Intermittent fasting, one of the most highly debated lifestyle choices in the health and fitness industry right now, but what really is all the fuss about? I gave it a go for a week to discover exactly that!
Everyone has their own opinions on what is best for you and what isn’t… Little and often, six small meals a day some say, then there’s the three square mealers, serial grazers, versus the 16 hour fasters and two meal plan. Some of these are polar opposites, so what really is better for you?? I can see the positives in many different lifestyle choices, but ultimately it’s what works best for YOU.
Intermittent fasting is one of those choices, I just could NOT get my head around though. Curbing your cravings by effectively starving yourself? Hmmm…. the whole thing was completely mind-boggling to me (…or so I thought!!) When I read more and more, there’s actually some real science to it. It goes without saying that any sort of fasting can help you lose weight, as you’re effectively missing out on a whole part of your day without eating a thing – and therefore consuming less calories than you usually would. Other evidence-based benefits include encouraging fat burning, cellular repair, and reduced insulin levels. The benefits are endless, and really I could be here all day talking about them, but I’m not a scientist nor a nutritionist, so I’ll leave that to Kris Gunnars from Healthline to tell you more in his article here if you fancy a read.
The more and more I found out about it, the more I was intrigued. How can intermittent fasting do so much good for your body I thought to myself, and why aren’t more people talking about it, if it’s really THAT good. So I thought I’d give it a shot for a week to find out for myself.
The basic rules are to fast for a 16 hour period. No fancy drinks, just water. If you’d like to include tea and coffee too you can, if you’re not being super super strict. I decided to still drink coffee. The optimum time to start your fast is after dinner, as that way you are asleep through nearly half of the fasting period. As a general rule, I tried to ensure I had eaten my dinner by 8pm, and then fast until just before 1pm the following day. It’s slightly over the 16 hours, but that really can’t hurt. This doesn’t mean that you are constantly eating/grazing between these two times, you are still advised to have normal healthy meals. I had two meals between these times – an equivalent to lunch, a snack mid-afternoon, and then dinner in the evening. So here’s how I got on…
I’m not going to lie, the first day was really quite hard! As a serial grazer, today I find myself so focused on making sure I’m not eating anything until my 16 hours is up, that ALL I could think about is food! At 10.00am I’m salivating as I watch my colleague eat an apple (…I know! It really is tragic – now who gets jealous over an apple!?!) so I sit at my desk trying to decide whether to just sack it all in and eat my salad for breakfast! Haha! Get a grip girl!
….I didn’t, just in case you were wondering.
Today I wake up feeling positive! Yes, I know it’s only been one day, but at least I know I can make the 16 hours without dying (literally, what is it with my whole fear of being hungry thing?!) It’s a busy day and the morning flies by, I don’t even think about food til about 11.45am when I have to elbow myself in the stomach to stop it growling loudly as my MD walks past… Lunchtime arrives and I wolf down a tasty salad and an apple, and feel full.
I didn’t sleep too well last night, so expected the morning to be a bit of a struggle. It wasn’t (surprisingly!) I’m starting to find that not eating in the morning is actually making me feel more perky and alert already, how is this possible?? I’m finding my mornings much more productive. From reading up on this, many articles refer to research that has shown that intermittent fasting can increase the growth of new nerve cells which helps brain function and overall brain health. I didn’t expect to feel a noticeable difference though… Amazing!
This morning I wake up before my alarm, and get out of bed feeling refreshed. It’s Friday. This never happens. By Friday I usually roll over trying to catch an extra five minutes, or maybe ten, sometimes fifteen… Today I feel like I have more energy, and have no idea WHERE it has come from. Certainly not my invisible breakfast, that’s for sure…
This morning passes me by, and I don’t even think twice about food, or wanting it at all. It gets to lunchtime and I have my lunch and feel great. Today I have a sweet treat (or two) in the afternoon, and to be honest, I don’t feel bad for it at all. I’ve fasted in the morning, where I’d used to have breakfast and a morning snack, so having a cheeky treat on a Friday afternoon doesn’t bother me.
One thing I will say is this is a lifestyle choice, not a diet – and cutting sweet things out of your diet completely is just not realistic (if you have a sweet tooth like me!) I just try to cut down on things like this – life’s too short!
How are we on day five already? This hasn’t been half as bad as I thought. Today it’s Saturday, so I’m in bed a little bit longer than a weekday anyway, so sleeping through a little more of the fasting period does help. I wake up and then go straight to my hair appointment. Chatting away to my friends there really helps, and before I know it I’m back home and my 16 hours is up! Result.
It’s Sunday! I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of my week of intermittent fasting. To be honest I’m actually really liking this regime. I honestly feel so much better for it, I might actually carry on doing this for a bit longer. Anywayyy, it’s day six – Sunday. I always look forward to a smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on a Sunday …or poached eggs and smashed avocado, or eggs of any description to be honest! So yep, today’s the day I miss breakfast the most, but ALSO today is my friends wedding, and I’m super SUPER excited so easily distracted from the whole no-breakfast thing.
I have a teeny bit of granola before I go just to keep me going, as wedding breakfasts are usually notoriously late in the day. The food there is amazing, and I eat far too much! Oh well, it’s a wedding – you have to live a little!
And it’s Monday, the final day. I have the day off work as it’s the day after the wedding and my head feels like it’s about to fall off. I snuggle back under the sheets for a little more shut-eye before getting up and realising I have to wait EVEN longer than usual, before I reach my 16 hours, as I ate a few nibbles from the wedding buffet late last night.. oops! Anyway, today’s pretty hard, I’m very hungover, and craving bad foods – this really is a fantastic last day!
I decide at this point that this ISN’T going to be my last day. Yes, intermittent fasting can be hard at first, but this whole process has really made me feel better inside and out, so it would be so stupid not to continue it from time to time. I can honestly say if anything it has helped with my willpower MASSIVELY! Working in an office where your colleagues are constantly sent in new food products to try, temptation can be really hard! I have always been a bit of a grazer and do like a little snack, but this has really given me the willpower I need to just NOT reach for the biscuit tin, and not actually feel like it either. As well as this, I feel like I have tons more energy in the mornings – who knew not eating could actually make you feel better fuelled than having a hearty breakfast. I have found myself more productive, I’ve lost a couple of inches around my waist, and just feel better overall.
I have to admit I was dubious to start with, I just couldn’t get my head round the whole concept and how it could possibly work, which is why I wanted to try this out for myself, and I think it’s safe to say, this won’t be my last intermittent fast!
A few little tips from me, if you want to give it a go…
- Don’t be afraid of starving. You just won’t… Yes you might feel hungry, and your stomach will probably rumble a lot to start with, but your body is just trying to get used to your new eating pattern.
- Stay hydrated. You may feel hungry, but sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger, so make sure you drink tons of water.
- Keep strong. There may be times where you just want to pack it all in, but the more days you do, the easier it gets. It’ll all be worth it in the end, I promise!
- Coffee – The whole not eating thing can be hard in the morning, but coffee is what kept me going through the mornings. Some of you may want to get really disciplined and restrict tea and coffee too, but coffee was my silver lining in all this, it really did help! (Jeez, imagine cutting out caffeine AND breakfast in the morning… it’s not worth thinking about!!)
- Meal prep – missing breakfast can be hard, especially if you know your lunch is disappointing. Make sure you meal prep where possible, making yourself a tasty meal to look forward to.
- Pair intermittent fasting with regular exercise. This will help you get better results, quicker, whilst also increasing your energy levels. Before you know it you’ll be bouncing off the walls!
Disclaimer >> I completely appreciate that this is not for everyone, so please don’t feel preached at. I just wanted to share with you my experience, and how it has worked for me. If you have any current health problems, please do consult your doctor before trying any sort of fasting, as this may have an impact on your current condition.