There is no doubt about it—I simply do not function well when I skip meals.
My graduate school mentor was the first to gently point this out to me. Never mind how I was progressing on my master’s thesis, ‘when was the last time you ate’? was one of the most frequent questions I heard from her. It had nothing to do with an eating disorder—I would simply become so focused on what I was doing that all sense of time and sustenance would cease to matter. A bit of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or whatever, and I’d realise just how hungry I had been. (Thanks, Kathy! And, belated apologies for my food bitchiness!)
Those days are long gone, and my eating habits are more regulated. I’m certainly not as svelte as I was in graduate school (which I’m sure some would applaud). But, I wouldn’t mind losing a few inches here and there. My husband and I recently watched the BBC Horizon programme, ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ and have been intrigued ever since.
Both of us are at an increased risk for Type-2 Diabetes, and we are both concerned about our risks for cardiovascular disease. We’d be foolish not to think about various types of cancers as well. We generally exercise on a regular basis (him, walking; me, running). And, my long love affair with nicotine has ended once again (if this quit sticks is anyone’s guess, but I don’t plan on smoking today). Both of us would like to trim down a little, but we are not the sort of people to ‘diet’ in the traditional sense. We love our foods and cutting out one or another item let alone food group would be hell on our food habits. Just a few of the foods we would have extreme difficulty in eliminating include dairy of all sorts (especially cheese and eggs), bread, and rice. Hence, the BBC’s Horizon programme on fasting and its appeal.
Basically, there is an entire body of research being carried out on the short- and long-term benefits of intermittent fasting and restricting caloric intact. Some research suggests that eating less on average will lead to a longer life and one in which the individual’s overall health status is quite good. Others claim that intermittent fasting (such as a three-day fast every few months, a 5:2 fast, etc) are just as effective. The primary benefit of fasting (whether you choose the three-day variety or a 5:2 diet) is that it lowers you IGF-1 levels, which have been associated with diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers.
The Cuban and I decided we’d like to try the 5:2 diet. Here’s how it works: Five days each week, you eat whatever you want. Whatever you want. (‘Great!’, we exclaimed!) Two days a week, however, you limit your intake to no more than 500 kcal (for me; 600 for The Cuban). The two days do not need to be together (thankfully). You just need to restrict your intake to 500 kcal on two days out of each seven.
Yesterday, was my first fasting day. Here’s what I ate:
|Food item & amount||Caloric value|
|Coffee (my standard cup)||2|
|1/4 tsp sugar||3.75|
|Coffee (my standard 2nd cup)||2|
|1/4 tsp sugar||3.75|
|1 tbsp milk||9|
|Tangerine (120 g)||64|
|Kiwi (93 g)||58|
|Cup of Asparagus Soup||80|
|Pot of ginger-lemon green tea||4|
|2 eggs, poached||137.75|
|Tangerine (135 g)||72|
|Kiwi (92 g)||57|
Total: 502.25 kcal
And, loads and loads of water.
It wasn’t so bad. But, it wasn’t that easy either.
First and foremost, yesterday was not a day that I ran (which is now at least a 5-km route). I scheduled it that way. Normally, I have to eat something (usually a piece of fruit) before and after I run. So, I had a relatively lazy day in terms of physical activity.
Thankfully, I finished up work by noon so that I didn’t have to worry about thinking in the afternoon. Even simple tasks were more difficult. I usually spend a little time each evening knitting, quilting or crafting of some sort. It was not simple and it was incredibly frustrating, something which doesn’t happen very often anymore. My current project, however, a relatively simple knit square that I’ve done dozens of time so far was incredibly difficult. I simply could not keep track of where I was in the patten.
The afternoon was the most difficult time for me. This isn’t surprising at all. Normally, every day between about 14.30 and 16.30, I am useless. My blood sugar drops and focusing is difficult at best. If I could take a nap, I would. If possible, I schedule my work out time for this block or some other mindless task. Working or doing anything which requires higher brain functioning is a waste of time. It’s always been that way and it is unlikely too change. I’ve learned how to cope given the demands of my professional life, and most of my colleagues know this about me (it’s actually quite obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention! I’m an absolute idiot at that time of day!). When fasting, this was infinitely worse! There was a point yesterday when I was only capable of staring off into space not really thinking or doing anything. Sad, really. Tea helped. A nice big, bacon cheeseburger would have worked better!
Alas…Dinner of two poached eggs and fruit was divine. I was full when I finished and I swear they were the best eggs ever. Of course, an hour later, I wanted another cheeseburger. Ah well.
Still, day 1 of fasting was alright. I woke up this morning and wasn’t ravenous, as I expected I would be, and I didn’t dream of food all night. I normally do not have breakfast until at least one cup of coffee has been downed and the second is brewing. I’ve been up now for about an hour and a half, my second cup of coffee is sitting in its standard spot, and my toast and tangerine are ready to be eaten. (NB: They were damn tasty this morning!)
One thing is certain: I love food. And, I shall enjoy every single morsel today.
Great post. If IF (is of interest) as well as calorie restriction and disease prevention, I highly recommend Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” It’s a dense read but explores these topics extensively. It’s available through the Finnish library in English. I have about 40 pages left. Tuomas wants to go through it too though so wait a bit if you’d like to reserve it! 😉
haha the parentheses were supposed to read intermittent fasting!
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