Matthew, a 31-year-old electrical engineer, tells Men’s health how switching to a no added sugar intermittent fasting (NASIF) diet changed his life.
I have always been overweight. I was hunky as a child, and for the most part stayed that way. It wasn’t from inactivity; I’m a very active person, but I was usually overweight or obese, due to my diet. I hit my all time heaviest weight this year right after I turned 31. I don’t remember the exact weight, but I remember being at work one day and standing on a scale and seeing around 265 pounds.
2020 was hard on a lot of people for vastly different reasons. For my wife and I, it was having to endure back to back miscarriages at the beginning of the year. I started focusing on my diet as a way of finding something I could control, when everything else felt completely out of control.
My wife wanted to try a no added sweeteners diet, and I was interested in doing intermittent fasting, and so we decided to do both. The combination of doing these two things has been the healthiest, most sustainable diet or health plan I have ever done.
The intermittent fasting portion is easy. On weekdays I would fast 18 hours a day, and weekends I would fast 12 hours a day. For example, Sunday night I would stop eating around 10 p.m. and wouldn’t eat again until 4 p.m. when I got home on Monday. On the weekends I would stop eating around 8 or 9 p.m. and wouldn’t start eating until 8 or 9 a.m. the next day. People freak out at first when you float the idea of not eating for 12 to 18 hours, and it’s definitely an adjustment at first, but it works well. I started at 12 hours of fasting, and worked my way up to the 18 hours on weekdays. When not fasting, I ate as much no sweetened food as I wanted until I was full.
The most difficult part is doing no added sweeteners. No sugar, no artificial sugars, no natural sweeteners, no honey, no syrups, none of that. All of the hard work from completing this should be credited to my wife. She started looking up recipes and finding ways to make food without added sugar or sweeteners. She started baking loaves of bread since there were limited options in the store. She did all the cooking. A lot of her recipes we posted in our subreddit so others could use them. We still eat fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, meats, cheese, and legumes. We just don’t add sugar to them.
While my diet underwent a big change, I didn’t ever really work out. Our family frequently took small hikes in the park after dinner before sunset, and I did some stretching at night, but that was about it. My motivation came from how much better I felt.
I started losing weight extremely fast. My 4-week progress picture shows me pulling on my stomach skin in disbelief from how much weight I had lost in that time. In total, I lost about 60 pounds in 24 weeks. I feel amazing; I find it so much easier to move and run around and play with my kid. I am motivated to do things more, it blows my mind.
Everyone I know is stunned. After 3 weeks of doing NASIF, I told my dad he needed to start as well. He begrudgingly agreed, and he lost 25 pounds in his first 3 weeks. I had coworkers start to ask me what I was doing, and if I could help them as well. Three of my friends from work have started NASIF and are amazed at how much better they feel.
The list of positive side effects is huge. I have a healthy relationship with food now. As someone who battles with anxiety and depression, I would say that my mental health has greatly improved. I would like to clarify that I do not mean that my anxious or depressive thoughts are gone, but the magnitude at which these emotions affect me is drastically less.
Physically, I have seen huge improvements. I went from wearing an XXL or XL shirt to wearing a Medium. I had to buy an entire new wardrobe because none of my old clothes fit. I feel like dancing and stretching more.
Moving forward, I have ambitions about doing a workout plan such as P90X, but to be honest I really want to help coach and mentor others. After helping coach my friends at work, I’ve found I’m passionate about it. I would love to help inspire others to be healthy. To anyone out there who wants to make a change but isn’t sure how, here’s my advice: You only get one body. Today is the best day to try and start taking care of it.
Philip EllisPhilip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ issues.
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