I can´t really remember how often I answered the question what I did to lose so much weight in the last few years: Yes! I am practicing intermittent fasting for 36 hours! And maybe you also might feel baffled when reading these lines, the way the persons did when I told it to them. Ten years ago I weighed about 210 lbs, being 5.8 feet – let´s say – tall. Since I´ve not been able to workout regularly due to my back problems, my weight went up to a point it gets an unhealthy load. I simply couldn´t cope with it – it pulled me down, and my back, aside from its usual pain issues, had to handle that, too. It became a vicious cycle: You eat the wrong food, mostly too much sugar or fat, just to make you feel better. But the result is, that the euphoric effect doesn‘t last for very long – so you eat more, gain more weight, get frustrated, eat more, and so on. Some remedies I´ve been taking at that time even amplified the problem, having an appetizer side effect. I realized I had to drastically change something. So I read many books about diets, low carb, Chinese nutrition, but in the end I came to a point where I realized: It was not WHAT I´ve been eating, it was THE WAY I eat. That brought me to intermittent fasting for 36 hours.
Hungry For 36 Hours?
What impressed me most and scared me at the same time was the term itself: “intermittent fasting for 36 hours”. Really? Nothing to eat for one and a half days – seriously? To understand the idea of that fasting method I have to explain where it has its roots. Thousands of years ago mankind was a race of nomads, hunters and food gatherers. There was almost no way to can or conserve food. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, animals were collected or preyed. Almost nothing was stored or put aside – people lived from the hand into the mouth. No fridge was available to help oneself day and night – if you wanted something to eat, you had to actively work for it at the moment of necessity.
Hunger used to be normality
You may ask yourself now: What does it all mean for me? Well, I didn´t exist at that time for obvious reasons. But I´m pretty sure that in these early stages of mankind there were not much overweight weighed beings on the planet. Hunger was a normal thing. People ate when food was available, which wasn´t always a given thing. Depending on the time of the season, sometimes people had to starve for days or even longer. We do not have to practice that to an extreme, of course. But we can learn lots of things from it:
- Not eating every day has been a normal state in the history of man
- Sometimes we eat just by habit, not because we´re hungry
- You can live without food as long as you drink enough
It´s In Our Genes
What used to be daily routine in the stone age and earlier, is still in our DNA. We just have to recall it. Just give it a try. The idea is to abstain from solid food, and drink unsweetened beverages instead for one day, and then eat what you want on the other. Sounds crazy? It´s easier than you might possibly think. Why do we get this hungry feeling? Every time we eat, e.g. carbohydrates or sugar-containing nutrition, our insulin level increases. That´s a normal reaction in our body and it´s fine. The consequence is, unfortunately, it decreases almost as fast as it goes up. So your brain gets the signal: Hello! Give me more! Insulin is responsible for opening the cells for the sugar molecules. Aside from that it also controls your appetite sensation in the brain. Eating carbohydrates and sugar-containing food 3 to 4 times a day pushes the insulin level up and permanently keeps it on a high level. One might say: We have no other choice then to eat more than we actually need. What is even more important in this respect is the fact, that insulin blocks the reduction of fat tissue. This can be a vicious cycle – and in my case it was.
Keep Your Insulin Level Low
So what can we do in particular? We need eating breaks to normalize the insulin level. This isn´t a diet for 2 weeks, it´s a complete dietary change – for the rest of your life, a new way of life if you like. If you manage to abstain from solid food every second day, your body begins to adapt to the rhythm. After about 2 weeks your “ancient genes” will be competely reactivated and you will begin to get used to it. The most important thing is to drink unsweetened beverages as much as possible. No matter if you prefer table water, herbal tea etc., everything is fine as long as you cut out the sugar. If you find it too difficult without nutrition in the early stages of fasting, feel free to drink some chicken broth or similar. This isn´t the 11th commandment, you´re doing this voluntarily – no obligations. You should be comfortable with what you´re doing.
After one day of fasting something interesting will be going on with our body. Since the insulin stays at a constant level, the blockage of fat tissue reduction gets disengaged. The lipid metabolism changes and your body fat begins literally to be eaten by itself – this is called autophagy. The most interesting and fascinating effect is, that you´ll wake up the next morning without feeling hungry. Your body has been eating all night and you get a sense of it.
Ask Your Doctor First
Before I proceed, let me tell you one important thing: Ask your doctor first! Make sure that intermittent fasting is a suitable way of nutrition for you. Let your blood and fitness check – and if everything is fine, go for it!
Eat Whatever You Want – Every Second Day
So here we go: Day 2! I remember my first weeks of intermittent fasting: I´ve been eating like there´s no tomorrow. In the first that´s ok, and I don´t know anyone who didn´t act that way. Go find your own rhythm – split your meals as you are used to: breakfast, lunch and supper. Or divide it into 4-5 stages, you can eat when you want and as much as you want. I remember that in the early stages of fasting I tried to compensate the food I haven´t eaten the day before. This is a normal effect that will disappear after a few weeks. Just don´t try to exaggerate – your body will tell you how much and above all what it needs. You´ll find out that your brain and foremost your stomach will demand healthier food. The desire for chocolate, cakes and candy disappears. You´ve become reprogrammed – and you will like it.
A Lifetime Thing?
Some people are still asking how I can manage this kind of nutrition for years. My answer is simple: I don´t really think about it anymore. After almost 3 years practicing intermittent fasting for 36 hours it became normality to me like brushing teeth. I feel better than I have ever felt before – healthier, fitter. My weight has a constant level and I feel good with what I do. Meanwhile, I can sit next to eating people in a restaurant without having the desire to eat something myself. But if I want to, I simply do. From time to time there are events it would be impolite not to accept the invitation to a delicious meal. I would not hesitate to go there, and if I want to eat, I simply do it. The important thing is not to lose your personal rhythm. These occasions I call my “bonus days” on which I allow myself to eat without regrets. Remember: Intermittent fasting is a way of life – not a strict regulation. YOU decide what´s good for you, and as long as you keep the principle of this fasting method in mind, everything may – nothing must.
If you have questions on intermittent fasting, feel free to send me a notice via mail or in the comment section below. I´d be happy to give you advice.