Intermittent fasting is growing rapidly as a very successful health and weight loss strategy. The research to support its health benefits are still in their infancy but so far, the results are very impressive. From helping to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease as well as protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It also works a treat metabolically supporting weight loss, particularly visceral fat loss (the fat that sits around your organs).
How wonderful! Seems too good to be true? Well, there’s always a bit of a catch. Those two fast days… they can be kinda hard going. Most people report that fasting days do get easier as time goes on but those initial weeks can have you feeling pretty hangry. So how do you survive a fasting day? I’ve been intermittent fasting for the past two months and these are my top 10 tips for surviving a fast day:
Make sure you’re really clear as to why you want to fast in the first place. If you plan to go in and dabble then you’re in danger of it being used as or becoming yet another fad diet. My reasons for fasting were in the short term to help lose the last few kilos of baby weight and long term, reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s disease because of a strong family history.
#2 Plan your week
If your weeks are routine then it’s easy to pick and stick to two fasting days. But if your days are varied, it’s important to plan which days will work best for you to fast. Some people find fasting on busy workdays the best because they don’t have time to think about food. But if you’re going to be stuck in a meeting surrounded by pastries and sandwich platters that may not be the best day to fast.
#3 Create a menu
Whether you eat the same thing each fast day or you mix it up, make sure you’ve got a menu planned and food available so there’s no room for slip ups. It’s also best to eat food from home rather than eating out because you can be much more accurate with your calorie counting.
#4 Distribution of calories
How you distribute your calories over the day also makes a difference. For example my husband likes to have three small meals per day where as I prefer to avoid eating through the morning, then eat a lunch and dinner style meal. It might take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you.
#5 Choose biggest bang for your calorie buck
Fill your fast days with foods that are low calorie but high volume, nutritious and filling. My top picks are non-starchy vegetables (all except for potato, sweet potato, peas, corn), berries, lean protein like eggs and chicken breast, plain Greek yoghurt and calorie-free noodles like Slendier and kelp noodles to bulk out meals.
#6 Get creative
Some people prefer to eat the exact same thing on a fast day because they don’t have to think about it. Others (like me!) like to get creative so it’s not a bore. There are some fantastic fast day cookbooks available as well as online recipes. If you want to get really creative, you can use a calorie-counting app like My Fitness Pal and create your own recipe within your calorie allowance.
#7 Drink up!
Fluids are a great way to fill up and have something to go and do to replace a snack run on a fast day. Water, sparkling water, herbal teas, black tea and coffee can be enjoyed freely. Tea or coffee with a dash of milk contains 10-20 calories depending on the type and amount of milk you use. You could also make yourself a jug of chilled iced tea or coffee or water infused with chunks of fruit like orange and mint.
#8 Distract yourself
Stay busy, avoid the kitchen, don’t watch cooking shows or look at foodie Instagram sites – trust me, it’ll make your life MUCH easier!
#9 Think of tomorrow…
If you’re finding yourself hungry and dreaming of all the food, just hang in there. Have a cup of tea, go to bed early and before you know it, it’s a new day and you can enjoy your normal diet again.
#10 Surviving fasting long term
Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle strategy that can and should be used for life. If you have anything that disrupts your normal eating life such as a holiday, pregnancy, illness or you just run out of puff for a while, my advice is just have a little break and return to eating your regular diet every day until you’re ready to get back into your fasting regime again.
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