Updated: Apr 20, 2021
If you’re counting the minutes till 4 pm, likely, you’re an intermittent faster. Actually most people I know just don’t eat breakfast. But me, I fast until I can’t any more. When I say can’t I really mean I don’t want to. I am never really hungry unless I go over 20 hours. IF frees me from my entire day revolving around what I consume and when. People always say to me, I just can’t, I need breakfast. You don't, that's a lie that the breakfast industry sold you. Sure, there are medical conditions that prevent some people from fasting, but your average Joe can train his body to burn its own fat rather than constantly eating. No animal was ever designed to eat three meals a day, modern human society, mainly American’s, created the idea of three meals a day.
Most animals were lucky if they got one meal a day. They relied on their fat stores to get them through food draughts. It's called ketosis, which is the basis of the keto diet, that forces your body into ketosis by denying your body carbs. This is a very over-simplified explanation of both but I am not here to lecture you on science. Once you get into a rhythm with it, you just aren’t hungry. I am not hungry come 4 pm, I am bored and Scarlett is snacking. I want gummy bears too. I can easily go to 6 pm and hit 20 if it weren’t for my child and her gummy bears or my husband eating dinner at 5 pm. You can see why this is a good “diet” for me. I want to have my cake and eat it too.
Most people I know simply skip breakfast. This is my husband and he swears he can’t go any longer. Part of me thinks he needs to push through lunch and it will settle in, however, on his first employee review ever, he was told to keep a granola bar in his desk because he got grumpy when he was hungry so he’s probably never going to skip lunch. 16:8 is skipping breakfast. You fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. For most people this is a maintenance schedule, meaning they don’t gain any weight, but don’t actually lose any.
I have in a past post I voiced concerns over Gin Stephens book, Delay Don’t Deny. I think that it is a good place to start, but she preaches like it’s gospel. Her Facebook group is a cesspit of women who either have had huge success and throw it in your face as if it were gospel or women struggling to make her methods work screaming, asking "why isn’t this working?" Facebook groups in general are cesspits but dieting is so personal that hurt feelings splash across the page. 16:8 is enough for some people. Some can eat anything they want in their window. They can delay and not deny. However, if you struggle the first thing Gin says is cut out carbs and alcohol. Wait how is that not denying and how is that a lifestyle not a diet? Ok not drinking is a lifestyle but not one I am going to get on board with.
After having mixed results with IF two years ago, actually they weren’t mixed, they were just slow as molasses, I went back to WW and then hated myself. Which by the way, Gin told me personally would happen, right after she said just stop drinking and you’ll lose more weight. Duh. My reality is that I am almost 40 and weight loss is hard. People set these goals for themselves that they will be a size 8 by vacation. That’s really setting yourself up for failure unless you are willing to deny, deny, deny, on a traditional diet or IF. I also don’t sleep without medication and that medication makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight and if I do nothing I can easily gain 3 pounds a week. For me 18:6 is maintenance. It stops the meds from taking control of my weight. I need closer to 20:4 to actually lose pounds and inches. I want to stress that the inches are more important than pounds. Don’t let the scale rule your life. What you probably want is to look better in jeans or a bathing suit and not be a specific weight. I still have to exercise at least 3 days a week to make the scale go down. But that’s my body, your body may be different.
IF frees me from the pressure of making calorie based choices, instead I make choices based on quality, overall health, balance of a meal and what I actually want to eat. Doctors and Chris Hemsworth will both tell you that IF has health benefits far beyond weight loss. I have seen the science, it seems solid, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because I can then delay, not deny and maintain weight. I don’t have to think about what I am eating in my window. Calorie counting is a valid way to lose weight. There’s really no question that reducing calories reduces your waistline. But it’s not sustainable for me. I like gummy bears. Does anyone enjoy counting every calorie that goes into your mouth?
Need more of an explanation about IF? You can have water, green or black tea, or black coffee while fasting. That’s it. No cream. No flavor that isn’t bitter. No gum. Why? Calories don’t matter. What matters is that when your brain tastes something sweet, salty, creamy, etc., it says "That was yummy, it's time to make insulin". Pat gets up around 5:30, he feels like he needs a snack around 9. This is when I suggest you switch from coffee to tea. Now comes lunch time, switch to seltzer or flat water. If you’re struggling try to make it a little further every day. 15 mins is doable. Those 15 mins add up. Unless you have a medical condition, everyone can handle 16:8. You probably just don’t want to. The science is clear, when you don’t eat or taste certain flavors, your body burns it’s own fat instead. When you introduce something else, it stops burning that fat.
I know people who have for years thought they were fasting but had milk in their tea or cream if their coffee. That’s not fasting, that's just calorie reduction. You probably can lose weight that way. If you discuss this with your doctor you could get any number of answers. Mine is pro, but my mother’s doctor was still saying you need to eat small meals throughout the day to get your metabolism going. She started fasting anyway and has lost an impressive amount of weight. But what you’ll probably get is what this doctor is saying. I’ll summarize. Fasting is hard for some people so they should try a more traditional diet. Again, duh. Everyone is different.
A big term in the IF world is non scale victories or NSV. This is a huge thing because the scale doesn’t tend to move as much with IF as it does with traditional dieting. IFers see something called the woosh, where they don’t lose weight for a few months while your body becomes fat adapted, and then woosh, you lose 10 lbs or drop two dress sizes. In the meanwhile we look for small victories, like your rings getting loose. Squeezing into pants the next size down. Gin actually recommends having pants you try on regularly to measure your progress. I don’t like this, it leads to disappointment if you do it too frequently and it feels like dieting and not a lifestyle or whatever you want to call it. IF frees me from food and the negativity counting calories creates. I don’t want to trade that in for body image negativity.
I talked about balance in one of my posts about body image. IF makes balance achievable. Not easy, but it can be done. You broke fast and ate pizza all weekend. Fast longer. 24 hours if you can. Some people do 24-36 hours every other day. I applaud them, I can’t. Again, not hunger but boredom. I am also a creature of habit. Switching on and off like that is tricky. But it’s very effective. I can do 22 hours with real willpower. It helps that I am a coffee addict. I am happy to drink coffee all day long. Some people find cold brew easier to drink than hot plain black coffee. Some people are convinced that nitro breaks their fast because it has a creamy texture. Everyone is different. Some people are happy to drink plain water. I loath plain water, but I’ll drink seltzer.
A few weeks ago my neighbor's teenage boy asked me like 7 times in a row, “what do you mean you only eat one meal a day????” In the IF world it’s known as OMAD. Some people eat that one meal in a single sitting and only have a 2 hour window. I eat my meal over 4-6 hours. I usually start with a snack, then eat dinner with my family, have a glass of wine or a cocktail with dessert. It’s spread out but it’s definitely one meal and a snack. I don’t eat lunch and then dinner. On the weekend I sometimes break fast for brunch, which leaves me eating all day long. Insert shoulder shrug emoji.
How do you get started and push through being hungry? Start by skipping breakfast. Next push lunch further out. Eventually you may be able to push lunch away all together. Move the clock by 15 mins at a time/ day. Get an app like Zero or Life to help you keep track of your windows. My biggest advice is change what you’re drinking every time you feel like hunger is taking over. You could just be bored of coffee, or you’ve had so much your body is actually telling you that you need to drink water. Switch up what you’re drinking to solve both problems. Remember, you can have black or green tea (caffeinated or decaf), hot black coffee (light, medium or dark roast), iced coffee and possible nitro, water or plain seltzer. That’s a lot of options. You can do this.
A question I get asked a lot is do I workout fasted and the answer is yes. My body doesn’t care that I haven’t eaten once I am fat adapted. That means my body burns fat rather than me consuming food. If you lift heavy weights or do intense cardio before you’re fat adapted you’ll get dizzy. I get dizzy sometimes but it’s because I haven’t had enough coffee, and that’s caffeine addiction y’all. I was already coffee obsessed before IF but it definitely made it worse. I love having Scarlett at home right now to say, “that’s enough coffee today, have some seltzer.”
But are you losing weight Mandie? Pounds? No but my body changes, very, very slowly. I am hoping for woosh soon, but that’s not really the point. So what’s the point? Well the point is that all that food I put in my mouth prior to IF, I don’t need it. I probably consume 1200-1500 calories a day. Sometimes more, but I choose full fat butter. I choose to eat full fat beef. Occasionally a real Coke. I never touch artificial sugars and low fat anything is usually compensated with more sugar. If you’re going to eat butter, eat real butter. I choose to add those chips to my tortilla soup. I still try to provide my family, and myself, with a healthy meal and no one should consume too many gummy bears, but I don’t have to count calories. I don’t need cereal in the morning or a protein shake every time I work out. This is another outfit I was paid to wear and I'm getting more confident knowing I'm doing the work. Even if my body isn't perfect.
I am freed from having to mess with making a salad or sandwich for lunch everyday and counting those calories or points. But I especially like not having to hard boil eggs 3 times a week and go through 1,000 grapes a week, like on WW. I cook good and healthy meals with real food because it’s good for you and not because you’ll lose weight. Here’s the link to my healthy soup recipes, drinks and meals. You’ll notice there’s usually some cocktail to go with it. I can do that because of fasting.
I also don’t have to weigh myself. Gin says either do it every day and keep a log and average every week...no thanks...or weigh once a month. Once a month I get on a scale and I think about all the gummy bears I ate and then I am pleasantly surprised I’m down a pound. Yes I could be down by three or four but I’d have to quit drinking wine and eating gummy bears. No thanks, I’ll take my pound, my gummy bears, my wine, and my coffee. I’ll keep working out three times a week and trying to push myself to four or five. But I’ll continue to feel empowered by not being a slave to food. But if you quit a month in because you don’t like it, I would challenge you to go a little longer till you can actually see the results.
You don’t have to take my word as gospel, read the resources I have provided. You may want to check out the original source, The Obesity Code by Dr. Fung, though note it’s a little old and some stuff has changed. Actually it hasn’t changed. He freely admits he said you can have a little cream in your coffee, because, like that Harvard review doctor, he was convinced people would quit if they could only have black coffee. They may not believe in your will power, but I do. You can free yourself from food too. Am I promising you the perfect summer bod? Hell no. Am I promising you a better attitude and less guilt about what you eat? Yep.
You can get this workout gear here for 20% off with the code MandiesDiary. Do I look like a model? No. Do I feel empowered to go get it? Yep. You can read more about my struggle with body image on this post and hopefully have some appreciation for how difficult it was to post these pictures. Here is the link to my shoes.