by Gretel Hallett, Beyond Chocolate Facilitator
I have taken the Beyond Chocolate Pledge. I am a trained Beyond Chocolate Facilitator. I do not diet. I will never be fooled into dieting again.
The 5:2 was never intended to be a weight loss diet. Fasting is practiced by religions and cultures across the world and not for weight loss reasons. The author of the 5:2 diet book, Michael Mosley, experimented with fasting for health reasons after being advised by a doctor. The weight loss he experienced was unexpected but his doctor’s tests showed that he was healthier internally than he had been before he started his fasting experiment. Unfortunately, what the media focused on when he published his experience was the fact that he had lost weight by fasting. By the time the television programme aired and the book was published to support it, the focus had entirely shifted from fasting for health to fasting for weight loss, despite there being little evidence that any kind of intermittent fasting, including the 5:2, work long term for weight loss (see image below).
This is unfortunate because, actually, fasting is, as I understand it, great for our long-term physical health and in my experience can certainly sit comfortably along-side my Beyond Chocolate practice for some of us.
Let me explain.
Firstly, what Michael Mosley did was EXPERIMENT with fasting. This is entirely compatible with Beyond Chocolate – we are encouraged to experiment with the Beyond Chocolate Principles in our own way in our own lives.
Experimenting with occasional fasting could therefore be one more tool we could use to learn about our responses to food and to our body’s need for or demand for food.
Secondly, the days ‘off’ fasting are perfect for experimentation with the Principles; ‘Eat What You Want’, ‘Eat When You Are Hungry’, ‘Stop When You Are Satisfied’, etc. How do we react to this freedom following the previous day of fasting? Does this make us over-eat? How does our body feel having food again after a day with no food? How do we feel when fasting and when not fasting? Do we notice changes in our eating and our moving? Is it possible to Enjoy fasting?! How does food taste the day after a fast?
Thirdly, the advantage of fasting, as I understand it from the 5:2 programme before it all went ‘diety’, is that it gives the body a chance to catch up with other things it needs to do to keep us fit and healthy inside. If our body spends all day, every day processing the food we eat, it doesn’t get a chance to spend time mending and repairing and sorting out all our very complicated bodily systems. Fasting gives the body a chance to catch its breath and get on with necessary processes that are not involved with digestion.
I have been experimenting with this fasting for several weeks now. I’m not doing it as Michael Mosley did (what he did suited him, what I do suits me) and neither am I using the diet book which was created following his initial experiment – I refuse to count calories for any reason whatsoever. I am experimenting with fasting in a Beyond Chocolate way, in a spirit of enquiry – what happens if I don’t eat breakfast? Nothing actually – I don’t faint and I don’t feel deprived. What happens if I continue not eating for the rest of the day – quite a lot of things actually and all of them most interesting. I have discovered that I don’t become savage and blinded with hunger, my stomach gives out a few grumbles at the beginning of the day, but after that, everything goes quiet. I am not weak and energy-less on fast days – I continue with my routine as normal and I move quite as much as I do on non-fast days. I have discovered just how much time and energy is taken up every day in thinking about food, preparing meals, eating, clearing up after meals, shopping for food etc – and how much more time and mental/emotional energy I have on fast days – all that time I usually spend around food is suddenly opened up to me to use in other ways.
I have discovered how intense the taste of food can be after a day of fasting – even the humble apple is a total taste explosion and I really Enjoy food so much more for having had a day off eating.
Are there downsides? Yes, of course! I couldn’t do this if I had a medical condition like diabetes, which requires regular meals. I have found that on some fasting days I miss all the ritual around food and meals; I almost find the extra time boring, which seems very odd to me. I crave more time, after all and this is opening up more time to me – but I hadn’t realised before I started experimenting with fasting, quite how much time I spent planning meals, cooking meals, serving meals, clearing up after meals etc. Above all, it is annoying not eating on fasting days because there is all this food around waiting to be eaten. That is a big issue for me and one that I’m working through with gentle curiosity – why does it bother me so much? Is this Gremlin-talk? Is some slimy little voice in my head saying, ‘Look what you are missing out on by not eating today?’
One very surprising thing I have discovered is that I am not over-compensating on non-fast days – I am not driven into cake shops and sweet shops to make up for the deprivation of the previous day. Beyond Chocolate had already freed me from those compulsions – I remember them very well from dieting days – the ‘no holds barred’ all-out mega-consumption that followed the end of every diet. I’d dieted until I’d lost the weight and then I’d spend months eating everything I’d been deprived of until all the weight (and more) went back on again and I’d be searching around for another diet. That doesn’t happen for me with the fasting. I know that I have chosen not to eat for this one day and that the next day I can Eat What I Want – that to me is freedom; the freedom to choose how I manage my own food intake in my own way, that suits me.
I am not advocating that everyone rushes to join in – (though I reckon this Water Fast might be beneficial for all 😉 – the choice, in an entirely Beyond Chocolate way, is yours and yours alone to make, just as my choice is mine alone to make.
Oh, and I do Enjoy it!
(Read another post written by Sophie about the 5:2 )