Fast February

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about the new (ish) craze for intermittent fasting, a generic term for what has now been sleekly rebranded and marketed under such names as “The Fast Diet” or “The 5:2 Diet“.

I decided at that point that I would have to test it out for myself. I had some reservations as to how responsibly people would follow it, and what sort of a relationship with food and one’s body it promoted, but overall I had to admit that it seemed to be just what this generation of workaholics and instant gratification enthusiasts needed.

The problem was that I knew I’d have to give up two days a week of training – or fast over a weekend day, which would also throw a lot of the enjoyment of a weekend out of the window – and, frankly, I love food and everything about it; thinking about it, talking about it, cooking, eating, savouring.

But last night, as I sat feeling very full after a day of roast dinner and pizza, I noticed that once again my blog had been found by users searching for “vegan intermittent fasting” and “vegetarian intermittent fasting”. I hate the thought that those people would find nothing but a speculative rant, and no real answer to their queries – and as I had no desire to ever eat again at that point in time (the pizza was very big) and it was the beginning of a new month (a short month, and one beginning with the letter F for Fasting, no less), I took it as a sign that this was my time.

For the next three and a half weeks I will be attempting to follow a 5:2 eating plan; I will eat normally for five days, and on two days I will drop my calorie consumption down to 500kcal per day, a quarter of my recommended daily allowance (though at my weight and activity level, I don’t even need to be consuming 2000kcal a day). I may choose to play around with this format, see if anything works better or less well, and I will definitely experiment with how I consume those 500kcal.

On the two fast days each week I will update you on my daily progress – how I am feeling, what I am eating, and occasionally weight and body fat. I’m not bothering with cholesterol, blood pressure, and the likes, as this is more of a qualitative experiment than a quantitative one.

So let’s get started!

I weighed myself first thing at 53.2kg (slightly heavy), and Ben took my body fat measurements. With a tricep read at 13mm, subscapular at 7, supraspinal at 17, abdominal at 18, quadriceps also at 18, and calf at 5mm, I am currently at 15.65% body fat. That’s already pretty low, so I don’t expect that to drop much, and probably won’t do another read for at least a week. I’ll update you on my weight in each post though!

Monday 3rd February – Day 1 (Fast day 1)

Weight: 53.2kg; Body fat: 15.7%

11:00 – Thankfully slept in late after a late Saturday night watching the UFC and a late Sunday night watching the Superbowl. Not hungry in the slightest after a lot of food yesterday! Weighed myself and had a glass of water.

11:30 – Drank two cups of green tea (Dragonwell Long Jin from Whittard). Starting to feel hungry but still kind of excited about getting the experiment going, so not paying much attention to it.

13:30 – Definitely hungry now but quite wrapped up in writing, thinking about this experiment and how I’ll consume my 500kcal in a couple of hours, so still really not bothered. Aware that early evening will be the worst time for me, between 7pm and 11pm.

14:30 – Starting to feel a bit foggy-headed. Oddly very focussed when focussing on one task (like writing, or reading an article), but otherwise struggling to coordinate multiple actions and processes. Did my Lumosity “brain training” and performed very badly, but then I’ve been having a bad few weeks with that anyway so it’s hard to tell! Had a glass of water which felt very filling. Physical hunger isn’t an issue though; I’m too hungry to really want to eat anything, though I’ll need to make something soon so I can get out of the house and get some fresh air.

15:00 – I appear to be lying down, though still on my laptop. I could definitely fall asleep right now.

Fast February meal 1

Ok, you caught me, I snuck an extra 3g of tofu in there for a whopping extra 2kcal!

15:30 – Making some food:

  • 155g sweet potato (133kcal)
  • 100g tofu (76kcal)
  • 50g kale (17kcal)
  • 1tsp Carotino oil (40kcal)
  • 1tbsp/13g tahini (87kcal) + 1tsp apple cider vinegar (2kcal) + 1tsp tamari (7kcal) + water
  • Total: 364kcal
Fast February meal 1

It was so much prettier before it got dressed, I’m glad I snapped the shot!

I plugged it all into NutritionData.com to see the rest of the breakdown, but I’m having some technical issues with it so you’ll have to take my word for it without the fancy label:

  • Calories: 368 (obviously some of the ingredients in their database differ slightly from mine)
  • Fat: 18g (Saturated: 4g)
  • Carbohydrate: 42g (Fibre: 7g / Sugar: 7g)
  • Protein: 15g
  • 454mg sodium, no cholesterol

As far as micronutrients go, we’re looking at 595% vitamin A, 107% vitamin C, 515% vitamin K, 33% vitamin B1 aka thiamin, and 27% vitamin B6 aka pyridoxine. There’s also some vitamins E, B2, B3, and B5 along with folate. We also have all of our calcium, iron, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, and we’re almost there on magnesium and potassium. NutritionData gives this recipe 74 out of 100 for “completeness”. Not too bad for about a fifth of my daily calories!

But food isn’t just numbers, is it? I enjoyed this meal more than I have enjoyed any meal in a while. I sat down and ate slowly, savouring each mouthful, enjoying the experience. I had planned to eat all 500kcal in one go, but by the time I finished this I was so full I couldn’t face eating anything else!

18:00 – Ben and I are in our regular coffee shop, I’ve had two cups of oolong tea (Iron Goddess of Mercy), and I’m kinda hungry. Possibly because I’m sitting on a chair and not a bed, I’m warm and there are plenty of people around, I feel fine. Very switched on. In fact I’ve been writing (well, virtually wrestling NutritionData) for about an hour without looking up. It would be nice to go home to a nice hot meal though…

22:00 – After another pot of tea (Peach Blossom white tea), we left the coffee shop and I made my way home while Ben ran home. Why did the day I am fasting have to be the coldest day we’ve had lately?! I got home about 8pm and put some food on for Ben – luckily mostly leftovers – whilst I fixed myself a little snack:Fast February meal 2

  • 100g banana (50kcal)
  • 100g plain Alpro yoghurt (50kcal)
  • 5g Linwoods milled flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and goji berries (26kcal)
  • Total: 126kcal
  • Daily total: 490kcal

After downing a couple of glasses of water and some High-5 Zero electrolyte I was able to take my time with my snack, which I followed with a big mug of rooibos tea.

I do actually feel fine, if a little flat. Right now, I’m not actually craving anything and it is now a totally acceptable time to go to bed. Although I’d love some more food, I can’t quite imagine how I would regularly eat another 1200-1500kcal in a day.

I’ll leave it there for now, as although I think I feel fine I’m not entirely sure if I’m still forming coherent sentences. I’m so curious to see what shape eating takes tomorrow – next fast day is on Thursday so be sure to check in then!

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