If you can and have the means, I highly recommend donating to Family Meal, a Portland-based nonprofit designed to help food service and agricultural workers during a medical debt crisis. Your help right now is needed more than ever. Thank you.
Happy Wednesday! I hope you’ve been having a bit of holiday cheer or at least some extra pep in your step from all of the festivities that are currently happening or have happened. For me, just being back at my parents’ after the term mostly alone has really filled a part of me that was missing human interaction so much. If anything, I hope you all are able to find some solace in this holiday season. Because I’ve been at my parents’ home and trying to recover from the end of term, I didn’t finish this blog post in time, but isn’t that what this season is for, rest and recuperating? Thank you for your patience!
I asked on Twitter about if people would be interested in reading my experience with intermittent fasting (IF) and got plenty of ‘yes’ responses, and then remembered I actually wrote about IF at the beginning of the year, as a weight loss/diet habit. After reflecting on how the whole year has progressed in terms of its effectiveness and other unexpected aspects, I realized I’ve come out of it with three conclusions, which I’ll breakdown. They are not any more or less important than each other, just observations of mine.
WARNING: The following accounts of my IF experience is just that – my own. Potential TW of mentioning ED. Do not partake in IF if you may have had previous ED experiences or prior eating-related issues. Consult a dietician or similarly licensed medical professional for any related concerns.
I started IF in the last couple of days in 2019, to kind of get in the rhythm of it going in to 2020. My primary goal was to lose weight without doing any harsh restrictions, and I’d heard it was a good method for those that weren’t exercising intensely every day. (Here are some ways that you can do IF)
Like I mentioned in my first post about IF, it was something I didn’t really feel had any huge effect in my life except some days I’d have larger hunger pangs than other days. Which, considering some people use this to help reset their eating clock, of course result in these kinds of effects.
I continued to do IF when I returned to campus, but it was definitely off and on depending on my levels of stress and social functions I was attending, since much of my socializing is revolved around eating/drinking. I would say I didn’t really take my IF seriously until June, when I downloaded Fasting Tracker (not sponsored but I wish!). I started with the 14/10, which is 14 hours of fasting and the remaining 10 hour window for eating, but for me it was quite easy to get into the 16/8, since I don’t usually eat breakfast. It also helped I didn’t have social functions to be concerned about my eating windows getting too long or my fasting window cut short because of lunch plans.
When I returned to campus for fall term, I gradually moved to the 18/6 plan, which left 6 hours for eating. Again, it was a lot easier because I wasn’t engaged to social events so I could really be conscious about the times I was or wasn’t eating, plus how healthy I was eating. This was the period that I actually saw the most effect from IF, since with not just having the smaller window for eating but actually eating less (since I lived alone) I lost some weight.
So when I weighed myself at the beginning of December, I was down 5.5lbs! A small but really encouraging step for me, because I had struggled all year with losing even just a pound. I’m back at my parents’ for winter break, so I’m adjusting to 16/8 and 14/10 depending on the day, but really not being super stringent about it since it is the holidays. (I’m currently munching on chips and dip after fasting for 14 hours.)
With that timeline in mind, here’s some of my takeaways from doing IF:
takeaway 1: ideation of food
Weird way to start, but this is one that I think for all the benefits that come along with lifestyle changes like these, that you’re just as aware of the potential pitfalls.
For a while when I was transitioning to the 16/8, I was struggling with not borderline binging every time my window to eat was open. I would say that this ideation really kicked in at my most stressed, and sometimes I would break fast early just because I was so anxious to eat something, or just wasn’t able to sit with the discomfort of being hungry. Also my fear of just not being able to eat, or that a lot of food of mine will go to waste since I’m not eating it quick enough, was also a reason that I think I felt so compelled to eat more or at least eat for a longer period of time than expected.
Overall, doing IF really forced me to look back at how I eat and what I eat, when and why – particularly that why. In some ways I think I’m better at picking what is actually good for me, and enjoying when I do indulge in some unhealthier alternatives. On the other hand, sometimes I still have doubts with my timing and wondering if I’m hungry, since some days I’ll eat more and some days eat less, and other life things that generally impact hunger/eating.
Tips: To combat this potential ideation, I recommend really not rushing into so many hours of fasting. Cut yourself some slack in wanting to eat, but don’t forget why you’re doing this. If you find only doing a few days of just doing IF would work better, do that – IF is meant to be a system that is long-ish term, not a crash diet. which leads to my next point very nicely:
takeaway 2: success is finding a schedule
Like I mentioned, IF is meant to be a long-ish term system. Even if you’re not consciously not trying to lose weight, overall it’s good to have in place if you’re trying to reset your internal eating clock. So to make sure that clock stays on track, you have to have a schedule or routine of some sort so that you don’t feel guilty if you break fast for social functions or particularly hungry days.
Another thing that helped me was having a vague outline of what you’re going to eat for the week. I’m not the biggest meal planner, so I don’t plan out every single meal I’ll have in a week but I do have a basic idea. Also, I felt like having the foods in mind beforehand made me excited rather than dread trying to pick the most “healthy” or “clean” options. I think the best part about intermittent fasting for me is there are no technical restrictions, so I never felt deprived, but the other flipside is that its dependent on your time frame so you could technically binge during your eating period. So schedule is not just making sure everything is kept to a certain time, but it’s actually just planning out what you eat so you don’t find yourself too tempted to overeat.
For me, I ate from 4:30PM (ish) to 11PM, some days I’d eat closer to 4 and other days closer to 5, even 6PM. I’m really not a day eater, as you can tell, ahah… But this was just how my days went, since day time was preoccupied with work and class, so I’d have tea and black coffee to keep myself satiated.
The process to finding a schedule when lives are busy and stress affects our bodies in such different ways can be tricky, so to my (personally) biggest takeaway of doing IF:
takeaway 3: giving yourself grace
Giving yourself grace? What the heck are you talking about?
Well, if you’ve ever tried to implement some long term, lifestyle altering changes, you’ll know it’s quite the challenge to bring it about into your life in a successful and sustainable manner. We grow up with all sorts of habits, and those habits die hard – plus, trying to recalibrate your eating schedule if you’ve previously been used to eating for long periods throughout the day is pretty rough on the willpower.
Especially with my history of struggling with food, I would say that IF is pretty forgiving compared to other diets. When I was talking about remembering your why in doing IF and staying committed to it, I really had to reexamine why it wasn’t working for the first half of the year, plus seriously reflect on if this was something worth doing if I wasn’t seeing results. In the end, I did see results but only after really buckling down to follow the eating and fasting windows.
As I struggled with my eating ideation, I reasoned with myself that it’s natural that hunger can waver and wane on certain days while be noticeable on other days. With the Fasting Tracker app, there was cards of info about the effects on the body while fasting, plus other relevant info regarding fasting. I would say that having those resources, plus having done my own reading on the side about IF, that learning to give myself grace on days I was really hungry or just for whatever reason I wasn’t able to fast that it was okay as long as I eventually got back on it.
So, with all that said, I think IF can work for anyone and everyone (that the warning didn’t apply to). Losing weight isn’t everyone’s goal, but if you are looking to potentially improve your health or the like, why not look into IF? Even if it’s just to stop snacking late into the night (which this has also helped me with minimizing) it could help you too.
Whatever you choose to do with your eating, I hope you are able to eat and eat well, be healthy and happy with those choices as well. I do live to eat, but in having more of my daily eating be eat to live, that I’m happier and more fulfilled in the moments that I do live to eat.
Ah, this was harder to write than I originally thought it would be – hence why it also comes a day later than it usually does. Hopefully this was helpful in reading about, if you have more questions, comment below or reach out to me over social media! I’d love to be helpful or be able to pass on sources that I used to help me.
In other news, I’ll be having a holiday series out soon – it won’t be like last year’s, but something different! As I’m working on that, you can check out my other works on YouTube (link below) or for the Daily Emerald (like I always plug). My latest video is catching up on my fall term, in a different way plus commentary on how it went than my last post.
Hope you all are staying safe and well!
Have you eaten yet? If not, don’t forget to!