5 Effective Ways To Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting for weight loss

I’m sure you’ve heard about what recently became a health trend: Intermittent fasting. It’s claimed to cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, and perhaps even extend lifespan, among other things. But the only thing I can personally confirm is the fact that it does help with weight loss. For me, it also improved my relationship with food in many ways. It’s important to mention it’s not right for everyone though. If you’re underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, if you’re under the age of 18: this post is not for you. And if you have a medical condition like diabetes, it’s best to talk to your doctor first. Otherwise, you have no excuse not to give it a try and see what happens!

1. Choose the most appropriate plan for you

First of all, consider choosing an intermittent fasting plan that best matches your lifestyle and can be maintained for the long-haul. For example, some plans will be more or less easy to sustain depending if you have a 9-to-5 office job, if you’re working on shifts, or working from home, etc. It needs to be a plan that doesn’t prevent you from having a social life either (especially when lockdown is finally lifted). Among the most popular plans:

The 16:8 method

  • Eat only during 8 hours a day
  • Fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day
  • You can define your own “feeding window” (you could for example skip breakfast everyday or eat dinner really early)

The 5/2 diet

  • Eat normally for 5 days a week (i.e. your recommended calorie intake)
  • Reduce your calorie intake to only 500-600 for the other 2 days
  • You can pick which days of the week you want to fast

Eat-Stop-Eat

  • Fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week
  • You can pick which day(s) of the week you want to fast

Alternate day fasting

  • Fast every other day
  • An easier version would be to reduce your calorie intake to 500 calories on fasting days

The warrior diet

  • Eat very little during 20 hours a day (mostly small portions of raw fruits and vegetables)
  • Then eat what you want but only during a 4-hour window, at night

2. Drink a lot of water when you fast

No matter what plan you choose to adopt, remember to drink lots of fluid when you fast! Keeping yourself hydrated is extremely important. Water is of course the best option but you can also drink tea or coffee if you like, as long as you don’t add milk or any form of sweetener in it. Some consider it’s also fine to have calorie-free flavoured drinks but I would still avoid them, to guarantee a clean fast.

3. Dissociate fasting and starvation

The idea of fasting can be scary for some, but I think it’s important to remember fasting does not mean starving. The main difference being: starving is not a choice, it’s an involuntary absence of food that can lead to death. By fasting, you choose to avoid food (whether it’s for spiritual, health, or other reasons). It’s about taking control and learning how it actually feels like to be “hungry”. You’re unlikely to faint because you’re simply hungry… And hunger usually passes like a wave, you just need to learn how to ride the hunger waves. Don’t you think food tastes so much better when you’re hungry anyway, rather than when it’s simply “time to eat”? If done correctly, fasting shouldn’t cause suffering or lead to frustration. If that’s the case, pick another method or reduce your fasting window.

colourful fruit bowl vegan

4. Make the calories count

When you eat, do it well! Intermittent fasting is known to focus on when you eat rather than what you eat… But combining the two is always ideal. Binge eating junk food during your “feeding window” is not going to do you any good. It will only teach your mind that your reward for depriving yourself is to comfort eat. That’s why it’s so important to stay in control of what you put in your body.

When it’s time for you to eat, treat yourself to foods you like, preferably the ones packed with nutrients. Be sure to eat a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Some foods will help you feel full for longer. Planning ahead will help you to achieve that: you’ll always make better choices if you’re well prepared. Remember to treat yourself too (not more than 10-20% of your total food intake) and you’ll be just fine!

5. Adopt your plan as a new way of life

Last but not least, the key to success is to adopt intermittent fasting as your healthy lifestyle, not for the short-term only. Personally I adopted the 16:8 method, which to me means I don’t have breakfast. I feel like I have more energy in the morning thanks to that, my body is not busy digesting a meal I don’t really need. I can focus more on my tasks, without feeling lethargic. Sometimes I extend the fasting period by a few hours (like 18:6 or 20:4 instead of 16:8) if I feel I can easily do it. Your body goes deeper into ketosis and focus on burning fat after 18 hours of fasting. I feel more in control, I have a better routine during the day and it prevents me from eating unnecessary evening snacks too.

Intermittent fasting gives me consistency and I’m now very close to reaching my weight goal! I’m sure it will help with weight maintenance too. If you find the idea too complicated, there is still the option of doing spontaneous meal skipping. The rule couldn’t be easier to follow: just skip a meal if you’re not hungry for example. I know you’ve heard all your life to never skip a meal but it’s just a myth! Simply listen to your body.

Big Girl x

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

As I get older, I realise some things I always thought were true are now being questioned, especially when it comes to health & nutrition. For example: “You need dairy to get enough calcium”, “You need to eat meat to get enough proteins”, “Never skip a meal” or even “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, etc. Really? I’m not so sure anymore… After all, some doctors used to recommend their patients to smoke cigarettes in the past! Wouldn’t it sound crazy nowadays?

With time, research keeps improving and we’re constantly changing our minds on various things, but in the meantime the end consumer is vulnerable to wrong information. Everyone has a different truth so maybe the only way to find out what works for you is to monitor your own health and not believe everything the food industry tries to put in your head so they can maximise their profit.

As a simple rule, don’t eat when you’re not hungry

That, to me, might be the only thing that should be universal. Having the ability to listen to your body and know when you need “fuel” is the best way to avoid putting on weight. The problem is we’re only human and it’s a very difficult skill to master. We’re all susceptible to use food for comfort, to compensate boredom, when we feel stressed or simply when we have food easily available (out of sight, out of mind!). But what if not eating when not hungry meant skipping breakfast? Not so easy, as everyone will encourage you to by telling you that “breakfast is too important to skip”. I love breakfast food but if I’m completely honest, I never feel hungry when I wake up. In fact, I only start feeling hungry 4-5 hours later. I’m not sure why but it has always been the case.

When I was a teenager, I remember I used to struggle to get out of bed in the morning and my grandma never understood it, she once said to me: “When I feel tired in the morning, I get up anyway, just because I know I’m going to have breakfast and that’s a good enough incentive to me! Why don’t you try this approach?”. Bless her. I miss her quite often, even though she used to believe everything the TV said. I just never felt that way about breakfast… Could it be because it is NOT necessarily the most important meal of the day for everyone? Who decided we needed at least 3 meals a day anyway? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself

When people hear the word “fasting”, they freak out, with or without the word “intermittent” beforehand. Understandably, because it sounds like a sacrifice or something people would only do as a religious practise for example. But what if it was a natural way to give more time for your body to digest better all the food it constantly has to process? What if we ate too much, too often? No one has ever died from starvation because they didn’t eat for more than 12 hours.

Actually, that’s what most of us naturally do every day (unless you wake up at night craving for food, but that’s not common). Maybe the reason why we eat so often without necessarily feeling hungry and why we struggle not to fill our plate too much comes from something that is hardwired in our genes: the fear of starving, leading our body to develop amazing survival mechanisms. Historically, our ancestors would have starved in times of scarcity, but let’s face it, we’re a lot less likely to experience this in the Western world nowadays. I guess what I’m trying to say is that doing intermittent fasting means forgetting about that anxious feeling of lacking food, as realistically, it’s not going to happen. We’re currently going through a worldwide pandemic and the main thing supermarkets have been running out of was toilet paper… Just saying.

Why Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the solution for me

Of course I can only talk about what I know, from my personal experience. It was a big revelation for me when I first heard about it and did some research. I found out more and more scientists agreed this eating pattern had many health benefits, including weight loss/maintenance. I wonder if forcing myself to eat breakfast when I was never hungry was the main reason why I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I’ll never know for certain but all I can say is IF seems to be working great for me.

I have 1 or 2 full glasses of water when I wake up, I eat at the same time every day (it gives me a lot more consistency) and I even enjoy going for a long walk just before breaking the fast, during the weekend. My fasting window is usually about 19 hours every day, but I would find it harder to push it to 20 hours. I started with the 16:8 method though, which means fasting for (only) 16 hours. I might have to go back to it after lockdown because it will be easier to maintain in the long term. Don’t forget you can be flexible and adapt your fasting schedule around your routine if need be. I encourage you to read my previous posts on this topic if you haven’t already:

What happens to your body when you fast

I think that imagining my body repairing itself when I give it the time to do so is also making me feel better mentally. I’ve been doing IF for almost 14 weeks now and I believe it has allowed me to be consistent with my weight loss (roughly 800-900g per week). I’ve been using a fasting tracker app that helped to start with and I still find it useful to make sure I drink enough water. It tells you about the steps your body goes through:

  • 0h-2h: Blood sugar rises
    • You feel pretty normal during the first hours of fasting because your body is going through the regular process of breaking down glycogen. Your blood sugar rises, your pancreas releases insulin to break down glucose for energy and stores the extra glucose for later.
  • 2h-5h: Blood sugar falls
    • As a result of the effects of insulin, your blood sugar decreases to near normal after spiking. And it typically doesn’t continue climbing because insulin is immediately delivered into your circulatory system after eating.
  • 5h-8h: Glycogen reserve drops
    • Your stomach is reminding you that it’s been a while since your last meal, however you’re not actually that hungry. You’re not going to starve to death, shrivel up and lose your muscle mass… Actually, your glycogen reserves will begin to fall and you might even lose a little body fat. You body will continue to digest your last food intake. It starts to use stored glucose for energy and continues to function as if you’ll eat again soon.
  • 8h-10h: Gluconeogenesis
    • 8 hours after your last meal, your liver will use up the last of its glucose reserves. Now your body goes into a state called gluconeogenesis, which indicates that your body has switched into the fasting mode.
  • 10h-12h: Little glycogen left
    • Your glycogen reserves are running out! As a result, you may become irritable or “hangry”: sign that your body is burning fat. With little glycogen left, fat cells (adipocyte) will release fat into your bloodstream. They also go straight into your liver and are converted into energy for your body. You’re basically cheating your body into burning fat in order to survive.
  • 12h-18h: Ketosis state
    • Now it’s the turn of fat to fuel your body. You’re in the metabolic state called ketosis. The glycogen is almost used up and your liver converts fat into ketone bodies – an alternative energy source for your body. Fat reserves are readily released and consumed. For this reason, ketosis is sometimes referred to as the body’s “fat-burning” mode. Ketosis produces fewer inflammatory by-products, so it provides health benefits to your heart, metabolism and brain.
  • 18h-24h: Burn fat
    • The longer you fast, the deeper into ketosis you’ll go. By 18 hours, your body has switched into fat burning mode. Research shows that after fasting for 12 to 24 hours, the energy supply from fat will increase by 60% and it has a significant increase after 18 hours.

I would just advise you not to be put off right away by the word “fasting” and try it for yourself, monitoring constantly any side effects you may (or may not) experience. You can read more about different types of intermittent fasting here. Note: you shouldn’t do intermittent fasting if you’re under 18, you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, you’re underweight, you have a history of eating disorders, you’re diabetic and/or need medication at regular intervals to be taken with food.

Have you ever experienced any type of fasting in your life? Is it something you would consider trying yourself to see the benefits?

Big Girl x

Is BMI the Only Important Metric to Measure How Healthy You Are?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, it gives you an indication if your weight is healthy compared to your height. It’s really easy to calculate as it only uses your body mass (in kilograms), divided by your height (in metres squared). It doesn’t take into account age and gender, except for young people under 18. If maths is not your thing and you want to know what your BMI is, just type “BMI Calculator” on your search bar and you’ll be spoilt for choice. An adult is considered healthy if their BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, underweight if it’s under 18.5, overweight above 24.9 and in the obese range above 30. Now, I’m sure most of you already know this, but I would like to have a closer look at why you shouldn’t rely on it by itself.

Update on my own weight loss journey

I started to write about my weight loss journey in one of my very first posts on this blog. By then I was at 78 kg and had already lost 7 kg. Since this post, I’ve carried on with my new healthy lifestyle and I am today near 68 kg, which means I lost another 10 kg. In terms of BMI, I went down from the obese range to just overweight and I’m now on the verge on being back to healthy. Hallelujah. I’m 165 cm tall so a healthy range for me means between 50 kg and 68 kg. I was aiming at 60 kg (in the middle) to have some sort of exact number in mind but I know by experience I’m starting to look very skinny under 60 kg, so that would actually be my absolute minimum! What would still be considered “healthy” for me (between 50 kg and 60 kg) would probably look underweight as I would start worrying people around me. That’s why I say BMI is a great tool to give some sort of indication but no one knows your body better than you.

BMI by itself has its limits

If BMI only uses people’s height and weight to indicate their healthy range, you can see why it would have its limits. It cannot tell the difference between excess fat, muscle or bone. Even though the range is quite big to take into account natural variations in body shape, some athletes with a high muscle mass could easily be within an overweight or obese category while they’re actually very healthy. Ethnicity also matters: according to the NHS, Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing some long-term conditions (such as type 2 diabetes) with a BMI above 23, so even if they’re within the healthy range (which is between 18.5 and 24.9). Pregnant women should obviously not use BMI as an indicator as it wouldn’t be accurate either.

What other metrics should you watch out for?

If BMI is pretty straight forward to tell you if you weight too much (or not enough), it won’t tell you if you have too much fat. Ultimately, that’s what you want to focus on because that’s what puts you at greater risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke or even cancer. Basically, you can have a healthy BMI and still carry too much fat around your stomach. One way of finding out would be to invest in a smart scale that will give you more detailed information about your body composition. Another one is to take measurements of your waist size to check if you need to lose dangerous fat. Regardless of your BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist size is more than 80 cm (for women) or 94 cm (for men). This is not easy but necessary, my waist size was 92 cm for a weight at 85 kg back in August. More than 4 months later, I lost 17 kg and 13 cm around the waist. I am now only starting to be healthy in that area too with a waist size at 79 cm, which translates into significantly less risk of developing a long-term disease.

The bottom line

In conclusion, I would say BMI gives a good indication about how healthy you are, but only if it is used in combination with other factors. If you’re way above or under the healthy BMI range, you should definitely act. But don’t necessarily aim to be right in the middle to have the perfect body, as everyone has a different body shape that doesn’t always reflect their weight. If I’m aiming at 60 kg now, I know my weight will increase again when I focus on toning up because my muscle mass will increase, which is heavier than fat. By then, I’ll replace my objective with a more appropriate one! I can tell you I already feel the positive impact this journey is having on me. I hope January will see more people making good (and lasting) healthy resolutions.

Do you consider being the best version of yourself already or do you need to make a change?

Big Girl x

Weight Loss Journey: How I Overcame the Dreaded Plateau

weight loss plateau

My weight loss journey started in August this year, I was at 85 kg which was unhealthy for my 165 cm height. My BMI was over 31 which is in the “obese” category (BMI above 30). That term is quite scary because even if I didn’t look obese, it was telling me that my body really needed to lose some fat if I didn’t want to run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So I started to reduce my calorie intake in order to lose weight, aiming to be at a much healthier range within months.

Counting calories is not always enough

2 months later I lost the first 7 kg, I was at 78 kg, which means a BMI at 28.7 and a downgrade from “obese” to simply “overweight” category. Good effort but still far off the healthy range between 50 kg and 68 kg for me. This is why weight loss is a long journey, it takes time to lose fat and it’s important to enjoy the ride if you want to stay motivated all along! I was enjoying my new routine and ready to keep it up that way but something happened: I plateaued… How do you break a weight loss plateau?

Find a method you can easily turn into a healthy habit

If you search for the solution online, you’ll see a lot of articles telling you to exercise more and eat less, because the only way to keep losing weight is to reduce further your calorie intake or increase even more the calories you spend at the gym. Personally, I found it pretty depressing and not really helping.

Thanks to Huel (a plant-based and completely nutritious meal), I already have only 400 calories for either lunch or dinner with all nutrients I need, and I keep the other meal of the day at 500-600 calories max with fresh food I cook myself. I don’t want to exhaust myself at the gym and I don’t want to eat less. I already know I don’t need breakfast in the morning as my body is not fully awake until noon. The solution for me was obvious: Intermittent Fasting.

intermittent fasting how does it work

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are several types of intermittent fasting methods, but the 16/8 method seemed like the obvious choice for breakfast skippers like me. It consists of fasting for 16 hours and eat within a window of 8 hours. I started this way 2 weeks ago and this is how I broke my weight loss plateau. My weight loss of approximately 1 kg a week resumed…

What my day looks like

  • 8.00am: I have a big glass of water to rehydrate my body and then a cup of tea (with no sugar, no honey, no milk)
  • 12.00pm: This is when I start to be hungry so I have a Huel shake for lunch (400 calories)
  • 4.00pm: I have a small snack involving nuts, fruits and/or some dark chocolate (200 calories)
  • 7.00pm: Dinner time, I stick to circa 500-600 calories per meal
  • 7.30pm: If I’m still hungry, I will have some fruit (berries are very low in calories for example)

I consider my 8-hour window being between 12.00pm and 8.00pm but sometimes I actually fast for longer as this is quite easy for me. Needless to say I drink plenty of water during the day. I can totally see this eating habits staying in my routine in the long term, even after I reach my weight goal of 60 kg. It also makes me want to document myself a lot more on the various health benefits attributed to intermittent fasting so it’s very likely I’ll come back with a post about it in the near future!

Did you (or anyone you know) also come across a plateau in your weight loss journey? How did you overcome it?

Big Girl x