If you've been following along on my weight loss journey for a while, you know that one of the biggest changes Joel and I made is that we practice intermittent fasting. I've been getting more questions lately about what that is and why we like it, so I thought I would gather some commonly asked questions into one post and answer them all together! If you've ever wondered about intermittent fasting and whether or not it might be right for you...read on!
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a very simple concept. It means choosing a window of time each day during which you eat, and then only consuming water outside of that window. The most common time frame to start with is 8/16 - you have an 8-hour time frame in which to eat, then during the 16 hours you fast. We tend to eat between the hours of 11Am-7PM, then fast the rest. We will adjust this as necessary for social occasions or travel, but we try to always keep the 16 hours of fasting. (So, for example, if we eat dinner till 8 PM at a friend's house, we won't start eating until noon the next day.)
But isn't breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Yes, it is! But breakfast literally means "breaking the fast" so it happens whenever you first eat for the day. I've learned that what you eat for breakfast is far more important than when you eat breakfast. I make sure to break my fast with a well-rounded meal that includes protein, vegetables, and fruit.
Why do you like intermittent fasting?
- I can eat whatever I want! This was the initial draw to IF for Joel and me, nothing is off limits! Obviously the more healthily you eat, the more success you will have with losing weight, but in general, you really can eat whatever you want.
- I no longer binge on favorites. Precisely because I can eat whatever I want, I actually eat "bad for me foods" less. Before, I was constantly going through a cycle where I would tell myself "Ok, today is the last time you can have pizza, then you are going on a diet." Doing that over and over again led to more weight gain, and any time I was trying to eat healthily, I just craved pizza. Now, knowing that I can eat pizza (or insert favorite food here) whenever I want, I no longer have that urge to have it right now. It can wait till tomorrow, and then my procrastinating gene kicks in and I don't get around to eating it as often.
- I think about food less. This is perhaps the most freeing part of IF for me. I think about food during my 8-hour window and I do some meal planning, but in general, I think about food a lot less. I no longer sit on the couch at 9 PM at night, adding up how much I ate that day to decide whether or not I can have a snack. The answer is no, so I just don't think about it.
- It takes less willpower than a traditional diet. The strict time window and the idea of eating whatever I want means that for me at least, IF takes less willpower than anything else I have ever tried. If it's outside my time window, it's easy to say no to something rather than have an argument with myself. Additionally, because I know I can have that treat tomorrow if I want to, I never feel deprived.
- I rarely get "hangry" anymore. This is huge for me. I used to get hangry all.the.time. Especially in the mornings, if I didn't eat within an hour or so of waking up I would get irritable and grouchy. If lunch didn't happen when I wanted it, I got very grumpy in the middle of the day. Now, because I am far more used to experiencing hunger, and no longer experience it only as a negative thing, I am much more capable of dealing with it. This was a surprising effect of IF for me!
How has it worked for you?
IF has worked extremely well for me. I looked back on the blog archives and it looks like this post from Joel is the first time it was mentioned, so we started almost a year ago. We have been doing it faithfully ever since, varying our hours sometimes and making exception days for special events, but otherwise remaining very consistent. In that time I have lost 40+ pounds and counting. I've also made other lifestyle changes including exercising more and eating more vegetables and fruit, but I think intermittent fasting has been the single largest contributor to my weight loss.
Is it weird, socially?
I feel like I've been weird about food almost my entire life as I've struggled with my weight. I've definitely been that person that isn't eating carbs right now or is saying no to all desserts or whatever weird restriction du jour, and I found all of those more socially awkward than IF. It can be a bit weird at first to try and schedule social meals/food into your time window, but I have found most people to be accommodating. And if not, we can always shift our times to accommodate certain people or events (like a brunch, say.) Overall I find it a lot easier to say "no, I'm not going to eat because it's after x time" than when I had to say "no, I can't eat that particular food." I feel like I'm a better guest now because I can eat whatever people serve me as long as I've done the work to make sure it's in my time frame!
Is intermittent fasting sustainable?
I have to give this one a big "heck yes!" I have found to be the most sustainable of anything I have ever tried, as evidenced by us going strong with it for almost a year now. This probably plays out differently for different people, but for me, it is the easiest and most effective change I have ever made. I am pretty sure I will be eating this way for the rest of my life.
Isn't fasting a spiritual practice?
Yes and no. Fasting is a spiritual practice for many religions, including my own, Christianity. John Wesley, the theologian who founded my Methodist heritage viewed fasting as a means of grace, aka a way of experiencing God. Just because you abstain from food doesn't mean you are fasting in a religious way - that usually involves filling the time you would have spent eating with prayer, reading scripture, etc. So intermittent fasting can be a spiritual practice for you if you want it to be, but it doesn't have to be.
Should I try intermittent fasting?
Spoiler alert: I am not a doctor, so take any advice I give with a grain of salt and a visit to your general practitioner. I can't say whether or not IF will work for you, but if you like the sounds of it, I think you should give it a try!
I think that answers most of the questions I have received about IF over the last year, but if you think of more, comment below and I will try to update the post with answers! Have you ever tried IF? Has it worked for you - why or why not? I'd love to hear from you!