Largely for the better part of the last year I have been intermittent fasting and found a lot of great benefits from doing so that today I am sharing my experience should it be something you may benefit from, too.
Easy Intermittent Fasting for Beginners
As a bit of background, last year I wasn’t feeling great. I had been feeling so full after eating. Almost sick feeling. Uncomfortably full. I felt bloated and it was hard to fall asleep still feeling so full by bedtime. I also felt sluggish.
Then one day I happened to listen to this podcast episode on Goop and it was a real light bulb moment to me. Gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan (author of The Microbiome Solution) and endocrinologist Eva Cwynar (author of The Fatigue Solution) spoke about how our eating habits relate to anxiety, brain fog, energy and bloating. They mentioned that if you’re still eating three square meals a day in your 30s (I am 35) you may be eating too much and therefore experiencing bloating or other gut issues. Lightbulb! I was eating too much.
(Here is another good episode on Goop related to fasting specifically).
When I spoke about this lightbulb moment with my acupuncturist she also pointed out that since I live alone and eat many meals alone as a result, I am most likely eating too fast and therefore filling myself up way too much. When you eat too fast your body can’t digest and send signals to your brain that you’re full until it is too late.
My acupuncturist recommend I give myself the same social queues I may get when eating with someone else where you put your fork down or take a sip of your drink in order to maintain conversation. In doing so I began to eat slower and also I stopped telling myself I had to finish what was on my plate. It was an exercise in realizing I often filled my plate or bowl with far more food than I actually needed. And I’d feel guilt over not finishing it thinking it was wasteful to throw away what I couldn’t keep for leftovers.
But I also decided that I would begin skipping breakfast (previously my favorite meal of the day) and see how my body would feel if I honed in on eating two meals a day. I wasn’t intentionally setting out to do intermittent fasting but months later I realized this is what my changed eating habits had grown into. But first…
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. So it isn’t a diet but rather more of a revised eating pattern. During the fasting periods, you aim to eat nothing or very little at all. It’s not about calorie restriction or weight loss – but more so about focusing on when you eat. It can help you burn fat and involves eating patterns in specific windows.
The most popular kind of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method which involves eating periods of 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between. I do not personally follow the hours strictly but rather typically have my meals in between the hours of 11AM and 7PM or 12 and 8PM – aka lunch and dinner. 2020 has made this even easier given nearly all my meals are at home and not longer dictated by a busy social calendar.
The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting:
I didn’t snack much before I began this eating pattern but now I really never find myself craving snacks. I don’t concern myself ever with calorie intake but I also am happy I snack less.
Less feelings of hunger.
As mentioned, I always loved breakfast. It was my favorite meal of the day. But what intermittent fasting made me realize is that the days I have breakfast I am starving by 11AM. On days I’m practicing intermittent fasting and skip breakfast, I can go through to 12 or 1 before I need or want lunch.
Less sweets cravings.
Since overall I’m eating less and eating slower, I am more aware of being full. And therefore don’t feel up for eating anything else – no matter whether I may like dessert or not. (I have a major sweet tooth!) If I really want dessert I make sure I compensate with the amount I’m eating for dinner.
While intermittent fasting is believed to help those trying to lose weight, it wasn’t one of the reasons I chose to do it but it does help me maintain my weight as overall I am consuming less calories when eating two vs. three meals a day. I don’t have the healthiest diet so intermittent fasting helps combat some of my less than stellar eating habits.
On the days I intermittent fast I notice a difference in having less bloating and overall feel lighter. I no longer have the sick feelings I was experiencing from being / feeling too full.
Less brain fog.
After doing intermittent fasting for several weeks I realized I no longer relied on coffee to make me feel alert and ready for work. My mental clarity was sharper and I had more energy.
Some studies suggest you may live longer from intermittent fasting, too.
How To Start Intermittent Fasting:
When starting out intermittent fasting, you’ll most likely experience initial hunger pains, irritability and a reduced ability to concentrate during periods of food restrictions. Know that these initial side effects usually disappear within a month so you won’t experience them long term.
To get started choose the hours you plan to have as your eating window. You’ll want to account for what’s realistic for your lifestyle and daily schedule and you’ll want to ensure your last meal of the day isn’t too close to bedtime. Know that you can have liquids outside of your eating window. It’s recommended you stay super hydrated and don’t overdo it on too much caffeine.
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If you want to read more about the science of intermittent fasting, I recommend reading this. I should note intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone – particularly pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant or anyone who has previously experienced an eating disorder. But others as well so be sure to check with your doctor or a dietitian before you begin practicing or implementing intermittent fasting.
Once I got into the habit and got used to not eating breakfast I rarely missed it. I was ready for lunch but rarely over ate at lunch any longer. And the 16 hour fasting period goes by in a breeze now.
And of course on days I want an indulgent breakfast or brunch – I have it! I don’t live by restrictions overall or worry too much about the eating windows. But I also know that on the days I am practicing intermittent fasting I feel a lot better and reap the health benefits. It’s been a welcomed change to my lifestyle!
As I am not a doctor, this post is not intended to be medical advice. Before you make any changes to your diet, be sure to consult your primary care physician.
Have you tried intermittent fasting?
p.s. a good way to reset your diet and the better habits I’ve been practicing this year.
Meghan – as a long time reader and follower of your instagram, this post strikes a chord for me. I love your transparency as a blogger, and how you’ve taken us along your journey from being skin cancer free (congratulations!) to your recent apartment move. The following comment is my opinion, and does not reflect anyone’s views but my own. That being said…. intermittent fasting (IF) is a great example of our societal celebration of eating disorders. To me, it is starvation conveniently rebranded as “wellness.” You cite that those with an eating disorder should NOT try IF… ring any alarms? The side effects that you mention above that one may experience at first (inability to concentrate, etc.), are from starvation and restriction techniques. Why suffer at all? Calling intermittent fasting a ‘revised eating pattern’ is just a fancy way of saying “disordered eating.’ This fad convinces women and men that there’s a healthy way to miss a meal. I cannot support the praise of a diet or restriction. I am sorry Meghan, but I can’t get on board with this post.
Certainly can appreciate your POV and thank you for the concern. I don’t obsess over my eating patterns at all and feel better and healthier having practiced intermittent fasting! My doctor is on board but I know everyone can perceive topics like this differently.
Hi Meghan! This was an interesting article to read as I recently tried out IF a little over a month ago and was curious to learn more about others’ experiences. I did lose a few pounds when I tried it out for a month, but I eventually stopped because I was really struggling with waiting until 12pm to eat! If I did 11am, my evening dinner would be too early and I’d be hungry again before bed. But if I did 12-8, I was soo hungry by noon. More than that, I was still kind of eating 3 meals a day with IF so instead, I’ve found that just eating 3 smaller portions and walking around 13k steps a day works really well for me. But my mom is faithful to IF because it works for her lifestyle and appetite patterns, and it works our great for her! 🙂 I’m really happy that this has worked out for you too. I really despise the bloat and fatigue that happens with food sometimes ugh!
Our bodies are all so personal! And I think mine has definitely changed with age. That’s why I thought it was such a lightbulb hearing I could be eating too much for my age. I definitely like the idea of 3 smaller meals, too! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Hi Meghan, I’ve been doing IF (14-16 hours fast since I drink coffee with milk) for years…unintentionally due to my work schedule and also because I don’t like breakfast! Unless I am in Paris 🙂 . My 2 meals and a snack were all regular portions and I haven’t lost any weight as a result of it but I didn’t have any negative side effects. On the days of heavy weight training, I would automatically have a huge breakfast. That said, for me 2 meals and eating between 11am-6pm works well for my body especially with all this endless sitting and I too am not strict about it at all.
Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thank you for sharing your experience! And so true about Paris – I eat as many meals when there as my body will allow me lol!