Losing weight

Losing weight is hard. And it seems to get harder the older we get.

It's not helped by the number of conflicting stories you get about what you should be doing!

There are plenty of people who have diametrically opposing views about saturated fat. Some say it's truly bad for you - others that it's good for you because it's 'what our ancestors ate'.

Others use similar logic to say why we shouldn't eat a lot of carbohydrates because 'we've only been farmers for the last 10,000 years' whereas plenty of others say that our diet should be based on whole grains...

And people disagree on whether there is a 'starvation mode' and the extent to which it stops weight loss.

And some diets have you eating six times a day, and others ask you to fast for 24 hours twice a week!

And then there are all those 'superfoods' which are meant to burn fat off you while you sit on the sofa!! But those same foods are quite often packed with calories...

Personally, I subscribe to the 'old' fat loss equation that:

Weight loss equals energy burned minus energy ingested.

So that effectively means eat less and move more.

Nothing you haven't heard before right?

Well I've been struggling with my weight for as long as I can remember - certainly from being an early teenager...

I've had some successes in losing weight - you can read about them by clicking this link: "My weight loss success stories"

But it's only recently (since start of August 2009) that I've found something which really seems to be able to shift the pounds in a sustainable way. Not so much of a diet as a complete change in the way I view food that means I'm no longer always thinking about it.

I remember an occupational therapist asking me how I felt when I was eating lunch, and I answered "relieved"! That can't be right - being a prisoner to your stomach signals!

It was at that point which I came across intermittent fasting. It sounded dreadful - how would I be able to survive without regular meals? But the science behind it is actually quite compelling, largely driven from the fact that as humans we used to contend with two physical states - fed and fasted. When we're fed, our bodies take in food and either use it for energy or for tissue repair or store it as fat. When we're fasted, our bodies use up those energy stores. It seemed to make sense that our ancestors weren't walking around like we are in a permanently fed state (which, by the way, can lead to insulin resistance, a pre-cursor to diabetes).

So I tried it out for a week and it seemed to work. And now (as of September 10 2009) I've been doing it for a little over 4 weeks and it's still working and it's still relatively easy to stick to.

I wrote a post about some of my concerns about intermittent fasting (which you may have to) - it may be worthwhile looking at if you're considering intermittent fasting.

My concerns about losing weight through intermittent fasting

One of the big improvements I've seen (on top of the weight loss) is that I'm much more able to make sensible food choices on my non-fasting days - so these are the type of food choices I make.

  1. Lots of water - your cells need it, and your liver needs it (and as your liver controls insulin, sugar metabolism and fat storage, it's a good idea to keep him happy)

  2. Not too much alcohol - lots of calories, dehydrates your liver (and makes him unhappy) and makes doner kebabs too appealing to resist.

  3. Lots of vegetables - generally low calories, and packed with minerals and vitamins and stuff.

  4. Not a lot of high-calorie carbs (pasta, rice, cereal, potato, cous cous) other than for breakfast - not for any special reason other than (i) they are packed with calories which you probably don't need at any time other than breakfast, and (ii) when I eat carbs at lunchtime, I feel sleepy in the afternoon.

  5. Not a lot of chemicals, additives and 'unnatural foods' (processed foods) - I'm not saying here that it's impossible for our bodies to deal with chemicals (as some diets try to say) but that they need to be filtered out someway, which puts more pressure on the liver.

  6. Always grill, bake, steam or stir fry whenever possible, and don't saute or deep fry.

  7. Try to limit the amount of calories you take in through liquids - it's very easy to forget them in the weight loss equation, and yet they can make a big difference to the amount of calories you take in each day.

Just to reiterate the point about the change in the way I view food, I used to consider the seven thoughts above as being my "golden diet rules". Now I find it rather strange to consider them as rules at all - it's just stuff that I do naturally, and has been brought about by intermittent fasting breaking the cycle of food-addiction.

The book I read which introduced me to intermittent fasting is Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat. The reason I liked it was that it wasn't full of marketing spin, had a bunch of relatively well-researched scientific references to back it up and wasn't full of empty promises. If you want to read more, click on the book below.

intermittent fasting

And, as an added bonus, here is my daily weight loss chart since I started Eat Stop Eat to show you that, at least for me, it's working.

Losing weight through fasting