I have been fasting intermittently since September 2018. When I started, I was just curious because the people around me kept raving about it. One experienced significant weight loss, which appeals to me since I am pushing 40. I am an aging metabolic wreck always struggling to keep my weight down. So when my doctor, who is a functional medicine practitioner, gave me the green light, I gave it a shot.
I realized right away that intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. It is a practice. Popular diets impose food restrictions. No meat, no starch, no sugar, and so on. They are usually costly, and even the effective ones do not guarantee that the successful dieter can keep the weight off permanently. IF, on the other hand, does not prohibit you from certain types of food, unless of course, you have allergies. But it should not mean the license to eat junk either, which defeats the purpose of any health-related endeavor. What IF promotes is the daily habit of eating normal fare but only during a specific period and sticking to that schedule.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is a practice.
The challenge of staying healthy stems from my passion for food. I talk about eating while eating. I watch food shows on the rare occasion that I watch TV. I curate travel plans based on hole-in-the-walls and top restaurants I have read about. Naturally, at some point, the jeans no longer fit. So I needed a health hack that would allow me to rein in the belly expansion without denying myself the euphoria of eating lavishly.
I started with a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour feeding period, which is from 1 PM to 9 PM. That window is ideal for people who dine out after work. I do not have a meal or a snack after that. Lately, I have been fasting for 18 hours and eat from 11:30 AM to 5:30 PM. I only eat 2 hearty meals a day, though the second meal is usually lighter than lunch.
This is not easy at the onset of a habit-forming health ritual. The hunger pangs I experienced during my first week, as I was training my body to adjust, were tough to ignore. But I coped by drinking water, coffee or tea, which is permitted, together with other non-caloric beverages, during the fasting period.
If the temptation to eat while fasting is strong, remind yourself about our hunter/gatherer ancestors. They would walk, forage and hunt for days without finding wild game to feed their families, and they survived.
Once you get past the first two weeks, you should be well on your way. I was, and have been fasting for more than a year and keeping my weight at a level that is reasonable enough for me.
I knew I adapted well to IF when I embarked on a six-week vagabonding adventure in North America. I was so excited to eat New England lobsters again and try the French fare in Quebec, that I had no plans whatsoever to control my food intake. But I had gotten so accustomed to my 18-hour fasting ritual that I did IF while on vacation. It worked. When I came back home to Manila, I gained a mere two pounds after eating all the bacon fat, burgers and brown butter ice cream I could find. Surely all the walking helped, but I still ate ferociously. It was a nice surprise.
I will not dwell on the health benefits of IF since I am not the authority on the subject. I do know this practice is not for everyone, but what could convince more people to give it a try is its ability to make life more CONVENIENT.
By skipping breakfast, IF has massively increased my productivity. I do my best writing in the morning when I achieve flow state while everyone else is still asleep or barely awake. By not having to prepare, eat and clean up after “the most important meal of the day,” I get to write in deep thought. The mind cannot be bothered, not even by an impulse to eat, especially if there is a freshly brewed cup of coffee within reach.
IF conserves time. Let’s estimate the total time for breakfast at 20 minutes per day.
20 minutes x 30 days = 600 minutes or 10 hours in a month. If you multiply that by 12 you get 120 hours a year. That is a LOT of time one can spend alternatively on art and hobbies.
Let’s say you are not the art or hobby type and just absolutely adores work. You still save the same 120 hours a year you could now spend on more productive work.
IF is a money saver. By eating only two full meals a day, most of which I make myself, I save money I would have spent on a third meal.
Let’s peg the meal at a conservative $8/day.
$8 x 30 days = $240 x 12 months = $2,880
That is annual savings on food equivalent to a month’s rent in a decent neighborhood.
There will be times when holding off temptation is impossible. I have succumbed frequently, but the trick is to give in, then get back in the groove right away. Once you’ve reached the flat pitch of fasting, it will be automatic. The Zero App gamifies the fasting commitment, and it has helped me stay on track.
Best of all, I feel great. The results of my annual blood work confirm this. I also have developed self-discipline and am only eating good food worth savoring. My life has been simplified. Curiosity did not kill the cat. It made me a much better person.
IF is worth considering, but before you dive in, please seek the advice of your doctor.