Intermittent Fasting for Real People

PART 1:
I have been looking into intermittent fasting articles recently because I many years ago I used to fast as part of my yoga practice.  I’d take each Sunday as a day to cleanse and just drink water.  Yogi’s believe it is beneficial to your health and now there are some research studies that believe that this may, in fact, be true.

I haven’t fasted in years, but always remember feeling mentally and physically good taking those breaks from the constant intake of food and drink.  It’s an activity that tends to consume the North American day.  We circle our lives around obtaining snacks, coffee, meals and the like.  The ubiquitous “to go” cup in hand is evidence of this (and as an aside, take out coffee cups are not recyclable as people assume so take your own travel mug!!)

Randomly, (or not so randomly Google would probably say) an article on Intermittent Fasting, or IF, popped up somewhere in my online browsing.  As I looked into it further I really felt it was something I had to try and, more importantly, given my personal circumstances something that I actually could try.  What appealed to me?  Firstly, that the method I chose (16:8) wasn’t about changing how I ate, or even limiting what I ate.  To me it’s a lifestyle change and not a Diet.  I hate diets.  I think they’re stupid and not for the long term.  And secondly, I could try this diet and still be a mother.  Meaning I could continue to cook meals for my family and eat with them.  I wouldn’t have to make any changes that would show my kids a poor example of body image and weight loss.

Now that I’d decided I wanted to give it a go, I then started to look for reviews from people who’d done it.  Was my thought process about this in line with what others had experienced?  Well, that was hard to gauge because every review seemed to suffer from one or more of the following problems:

  • the reviewer tried it for a week or some short period of time.  Lifestyle changes can’t be properly evaluated after a week, in my opinion.  How you manage that week or feel at the end don’t reflect week 4 or 14.  The first week and possibly first month will be about adjusting to that routine.
  • the reviewer didn’t have a 9-5 job.  I kept reading reviews from people who were journalist or physical trainers and such.  They have a flexible schedule to go to yoga classes, work out, take down time if they’re feeling off.  Also, the review was something they were being paid to do at that time so their focus may just have been on evaluating IF.  I work 9-5 at a desk and that’s a different experience when making changes like this.
  • the reviewer didn’t have a family.  Specifically children.  I have no free time to accommodate major changes to my life because my children occupy most of those hours.  I am a single parent so I can’t run off to a quick exercise class unless I have childcare and, quite frankly, I cannot afford either– the class or the childcare.  There are so many things I’d like to do to change the way we all eat but there are just so many days when I have to opt for cut up veggies and a quick pasta dish.  We eat very well overall, but there’s room for improvement yet I just don’t have the capacity to do more right now.
  • the reviewer was already a fitness, food and general superstar.  These are people who don’t need to lose weight, improve their fitness, or eat better.  They’re already rocking it all.  I want to see someone like me who tries in all those areas as best they can but there’s room to improve.

In the end my decision was to try IF using the 16:8 method (you can google all the various types, there’s lots of posts describing them.)  16:8 is where you have an 8 hour eating window and you abstain for 16 hours.  This seemed to be the most complimentary to my daily life.  Mornings are insane at my house with me trying to get everyone’s needs met from children to the dog and cat and then myself last.  I often make coffee I don’t drink and if I have breakfast I find I’m actually more hungry before lunch than if I skip it.  So, on the recommendation from the internet, I set my 8 eating hours for noon to 8PM.  This way I took some of my tasks out of the morning equation entirely, I have to pack lunches for everyone anyways and we all eat dinner together so that would continue.  And it tackled one of my biggest issues: snacking after the kids go to bed… on sweets and other garbage food.

It’s been less than a week so I don’t want to get into an actual review but here are the few things that I’ve noticed:

  • I don’t eat after the kids go to bed, and that was a big add to my food intake as well as causing me to eat much to close to bedtime
  • I feel less bloated afternoons and evenings
  • I drink more water
  • After a few days I didn’t feel crazy hungry before noon or obsess about food
  • I drink MUCH less coffee (and thus MUCH less cream).  I’ll have maybe one coffee with a Tbsp. of cream mid-morning, but I don’t enjoy it that much so I stop at one.  Then I rarely even like coffee in the afternoon so I usually abstain entirely for the day.
  • I definitely eat less overall.  I don’t run out to find a whole pizza to make up for the fasting.  I just eat the lunch I bring, and a protein bar mid-afternoon, then a healthy dinner with my kids.
  • I love that I don’t have to eat healthy or cook differently.   If there’s pizza at the office I can have it.
  • It fits into my kids schedule (I can eat dinner with them) and I can adjust it if I want to go out with a friend one evening.  I just shift my fasting time to a bit later.
  • It’s easy

PART 2 will be an update on how IF is going after a bit more time, hurdles I face, or letting you all know if I stop completely and why.  If you’ve tried IF, please share your experiences & advice in the comments.

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