I Practiced Intermittent Fasting for a Month. Here's What Happened
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Confession time: I have never been a fan of breakfast. In the best case, “breakfast” to me meant a cup of black coffee before heading out to classes or, later, before I start to write. Sometimes, “breakfast” actually ended up being “lunch” because I would end up eating my first meal after the clock strikes noon. That’s basically how my eating habits have been since my University years.
It wasn’t until a year ago that I found that what I naturally did resembled intermittent fasting. The reason why I said “resembled” is because I have never actually tracked when I had dinner or fussed too much about it. That said, in late January, when I returned from an extended stay in Italy, I thought it was time to adjust my eating habits and get rid of the pounds I had packed on while indulging in the local staples.
So, I started an experiment and decided to write about it. This article breaks down what happened to me during and after a month of practicing intermittent fasting.
But first, what exactly is intermittent fasting?
One thing that it is clearly not and that it is not a diet. It is, rather, a pattern of eating. When you practice intermittent fasting you don’t change what you eat (if you are already eating somewhat healthy meals), but more on when you eat your meals. Scheduling your meals is the most important part.
Since we naturally fast overnight – when we are asleep – many of us find it easier to either eat dinner early or skip breakfast. Another natural way to practice intermittent fasting is by skipping a meal from time to time, for example when you are busy or just don’t feel hungry enough to eat. Other forms of intermittent fasting include the 5:2 diet, in which you fast for two days when you should consume no more than 500-600 calories.
Considering my dislike of breakfast, I went for the easy approach: fast for 14-16 hours between dinner and breakfast. This means that I had to be careful when I had dinner so that I could eat whenever I felt hungry during the day. Armed with my favorite note taking app (Evernote) I began diligently writing down my breakfast and dinner time.
So what have I learned in that month? The answer is: Quite a lot!
I Ended Up Loving Busy Days
Yup, that’s right. Whether I got sucked into writing an article, attended a family event, or something else needed my attention, I didn’t really care when and if I got hungry and would have enough energy to plow through all my tasks and responsibilities – that is, until I eventually realized I haven’t eaten at all that day.
I Became a Good Planner
I usually finish my working day around 5:30 – 6 pm (on most days), which gave me a wiggle room of about 2 hours to eat. If anything came up during that time and I ended up having to eat later, so be it, it wasn’t much of an issue. But I would certainly not eat after 10 pm considering that, usually, by midnight, I am sound asleep. Teas, however, are back into my evening routine.
I Became Motivated to Log My Food Intake (again)
I’ve been using apps to log my food on/off since 2006. Truthfully, I have been in the “off” phase for quite a long time now - that was until January 20th of this year. My plan was to set at a manageable food intake of 1340 calories/ day and aside from my “designated ‘cheat’ days” (e.g: family events and Valentine’s Day), I’m happy to report that I have been diligently logging the food that I consume on a daily basis.
I Am More Mindful of What I Eat
I absolutely love Mediterranean cuisine. Given the opportunity, I can live off seafood for months! And of course, cheese - a lot of cheese. Once I started intermittent fasting, however, vegan meals made its way back into my diet. Lentils soup, Greek beans soup, wild rice, and mushrooms have been my staples during this past month.
When visiting family or friends, I did have a taste of other foods, but I was more aware of portion control. While intermittent fasting doesn’t necessarily require you to change your diet, it is best to avoid consumption of unhealthy foods (e.g: fast food, processed meats, etc).
I No Longer Think Much About Food
Strange as it sounds since I started keeping track of when I have dinner and breakfast, thoughts of food rarely occupies my mind. That said, I do make sure that I listen to my body when it tells me it’s hungry which usually happens after the 14-16 hours fasting time between dinner and breakfast. But once I eat, I would go about my day. I have never been one to plan any meals. I actually find it extremely boring – so this approach fits me wonderfully.
I Lost Weight
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main goals of this experiment was to at least get rid some of the weight that I had packed in Italy. And guess what? Four weeks later, I am 4 lbs / 1.8 kg lighter! I found that this approach not only resulted in a healthy rate of weight loss but also a sustainable one.
If you happen to be looking for a way to lose weight at a more rapid pace, then you may want to try other methods of intermittent fasting. I had chosen ‘the easier one’ as it best suited my lifestyle and therefore, would most likely to be something that I would stick to in the long run.
What about exercise?
You probably noticed that I haven’t touched on this subject. I do wear a fitness tracker but, unless I plan to work out on the treadmill, I don’t take many steps during the day. Over the weekends, I may take as many 20,000 steps (weather permitting). Walking is a low-intensity exercise and is easily manageable when done on an empty stomach.
Intermittent fasting does not interfere with the ability to work out but you want to be aware of how your body uses its ‘fuel’. Recent studies (done on a BBC show) found that women actually burn more fat if they exercise after eating, whereas men burn more fat if they exercise on an empty stomach.
As a general rule, you may want to keep the intensity low when you are fasting (i.e. leisurely walks) and only exercise at high intensity after you eat.
Will I continue?
The answer is a resounding “Yes!”. I definitely plan to keep tracking the hours I eat dinner and breakfast at. And I am gearing up for some traveling soon and that’s when I usually “forget” about logging in my hours. This time around, I am challenging myself to stay on track.
Please note that though intermittent fasting ended up being a great choice for me, it may not be for everyone. Also, there are certain people (i.e. diabetics, pregnant women, history of an eating disorder etc) who are highly recommended to not try this method of eating habit. So, if you are interested in trying out intermittent fasting, do make sure to thoroughly discuss it with your doctor or healthcare provider beforehand.
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