Intermittent Fasting

A while back I posted about staying on track with healthy eating. I’ve been trying and failing at that for the past couple of years. So when a friend suggested Intermittent Fasting I thought this was something I could manage. 

Intermittent fasting has been popularised by Dr Michael Mosely who came up with the approach after experimenting on himself with several dieting approaches. In a nutshell Intermittent Fasting involves restricting calorie intake (for me that’s around 600 calories) on two non consecutive days out of seven. Mosley stresses that this isn’t a licence to binge eat on the other five days. There is a handy app to help you work out your ideal calorie intake on your non fasting days and to track your progress. The Fast Beach app only tracks total calories per day and doesn’t help you to work those out from individual foods or recipes. You’ll need to use something like myfitnesspal to help with calculating the calories then enter them into the Fast Beach app.

So my plan is to fast Mondays and Thursdays and try and stick to around 2000 calories in the non fasting days. I’ll keep you posted!

Update after week one
Day one wasn’t so bad. I found having a hard and fast rule about food really helped – there are no grey areas to trip you up so decision making is easy. Especially with all the sugary goodies on offer around the office!

I had Bircher muesli for breakfast then nothing until dinner – which was brown rice and ratatouille. The rest of the family were eating vegetarian lasagne (one of my faves) and that was a little rough. I think I might have caved if my wife hadn’t reminded me what I was trying to achieve. I had periods of hunger but they always passed. Drinking lots of water which helped with the hunger pains

I knew what to expect on my second feting day – Thursday – which made it a little easier. Thursday is also a busy day for me so it was easy to distract myself whenever I felt hungry.

Overall I didn’t feel too bad and strangely I’m looking forward to my fasting days next week. My energy levels have been fine and I don’t think I’ve been particularly cranky – at least no more than usual.

One of the lessons I learned was not to drink too much coffee. I found this quite hard on my (empty) stomach. So Thursday I’ll be sticking to green tea and water!

Something I’d like to do better next week is to track calories on the non fasting days.

Resilience and wellbeing

Focus on what’s important

Earlier in my recovery I blogged about the importance of minimizing stress when returning to work. The central idea was to give you time and mental space to come to terms with the changes in the various parts if your life – diet, exercise, mortality etc. What I failed to realize at that time is how fundamentally important building your resilience is. I learned this the hard way by allowing work pressures to get the better of me. Over time this pressure took a hefty toll on my mental health and physical.

Failing to build personal resilience can have serious consequences for anyone. However for those if us living with heart disease the implications can be even more serious. Chronic stress has been linked to elevated cortisol levels which in turn raises cholesterol ( Also when we are in this stressed state we are less likely to remain committed to the nutrition and exercise goals we might have set that support a heart healthy lifestyle.

So if resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, then wellbeing is the foundation for resilience. There are many debates in academic circles about the definition of wellbeing versus the theory of wellbeing, but what it comes down to in my mind is that there are a range of elements that make up wellbeing and to have a sense of wellbeing these elements need to be balanced against the challenges an individual faces.

Dodge et al (2012) define wellbeing as a balancing act between psychological, social and physical resources and challenges. I would add spiritual resources to that list too.

Martin Seligman refers to the five elements of wellbeing: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. Seligman’s theory says that an individual can achieve wellbeing by focusing on just one of these elements. However, it seems unlikely that you could achieve real resilience by focusing on just positive emotion (for example).

Wellbeing and heart disease

My personal focus is on wellbeing and heart disease. That’s because I believe that it is even more important for those of us who have already had a cardiac event or those at high risk of a cardiac event to minimise future risks.

The Heartcoach approach programme is divided into four parts:

  • physical wellbeing
  • emotional wellbeing
  • social wellbeing
  • spiritual wellbeing

More about these in future posts.