I’m sure you’ve heard about what recently became a health trend: Intermittent fasting. It’s claimed to cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, and perhaps even extend lifespan, among other things. But the only thing I can personally confirm is the fact that it does help with weight loss. For me, it also improved my relationship with food in many ways. It’s important to mention it’s not right for everyone though. If you’re underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, if you’re under the age of 18: this post is not for you. And if you have a medical condition like diabetes, it’s best to talk to your doctor first. Otherwise, you have no excuse not to give it a try and see what happens!
1. Choose the most appropriate plan for you
First of all, consider choosing an intermittent fasting plan that best matches your lifestyle and can be maintained for the long-haul. For example, some plans will be more or less easy to sustain depending if you have a 9-to-5 office job, if you’re working on shifts, or working from home, etc. It needs to be a plan that doesn’t prevent you from having a social life either (especially when lockdown is finally lifted). Among the most popular plans:
- Eat only during 8 hours a day
- Fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day
- You can define your own “feeding window” (you could for example skip breakfast everyday or eat dinner really early)
- Eat normally for 5 days a week (i.e. your recommended calorie intake)
- Reduce your calorie intake to only 500-600 for the other 2 days
- You can pick which days of the week you want to fast
- Fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week
- You can pick which day(s) of the week you want to fast
- Fast every other day
- An easier version would be to reduce your calorie intake to 500 calories on fasting days
- Eat very little during 20 hours a day (mostly small portions of raw fruits and vegetables)
- Then eat what you want but only during a 4-hour window, at night
2. Drink a lot of water when you fast
No matter what plan you choose to adopt, remember to drink lots of fluid when you fast! Keeping yourself hydrated is extremely important. Water is of course the best option but you can also drink tea or coffee if you like, as long as you don’t add milk or any form of sweetener in it. Some consider it’s also fine to have calorie-free flavoured drinks but I would still avoid them, to guarantee a clean fast.
3. Dissociate fasting and starvation
The idea of fasting can be scary for some, but I think it’s important to remember fasting does not mean starving. The main difference being: starving is not a choice, it’s an involuntary absence of food that can lead to death. By fasting, you choose to avoid food (whether it’s for spiritual, health, or other reasons). It’s about taking control and learning how it actually feels like to be “hungry”. You’re unlikely to faint because you’re simply hungry… And hunger usually passes like a wave, you just need to learn how to ride the hunger waves. Don’t you think food tastes so much better when you’re hungry anyway, rather than when it’s simply “time to eat”? If done correctly, fasting shouldn’t cause suffering or lead to frustration. If that’s the case, pick another method or reduce your fasting window.
4. Make the calories count
When you eat, do it well! Intermittent fasting is known to focus on when you eat rather than what you eat… But combining the two is always ideal. Binge eating junk food during your “feeding window” is not going to do you any good. It will only teach your mind that your reward for depriving yourself is to comfort eat. That’s why it’s so important to stay in control of what you put in your body.
When it’s time for you to eat, treat yourself to foods you like, preferably the ones packed with nutrients. Be sure to eat a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Some foods will help you feel full for longer. Planning ahead will help you to achieve that: you’ll always make better choices if you’re well prepared. Remember to treat yourself too (not more than 10-20% of your total food intake) and you’ll be just fine!
5. Adopt your plan as a new way of life
Last but not least, the key to success is to adopt intermittent fasting as your healthy lifestyle, not for the short-term only. Personally I adopted the 16:8 method, which to me means I don’t have breakfast. I feel like I have more energy in the morning thanks to that, my body is not busy digesting a meal I don’t really need. I can focus more on my tasks, without feeling lethargic. Sometimes I extend the fasting period by a few hours (like 18:6 or 20:4 instead of 16:8) if I feel I can easily do it. Your body goes deeper into ketosis and focus on burning fat after 18 hours of fasting. I feel more in control, I have a better routine during the day and it prevents me from eating unnecessary evening snacks too.
Intermittent fasting gives me consistency and I’m now very close to reaching my weight goal! I’m sure it will help with weight maintenance too. If you find the idea too complicated, there is still the option of doing spontaneous meal skipping. The rule couldn’t be easier to follow: just skip a meal if you’re not hungry for example. I know you’ve heard all your life to never skip a meal but it’s just a myth! Simply listen to your body.
Big Girl x