How intermittent fasting can help to buffer a cheat weekend

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Over the past few years, fasting has been proven as an effective dietary strategy that supports weight control.

Whether fasting equates to a couple of low calorie days each week, or extended periods of time overnight (14-16 or more hours) without food, it appears there are a number of hormonal benefits associated with occasional fasting. Indeed in a world in which it is not uncommon for individuals to constantly have some sort of food or drink in their mouth it appears that the simple act of taking a break from eating is very good for us.

One of the many reasons that diets do not work in general is that they rarely are sustainable for long periods of time. While we may have some control over our food intake during the week, once the weekend comes along with its multiple social occasions and general pattern of overeating, any progress from a calorie control perspective tends to be undone. So we start afresh each Monday in exactly the same place we were the week before – tired, bloated and heavy after a weekend of overeating and drinking.

If we consider that most of us will eat a lot each weekend, committing to a regular fast each Sunday and Monday makes sense.

Here, not eating for 16 or more hours from Sunday afternoon until lunchtime Monday is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can help to buffer the excessive calorie intake from the weekend.

You may have noticed that after a large meal such as a Sunday roast or restaurant meal that you do not feel hungry for several hours after eating. If this has been your pattern throughout the weekend a larger Sunday lunch or indulgent meal will easily be supported by a light dinner, if a dinner at all and then a late brunch meal or lunch on Monday.

This means no diets or strict regimes come Monday morning, all you need to do at the start of each week is not eat again until you are really, really hungry.

Not only will this method give your body time to process the extra calories you have consumed over the weekend, often 1000-2000 more than we need, but it will also allow you to work through your stores of carbohydrate in the liver, and reacquaint you with your true hunger signals.

Rarely do human beings eat because they are actually hungry. Rather we eat when food is offered, because it is a meal time or because we are scared of feeling hungry. A fasting strategy helps to remind us of what hunger actually feels like so we get used to eating only when we are truly hungry.

Fasting regimes are not supposed to be difficult. Rather they are an easy way to help us balance out our calorie intake throughout periods when we will overeat (such as weekends or holidays) minus the strict diets and detox regimes. Most importantly they are easy. All you need to do is count the number of hours in between your meals and try to not eat for at least 14-16 hours overnight.

You can even drink low calorie fluids such as herbal tea, infused teas or black tea or coffee if you need a little caffeine to kick start your day.

If not eating at all Sunday evening is too extreme, a bowl of broth or vegetable soup, or some plain mixed vegetables with a little soy sauce or tomato passata is low calorie enough to still support your fast.

While you may not necessarily lose weight fasting, at least you will be unlikely to be gaining weight, especially when there are periods of significant overeating.