Intermittent fasting

This New York Times article talks about diets (not necessarily for the sake of weight loss) that incorporate fasting. It opens by describing a fellow who practices what is called ‘intermittent fasting.’

Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging in Maryland, has not had breakfast in 35 years. Most days he practices a form of fasting — skipping lunch, taking a midafternoon run, and then eating all of his daily calories (about 2,000) in a six-hour window starting in the afternoon.

“Once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal,” said Dr. Mattson, chief of the institute’s laboratory of neurosciences. “I’m not hungry at all in the morning, and this is other people’s experience as well. It’s just a matter of getting adapted to it.”

In a culture in which it’s customary to eat three large meals a day while snacking from morning to midnight, the idea of regularly skipping meals may sound extreme. But in recent years intermittent fasting has been gaining popular attention and scientific endorsement.

I agree that it’s not a big deal—in fact, I fell into the practice accidentally. When I decided to lose weight by restricting myself to 1500 calories (more or less) per day, one good place to cut was breakfast. My habit had been to eat a bowl of oatmeal, buttered and lightly sugared, but it was easy enough for me to give that up. I now have two cups of (very strong) coffee in the morning but wait until lunch to eat. We usually eat around 11am, I eat fruit in the afternoon, and supper is around 5pm, so I almost always do my eating in a six-hour window.

I’m never hungry in the afternoon or at night. I wouldn’t join Dr Mattson in saying I’m “not hungry at all in the morning”, but it’s a very mild sort of hunger that I tend to appreciate, if for no other reason that it reminds me it’s OK to be mildly hungry and not eat in response.

My weight loss is nearly done, around 5-10lbs to go (I don’t go by the scale reading, but rather by whether or not there is flab remaining), and soon I’ll need to adjust my menu to add in some calories. But I think I will stick with skipping breakfast. Except … I do dearly love a bowl of buttered oatmeal. Maybe once a week? We’ll see.

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