Fasting as a Weight Loss Technique

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Recently I heard about a new weight loss technique called intermittent fasting. The interesting thing about this technique is that the fast can be for as “little” as 16 hours. That leaves you eight hours a day when you can eat. You could fast, for instance, from 6 at night till 10 the next morning and then have a normal breakfast, lunch and dinner in the time between 10 AM and 6 PM. Of course, you’d still want to eat a healthy diet and not just pig out for eight hours. But you don’t have to starve yourself during your eating hours, because you’ve already done that during the night.

I hit upon a variation of this technique when I was making the rules for my new eating program. In my last post, I listed these rules as:

  1. Practice mini-fasting.
  2. Only eat at set meal and snack times.
  3. Cut down on portion sizes.
  4. Weigh-ins once a week only.

I had never heard of intermittent fasting. But I was familiar with the practice of fasting because as a Muslim I have fasted during Ramadan. The goal there is spiritual, but it occurred to me that I could use the same technique for those stretches of times between meals when I get especially hungry.

I’ve always failed at diets because I don’t handle hunger well. All I can think about is not being able to eat. But when I apply fasting techniques to a diet plan, I find that I can get through those periods relatively easily. All I do is remind myself that if I could fast for anywhere from 12-17 hours a day during Ramadan, then I can surely fast for four to six hours between meals, especially if I allow myself a very small snack somewhere in that period. That’s what I mean by “mini-fasting.”

Four to six hours may not seem like a “fast.” But when you’re eating 1200-1500 calories a day, the time between meals can seem like it will never end. Telling myself that I’ve gone longer—and asking God for strength to get through it—takes the edge off and makes the whole diet plan possible.

It works for me. I’m not saying that it would work for everyone. But I have found it relatively easy to implement and not as taxing as a 16-hour or longer fast would be. Combined with the other three rules above (and a few more refinements I’ve made along the way), I’ve been able to lose fourteen pounds in ten weeks without exercising.

My goal has never been to lose weight as quickly as possible. I just wanted an eating plan that was sustainable; that I could follow for the rest of my life even. Because my main goal has always been to get control of my eating so that it stops affecting other areas of my life. As long as the number on the scale keeps going downward, I’m happy. Because I know that I can keep doing this until I finally reach my goal weight.

For more about intermittent fasting, go here. This is an article geared toward men. Please be aware that there is some question about whether women should fast intermittently. I myself don’t see the necessity of extra-long fasts (like 16/8) since I’ve seen that “mini-fasting” as I practice it is effective enough for weight loss.

 

The Obesity Epidemic – How This Fat Person is Losing Weight

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I am one of the statistics of the obesity epidemic. When I was younger I weighed around 125 and I’m only 5’3″, so I was never skinny. But as of last May 26th, my weight had topped out at 204.

Since then I’ve lost thirteen pounds.  I’m not following a specific diet and I rarely exercise (in fact my lifestyle is basically sedentary). But still I’ve been able to lose almost a pound a week. What changed? My attitude.

First, what made me fat in the first place? 1) I stopped working; 2) I started taking medications that can cause weight gain; and 3) I went through menopause. A triple whammy. But I had also been overweight as a child and my mother struggled with obesity all her life, so I had a predisposition to gain weight. I just never expected to gain so much.

I used to have nightmares that I became so fat I couldn’t hold my arms down to my sides. Even after I slimmed down in the 6th grade, I thought of myself as fat, especially once my body started to develop. (I have a “womanly” body, which means I have more curves than angles.)

Still, when I really started to gain weight, I barely noticed at first. My first inkling that something was up (my weight) was when I tried on my winter coat and it felt tight. I thought it had shrunk. I know it’s hard for thin people to believe, but weight can sneak up on you, especially if you haven’t been weighing yourself. It wasn’t until I went to the doctor’s that I was hit with the awful truth: I had gained a total of forty pounds. But at that point I wasn’t even as fat as I would eventually become.

A few months later, when I started taking courses at the local university and started doing a lot of walking, I lost thirty pounds. But after I graduated, my weight started inching up again, literally. Especially in my waist, which got as wide as 44 inches. (Yes, I have the infamous “apple” shape.)

It’s funny how once you start thinking of yourself as really fat, it almost doesn’t matter how fat you get. Fat is fat, you figure. What’s ten more pounds? I kept thinking that way until I hit 204 and my 40DD bras started getting too tight.

Around the same time, I started going to counseling about my eating problems. (I have a tendency toward bulemia.) And during the course of that therapy, I realized that I had the means to do something about my weight. In fact, I was the only one who could do it. My therapist helped me to see that I was putting the blame for all my faults everywhere but on myself.

This tied into my religious beliefs which emphasize personal responsibility. (I converted to Islam three years ago.) If God holds us accountable, then we, too, have to hold ourselves accountable. We have to face who we really are and assess our strengths and weaknesses. But that doesn’t mean putting ourselves down, which is what I’d been doing.

I had settled into the “fat person” mindset: No matter what I was when  I was younger, I’m a fat person now and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m old, my meds make me gain weight, and I’m post-menopausal. What’s the use of trying to change?

One day I was writing in my journal about how my parents’ deaths had affected me. It seemed as though once I made it through the grief experience, I wasn’t the same person anymore. It was as if I had died with them and been born again as a new person.

I realized then that I could use that process to reinvent myself. I could die to the self who was keeping me from attaining my goals. All I had to do was pinpoint the most negative things that person was doing, and resolve to turn them around.

And because my preoccupation with my weight and over-eating was the worst culprit, I decided to start killing off those attitudes and behaviors first.

I sat down and wrote a list of things I do that contribute to my eating and weight problems.

  1. I hated going hungry.
  2. I ate all day long (also known as “grazing.”)
  3. My portion sizes were out of control.
  4. I judged myself by what I weighed each day.

Then I made up some rules that would counteract those behaviors and attitudes.

  1. Practice mini-fasting.
  2. Only eat at set meal and snack times.
  3. Cut down on portion sizes.
  4. Weigh-ins once a week only.

I made up my mind that I would stick to those rules no matter what.

See my next post on “Fasting as a Weight Loss Technique.”