As promised, I’d like to share how my 24 hour fast went last Sunday.
If you’re familiar with this blog you’ll know I like to give very honest, down-to-earth accounts of my experiences. I’m definitely not one of those fitness professionals who likes to make out they never see food as anything other than fuel for fitness training and that they’ve loved every minute of every exercise they’ve ever done. I live in the real world with everyone else and this is my “real world” account of dipping a toe into intermittent fasting…
If you read Monday’s post on my thoughts on intermittent fasting you’ll get an idea of how I’ve been mulling over the concept for a while. Somewhat on a whim (and nothing to do with the fact that I had arrangements to go out with some friends for pizza on Monday night) I decided to give it a try for myself last Sunday.
I took the 24 hour thing quite literally and, after noting the time I finished dinner on Saturday night, I set myself the target going without food until that time on Sunday night.
I should say that I took this on more as an experiment just to see how I’d cope with a day’s fasting, rather than expecting any immediate effects. I know myself well enough to predict that, if I decide this is something I want to do regularly, I’ll find the psychological aspect of missing meals more difficult than coping with any physical hunger. Although it’s tricky to separate those two aspects, it did seem to play out that way on Sunday.
I’d mentioned to my partner that I’d better have a big dinner on the Saturday night because I didn’t want to deal with too much hunger the first time I tried fasting. The word “curry” ejected from his mouth even before his eyes realised it was time to light up. So, it was at the Balti House Tandoori that I fuelled up in preparation for my fast. I didn’t make it an all-out gorge-fest, but I did eat my fill on Saag Aloo (potato and spinach) balti and a side of tarka dal, with a scoop of mushroom rice, half a naan and a bit of token salad. Low carb it was not. It was yummy though, and when I laid my napkin down at 8.35pm I felt I could happy go through the rest of my life without ever needing to eat again.
(Now, I love it when people leave comments, in fact, it fair makes my day. But if you’re thinking of posting something about how that is not the ideal meal to have before a fast, I would like to pre-empt that comment by pointing out that I am not an idiot and I do realise that!)
Fortunately, I didn’t suffer any ill effects the next morning and took advantage of an additional excuse for a Sunday lie-in while missing breakfast.
I know lots of people exercise as normal when fasting and don’t have any problems with it, but I wanted to make things as easy on myself as possible on this first attempt, so I put Sunday aside as a rest day. When I finally parted company with my bed, after a breakfast of a cup of green tea, I spent the middle part of the day wandering through the countryside around lovely Cerne Abbas. I think we covered about five miles in all, but as I spent the rest of the day almost totally sedentary I’d chalk it up as a very low activity day by my standards.
I drank gallons of water throughout the day, partly because taking in lots of fluids helps keep hunger at bay and partly because it was really hot, which probably also played a part in stopping me feeling hungry.
I can report that I didn’t really feel hungry at all during the day.
Surprisingly, if it hadn’t been on my mind that I was fasting, I don’t think the day would have seemed any different from normal.
Writing this now has got me thinking- even though I wasn’t actually hungry, I know that if I wasn’t fasting I would still have had breakfast and we would almost certainly have stopped for lunch at one of the cute teashops or characterful pubs we passed on our walk. Interesting.
Back at the house I kept myself busy catching up on work admin, but by about 6pm I’d had enough of that. That’s when I started getting a bit restless. I tried to get my partner to go out for another walk with me, but he’d just got back from an hour’s hockey training and could not be shifted from the sofa.
Looking back, I think I should’ve just gone out for a walk or even a jog on my own. That would’ve been enough to take my mind off things for a while and probably would have stopped me feeling hungry (ever noticed how exercise does that? There are reasons for that, but that’s for another post). As it happened I sat watching TV, trying to ignore my partner tucking into dinner and the rumblings that had started to emit from my tummy.
Fortunately I only had a couple of hours to go. I can be quite stubborn at times and when I set myself a task I like to complete it. Even if the hunger had been much worse I’m pretty sure I would’ve seen it through. (Whether or not it would have been worth it or not just to reach an arbitrary 24 hour time goal is debatable, but I do think there’s something to be said for letting your subconscious know you’re not a quitter.)
Actually, the hunger wasn’t really that bad, I was definitely not the hungriest I’ve ever felt. I did find myself getting quite tense during those last two hours, but like I said, I suspect if I’d got myself to do something active I would’ve handled it a lot better.
At just after 8pm I calculated that if I started cooking my dinner it would be ready for just about 8.35pm – so the oven went on!
I have a bad habit (which I’m trying to work on!) of reaching for a glass of wine when I get tense and I’m afraid to say that I gave into it after my fast on Sunday (again, yes, not wise, I know). And you know what wine leads to don’t you? More wine… And then eating.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a binge, but I had planned on just having a moderate sized meal that evening and instead ended up polishing off some cheese and crackers and a bit of chocolate after dinner.
The next day I felt normal. If anything, less hungry than usual, but that was most likely down to the extra food I had the previous evening.
So, although far from a text book example of how to carry out a 24 hour fast, I did discover that a day without food is not terribly difficult. In fact, I quite enjoyed the challenge. I didn’t take my weight or measurements, so can’t report any effects on that score – as mentioned, it was really just an exercise for me to see what it would be like.
Clearly, there are various issues for me to think about here, but I am keen to experiment with this a little more. Next time I might try a 24hr period from lunchtime to lunchtime, so I don’t have to break my fast in the evening and can ease back into eating through the rest of the day.
I will, of course, let you know how it goes.