For a few months now I’ve been experimenting with Intermittent Fasting as a fat loss tool. I’ve tried a number of different ways of approaching it – from full 24hrs periods with no food at all, to more regular, shorter 16 hour fasts.
I know that IF is a controversial area with lots of different views on the subject. I’ve read plenty of research that suggests it can be very effective for fat loss and insulin sensitivity. Personally I’ve found it an incredibly effective tool – it’s without a doubt helped my fat loss but also taught me a lot about what real physical hunger feels like. I think that’s a useful thing for anyone on a fat loss mission to experience.
But whenever people find out about my fasting, they always assume that I’m following the Fast Diet. Or the 5:2 Diet as it’s also known. The diet where you eat ‘whatever you want’ for 5 days a week and then eat around 500 calories on the other two.
That approach is not what IF is about for me and I actually think it gives IF a bad name.
I’ll tell you why.
Firstly – for me, IF isn’t a diet. It’s an eating strategy. Another tool in my fat loss toolbox. I don’t need to read a book to know how to do IF and I certainly don’t need a recipe book, because my definition of fasting is ‘not eating’. I choose how long I’m going to fast for and then I don’t eat for that period of time. Simples.
I was astounded to see Pizza Express jumping on the bandwagon promoting a salad that had ~200calories which was ‘perfect for anyone on the 5:2 diet’. I’ll say it again – when did the definition of fasting change to include eating?
Secondly, the message that you can ‘eat whatever you want’ the rest of the time sits uncomfortably with me. I know that the Fast Diet book is packed with testimonials from people who have succeeded by doing just this. Personally I don’t think an approach which could be interpreted as ‘binge and then starve’ is very healthy. And while the book itself does have subtle hints that you might find yourself wanting to eat healthily, many people have embarked on the 5:2 approach without having read the book at all and I think that’s where the danger lies.
Maybe fasting does allow you to ‘get away’ with eating unhealthy food now and again. But filling yourself full of processed food a few days a week and then trying to fast it off on others isn’t really what IF is about for me. And it’s almost certainly not going to get the best results. My approach is to try eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of lean protein and vegetables before and after a fast to make sure that my body gets the nutrients it needs. Yummy as they may be cakes, chocolate and pizza are not what my body needs if I’m then not going to eat for 16hrs or more.
I think the Fast Diet has given IF a bad name, because it’s not really fasting – it’s a calorie restriction diet. And I think that’s a shame as done sensibly alongside a balanced, healthy diet my experience is that IF can be a really effective fat loss tool. But it certainly isn’t ‘a diet’ and for me it definitely doesn’t involve eating!
Of course this is just my opinion and as ever, I’m intrigued to hear from other people with different views or experiences. Are you following the Fast Diet, or doing what I would call ‘proper’ IF? Does it work for you? What’s your approach?
Leave me a comment and let me know.