Losing weight is never easy, but there's one dieting approach that's gaining popularity and influence by the year. Called intermittent fasting, chances are you've already tried it in one form or another. How long you choose to fast is entirely personal.
Two days per week – as in the famous 5:2 diet – is standard, but you can even count the gap between finishing your evening meal and your first meal the next day (typically a light brunch) as an overnight fast, as long as it spans at least 12 hours.
Holistic nutritionist and wholefoods chef Lee Holmes is such an advocate of fasting for better health she's made it the topic of her latest book, Fast Your Way To Wellness. "I've fasted intermittently for several years and have written this book using everything I've discovered along the way," Lee says. "I've been road-testing every aspect of fasting to enable you to successfully adopt and integrate the practice into your weekly routine with ease."
In this edited extract from Fast Your Way To Wellness, Lee reveals how a change of eating habits can help you feel lighter and brighter.
Nutritious and so delicious
If you've been looking into intermittent fasting for a while, I'm sure you'll have spied the many available fasting recipes for puddings, bakes and cakes that comfortingly have the right number of calories but sadly are low in nutrients and sky-high in processed and refined ingredients.
These aren't the best foods if you're seeking lifelong health. Fasting can be healthy with the right food and ingredient choices, and with recipes that not only taste fantastic but put you on the path to good health and increased longevity. And there's the added bonus of hitting the magic number on your bathroom scales.
Including wholefoods means you don't have to drink copious amounts of water and peck on birdseed, or live on low-calorie junk food on your fasting days. Instead, you'll be able to eat well naturally and with a sense of abundance. You'll also meet your nutritional needs on your fasting days and derive the maximum amount of nutrition from every meal.
Welcome to a sensible, simple and sustainable approach to intermittent fasting, featuring balanced meals made using nutritious, unrefined wholefoods to boost your energy.
Wholefoods typically contain fewer calories and more nutrients than other foods, meaning you can pile more onto your plate and still maintain your fast and a healthy diet. Intermittent fasting is a proven approach to achieving health, longevity and sustainable weight loss. It involves reducing calorie intake from time to time (say, two days each week) to about 2090 kilojoules (500 calories) for women and 2510kJ (600 calories) for men.
Lee says: "Traditional extended fasting can have a negative effect on female hormones, sending a signal that you're experiencing famine and triggering your body to shut down fertility. The most obvious manifestation of this is irregular or non-existent periods. Gentler and intermittent fasting options allow women to experience the benefits of cellular clean-up and weight loss without jeopardising hormone function.
For women, an intermittent fasting program that includes quality saturated fats from food such as eggs, coconut oil and grass-fed butter is vital to communicating to their body that it's in a safe environment for proper hormone synthesis. This will also ward off the brain fog, exhaustion, irritability and cold hands that can come with traditional fasting. It's doubly important to include these foods to avoid any unnecessary disordered eating patterns that can accompany calorie restriction and fat avoidance.
A safe fasting method for women would include fats at every opportunity. A late breakfast of poached eggs with avocado and spinach, followed by a mid-afternoon smoothie with coconut water, and a vegetable and bone broth soup with a small amount of coconut oil or ghee for dinner is a nice, gentle intermittent fasting option that will support hormone function while promoting weight loss and detoxification. Adding Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt to filtered water and to meals will also do wonders."
Hormone-friendly intermittent fasting tips for women
1) Replace pastry-bound quiches or flans with herb-filled omelettes or frittatas. You still get the flavour punch, but without the carb-loaded pastry.
2) Replace watermelon and other high-fructose fruit with fresh or frozen berries for less of a sugar hit.
3) Replace regular pasta with vegetable pasta. Use zucchini to make "zoodles" or cucumber to make "coodles", then steam or serve them raw. Make thin ribbons using a spiraliser, vegetable peeler or mandolin.
4) Replace rice with cauliflower "rice" – just grate cauliflower and steam or pan-fry with lemon or lime juice. Add some turmeric for a dash of colour.
5) Replace bread and wraps with veggie wraps, such as lettuce leaves, steamed bok choy (pak choy), cabbage or seaweed.