Monday, September 10, 2012

All Stars Guest Post: Helen about Fasting

As most of you know, I've been interested in food for years (and I have a love/hate relationship with it too), so all research and ways of life I can read, I will read. So when Helen wrote this guest post about fasting for me, I was thrilled. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Firstly I would like to thank Femke for letting me post, it is really nice to be invited to someone else’s blog.

Fasting. Sounds like madness doesn’t it? Why would you intentionally go without food? Lots of people do of course, for all sorts of reasons, religious, cultural or medical. The Delightful Mr F has been fasting one day per week for over a year, and it seems to be doing him the power of good. It is rumoured to be anti-aging and I have to say that he seems to be getting younger, so it is either the fasting or he has a picture in the attic...

Missing meals is the first heinous crime for those trying to look after themselves, and lose weight. Don’t miss a meal, particularly breakfast the experts exclaim, you will end up overeating later! This was true for me until I started fasting. Let me explain why...

Firstly, having asked the Delightful Mr F how he started, I read a book called Eat Stop Eat. The book is a really interesting read, not only is it written by someone who has fasted, but is also a qualified nutritionist and he cites many studies both for and against the benefits, which really lends it some credibility.

The benefits range from weight control, longer life, fat burning, and lowering of all sorts of nasties in the blood, such as insulin levels, bad hormones, blood sugar, cholesterol, the list goes on. There was recently an excellent BBC programme on the topic, with Dr Michael Moseley who came to the conclusion that this was the most powerful tool in health he had come across.

So, how to go about it? The majority of the benefits come if you can fast for about 24 hours. This probably seems like a very long time, but actually it isn’t as bad as you might imagine. There are all sorts of fasting regimes out there, some folks do it every other day, but for me that is too hard, I fast twice per week, the so called 5:2 split, which gives the same kind of level of benefits. Now, this is where it all becomes very personal, and you may have to experiment to see what works for you. The Delightful Mr F has an evening meal on one day and then doesn’t eat until the next evening. I tried that, but it was hard, and I usually caved around about 18 hours. I find it much easier to fast lunchtime to lunchtime. This means that I am asleep in the middle of the fast, which is the part I find the hardest.

Fasting really does mean no food, although water and herbal teas are allowed. No coffee, sugar in the tea, or milk. Any intake of calories will break the fast, so you have to be careful. Now, the key question is about hunger. Don’t you get hungry? Well the answer is yes, of course you do, but not as hungry as you might think. For me I get about a five minute bout of hunger twice during the fast. A nice mug of hot water and lemon or a herbal tea soon gets rid of it. When you break your fast, just eat you next meal normally, don’t eat more or less, just continue as if you had never fasted in the first place.

The benefits for me have been fat loss and a more general feeling of wellbeing, however what has really surprised me is my attitude to food. Before I fasted if I had to miss a meal because of work, or I couldn’t eat when I thought I needed to I would almost panic, which would make me feel even hungrier and really quite terrible. Now, I know I can go 24 hours without food and feel no ill effects. This has made me understand that if I am faced with a choice of eating something really unhealthy or not eating at all, I can choose not to make an unhealthy choice and wait until something better for me is available. I also now know what proper hunger feels like, rather than “it’s about lunchtime, I should eat” type hunger. I hadn’t expected that at all and I think that has had the biggest impact on me.

So, if you want to have a go, choose a day, perhaps a weekend, and just make the decision not to eat for 24 hours. Check with your Doctor first to make sure that there aren’t any issues with a fast. The first time you might find you can’t get all the way to the end, that’s OK, do what you can and then try again another day. You might find it takes a month or so to work up to 24 hours.

Fasting doesn’t suit everyone, but you don’t have anything to loose, and the benefits are huge, so why not try? I’d love to know how everyone gets on.

What did you think of this post? Will you give fasting a try?

*disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. If you think about starting a fast, please consult your doctor first. 


  1. I enjoyed this post very much. Thank you for sharing - and for posting the links to the BBC show. I am interested in the physiological benefits - and this surely peaks my interest to try this (or perhaps a 24 hr cleanse) soon. Again, thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing, this is a great post and something to think about trying!! I have a terrible relationship with food, maybe this will help :)

  3. Thanks for a really interesting post :)
    This is something I've considered doing before but didn't really know much about it, so thank you for explaining it further.