My favorite quote from Garfield (Everyone has one, right?) has to be: Diet is just DIE with a T.
Nothing is less satisfying than the first few days of a new diet. You’re either screaming at everyone around you ready to bite their heads off because you’re so hungry, or you’re so disgusted at eating nothing but crunchy, healthy food. Celery is the food of the devil for sure.
My wife and I have been trying to eat healthy and lose some weight for awhile now. Nothing seems to be sticking though, except for the extra pounds. So we decided it was time for a drastic change. We looked into the Keto Diet first but it was a bit too complex and personally I’m scared to eat that much full fat foods since I have high cholesterol.
Instead, we did some research into something called Intermittent Fasting (IF). A number of my friends have done it (including my blog buddy Heidi from the Bragging Mommy, who’s basically the poster child for IF!) We asked some questions, did a lot of reading and decided to dive in.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting isn’t so much a diet as it is a restructuring of how you eat. It’s more of a lifestyle change, I’d say. It’s where you only eat during a set number of hours every day, and fast for the rest of it. There are a number of different approaches, but the most popular by far is the 16/8 method.
This common method has you eating within an 8-hour time period daily, and fasting for the rest. For example, we decided to set our eating window between 12 pm and 8 pm. I sometimes get home from work at 7 or 7:30, so we didn’t want to chance starting any sooner.
What does it mean for us?
Basically, it means we are skipping breakfast and don’t have our first meal until noon. And we finish our last meal by 8 pm every day. The rest is 16 hours of no more eating.
Considering we sleep for about 8 hours per night, that only leaves about 8 hours of food avoidance. The key point here is, obviously, you are skipping one meal so in theory you are eating less calories overall in your day. And that’s certainly true. As long as you don’t try to make up for your loss and binge yourself during those 8 hours with fast food, chips and candy bars.
But Intermittent Fasting also has an interesting chemical reaction in your body that helps you lose additional weight.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Besides putting less calories into your body, fasting causes a number of hormone level changes. It lowers your insulin and increases your growth hormone levels. This also increases the amount of norepinephrine in your body, which is your new BFF. That’s the fat burning hormone.
I was an English major, not a Science one, so I’m not going to go super deep into the science behind IF. But to put it in understandable terms, basically when you eat, your body will take some time (usually a few hours) to process the food. Since you just ate, your body decides to start there and turn that food into fuel, instead of helping you out and working off the stored fat instead. So if you eat dinner, snack all night and then get up first thing in the morning and have breakfast, your body really hasn’t had much time to do anything other than use the food you’ve recently eaten for energy.
But with Intermittent Fasting, things change. You wake up and instead of having breakfast, you fast for a few hours. In that time, your body has already burned off last night’s dinner, so what does it do? Yep, it starts attacking your stored food (a.k.a. fat). That’s the Fisher-Price explanation for you guys.
There’s more science to it involving insulin production, glycogen, etc. There are gobs of books and articles written about it already, so if you’re serious about trying it, do some Googling. Here’s a great Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting from Nerd Fitness.
The one thing you can have during your fasting period is water. You’re encouraged to drink as much as you can and it certainly helps ease the hunger pains. You also can have tea or coffee, as long as there’s no calories in it. Some articles have said even a tiny splash of milk is okay, but I’m now avoiding even that and just trying to have one cup of black coffee in the mornings. (As opposed to the three or four I used to have previously with a lot of milk.)
How Am I Still Alive?
I know. I know. I haven’t eaten breakfast in a full week and I’m still here! What’s more, we were always told that “Breakfast is THE most important meal of the day.” (Sorry, mom!) But we were also told that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. And that grazing meals all day is the best way to lose weight. And that Pluto is a planet, then not a planet, then a planet… (In my mind it always will be.)
All I know is it’s been one full week and I’m still alive. I also have seen some really interesting results.
I’m more alert. Seriously, it doesn’t make sense to me, but simply by fasting, I’m a lot more ready for the day in the mornings. I’m usually one to sleep a lot and be groggy in the morning. I’ll sit in bed with my eyes half open, playing on my phone. On the weekends, I’d sleep in until 9 or 10 am easily. Now? I can’t sleep for more than 8 hours at all. I’m actually awake after 7 hours and not even tired.
I’m less cranky. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m drinking less coffee or if my body’s just thanking me, but overall I feel far less cranky. My wife can attest to this one!
I’m hungry. I won’t lie to you. I wake up hungry. I get to work hungry. I may get a little hangry even. But I don’t have that foggy head/hunger-headache that I usually get when I haven’t eaten in awhile. It’s more of just a normal hunger pang that goes away. And I certainly don’t have that food coma feeling anymore where I’m so stuffed I can’t do anything but sit on the couch and digest, like a snake that just devoured an elephant.
My cravings have lessened. I thought after a hunger-starved morning that I’d want to shove my face into a tub of cheeseballs the second 12 pm rolled around. But for some reason, my food mentality has shifted. I’m ready to eat for sure, but I’m actually craving food. Like real food. Proteins like meats or cheeses. Not carbs at all. Which is crazy because I love chips!
Does Intermittent Fasting Really Work?
Absolutely! But like every other diet or lifestyle, it’s not for everyone. I know friends who have lost 50 pounds on it and still swear by it. Though they now can eat pretty much whatever they want during that eating time period. For me so far, I’m happy. The mental changes in my attitude are great.
But what about the scale?
Well, this morning I officially weighed myself and I am down just shy of 3 pounds. For someone who either stayed the same or kept seeing the scale creep up day after day, losing 3 pounds in one week is a big win. I’m not looking for a quick weight loss. I’m looking for a more sustainable goal. And if I lose 2 to 3 pounds each week, that’s a huge 10 pounds per month. I don’t expect that to continue by any means, but it certainly makes my end goal much more doable.
What I love about Intermittent Fasting so far is that other than being hungry in the morning, it’s easy. There are no numbers to count. No points to add up. No rules to follow in terms of what you can or can’t eat. It’s just about eating in a certain window of time.
Certainly we’re also trying to eat healthy but it doesn’t mean we cut carbs out of our diets completely. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a slice or two of pizza. It just means we aren’t eating chicken parm every Friday night and finishing off a bag of Baked Lays daily.
If you’re looking for something new to try, I highly recommend giving Intermittent Fasting a go. I plan on giving it at least a full month to see how it works. If the results continue in the same vein as my first week, I’m definitely hooked. I also assume over time, my morning hunger will lessen as my body adapts to this change.
My two biggest tips for anyone looking to try IF: Keep yourself distracted and do it with a buddy. It’s so much easier to change your eating habits when someone (especially your spouse!) is doing it with you. It’s also good to keep yourself distracted during fasting whether it’s reading, watching a movie or, you know, going to work.
I’d love to hear from others out there who have tried IF. Tell me what has or hasn’t worked for you? What tips and tricks do you have? How much weight have you lost? Get the conversation started in the comments section below and lets… well, chew the fat.