Intermittent Fasting

In August 2012 I started intermittent fasting (IM). Middle age spread has been something of fighting retreat for me personally. Despite having lost some weight since I became an osteopath through diet modification, I was still tight in the belt line and exercise didn’t seem to be shifting it.

As part of my naturopathic training at BCOM we were given instruction in fasting. In fact, I did a five day water fast in my first year at college. At the time I had been getting right upper quadrant pain and had been given a gastroenterological referral from my GP who may have suspected a rumbling gall bladder. Because of this I had had blood tests for liver disease. The liver enzymes ALP was raised and ALT came back at the high end of normal range, indicating inflammation but not frank liver disease. The consultant said it was consistent with early fatty liver disease, but it wasn’t serious enough to warrant further investigation. ┬áSo I had a baseline going into my first ever fast by which to measure the body’s response to what was sold at college as a powerful modality.

[ALERT: readers of a sensitive nature may wish to skip to the next paragraph] The fast itself was brutal. I stopped being famished after 3 days, but as time drew on I became weaker and more tired. On the evening of the fifth day I became very nauseous and as I waited for Jacquie my partner to get home, I threw up. I had brought up very little but the mucous I had brought up was speckled brown like coffee grounds. When Jacquie arrived home she insisted I either ate or that we went to Accident and Emergency, so I had a little juice. It could be interpreted as a “healing crisis” as described in the naturopathic model, whereby symptoms get much worse before the condition finally resolves.

The week following my fast I had a blood panel done privately and was interested to find that my liver enzymes had dropped to the median range.

People who know me have described me as being of a sceptical and suspicious frame of mind so while I found the experience instructive, I never wholly accepted the received wisdom of fasting. Last year in August, I saw the Panorama documentary on intermittent fasting and calorie restriction as a means of treating chronic inflammatory processes that lead to many of the most prominent current diseases such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular heart disease. I looked at the research base and decided that it might be time to adopt IM as a strategy for calorie restriction, health maintenance and weight control.

I started out on a 500 calorie fast twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) as I prepared for the Bristol half Marathon. IM fitted in with the 5 day a week training program that I adapted to help me get a reasonable time in the run. Basically if I didn’t train, I didn’t eat. It helped with the motivation to train and helped with the motivation to fast. After the Bristol half, I decided to drop the calories totally from my fast days and water fast 36 hours twice a week since September 2012.

That is where I am today. I will continue to IM permanently or until I am unable to for health reasons, or the research changes and suggests it isn’t the healthiest strategy to control weight, and maintain healthy physiology. I have lost 7 kg and intend to lose another 7 kg in 2013. I am taking a break for weighing myself until after my next half marathon because I found the motivation to fast was being undermined by my ability to maintain my weight despite not eating 2 days a week.