the body to adopt that primeval way of doing things. Imagine your workout is the hunt or a foraging expedition, and the resulting meal is the pay-off of a successful hunter/gatherer!

6) Be careful you don't "over-compensate". Stuffing your face with 15 bars of Dairy Milk before or after the fast not only defeats the point, it will also make it much worse! Far better to have a good meal of protein and veg as these keep you fuller longer and are just better all round. Self-control and don't be silly.

7) Lastly, if you don't "feel it", don't do it! Try again next time. Change it. Experiment with it. Just don't martyr yourself over it. Eating, stopping, eating, should be as natural as any other daily process. As soon as you really have to force yourself, you lose. You may be ill, stressed, you may have social engagements. It doesn't matter--do it when you're ready. Integrate it. You have your whole life to try it, but at least try it. 

Any last thoughts?

Give yourself plenty of time to get used to it, as it is quite a change to not only your own eating habits, but what society or your workplace expect of you. It's very different, and also very scary! You will feel alone! But in equal measure you'll feel quite tough and rebellious ;) Buck that System!

Your body needs time to adapt back to fat burning mode, not food burning mode, so do this slowly and surely. The first few times are a challenge, but it does get easier, as with anything that's outside your comfort zone!

Use this as a weapon in your armoury, not a as a crown of thorns or a barbed wire shirt. Even if you don't go the whole hog, the next time it's a "mealtime", simply ask yourself  "am I actually hungry or am I just conditioned to eat now?". Could you survive just skipping that one? Or would you drop dead on the spot?

Diabetes type 1 is a complete irrepairable failure of a bodily process and so needs medical supervision. There may well have been caveman sufferers of this disease, but they probably wouldn't have lasted long.

Diabetes type 2 on the other hand is largely self-inflicted and reversible, so once you have moved away from a simple carb-based diet to a more paleo-based one, then your body should be able to handle IF.

Quick caveat to cover my ass! I'm not a Doctor, but that doesn't mean they are fonts of all knowledge, infallible or have the correct answers, but it does mean they have much greater resources to bear, rightly or wrongly! If in doubt, don't do it. Read around, wise up. Make the decisions for yourself. Take responsibility. All i know is that much of the obesity, dietary and modern-day disease problems that have exploded in the West started in the 1980s after some dodgy research, and the stupid myths that have perpetuated since. That's not the 1880s, 1680s, 1080s, 2080BC, 10000BC, that's 30 years ago...

Links to start you off

Below is a list of links from one of the more complete sites, but also check out the work of Brad Pilon (you don't need to buy his book, you could just ask me questions!). What i would encourage you to do is take a big step away from current advice, and use this simple framework when you see the comments of the mis-informed or partially-knowledgeable: "how on earth did we survive, evolve and prosper this long on planet earth in spite of all this knowledge...?"

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting-weight-loss/#axzz1uGuMfauR

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-fast-part-six-choosing-a-method/#axzz1uGuYkITN

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting-questions-answers/#axzz1uGueskmv