Eating and hiking to a healthy high


THE other day, I noticed a paradox on my friend’s Instagram posts.

Johan Hulaimi has been sharing photographs of himself working out in the gym. The 92kg man looks fit after shedding 40kg since he began his weight loss journey in 2019.

The 42-year-old has also been posting pictures of his Instagram-worthy big dinners.

How’s it possible that he’s exercising, eating big and losing weight at the same time? I thought, “Is he cheating?”

That got me reflecting on my own exercise and eating regime.

Over the last three months, I’ve been clocking two-hour hikes covering nearly 4km almost four times a week at Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya and Bukit Wawasan in Puchong. Hiking is such a mentally and physically rewarding activity that I’ve bought a headlamp to do 5am hikes, when it’s obviously still dark.

Hiking has improved my cardiorespiratory fitness and strengthened my muscles.

Part of the plan was to lose weight, but instead, I’ve gained.

Surprised at this, I Googled for an answer. Lo and behold, I learned I consume more calories than I burn.

After I began hiking, I changed my eating habits.

I snacked more because I felt I deserved to reward myself with Danish butter cookies and Turkish delight for all my hard work. Also, I developed a voracious appetite since my body was adjusting to the intensity of the hiking.

I also indulged in midnight snacks because I get hungry watching the food channels on YouTube.

Google taught me that hiking alone won’t help me drop the kilograms. I need to watch what I eat, too.

That’s why the paradox was apparent in Johan’s Instagram posts.

I WhatsApp-ed him to find out how he lost weight, even though he was eating heartily.

“The secret is very simple … 16/8. Sixteen hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating whatever and however much you want, ” he replied. “In the 16 hours, you are only allowed water, black coffee or black tea without sugar. But better just water.”

“Is this intermittent fasting?” I queried, since I’ve noticed this method, but never really paid much attention to it as I, like Homer Simpson, am not a fan of dieting.

Later, I found out that IF (intermittent fasting) isn’t a diet at all, but an eating pattern.

“It’s important not to deprive yourself of the food you love. If you notice my IG when I break my fast, I go crazy and eat whatever and however much I want, ” said Johan, who hits the treadmill for an hour and doesn’t do any sit-ups, yet now has a six-pack.

Based on Johan’s before and after Instagram pictures, I realise that his testimony is real, and it sounds like IF is workable for me, too.

But how does IF work?

“By making you eat fewer meals, intermittent fasting can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake, ” says healthline.com. “Additionally, intermittent fasting changes hormone levels to facilitate weight loss.”

“In addition to lowering insulin and increasing growth hormone levels, it increases the release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline), ” it said.

Apart from the 16/8, there are other IF approaches, too, including the 5:2 method (eat normally five days a week and cut down 20% of your typical daily calorie consumption for the other two), alternate day fasting and 14.10 diet (fasting for 14 hours and eating for 10 hours).

I’ve gone with 16/8, as suggested by Johan.

Firstly though, I need to decide when I should begin my eight-hour eating window. What’s ideal for me is from noon to 8pm, and then fast for 16 hours.

My main concern is that I usually have breakfast or supper meetings with political contacts. I wonder if I can resist the temptation when chatting about politics while they dig into their meals.

I picked Christmas Day to start my IF regime.

I was surprised that I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I’d be.

I stopped eating at 8pm but doubted my ability to refrain from raiding the refrigerator and pantry for a snack two hours later.

When I woke up, I felt hungry because I’m one of those who needs his breakfast. But amazingly, I lasted till noon for lunch.

The main thing I learnt in the past 12 days since I began IF is that I won’t die of starvation by fasting.

It helps that I have an IF app because it motivates me when I see how many calories I burn as I fast. Fasting tracker Fastient tells me that it’s about 1,000 calories in 16 hours of doing practically nothing.

So far, I’ve lost 1.5 kgs.

Soon, I hope to be a paradox – a person with a healthy body weight who hikes hard and eats even harder.

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