I picked up the book The Fast Diet after a lousy day last week, and quickly became engrossed in it.
You’ve probably heard of the author, Dr Michael Mosley, from his show Trust Me I’m a Doctor on SBS (which is an excellent alternative to some of the manufactured reality shows on at the moment). Michael has a family history of diabetes, and began to explore intermittent fasting some years ago when his doctor told him he was at risk of developing type 2.
Better known as the 5:2 diet, the basic idea is that you eat 500-600 calories for two days of the week, ideally incorporating a fasting “window” of 12 hours or more on a fasting day. The remainder of the time, you are allowed to eat normally. Many fans observe that it doesn’t feel like a diet, because tomorrow you’ll be able to eat whatever you want. It’s a sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off. Over time, you’ll better recognise hunger and have less of an appetite for large or unhealthy meals.
The book is peppered with plenty of research, facts and statistics supporting the idea of intermittent fasting. Michael explains that people in primitive times did not eat four of five times a day like we do today. They would feast when they came across food, and would often go without for long periods of time inbetween where food was scarce.
I found it remarkable that the average time inbetween ‘eating occasions’ has dropped by an average of an hour in the last 30 years. Thinking about myself alone, I would struggle to last inbetween meals without having something – even if it’s just a coffee. At school and work, I have been engineered to have morning recess and coffee breaks, which inevitably come with the desire for food. Diabetes mags seem to encourage this notion that we have to keep eating to avoid going low. Michael also argues that the idea of eating little and eating often has been partly driven by manufacturers of snack foods.
Michael explains that while we have food digesting in our system, the body is focussed on growth and replenishment. When the body goes without food for 12 hours, it begins to do something different. It enters repair mode, instead focussed on keeping you in reasonable shape until the food returns once more. It begins doing all of the little maintenance tasks that it has put off until now – things such as breaking down or recycling old and tired cells.
For the record, intermittent fasting is not recommended for someone with type 1 diabetes. And obviously, tending to a hypo trumps a fast.
However, some of the concepts in this book really spoke to me. I really liked the idea of a mental challenge not to graze and stack insulin doses as often as I do. I struggle to get through lunch and dinner without having something – even if it’s just a coffee. I have often skipped breakfast if I’ve had a large evening meal and wait until I genuinely feel hungry again. I have found that this is a great way to “resensitise” my insulin after grazing and stacking, and that I appreciate my food more by the time I eat it. When I think about it, my best days do tend to happen when I’m not frequently grazing and insulin stacking.
Overall, the book was both engrossing and easy to read. For a while now, I’ve been keen to do something that might help me to feel a little less lousy and a little more energetic. And, of course, ensure my insulin is working at it’s best. With a commitment of only two days per week – or even just one – it’s definitely something that I’d be inclined to dabble with.