Friday, March 14, 2008

Eat-Stop-Eat part #2

For the last six weeks I have been fasting twice a week, usually for 20-24 hours, say from 8.30pm Friday to 6.30pm Saturday. From a physical point of view I felt immediately that the ‘not eating’ state is something that my body understands and is designed to handle. From my previous life as a silly little diet chick I am well familiar with the famous ‘starvation mode’. The starvation response occurs when the human body percieves that a famine is in progress and hits the hormonal panic button. I’ve been there – ravenously hungry, unable to think about anything but food, lethargic, cold and able to gain weight just by inhaling the fumes from a chocolate bar. That is not fun and it takes weeks and months of dedicated serious dieting to get there. I have none of the 'hello..I'm starving!' symptoms during my Eat-Stop-Eat fasts. During these short fasts I have felt physically fine. In fact, I’ve been zippy, energised and focused. I have not experienced excessive hunger, although once I did develop a headache, even with drinking lots of water. I have not been game to train in the fasted state, but have timed my training for times when I’m eating. I don’t know why I should be so leery of training while fasted though. Years ago I believed strongly in fasted training every morning and seemed to hang onto my muscle ok. It’s probably just that I’ve been well indoctrinated or befuddled with the pre-training, post-training nutrition debate and my mind doesn’t want to let go just yet. To summarise – physically, no problem. Mentally? Read on.

There is a stretch of time, between 1pm and 5.30pm where usually I would eat twice – at 2pm and 5pm. On my first fasting day at work, I discovered that getting through the afternoon without my snacks to look forward to was almost impossible. I wasn’t hungry, but I was bored – to – death. You might say that a side effect of fasting is that you also get to press your nose up to the emotional eating window for a good hard look. Since starting the intermittent fasts I have made big strides in discovering the many things that cause me to eat – and overeat. I really had no idea that I was so frequently bored or stressed because I would amuse or distract myself with food. Now I am aware of it and I intend to deal with the issues. If my life is boring and stressful then I’d better make it more interesting and less stressful or I will always struggle with mindless munching. Apart from helpfully introducing me to yet more of my neuroses (joy!), the experience of the short fast has also made me more relaxed about food frequency. I now know that I can wait for food and that this doesn’t mean I will binge later. Just knowing I can do that is very empowering. For years I have lived with the belief that I must not go too long without food because hunger could trigger a binge. No matter if we were in the middle of the Louvre, if my mid-afternoon snack came due, I must eat NOW. I believe that I might have been ever so slightly painful to travel with. :O/

One fact of the intermittent fasting that I appreciate is that I do not have to think so hard about what I will need to eat in order to meet my calorie/fatloss goals. It’s sort of like saving bit of extra money that you can spend later. Although I have mastered calorie control quite nicely and don’t often feel deprived, it is nice to know that when I’m not fasting, I can eat a bit more without harming my fatloss. It’s quite a strain to be always trying to keep meals small and, sometimes, it’s nice to actually feel like I can eat to fullness, rather than to the number of calories I have left for the day.

Yet again, I now have to run off (it's pizza night, what can I say? There's a super-thin crust 'Godfather' pizza with my name on it). I’ll add a part 3 to the Eat-Stop-Eat epic tomorrow. I will talk about my results since starting the intermittent fasting and how I work it in with my program. I know that’s the bit that most intrigues you readers anyway~!


  1. Hi Sara,

    Glad to hear you're having success with Intermittent fasting. I edited Eat Stop Eat and worked closely with Brad while he researched and wrote the book. I've been following the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle for about 15 months now and I train on my fasting days all the time. I've even done 2 workouts during a 24 hour fast, and 3 workouts during a 48 hour fast, and its never a problem. I've also tested my blood glucose before and after a workout at the 22 hour mark of a fast and it was normal the whole time. I can tell you that training is no problem on a fast and you won't lose any muscle.

    John B

  2. Good posts. I felt the same way as you did initially about it. I've lost 75 lbs and I'm now more in the maintain/slowly lose a bit more phase, and I find that the fasts work nicely as "damage control" when I find that I haven't eaten optimally for a few days.


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