Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in these paragraphs. Before I began practicing daily intermittent fasting, my day consisted of constant eating. I would often delight in a morning cup of coffee, hot chocolate or tea with cream and sugar. Before lunch time, I would likely have some kind of snack – sometimes a nutritious one like grapes or an apple, and sometimes a not-so-nutritious snack like potato chips, a donut or cookies.
By lunch time, I was ready to eat again and would likely grab a meal from the nearby cafeteria – a sandwich, maybe a salad, and on fridays, probably an order of fried fish. In the afternoon it was time for another snack to hold me over until I got home. During dinner time I would almost always have seconds, sometimes thirds, and late at night (I’m a night owl) I would snack again on sweets like homemade cookies or bread and/or something savory like nuts, cheese or chips.
Although I enjoyed vegetables like zucchini, broccoli and cabbage, my favorite foods were white rice, bread and beans. I never got tired of those and could, and often did, eat them daily. I didn’t indulge in fast food that often, but even when I cooked at home, there was little concern for whether my protein of choice was fried, baked or stewed nor the amount of fat, carbs and calories I was consuming.
In short, I ate whenever and whatever I wanted to eat.
This eating pattern repeated itself over and over again, day after day and along with a mostly sedentary lifestyle working in an office, eventually resulted in my weighing 237 lbs by June 30th, 2014. I knew it wasn’t healthy to eat the way I did, but I felt unable to control my appetite even after trying just about every natural appetite suppressant I’d heard of – Sensa, garcinia cambogia, raspberry ketones, and others.
I had tried dieting many times in my life and lost 20, 30, and even 40 pounds on occasion only to gain it all back, and then some. But now I was almost afraid to lose weight for fear of the initial weight-loss only leading to being even heavier in the end. I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing to my body during the surges of calories I was feeding it; and, after a while, I didn’t care much. After all, I didn’t have diabetes, hypertension, or any major disease and I wasn’t on any medication. What was there to be concerned about?
I hadn’t always had such a nonchalant attitude about my weight. In 2004 I had lost 40 pounds on the Atkins diet and kept it off for two years only to gradually gain it all back within a year of being off the low-carb wagon. I began to think I should just accept being fat.
Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It increases your risk of diseases and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. -The Mayo Clinic website
Later that year, a visit to my doctor for a complete physical confirmed my relatively good health; but, he urged me to lose weight. He told me that at this time in my life – my forties – I was at a critical stage during which obesity greatly increased the odds of acquiring a major health condition within the next several years.
In that moment I thought back to my parents. My dad was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid-forties. My mom was diagnosed with hypertension in her 40’s. There was no denying the significant probability of my going down the same path if my lifestyle didn’t change.
Still, I didn’t know how to do it. I’d tried low-carb dieting as well as low-fat diets with moderate exercise; but despite losing some weight with both, I could never seem to stick to either regimen in the long term. Then, shortly after that physical, a seemingly unrelated activity led to a complete lifestyle change for me.
Although I am not a Muslim, I had always been curious about fasting for Ramadan and admired the commitment and discipline needed to go without food or drink from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. I expressed my curiosity to a few of my Muslim co-workers and they encouraged me to try it. My reasons for exploring Ramadan fasting were not religious, but rather psychological and spiritual. Did I have the self-discipline to subject myself to a period of mindfulness and self-reflection, setting aside a routine of comfort and ease to foster a greater sense of gratitude? That’s the question I asked myself as I thought about committing to the 30-day fast.
As the time drew near to start, I was ready to quit my experiment before it began. I recall being scared, nervous and anxious to go without food; but that alone told me that I needed to do it. My co-workers didn’t pressure me at all, but I felt a responsibility to at least try it. Still, by the time the start of Ramadan came, I hadn’t fasted and didn’t intend to do so. That is, until I happened to watch an episode of Naked and Afraid.
As I watched the contestants spend weeks foraging for clean water and food sources much like our ancient ancestors had to do, I suddenly felt no better than a spoiled child unwilling to give up her lollipop. Certainly I could survive less than a day without food or water. After all, if I changed my mind, nourishment was always within arm’s reach.
With so much fear and anxiety before starting the fast, I hadn’t expected to last a day, but to my surprise, not only did I last to the end of Ramadan, but the longer I fasted, the easier it became. What’s more I had indeed learned a lot about myself, and developed a tremendous appreciation for access to clean water and nutritious foods— something I will never take for granted again.
After feeling so good, both physically and mentally, from the effects of fasting for Ramadan, I began exploring the health benefits of fasting and discovered intermittent fasting (IF). I had not fasted for Ramadan to lose weight. As a matter of fact, I had expected to gain weight from feasting at the end of the day. Like many people, I believed one should eat several small meals a day and never skip meals and that doing so was counterproductive to weight-loss. But, I had lost 8 pounds by the end of that month and felt exceptionally energized and in control of my hunger. There were clearly benefits to fasting and as I researched more I learned that there were even more pros than I had first imagined – one of them being weight loss.
I began fasting on June 30, 2014. At that time I weighed 237 lbs. That’s a lot of weight on any woman, but on my 5’5″ frame it was dangerous. As of the writing of this post (a little over three months later), I am 22 lbs lighter and still working towards my goal of being at a healthy body mass index (BMI).
So far, daily intermittent fasting,
a low-carb (non-ketogenic) diet a healthy diet focused on nutritious home cooked food, and 30 minutes of walking daily has enabled me to lose weight at a moderate steady pace.
Stay tuned. And to my fellow fasters, stay strong. We can do this!
All the best,
Update! Today is March 25, 2016 and it’s been about a year and a half since I began my journey with daily intermittent fasting. As of today, I’ve lost 73 lbs – down from 237 lbs to 164 lbs today. Although I haven’t measured inches consistently, I know I’ve lost several as I’ve gone from a size 18 to a size 10.
After hitting the 50-lb weight-loss mark in June of 2015, I plateaued for over four months until I began incorporating the Five Bite Diet along with Fast-5. Within that week, I broke my plateau and over the course of a few months lost 24 lbs. Unfortunately, I gained some of that weight back after returning to Fast-5 alone; however, it did help me break a plateau and eventually I began losing again. I’ll be sticking to Fast-5 alone for the remainder of my journey to my goal weight of 135 lbs and a healthy BMI of 22.5. I recently began incorporating a plant-based diet into my fasting regimen and so far I feel great!
At this point, fasting has become a solid habit for me and I’m very comfortable with sticking to my 5-hr window. I’m excited to think that is the year I achieve my goal and begin maintenance.