Good old IF…or as one would say, eye-eff. Intermittent fasting: a time-oriented method of dieting (not an actual diet) where one undergoes precisely measured and specific allotments of time to eat and the rest to fast (by that, we mean no calories or net macros). There is a plethora of studies and works of research on the Internet discussing the effectiveness of intermittent fasting as well as anecdotal evidence praising this dietary practice with plenty of counter-arguments on why people have stopped or cannot sustain it.
All in all, the thesis statements surrounding intermittent fasting are more complex than we believe. We often end readings of these publications with more questions: what is the best way to intermittent fast? How about the health benefits beyond weight loss that incentivizes me to continue/start? Lastly, why do people stop if it sounds so great? Well, again, the reasonings hold more intricacies than surface-level.
A few years ago, I disclosed my personal experience with intermittent fasting from a (cis)female perspective and, most recently, integrated it as a part of my personal food rules (at least 16:8, if not 20-22 hours of fasting). Intermittent fasting was part of my lifestyle for quite a long time–in fact, I maintained this eating period for several years, mostly in my university experience thus far! That’s nearly four years of intermittent fasting! This method fit like Cinderella’s glass slipper with my lifestyle. I could attend my classes or workout in the morning completely fasted, then finish my lunch in between 11-1 P.M., then eat dinner around 5-7 P.M. (sometimes even as early as 4:30, but that’s a bit much) and call it a day. I loved the feeling of leanness in the morning and then enjoying the satiety after each hearty meal. The advantages regarding anti-aging, disease prevention, and efficient digestion only motivated me to continue for the rest of my life.
Well, not anymore. Okay, why did I stop intermittent fasting? Personally, the answer’s not that deep. For about 25-30% of the time I practiced intermittent fasting, I would experience ravenous hunger no matter how much water I drank or how warm the water would be. Coffee and tea helped, but they made me extremely hyper, jittery, and gifted me with some *grimacing* lovely stomach cramps. With this hunger came two other symptoms: mood irritability and constant thinking about food. At some point, I internally normalized these sensations because I figured that most people who intermittent fast feel this way. Boy, was I wrong. Essentially, the 25-30% gradually increased up to 40-50%, then 60-70%. I began re-living the original outcomes from when I first started in high school.
Eventually, it reached a certain magnitude where I could no longer deal with it and I started eating at 9 A.M. again and felt immensely better. The science centered around this is basic = when you are hungry on a biological level, you should eat. Being the geek that I am, I dissected more of what intermittent fasting entails for women and how the consequences differ from when men attempt this. Truth be told, the outcomes are different. I genuinely believe that because I had practiced this method for so long, my hormones slowly lost balanced functionality (although my thyroid is completely normal) where adrenaline and noradrenaline became my two main sources of energy, specifically the former.
Granted, some IF-ers only abide by the 16:8 method, 5:2 day rotation, alternate day fasting, and so forth, though most would agree that fasting for 14 hours and consuming all your food in a 10-hour window is good enough, but not optimal. They may suggest experimenting with different methods, changing the types of foods you eat/beverages you drink before and during fasting, and or just starting with baby steps (especially if you are a female with certain hormonal conditions, are pregnant, and/or breastfeeding). To be fair, there were times where I took a few daily breaks from intermittent fasting such as when I visited Japan and Maui since the whole family enjoyed breakfast together sometimes, but for the most part, I was quite gung-ho about sticking to the 16:8 method. Still, in retrospect, perhaps I could have afforded to research a little more thoroughly on the outcomes of intermittent fasting on female hormones and its recommendations, but I don’t regret trying it nor do I regret taking a break.
There are days where I will fast because I genuinely want to, but in general, it’s been teetering around the 12:12 method or the 14:10 technique instead of 16:8. While I may not be reaping as many benefits from intermittent fasting as I used to, I would very much rather lower my stress around eating, which, if maintained at elevated amounts, ages you and deteriorates your health anyway. There is NOTHING I have against intermittent fasting and it works for so many people and lifestyles. I still rest my case: practice it if it is suitable for your health conditions and your schedule.
Here’s what I’ve been enjoying for breakfast!
I know, not super varied. I’m a boring gal. Seriously–almost every single day (4/5 days of the work week), I will polish off two NuttZo almond, maple, and matcha nut and seed bold biteZ bars (not sponsored, but I wish) or a scoop of vegan protein powder with bran cereal or low sugar berries! My main goals for breakfast: fiber, protein, and healthy fats. This is because my lunch generally consists of a 1:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates with some protein such as black beans or lentils, as well as a non-starchy vegetable. Moreover, this helps me make healthier choices if I were to go out to eat and not feel ravenously hungry shortly after one or two hours upon finishing breakfast. It helps when there is at least a three hour gap between my meals–no snacks.
Thank you for reading! Do you practice intermittent fasting?