I first heard about IF in the BBC programme, Trust Me I’m a Doctor, hosted by Michael Mosley. It changed me forever. IF. It is something so simple and free! Proponents of Intermittent Fasting (IF) have no products to sell to us, there is no buck for them at the end of it. It is not a “you-beaut” low fat diet fad that will see us sign up to an expensive weight loss programme that limits our daily calorie intake with a menu that is professionally prepared by an expert dietitian. No, it is absolutely free. Mosley promoted a 5:2 method, eat “normally” for five days and restrict our daily calorie intake to 500 for women or 600 for men for the following two days. Did I say simple? That was in 2015, he could still get away with being “sexist”. Today, we don’t even know who is male or female, maybe some can be male and female at the time of their choosing. Anyway, I was too lazy to figure out what would equate to 600 calories a day. It is too hard for me if I need to weigh and measure what I eat. So, I chose the 16:8 method instead. Fast for 16 hours and limit my eating time to the remaining 8 hours of the day. Although it was only a small group that did the trial, Michael Mosley found that those who were on IF during that short period of 12 weeks reduced both their blood sugar level and LDL cholesterol. My dear father lost a limb to Type 2 diabetes. Pa suffered from cardiovascular problems too – his mobility was terribly reduced by the mini strokes he suffered after his recovery from the first stroke, a major one that left him briefly paralysed. I didn’t want these hereditary defects to cut me down if there are options to reduce the risks. I want to avoid being bed-ridden like Pa was in the last two years of his life. I dislike taking drugs – long-term use of any drug will have its side effects. If IF can do it for me, then it will be a life-changing lifestyle for me. And it has been life-changing. The moon face I had, well, that’s gone. I hated it from my 40’s right through to my late-50’s but it wouldn’t go away. A round and bloated face accentuated my slit eyes and made them appear even more beady. Any cartoonist would have happily picked my face as the perfect example to illustrate the typical China-man. I think you’ll know what I mean, you won’t need me to dig out an old photo to show you. Goodbye, moon face. Goodbye, beer belly. I didn’t have a ginormous gut but it was ugly enough to turn anyone off. A small beer gut would not be revolting if I had a Thor-like stature to hide it. My wardrobe was therefore limited to loose clothing only. During the prime of my life, I could not wear body-hugging muscle-fit shirts. I looked like a perennial footballer except the ball was under my shirt. Well, I am pleased to report that IF has got rid of the ball – the bump that made me look ridiculously pregnant has finally gone. I am now able to walk into my office looking a million bucks – a svelte bloke in slim-fit long-sleeved Lululemon top with long-flowing hair blowing in the wind.
Rob said I look young, for my age. Urghh, he didn’t have to add those last three words. If I dyed my hair black, I still cannot hide my age these days. My unruly facial hair below my chin has turned all white. Never mind, those looking at me from behind will still be fooled by my gait, posture and slim body with a BMI of 22. Folks, it is no challenge really. IF is so simple I can’t understand what the fuss is about. I can’t understand why many people think it is too hard to start or to stay the course. Some say I’m foolish to miss out on breakfast, it being “the most important meal of the day”. One doctor even briefly sowed doubts in my mind by saying the science doesn’t prove it – sure, fasting may work in the lab for rats only. But, I knew better. I had read up on Dr Yoshinori Ohsumi’s work, not that I can fully understand the science he promulgated to win the 2016 Noble Prize for Physiology or Medicine. All I needed to understand was that we need to let our body rest when our body clock requires us to. When we rest, our stomach should be relatively empty to allow our digestive system to also rest. The mantra, eat regularly but in small amounts, is no good if it means we eat all the time.
For most of my life, I lived that way. I ate regularly even after a full meal. I loved to snack – an ice-cream cone, peanuts or Smiths crisps during TV time after dinner. TV viewing was a nightly habit before Netflix became a norm. These days, free-to-air TV time takes up 30 minutes of my life, if that. I can’t see how the TV channels can survive for much longer at this rate. Who watches TV these days? It’s all about HBO, Disney, Stan and Netflix. After a movie, it wasn’t unusual for me to cook myself a packet of duck-flavoured instant noodles or partake in The Mrs’ very wonderful “pei dun choak” or “century egg and pork mince rice porridge”. There was never ever a moment when the larder was empty – a cup of hot milky Milo was my “nightcap” if the fridge was bare. Otherwise, Chinatown was only a few minutes away and a Pizza Hut delivery even more effortless with a simple phone call. It has been four years since I started IF. I don’t count my daily calories because I don’t know how to. I can’t be bothered to figure out how many calories is in a piece of beef rendang or a handful of my favourite Garuda roasted groundnuts. My regime is easy going, I eat as much as I like within the 8 hours my clock allows me to eat. Yes, I do keep to the clock in the Zero app I have in my phone. The Zero app is free too, so adhering to this discipline is free. No membership fees, no specially formulated diet for me. When a thing is free, it cannot be tainted by the evils of money. There is nothing for the merchants to sell to us. No money to be made, no ulterior motive. It is truly practised for our own health and well-being. Fasting activates autophagy after 16 hours and that encourages cell regeneration and therefore promotes better health. Cell regeneration equates to slowing down the ageing process. I hope I got that right, Dr Ohsumi. Well, I hope you got it right too, Dr Ohsumi.
I have been doing IF for 4 years. The Zero app has given me a lot of medals. I don’t see why they need to reward their users for their personal achievements. We don’t need this extra incentive! Rob, a work colleague of mine has started to practise IF also. This is his 4th week. A little blip compared to my 4 years. But take a look at him today! The transformation in his physical appearance is no small blip; it is massive! He looks amazingly good today compared with a mere 3 months ago. I now call him the Italian Stallion at work. I think he appreciates it – there is a bit of Rocky Balboa in every Italian who is fit, strong and virile. He used to look a bit on the unhealthy side and owned a huge double chin which detracted from his otherwise good looks. I could have sworn that Rob did not have a neck when he came for his first job interview. I saw him walk into my office with a laboured gait after struggling up a short flight of steps. I had to wait for him to collect his breath before he could speak. He left a faint hint of an ashtray in the air after the interview. For a weekend surfer, he looked weakened and was surprisingly unfit. But, that was many moons ago. Look at him 3 months ago – he was still without a neck and his smile was unintentionally turned into a smug due to his puffy cheeks. Just prior to starting IF, he changed his eating habits. No more beer, sweets, sugar and wheat carbs. For an Italian to say no to a mountain of pasta and pizza for dinner would have been difficult but so far, he has stuck to his new discipline. Daily 2-3 km walks have become more enjoyable as the routine sets in. Today, he looks a lot younger; his face is radiant with a healthy glow. His sagging jowls have incredibly disappeared enabling his smiles to flash sweetly with sincerity. His eyes are no longer buried by fat around his eye bags, and they are free to reveal the inner warmth and kindness of his soul. I seriously think he needs to change his whole wardrobe. His clothes don’t fit him so well now. Today, he would not look out of place queueing to get in to a rave party for uni students. Yeah, he has shaven years off his age and his newfound youthfulness now happily bears the mark of a reborn man whose confidence and assuredness will deliver him more rewards than the improved health and fitness he has already gained. Rob, you are a wonderful role model for those who harbour any doubts that IF works. I am so pleased to see the huge improvements you have made to your own well-being. You are such a big inspiration to everyone around you. I suspect our work colleagues will be thinking they want to achieve the weight loss that you have made and the health benefits you have gained. Please continue to make them jealous!
Fuh, the YouTuber who calls himself Penang AA Cook, is a food lover. Yet, he has managed to lose 8kg since he learned about IF from one of our chats 2 years ago. He shares many photos of the food he cooks at home. I have to say it is amazing he has lost weight rather than put on weight, the amount of rich food he eats daily. Fuh practises fasting, he reckons dieting is a lot less effective. Those who diet tend to gain back their weight because the sacrifice is too much to bear for an extended period. People don’t want to miss out on the foods they enjoy. With IF, we can still enjoy the food we like without gaining weight. https://youtube.com/channel/UC5KMJTeAcBI-0mzea9tN1qA
If IF works so well, why have some people around me jettisoned their resolve to continue? Some are so cynical they do not even make an attempt to fast even though they can’t hide their body fat. A niece has been the most disappointing. Having lost some 20 kg, she inexplicably stopped IF and her weight has crept back up to over 85 kg. It won’t surprise me if she went back up to her original weight of 99 kg. She tells us she fasts intermittently (FI). So my question is if IF works, why FI?