Thursday, 7 March 2013

Creative Fasting for Writers

Fasting Diet for Writers

In the aftermath of the season of goodwill and rampant excess, many of us take a look in the mirror or are shocked by the tightness of skirt or trousers. Writers who sit for long hours at the computer may be more liable than most to the perils of unwanted flab. I'm certainly heavier than the skinny university student of my youth but not obese, like a growing fraction of my compatriots.
Over the years I've successfully lost weight with many diets. Most have messianic or faddist overtones backed by dubious science, mumbo-jumbo that attempts to disguise the plain truth that its what you put in your mouth stupid that causes the trouble. However much you theorise, its calories that count (but what kind of calories I hear some say?).
I'm happy to admit that I always put the weight back on, albeit enjoyably through adventurous home cooking or in restaurants, washed down with good wine. I find most diets depressing with rigid rules to follow and hunger a frequent companion.
In that context I thought that fellow writers might like to hear of my experience with the latest 'diet sensation' based on fasting. In the second half of 2012 Michael Mosley hit the headlines with a BBC Horizon programme: Eat, Fast and Live Longer. It was already well known that calorie restriction extends life expectancy at least in animals and there are communities of individuals in the USA who are testing extreme versions of that theory for humans. I hope it works for them!
As well as weight loss the other attractive aspect of fasting based diets is the promise of improved health based on the body going into repair mode in the fasting periods as evidenced by measurements of a variety of blood markers.
From Monday 5th November 2012 I started alternate day fasting, giving me a useful two week trial period before a visit to Paris . Alternate day fasting means restricting intake to 600 calories (five hundred for women) every second day, eating normally on the alternate days. So it isn't even real fasting with nothing at all to eat.
For 600 calories you can get; Breakfast- a boiled egg or small portion of porridge plus a small apple. Lunch- a fat free yoghurt with fruit. Dinner- a small portion of fish and spinach. With all the possible minor permutations within the 600 calorie limit, I found this very easy to follow on the promise of eating normally the next day. Of course you mustn't cheat and binge on the normal day.

Finally, to get to the important bit of interest to writers. I'd been stuck at 50,000 words on my third novel, A Pilgrimage Too Far. I found that following the diet regime helped me to focus more clearly on my writing. My powers of concentration increased and unleashed a bout of creativity that got me the next 20,000 words in the two week window before the Paris visit. It does look like a useful piece of discipline that supports the writing environment that we need to envelop ourselves in to produce our best work. I lost weight as well!
Have any other writers experience of fasting diets?
The Glorious Twelfth by Alan Calder
Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon



  1. I've been hearing and reading a lot about this diet - there's even a FB group. Good to hear it affects creativity in a positive way. Don't know if I could do it!

    1. Thanks Rosemary. I don't find hunger a problem and there's always tomorrow-that's the key thing!

  2. Interesting. I haven't done this, Alan, but I have gone on a month of juice only(fresh fruit and vegetable blends)5 times a day. Coincidentally, I kicked out a 54k novel without edits in a week and a half. It was creative possession. Losing 23 lbs, shiny hair, and bright skin weren't bad results either. :)


  3. Well done you, it must have taken some willpower to stick to that. I'm a bit of an all or nothing character so on and off suits me although my wife doesn't like it.She prefers moderation!