Tapping Into Ancestral Hunger, Part 4: Top Hacks for the Weekend Wind Down

By Emily Wei Mar 10, 2015

Do you carefully count calories throughout the week, only to find all of your hard work reversed once the weekend comes?  If this sounds familiar, the Weekend Wind Down may be right for you.  Although intermittent fasting (IF) during the weekend can be challenging, it can also help keep your waistline in check (…especially if Saturdays and Sundays have become synonymous with overindulgence!).  In this final segment of a four-part series on IF, we give a rundown of the Weekend Wind Down and share our top tips for fasting through the weekend.

weekendwinddown

A Breakdown of the Weekend Wind Down:

  • The Weekend Wind Down is similar to the 5:2 Diet, the Fast Diet, or Mini Fasting [1]. It involves restricting calories for two days out of the week.
  • Five days a week (such as Monday through Friday), eat normally.
  • Twice a week (on Saturday and Sunday),
    • Females should fast daily for 14 hours
    • Males should fast daily for 18 hours.
  • On fast days, eat only 500-600 calories – or 25% of your average daily consumption – during feeding periods, which are 6 hours for men and 10 hours for women.

Rules of the Weekend Wind Down:

  • On fast days, stick to lean proteins, greens, and non-starchy vegetables.  When eating only 25% of what you normally consume, it’s essential to stick to foods that are satiating, filling, and high in fiber. Lean proteins, greens and non-starchy vegetables such as lentils are great options. The high volume and low-calorie combination of these nutrient-dense foods will help keep you full and give you the biggest nutritional bang for your calorie.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates on fast days. While you can eat what you want within reason during the five normal feeding days, back off of processed and refined carbohydrates on fast days. Our bodies are the most sophisticated of machinery, and we should thank them by avoiding refined carbs and high-sugar foods, such as white bread and donuts, that will cause blood sugar levels to jump after fasting.
  • Hydrate with water, tea, and soup. Staying hydrated is essential to IF success, so keep sipping on H2O. Tea can be soothing and add variety when you tire of water, and clear broths (during feeding) can help provide you fullness and flavor while keeping the calorie content low. Coffee (and 5 calories of creamer) and sugar-free gum are also permitted during your fasting period.

Practical Ways to Ease the (Hunger) Pain:

  • Get your head in the game.  You’ll never succeed if you focus on your disdain for the Weekend Wind Down or IF in general.  Weekends are when most of us indulge in decadent brunches, libations, football parties, and the like.  While partaking in festivities is great in moderation, we only harm ourselves when we throw reason out the door and eat and drink to excesss.  Reframe your state of mind, and think of the weekend as a time to go all out for your health.
  • Like the Breakfast Skip, be sure to incorporate your sleeping hours as part of your fast.  It’s the easiest way to help the fast period pass by quickly.
  • Stay busy. Though quite the opposite of sleeping, staying busy also helps the fast period fly by.  Focus on other tasks; run errands, hang out with friends, and stay active in order to mentally set yourself up for success.
  • Consider increasing your fasting period.  For me personally, the Weekend Wind Down was much more manageable when I increased the fasting period and decreased the feeding period. (I found that a 20-hour fasting period worked well for me.)  Five to six hundred calories can be consumed quickly, and spreading it over the course of 10 hours was tough. I was better able to manage my calories when I restricted eating to a shorter time period.

lowcaloriesushi

Pros:

  • It’s cost-effective.  I saved money on the Weekend Wind Down because I wasn’t eating out at all.  I don’t out eat out much anyway, but if I do, it’s usually on the weekend.  You might also find yourself pocketing change from the cocktails you didn’t purchase on Saturday night or Sunday brunch.
  • You effectively target your excess caloric intake.  As mentioned before, many people count calories all week, only to overindulge and pack on the pounds during the weekends.  I know I often eat up to 50% more on weekends than I do on weekdays.  By fasting during the weekend, you can significantly decrease the number of calories that you might normally consume.
  • It’s simple.  Five days out of the week, you eat normally and without restriction.  During the weekend, get to work and eat only 25% of what you normally do.

Cons:

  • It’s hard on your social life.  I had a difficult time maintaining a normal social schedule during the weekend when I could eat only 500 calories a day.  I couldn’t go out for dinner or make dessert for friends like I normally do.  While there certainly are social activities that don’t pertain to food, the impact of fasting on your social life may be something to consider.
  • 500 calories made me hungrier than fasting did altogether.  This may not apply to everyone, but I really struggled with spreading 500 calories over the course of 10 hours.   Eating so few calories in such a long period of time actually made me feel hungrier than not eating altogether.  As mentioned before, my fix to this was to increase the duration of my fasting period.
  • Potential stomach troubles – I found that the same 500 calories that made me feel as full as possible also contributed to giving me stomachaches.  Pairing tons of fiber and liquid with little of other foods was not a winning combination for me… my stomach felt like a balloon!  If you have a sensitive stomach, you might find that a different IF method may be better suited to you.
  • Two consecutive days of restrictive IF is hard to follow.  While I thought that I was mentally prepared for the Weekend Wind Down after success with both the 24 Hour Fast and the Breakfast Skip, this fasting method wore down on me fast.  By the second day of the Weekend Wind Down (Sunday), I felt irritable while waiting for my 500 calories.  Once I finished up with my 500 calories for the day, I still wanted more.  If you have the self-control, more power to you, but for many, spreading out the two fasting days may be more practical than fasting all weekend long.  For example, if you find that you always overindulge on Sundays, it might make sense to fast on Sunday, and then have your second fast day in the middle of the week.

My Take on the Weekend Wind Down:

You may have noticed the brevity of my pros list.  While I believe that this method of IF has its merits (simplicity, money saving, and effective at targeting excess caloric intake), out of the three IF methods I tried, I struggled the most with the Weekend Wind Down by far.  I think that a dietary pattern of five days of normal eating, followed by two days of fasting is great for some, but I personally found it both physically and mentally exhausting to fast consecutively on the weekend.  That being said, everyone is different, and certain IF methods are better suited to some than others.

What Were the 3 Real Life IF Methods Presented, Again?

  • The 24 Hour Fast: Once a week, fast for 24 hours. The other six days, proceed as normal.
  • The Breakfast Skip:
    • Women: Fast daily for 14 hours, followed by 10 hours of feeding.
    • Men: Fast daily for 16 hours, followed by 8 hours of feeding.
  • The Weekend Wind Down: Five days a week, eat normally. Saturdays and Sundays are fasting days during which you eat only 500-600 calories.
    • Women: Fast daily for 14 hours
    • Men: Fast daily for 18 hours

It’s important to pick a method that works for you and your individual lifestyle. Consider what seems manageable and sustainable in the long-term.

smallmeal

Essential IF Rules and Food for Thought:

While I shared these rules in the first article of this series, they are important enough to reiterate again:

  • If you decide to try IF, stay in-tune to your body!  Fasting may require more adjusting for some than for others; make sure you give your body time to adapt.
  • IF may not be for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with that.
    • Anyone with a metabolic disorder, such as diabetes, or health condition (including pregnancy) should talk with their health care professional before trying IF.
    • IF may not be right for elite athletes or endurance athletes who are training multiple times a day, for prolonged periods, or for whom performance is essential.
  • Stay busy.  Don’t torture yourself by sitting on the couch and thinking about food all day.  Instead, take some time to clear your head and get your body moving. Go for a walk or catch up with friends.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate.  Water, tea, coffee… keep the calorie-free liquids coming.
  • Re-think your hunger. I said it once and I’ll say it again.  Let go of your fear of hunger. Chew on this:
    • Contrary to popular belief, a number of studies have shown that fasting for less than 72 hours will not affect your basal metabolic rate [2, 3].  In short, IF does not cause harm to your metabolism.
    • In the healthy population, ‘hypoglycemia’ and ‘low blood sugar’ are rare.  Many people worry about what will happen if they don’t eat every couple of hours, and as harsh as it may sound, this is largely psychological.  Research suggests that unless you have a metabolic disease such as drug-treated diabetes, hypoglycemia is rare [4].  During a 24-hour fasting period or less, most healthy individuals have the ability to maintain blood glucose in the normal range.
  • Monitor your progress with InsideTracker.  It can provide valuable insight as to whether you are improving your biomarkers with IF, such as blood glucose, and whether you have impacted your InnerAge.

For over two months now, I’ve ridden the IF rollercoaster, taking note of various pros and cons, and finding ways to make the journey as smooth as possible. Trying three different IF methods reminded of the importance of the individual. (Case in point: I regularly practice the Breakfast Skip, but would not touch the Weekend Wind Down again.)

My takeaway from all of this?  It may come as no surprise that I discovered a love for intermittent fasting.  Not only did IF remind me of the importance of establishing sustainable, healthy diet choices, but also it has helped me gain a new perspective on hunger, allowing me to finally let go of an unfounded fear that was holding me back from my goals. Food is a necessity, a blessing, and a pleasure, and our health is invaluable to our well-being. When we choose to reframe our perspectives and rethink our health, we can joyfully allow food to provide nourishment to our bodies and minds.

 

 

Maximize Your Fasting Potential

 

 

References

[1] Aubrey, A. (2013, July 29). Two-Day Diets: How Mini Fasts Can Help Maximize Weight Loss. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/07/29/205845319/two-day-diets-how-mini-fasts-can-help-maximize-weight-loss

[2] Verboeket-Van De Venne, W., Westerterp, K., & Kester, A. (1992). Effect of the pattern of food intake on human energy metabolism. British Journal of Nutrition, 70, 103-115.

[3] Keim, N., & Horn, W. (2012). Restrained Eating Behavior and the Metabolic Response to Dietary Energy Restriction in Women. Obesity, 12(1), 141-149.

[4] Eckert-Norton, M., & Kirk, S. Non-diabetic Hypoglycemia. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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