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Is Fasting to Lose Weight Really That Hard?

Fasting_400If it were, it wouldn’t have turned The FastDiet into a bestselling weight-loss plan. The diet allows five days of eating normally and two nonconsecutive days of “fasts” (consuming 500-600 calories each). Here, we explain why fasting is easier than you’d think.

There is no reason to be alarmed by benign, occasional, short-term hunger. Given base-level good health, you will not perish. You won’t collapse in a heap and need to be rescued by the cat. Your body is designed to go without food for longish periods, even if it has lost the skill through years of grazing, picking, and snacking. Research has found that modern humans tend to mistake a whole range of emotions for hunger. We eat when we’re bored, when we’re thirsty, when we’re around food (when aren’t we?), when we’re with company, or simply when the clock happens to tell us it’s time for food. Most of us eat, too, just because it feels good. This is known as hedonic hunger, and while you should try to resist it on a fast day, you can bask in the knowledge that, if you please, you can give in to temptation the following day.

There’s no need to panic about any of this. Simply note that the human brain is adept at persuading us that we’re hungry in almost all situations: when faced with feelings of deprivation or withdrawal or disappointment; when angry, sad, happy, neutral; when subjected to advertising, social imperatives, sensory stimulation, reward, habit, the smell of freshly brewed coffee or bread baking or bacon cooking in a café up the road. Recognize now that these are often learned reactions to external cues, most of them designed to part you from your cash. If you are still processing your last meal, it’s highly unlikely that what you are experiencing is true hunger (“total transit time,” should you be interested in such things, can take up to two days, depending on your gender, your metabolism, and what you’ve eaten).

While hunger pangs can be aggressive and disagreeable, like a box of sharp knives, in practice they are more fluid and controllable than you might think. You’re unlikely to be troubled at all by hunger until well into a fast day. What’s more, a pang will pass. Fasters report that the feeling of perceived hunger comes in waves, not in an ever-growing wall of gnawing belly noise. It’s a symphony of differentiated movements, not a steady, fearful crescendo. Treat a tummy rumble as a good sign, a healthy messenger.

Remember, too, that hunger does not build over a twenty-four-hour period, so don’t feel trapped in the feeling at any given moment. Wait a while. You have absolute power to conquer feelings of hunger, simply by steering your mind, riding the wave, choosing to do something else—take a walk, phone a friend, drink tea, go for a run, take a shower, sing in the shower, phone a friend from the shower and sing . . . After a few weeks’ practicing intermittent fasting, people generally report that their sense of hunger is diminished.

The main struggle with doing the FastDiet or any form of fasting is the first few weeks while your body and mind adjust to new habits, new ways of eating. The good news is that most people find they soon adapt. In fact many people have contacted us to say that it is unexpectedly easy. Kimberley, who has been following the 5:2 method with her husband for some time, says, “I am amazed at the energy I have during the fast days. It is not terribly difficult but is mildly challenging. I’ve done Weight Watchers over and over, and this is so much easier. Many of my friends are interested to see how we do.

So far, I feel like my belly has gone down. My hubby’s blood pressure is down 10+ points, systolic and diastolic.” The important thing is to have a strategy that works for you. David, for example, wrote, “I find that having even a small breakfast actually triggers hunger for the rest of the day, so I avoid eating anything until late on. You have to approach a fast day in the right mindset.” So take heart. On a fast day, refrain, restrain, divert, and distract. Before you know it, you’ll have retrained your brain and hunger’s off the menu.

The FastDiet Cookbook Recipe: Oatmeal with Jewel Fruits

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