and It Was One of the Best Things I Could Have Done.
I have been reading about intermittent fasting for the last year and even experimented with it at the beginning of 2020. For those unfamiliar with the topic, intermittent fasting is a way of eating that limits your food intake to specific “windows” or periods of time during the day. The rest of the time you fast and during this time your body repairs and heals. The tradition of fasting is ancient, but the science around this practice is relatively new. In the health and wellness circles, it’s become a trend, and it is easy to see why. The reported benefits are many: weight loss, reduced inflammation, improved heart health and even the possibility of a longer life.
With potential benefits like that, I decided to give it a whirl, but in January when I tried the most basic form of intermittent fasting, eating within a 12-hour window and fasting for 12 hours per day, things kept getting in my way. I’d go out for a late-night dinner and drinks with friends and then have an early morning workout planned. I didn’t want to be hungry during my workout so I’d eat breakfast. Or I would just forget and have a snack as soon as I woke up, ruining the timing of my eating that day. I was beginning to think intermittent fasting wasn’t for me, and then the pandemic hit.
Being in lockdown changed everything. Suddenly, most of my entertainment temptations were gone. And at the same time, my urge to snack all day long skyrocketed. I knew the trajectory of mindless snacking was dangerous, especially since my lifestyle was more sedentary than before. With the austerity of quarantine, I decided to give intermittent fasting one more try. And what a surprise it has been. I’ve been doing it since April, and I can honestly say it is one of the best things I’ve done to take care of myself during the lockdown.
My basic schedule is to stop eating at midnight and to have my first meal at noon. I’m a late riser so this works really well for me. I basically just skip breakfast. You can find what window of time works for you but if you are new to fasting, I’d start with the 12 hours of eating and 12 hours of fasting schedule. 12 hours of fasting is considered the minimum to see health benefits, and it gives you an easy foothold into the world of not eating for extended periods of time. What are you allowed to consume while you fast? A few things… water (still or carbonated), black coffee and tea with nothing added. It’s important to stay hydrated so water, in particular, is encouraged.
How did it go? Amazingly well. I had high expectations, and I’m impressed with the results. I found it easy to get into a rhythm, and the structure of intermittent fasting has brought more mindfulness and awareness to my eating. It started just as a window of time during which I couldn’t eat but quickly developed into an overall meal plan.
I also started checking in with my body frequently to set myself for the 12 hours without food. Here are a few tips I learned to make your intermittent fasting experience easier:
1) Check you are getting enough protein to stay full during your fast.
2) Ensure you are staying hydrated.
3) Use sleep to your advantage. If you time it right, you can sleep through a big portion of your fasting period.
While intermittent fasting doesn’t place any limitations on what you eat during your eating window, I started becoming more conscious about how I was fueling my body. This led to better eating choices which was really important because being in quarantine was becoming an excuse for unhealthy snacking. And as an unexpected extension, I found so much benefit from the structure of the fast that I added structure to other parts of my life as well. I downloaded a walking application and began tracking how much I walk each day. Now I’m careful to reach at least 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) of walking every day. My dog loves it too. Everyone wins.
I started intermittent fasting during lockdown, but I’m planning to keep my eating windows in place even as the restrictions ease. It’s been one of the silver linings in a difficult situation. I’ve learned that the trick to a relatively peaceful and productive lockdown is finding a daily rhythm and having some structure throughout the day. Intermittent fasting didn’t just help my body. It helped my mental well being. Maybe you want to try intermittent fasting too-your body and mind will love you for it.