At the beginning of the year, my husband and a good friend of mine decided (separately) to try intermittent fasting. It was getting a lot of hype, and after doing some research, they each gave it a whirl.
I didn’t want to discourage them, but I disagreed with the idea of what I perceived was starving oneself for weight loss or skipping breakfast—my favorite meal and “the most important meal of the day.”
Even so, my husband knew how I felt. “That’s okay,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.”
I was certain it was not for me.
My husband is very goal-orientated, and for four months, I saw the pounds drop off of him. I was so happy for his success. Due to social distancing, I wasn’t able to visibly see my friend’s success until I parked myself on her driveway for a birthday drink.
She stepped out of her house in everyday leggings and a tank top, having spent the day cleaning (on her birthday no less!), and my jaw dropped. She looked stunning. Her 43-year-old, mother-of-4 body looked that of a 17-year-old.
I decided right then and there that maybe, I needed to rethink my stance.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a restrictive eating pattern that cycles through periods of fasting and non-fasting (eating). There are many variations, but the three most common methods are alternate-day fasting, periodic or whole-day fasting, and time-restricted feeding. (There are even variations among each of these.) Alternate-day involves a consecutive 24-hour fast day followed by a 24-hour feast day. Periodic or whole-day incorporates fasting for more than 24 hours.
An example is the 5:2 diet, five days of regular calorie consumption, and two non-consecutive days of 500-600 total daily calorie consumption. Time-restricted has a determined time for calorie consumption in 24 hours, while the rest is fasting. The 16/8 allows for eight hours of calorie consumption while fasting consecutively for the remaining 16.
My husband lost 10% body weight in less than four months doing 18/6. He ate his first meal at 12:30 PM and his last at 6:30 PM, hence why I teased him that he was simply skipping breakfast. My friend lost 14% body weight (8% body fat), incorporating both time-restricted and whole-day fasting.
What are the benefits?
The benefits are, initially, weight loss, so long as you don’t overeat during non-fasting periods. If weight loss is not your goal, it promotes an overall healthy lifestyle. Also, intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, inflammation, and lower cholesterol. It may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. When fasting, cells initiate cellular repair, removing old proteins that build up inside cells, thus improving overall cell function. On top of all of that, studies indicate fasting increases brain health and leans toward protecting against cognitive decline and dementia.
Let’s be real, is it hard?
Of course, it is! I love breakfast. It’s my favorite meal, and I miss it. But it’s also the easiest for me to cut, minus having to give up my creamer laden coffee. Coffee and tea are non-calorie drinks. If I wanted my morning java, it had to be black. If I craved tea, it had to be unsweetened.
If I eat certain foods, it crashes my resolve. One small cookie leaves me feeling hungry and craving more. If I want sugar, I reach for fruit. If I crave carbs, I make sure I choose wisely, or else I’ll feel wiped out the rest of the day. That said, if I fail a day, I simply start fresh the next.
Were you hungry?
I was beyond hungry when I started.
I began with the 16/8 fast to give myself grace. Ironically, I wasn’t hungry at 10:30 AM—when my 16-hour fast ended—and most days, it was noon before I ate. Except I was insatiably hungry after that. I wanted to eat everything! You’re saving grace will be a good calorie tracking app to keep you in check.
In the first two weeks, I was hangry all the time. Well, just not between 9–11 AM, at the end of my fast. I found that a workout towards the end of my fasting period staved off starvation, curbing my appetite completely.
Are you having success?
Yes. I lost 6% body weight in six weeks. Comparatively, before starting intermittent fasting, I conducted a virtual training (running) program. In eight weeks, I went from not running at all to being able to run for 30 minutes consecutively, and the scale didn’t budge.
My friend experienced elevated energy levels and the ablation of mental fog. I did not. However, with the combination of exercising regularly and eating better, I have less bloating, increased physicality, and have kicked my morning caffeine addiction.
Do you recommend intermittent fasting to others?
I’ll quote my husband on this: it’s not for everyone. I wanted to quit after ten days. I didn’t because I saw the evidence on the scale. If you can give it two weeks, it gets easier. Not to mention, the more I read about the overall health benefits, the more confident I feel about my choice.