Eight years ago Debbie and I were playing a game where we did a new diet every month. The first week of the month we would pick and do a diet plan and do it gently for a week. The second week we would do it rigorously. The third week we would try to do it automatically without thinking about it and the remainder of the month we would just ignore the diet and coast. The only diets we did that seemed to make any difference were the variations on low carbs, such as the low glycemic index diet. One thing we had quit much earlier, and so it didn’t factor in, was sugary beverages. I’ve averaged less than one cola or sugared sparkling water per year for decades. My relationship with diets has mostly been fun and games. My weight had slowly gone from the mid 170s when I was running twenty miles per week in 1980 up to 190 after I had quit running in 2010. My BMI had hit 27 which is a bit above the recommended max BMI of 25 but my blood pressure was still excellent, usually coming in about 120/65 – 55 BPM on professional equipment.
Last December we bought a new electronic body weight scale and about mid-December we began easing into the intermittent fasting form of dieting. There are many forms of intermittent fasting, but what we did was so easy it wasn’t even doing anything. We didn’t eat anything between 8 PM and 8 AM. After a week of that mild form of dieting, we upped the challenge a little to not eating anything between 8 PM and 10 AM. That wasn’t much of a challenge either so we upped it to 8 PM to 12 noon. That was just enough that we stuck with it for several months and we each lost about two pounds per month for eight months, thus we are down sixteen pounds.
After My Annual Physical Exam, I did a BMI analysis carried to the absurd and decided my ideal BMI would be half way between the recommended cutoff for acceptable BMI of 25 and a computed max life expectancy for a BMI of 23.41. In pounds for me, that meant half way between 156.25 & 167.25 or 161.75. By that standard, I still need to lose 4.25 pounds, which at the current rate would mean two months more of dieting and then going onto a flat maintenance routine.
The beauty of this form of dieting called intermittent fasting is that it is so easy and suffering-free it never seemed to be an inconvenience. Once my body decided that it would be well fed at a certain time it didn’t put up the slightest fuss. Occasionally I have noticed a bit of hunger but then I just drink a glass of water, and usually, we take a fifteen-minute slow walk before eating. When we eat, we eat until we are full and lately I have been feeling a bit overstuffed so I haven’t even been totally finishing the serving on my plate. We have been eating quite close to the DASH diet, but that is our choice and I don’t think the actual food is the critical factor in weight loss but is a factor in maintaining a healthy body.
The New York Times, August 22, 2017, has a fact-filled article based on scientific research that demonstrates very similar results to my experience. They did have one improvement that we have been not quite doing although it isn’t too clear what they were doing. The ideal intermittent diet seems to be eating a large breakfast, a smaller midday meal, and a small evening meal and nothing at all later. The way they described their plan seemed to allow a much longer eating time slot than we have been using, perhaps as long as from 7 AM to 7 PM. They may have a twelve-hour eating window and we have been using an eight-hour eating window. We are now eating between 1 PM and 7 PM, which is only a six-hour window. I haven’t felt any discomfort from hunger, quite the opposite, eating three times in only six hours leaves me feeling a bit over-stuffed much of the time.
Just saying NO to eating for a self-chosen time window requires little thought or willpower.