It would be no exaggeration to say that intermittent fasting changed my life. Like many people, I struggled with my weight for many years and found it difficult to stick to a nutritious diet. Intermittent fasting has been the only intervention that enabled me to take control of my eating habits and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Because of that fact, I am a strong proponent of the IF way of life and I’m encouraging and supportive of anyone who would like to try it.
As I began my IF journey, I had to figure out many things along the way through research, trial and error. This blog is about providing the information, resources and personal experiences of the IF lifestyle so that others don’t have to work so hard to get started nor to maintain this lifestyle change.
So, if you’ve decided to take the plunge and try intermittent fasting, great! But, before you stop eating so frequently, here are a few considerations. One last thing before we start… Please know that I have never personally tried alternate day fasting (the “5:2” plan being the most popular form). Because I practice daily fasting, these suggestions, which in some cases may also apply to alternate day fasting, specifically refer to daily intermittent fasting. The post also assumes that you are relatively healthy and have consulted with your doctor before starting your fasting protocol. Enough of the disclaimers, let’s get started!
Step 1: Learn the science of intermittent fasting.
I can’t express enough how important it is to know what is happening to your body during the process of intermittent fasting. One simple way to start is with a free (yes, totally free – no catch, no sign up, nada) e-book produced by the very generous Dr. Bert Herring, creator of the Fast-five method of intermittent fasting. The book is available for download here: http://www.bertherring.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Fast-5-ebook100.pdf and offers a detailed description of the fasting process in very easy-to-understand terms. Beyond reading this simple 67-page e-book, I encourage you to get a clear understanding of the terms and concepts mentioned in the glossary of the book (page 54) in order to gain a basic understanding of intermittent fasting.
Step 2: Decide what time of day or night you will begin fasting.
When considering when to stop eating, it’s important to consider your lifestyle. Are you a morning person, or a night owl? Are you on a 9-5 work schedule, or working the night shift? These considerations should help you choose a time to stop eating that is easiest for you. For example, if you tend to go to bed at 10:00 PM, you probably want to take advantage of your sleeping time and extend that out to breakfast time. However, if you tend to get up early and delight in having breakfast, you may prefer a different schedule. Make it as much of a “no-brainer” as possible and let your IF schedule fit your lifestyle.
Step 3: Decide for how long you will fast.
This is perhaps the most critical decision and one that is dependent on many factors such as your ability to adjust to IF, your metabolism, how much weight you would like to lose, etc. You might want to start with determining where your hunger threshold is now and building from that gradually. In other words, experiment for a day and go as long as you can without eating before you feel you have to eat, then use that as a guide to your fasting duration.
Step 4: Decide what you will eat when you break your fast.
Studies have shown that eating within a shorter window of time still results in weight loss even when the same number of calories are consumed. One theory is that IF revs up our metabolism thus resulting in weight loss even when there is no difference in caloric intake. Still, it’s likely that eating nutrient-dense foods will result in even better outcomes. In other words, although you may still lose some weight by enjoying donuts, pasta and desserts when you break your fast, you will likely reap greater rewards with a more nutritious diet in terms of weight loss, mood and overall health.
Step 5: Decide what you will not eat when you break your fast.
This may seem obvious after considering number four; however, as you limit your eating to a shorter window of time, you may find that it’s much easier to determine what foods don’t agree with you. You may even find that the foods you’ve long thought of as your favorites are the very foods that make you feel less than your best during your fasting hours. It pays to pay attention and listen to what your body is telling you to avoid.
Step 6: Decide how you’ll tackle social eating situations.
Those of us practicing IF soon learn that one of the greatest challenges to maintaining the IF lifestyle is the peer pressure and social norms associated with eating. A person could be 50 lbs or more overweight and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner wouldn’t raise eyebrows. In comparison, skipping meals like breakfast or lunch is likely to raise questions and even criticism. You should be mentally prepared for some unwanted comments and opinions and know that it is part of adopting a lifestyle that is a perfectly healthy alternative but not yet part of the social norm.
At first consideration, going hours without eating may seem anything but fun. However, if we use our intermittent fasting journey as an opportunity to learn more about our bodies, our overall health and even our social conditioning, IF soon becomes an interesting study into who we are. I encourage you to enjoy the many benefits of IF as well as the journey through intermittent fasting as you take it one day at a time.