According to the NHS, 6 per cent of the UK adult population now have diabetes and an estimated 850,000 have it without knowing it. It’s growing all the time, but one way to prevent it is fasting.
The 5:2 diet developed by Michael Mosley, so called because you eat normally for five days and then fast (which means 500/600 calories a day) for two, apparently, has loads of health benefits. It can help put off diabetes, as the body goes into starvation mode and starts burning fat, in particular the dangerous visceral fat, stored around organs, which thin people can have without knowing.
Fasting can help the body not respond to a hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin Like Growth Factor 1) which has growth promoting effects on every cell in the body. Higher levels later in life appear to lead to accelerated ageing and cancer. Fasting makes your body reduce the levels of IGF-1.
So, can I push through my body’s rebellion and lose my fear of hunger?
Day one, Thursday 27th Februrary
7.30 Was allowed a surprisingly large bowl of porridge and banana. Not a big fan of porridge and would have preferred to eat something I find more tasty, but went for the filling aspect and slow release.
10.45 Without rushing to the kettle all morning I’m getting more work done, so rewarded myself with a cup of liquorice herbal tea. This is quite a novelty and more than a match for a regular cup.
12pm Getting hungry and fantasising about the one apple I’m allowed to have before dinner. I’m not even that keen on apples. The day is passing slowly, but that’s good from a work point of view.
1.05 Hunger has subsided.
2.45pm. Ate a tiny apple as I needed some insurance against the school run (not a good idea on low blood sugar).
Took my blood pressure, which was really high. Wondering if that is part of the process? Stressing the body and then building up “immunity.” The “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” philosophy that Mosley expounds.
4pm. Just had to toast two hot cross buns for the kids, which was tough. Especially as one didn’t get eaten and was left tantalisingly on the table. This is undeniably the hardest part of the day. After feeling really sharp for most of it, I’m now feeling slightly spacey and my arms feel weak. Slight headache too. Encouragingly, the hunger isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
4.50pm My excitement about dinner was quickly extinguished when I realised what 300 calories looks like. The portion of salmon that I’m planning to use will account for more than my allowance.
Thankfully dinner was satisfying. Once I cut the skin off the salmon it came within my calorie budget, with enough left over for generous amounts of tomatoes, courgette and broccoli lightly roasted with a tiny bit of coconut oil. It was finished off with a soy sauce, ginger, chilli, lemon and lime sauce which seemed particularly delicious tonight. Rather than scoff the food without noticing, like I usually do, I focussed on savouring every mouthful and chewing lots of times.
One thing I’ve noticed is how dehydrated I am, it goes to show how much water you get from food. Although I’ve been imbibing fluids all day, I still feel dehydrated and headachey.
9.30. The tiredness is worse than the hunger. It’s like the tank is empty. Is this the feeling of my body starting to digest its own fat? Or has it still not quite worked out what to do? I’m in bed. Feels like I have flu. Expect to be asleep within seconds.
The day after
Was indeed asleep immediately and slept well. Woke up a couple of times but went straight back to sleep. Woke up this morning at 6.15, feeling fairly hungry, but not with the growly stomach I expected to have. However, really enjoyed my bowl of cereal at 7am, following by cup of tea.
This morning I feel good: I think I have more energy than usual, feel pretty sharp and more optimistic than I have felt for a long time, considering that we’re in the midst of a stressful house build and fresh from being bereaved.
Rather excitingly, the scales show that I’ve lost 2lbs, even after breakfast! I’m not naïve enough to assume this will stay off, but at least it shows that it works. The 5:2 takes a long term approach, so the weight stays off.