The 4:3 plan – a review
How I try to maintain a healthy weight as a “middle aged” woman
I have 3 pesky kilos that come and go. When the 3 kilos are with me my clothes are tight, I suck at pull ups and I just feel “heavy”. I still feel ok though – probably because I am well fuelled and my training is going well with energy to burn. It is not really the number that I am fixated on – it is the way I feel when I am at the heavier weight. The number is just a good way to monitor what is happening.
When I feel like I am in dangerous territory and the 3 kilos look to become 4 or 5 kilos I take action. I do not want to have to lose 10kgs as it is bloody hard work losing weight when you are over 50 as many of you will already know.
After a couple of weeks in lockdown I could sense that I should act as my 3 kilos had been around for a while and I was eating more and moving less. Also I thought it might be a very good time to be disciplined around nutrition as there are no meals out, no special occasions, drinks etc and all the other things that can make a weight loss regime very hard unless there is some sacrifice.
The 4:3 program
I decided it was a good time to head back into intermittent fasting. I have had success with this in the past. There are lots of variations of this plan (5:2, 16:8) but is basically a way of reducing your calorific intake. Although there are a lot of factors that can influence weight loss, being in a true calorie deficit is a non negotiable.
I decided to try 4:3 for 2 weeks as a kickstart and then go to 5:2. This would mean 3 fasting days a week and 4 “mindful” days. The fasting days are not consecutive.
The fasting days in this program are limited to 500 calories for women which is very low. There are a lot of suggested food plans for a 500 day on the internet due to the popularity of the 5:2 diet which includes fasting days. Eggs, tuna, leafy greens, small portions of oats and berries and a protein shake got me though. I saved most of the calories until late in the day so I went to bed feeling fairly satisfied. I did find the fasting days hard at around 2 to 3pm but the morning would go by pretty well and later in the afternoon I forgot about the hunger. I am pretty sure I ate way more than 500 calories – it was probably closer to 800 which is still much lower than what is recommended for women (around 2000 calories a day).
The “mindful” days felt luxurious compared to the fasting days and because I had just fasted I did not seem to be as hungry on mindful days as I usually would be. One problem with this plan is that some people find themselves eating more than normal on the mindful days. I did not find that at all. I saved hard training for mindful days as I was pretty useless apart from walking on the fasting days
I prefer this system to having to feel like I am eating less every day. Instead of feeling a bit miserable every day I only felt miserable every second day. Because the fasting days are non consecutive you stay away from the dangerous territory of starving yourself. It is basically just a way of reducing your overall consumption for the week.
Within one week I felt like I had undergone a “re-set”. The effect of the fasting days was to make me eat smaller portions on the mindful days. I usually do not eat a lot of unhealthy foods – it is just portion control that I have trouble with sometimes. This plan got me back in touch with my hunger. Stopping when you are full. Not mindlessly snacking when you are not hungry.
Who is this program for? What are the dangers?
I would only recommend this plan if you have a good idea of what a “mindful” day looks like. Protein with every meal and snack and lots of fibre in the form of vegetables. If you are still learning about good nutrition and you have a lot of weight to lose it is better in my opinion to make small but lasting changes and build on them day by day.
Programs that involve fasting are a little controversial, particularly for women as there are a lot of factors such as a woman’s cycle which may or may not fit in with the fast/non fast phase. There is also the “brain fog” and lack of nutrients on the fasting days which is not great. If you have a job where you need to concentrate it could be very hard getting through the day. It is certainly not for everyone.
It is definitely NOT for anyone who has had an eating disorder or who could be in danger of developing a pattern of disordered eating. I would also not recommend it for anyone who has a “bad” relationship with food. If you have any medical conditions such as diabetes you should always discuss your plans with a doctor before changing the way you eat.
I love trying out different plans and this one was challenging and motivating as I got results.
I am now fasting 2 days a week until my weight stabilises. I lost 2.5 kilos in 3 weeks but the danger is that I will put the weight back on fairly quickly. I have to be “mindful” for the next few weeks to make sure I maintain.