Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried and failed at a variety of eating lifestyles but one that I keep coming back to is intermittent fasting because it’s the easiest to maintain.
I don’t need to fast, but I do need to get to a healthier weight. Having heart failure and being considered “obese” by the medical community don’t mesh well together. While none of my doctors have outright told me I needed to lose weight, It is documented in my files online that “the patient is obese”. RUDE.
When I fast, I’m not limited to a strict diet or forced to cut foods that I love. Instead, I have a window of time every day to eat. But that doesn’t mean I shove food in my face all day long. That’s not the case! I eat foods I would normally eat until it’s time to start my fast.
I get this might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Still, there are some things to know before you begin an intermittent fasting lifestyle.
You aren’t dieting
Intermittent fasting doesn’t focus on what you can eat but rather, on when. I can’t stress that one enough. It’s one of the things I struggled with when I began fasting. It was hard to see it as a completely different way of eating vs restricting myself from foods or counting calories.
You can incorporate other nutrition lifestyles into your fasting routine
For instance, if you follow Mediterranean, Keto, or plant-based eating, you can still do that along with intermittent fasting. The same goes for Macro eating.
Intermittent fasting is flexible
You can look at this in a variety of ways, you can set up your own unique fasting plan, choosing when you want to start your fast, how many hours a day you fast, and how many days a week you fast.
You should talk to your doctor
In my case, I spoke to my doctor because I felt unhealthy; I have high blood pressure and I am clinically obese. I was concerned about the effects on my heart. My doctor was the one who suggested intermittent fasting and gave me several resources to check out before making the decision to fast.
Don’t overeat when your fasting ends
In the beginning, you will have to overcome the scarcity mindset to eat everything all at once because you know you have to stop eating after X number of hours. It’s important to realize you aren’t going to run out of food and the food will still be there when you wake up (unless you’re me, surrounded by three grown men and a growing teenager).
When I started intermittent fasting, I overindulged when my eating window opened and instantly regretted it. Why? I felt worse than if I hadn’t eaten anything at all. Yuck.
Dehydration is a real concern
If you have a love-hate relationship with drinking enough water daily, you will become dehydrated. The key to avoiding dehydration while fasting is to surround yourself with liquids that aren’t riddled with added sugar.
Personally, I drink water, hot and cold tea (with no sugar, but maybe a bit of lemon), or if I decide my water needs some flavor, I will add a lemon or lime to it. If you don’t like tea, black coffee is a good substitute.
Start your fasting plan slowly
The thing I liked when I first started was the option to choose the length of my fast. There are a few ways to divide up your intermittent fasting schedule. The most popular option is known as 16/8 fasting when you fast for 16 hours and then have an eating window of 8 hours. This plan also closely reflects our body’s sleep schedules.
For instance, I stop eating at 8:30 p.m. every night and then end my fast at 12:30 p.m. the following day. This ensures I’m not eating at midnight and follows my body’s natural tendency to not eat first thing in the morning. When I can begin eating at 12:30 p.m., I generally have a brunch-style meal. I will typically eat oatmeal along with a sandwich or fruit and a cup of chai tea. The sandwich might get swapped out for just fruit and cheese, or yogurt. From there the rest of my day is normal food-wise.
Always have snack options with you
If you know you won’t be home when it’s time to end your fast and you’re not sure if food will be available, bring snacks. Having something to snack on won’t leave you in the predicament I recently found myself in.
I made the mistake of not having anything to eat when my fast window ended. At first, I wasn’t concerned because I wasn’t that hungry. However, I went on to not eat anything until 4 hours later when I had access to food, thus leaving me with a shortened eating time. It was not fun. I did not plan on not being able to eat for almost 20 hours.
Eating healthy is still important
Intermittent fasting isn’t an excuse to load up on junk food, especially if you’re fasting for health reasons. You don’t have to rid your house of potato chips, chocolate, or soda, but you don’t want to polish off a bag of BBQ chips in one sitting either. This is where mindfulness becomes important.
Becoming mindful of my eating habits started 3-5 days into my fasting routine. It was so seamless that if I didn’t know better, I would say it was an accident. After my second junk food craving and subsequent overeating fiasco, I realized that I barely even tasted that chocolate cupcake. It was almost as if I swallowed it whole. I really like chocolate cupcakes and the idea that eating it so quickly didn’t give me time to appreciate it, that, was why I wanted chocolate, after all, to enjoy it!
Your fasting lifestyle should include goals
Regardless of why you started fasting, you should know why it’s important to you to intermittent fast. Lifestyle changes are often more successful if you have a goal attached. My goals include losing weight and lowering my blood pressure, any other good things that come of it, are happy accidents.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a lose weight quick scheme
Just like any other lifestyle change, it takes time to turn it into a habit and see the results. On that same note, it’s not something you can just quit, or should quit, once you’ve lost weight (if that’s the reason for your fasting). It’s something you must stick with.
Yes, you can still have days where you don’t fast or change your fasting/eating windows. I personally fast every day because if I don’t, it won’t take long for me to forget to begin fasting again.
Have you tried intermittent fasting or incorporated any big lifestyle changes for health, if so, how did it go?
I’d love to answer questions for you and hear about what has helped you lead a healthier life, and don’t worry – I will be sharing more of my fasting journey with you.