I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with food. From religiously following calorie-counter apps in college (cringe) to desperately seeking out fries and Ben & Jerry’s whenever I felt the tiniest twinge of anxiety or heartbreak, food has continuously been a source of pleasure for me as much as it has been a source of stress. But the one thing that always seemed to slip out of my mind when it came to food was the fact that, first and foremost, it’s supposed to be a source of nourishment and fuel. It took many years (and lots of research) to finally establish a healthy eating routine that consists of vegetables at every meal, nixing dairy (for the most part), and once in a while, indulging in Thai takeout and donuts when I feel like it.
So when I came across the term “intermittent fasting,” I decided to tread carefully.
What is intermittent fasting?
The practice requires you to eat during a specific amount of time during the day, and fast for the remaining hours. Restricting my mealtimes and not allowing myself to eat for extended hours each day? It sounded like a major trigger for me. But I confidently reminded myself that no “diet” fad or trend would ever again come before my health, and I could always stop if I wanted.
Intermittent fasting isn’t an entirely new concept. Think about it — ancient civilizations didn’t exactly have local grocery stores or Postmates to provide nourishment at every second of every day, naturally creating periods of fasting when humans were forced to hunt and source their next meal. But, as of late, it has become a trendy buzzword in the health and wellness space as a way to attain weight loss, along with many other health benefits. While there are mixed results when it comes to whether the practice is scientifically proven to work, I decided to give it a try for a month to see how this change in my eating schedule would impact my body. Keep reading to see what happened.
There are many forms of intermittent fasting, but I decided to go with the 16/8 method: I’d fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window each day. Right off the bat, I decided to make a few adjustments: I would only follow IF during the workweek (my weekends consist of grabbing brunch and late night dinners with my friends and boyfriend and I wasn’t willing to compromise my social life) and I would allow myself to have my morning cup (or two) of chai tea with a splash of almond milk during fasting periods, because, caffeine. Since I work out in the evenings and often don’t get around to eating dinner until 9 p.m., I decided to start my fast at 2 p.m. each day and end at 10 p.m.
How I felt:
The first few days of intermittent fasting were not as difficult as I had anticipated. For my entire life, I’ve always had breakfast, lunch and dinner like clockwork, with a few snacks in between. On day one, instead of eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter or a smoothie, I decided to drink a few glasses of water with lemon, and I was surprised to say I wasn’t really that hungry at all. Have I been thirsty this entire time and just been filling myself up with food first thing in the morning, just because?
Same thing happened later that night: When 10 p.m. passed and I was doing my usual nighttime routine — watching Netflix in bed — I paused before grabbing a second late-night snack, realizing I wasn’t even hungry. I was just used to the habit of eating while I watch television.
During the first few days, I definitely started to feel hungrier than usual during the time periods that I was eating. But after a week, my body seemed to adjust to the new time period and I naturally started to feel hungry around 1:30 p.m., right before I was supposed to start eating for the day, and stayed satisfied until dinnertime (or my midday snack, let’s be real). Now, after a month, I can say I prefer to have a few cups of tea and water instead of breakfast in the morning (unless my body tells me otherwise) and have nixed the habit of snacking in bed until the wee late hours of the night.
I don’t weigh myself on the scale (I prefer to measure by the way my clothes fit), so I don’t know if intermittent fasting caused me to lose weight or not. But what intermittent fasting definitely did for me was teach me to actually pay attention and listen to my body. If I’m not hungry in the morning, why am I eating? Same goes for late-night snacking, when I probably wasn’t really hungry but was merely bored. But it also taught me that I should eat when my body is actually hungry. If it’s 12 p.m. and I’m not supposed to eat for another 2 hours, but I’m starving, why am I denying myself food? My body knows myself better than any fad diet or fitness trend, and maybe I need to eat a little bit more that day or at an earlier time than I planned. So I will eat. There’s no health tip or trick to it: just pay attention.
I actually ended up enjoying the intermittent fasting ritual and will continue to incorporate it into my routine a few times a week. If you’re interested in giving it a try, make sure you do your research, consult a physician if need be, and don’t forget to listen to your body!