When I’m anxious or stressed my habitual response is to turn to destructive behaviors in an attempt to self-soothe. For years this meant binging on alcohol but after giving up on that particular madness my attention turned to food. Now instead of hitting a bar when life gets rocky I raid the fridge. Neither of these solutions would be described as ideal, but I prefer being an occasional fatty than a habitual drunk. As soon as the stressful period ends I do return to healthier eating patterns, but it is my goal to eliminate this behavior completely. I wouldn’t mind so much if comfort eating actually did help me during difficult times, but it just makes me feel worse.
Readers of the blog will have heard about my most recent stressful period. My regular visits to the fridge has seen me put on 5kg (about 11 pounds) in just over a month – I’ve hit 80kg. My belly is once again flabby and my energy levels are well below what they should be. I’ve also been struggling to shake off a cold, and I’m sure my poor diet has been the main reason for this. I’ve eaten so much junk food over the last few weeks that I feel bad just thinking about it. Now that things are returning to normal in my life the priority is to get back in good physical shape. I’ve had success in the past with mindful eating, but my mindfulness goes out the window when I’m stressed. I want to try something different this time.
Fasting for Health
I first became interested in fasting back in the 1980s after reading Dan Milman’s book ‘The Peaceful Warrior’. Back then I was skinny and I saw fasting as more of a spiritual practice. I did try it a few times but never lasted longer than a day. During the last years of my drinking I’d regularly go days without food, but I wouldn’t call that fasting and it wasn’t something that was done out of choice. I’ve always believed that fasting is good for mental and physical health, but I’ve kept away from it because it seems like a drastic solution except as part of a spiritual retreat.
My interest in fasting has been rekindled after watching a Horizon documentary from the BBC called ‘Eat, fast, and live longer’. It seems that science is confirming what spiritual seekers have known for centuries – fasting is good for you. There is now good evidence that intermittent fasting helps people live longer. It also greatly reduces their risk of developing things like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and prostate cancer. I’m not obsessed with trying to stay alive for as long as possible, but I am interested in anything that can help me stay healthier for longer. Fasting does seem to offer a means to increase the number of years that we will be healthy and active.
Ten Weeks of 5:2 Fasting Diet
They looked at a number of different fasting options in the Horizon Documentary, but the one that interests me most is the 5:2 fasting diet. This involves fasting for two days of the week and then eating more or less what you like for the other five days. With this diet we still get to eat on the fasting days, but we limit ourselves to 600 calories for men or 500 calories for women. It doesn’t seem like that tough a regime to me so I’m fairly confident that it could work for me.
I’m going to give the 5:2 fasting diet a try over the next 10 weeks. If it proves to be successful I will try to maintain it indefinitely. Today is my first fasting day and so far so good. It is now noon and I’m going to eat my only meal of the day soon – I’ll also allow myself an apple later on. I will add updates here on the blog so people can follow my progress.
My Other Posts on 5:2 Intermittent Fasting
Update:I recently came across Eat, Fast, Slim: The Life-Changing Fasting Diet for Amazing Weight Loss and Optimum Health. This book is packed with useful information about all the different types of fast – it would have been a great help to me if I’d read this before taking on this challenge.
Update September 2013 I am repeating the 10 weeks of 5:2 intermittent fasting – this time I’m going all the way to the end.