Thursday, April 10, 2014

3 Ways Intermittent Fasting (IF) Taught Me to Eat

If you remember back to this post, I started my weight loss 'journey' at 215. While I'm not yet at the 170 goal I set for myself to reach by September, I'm already 20 lbs lighter, 20 lbs closer. Here I'll explain how I did this without any significant change in activity level.

FASTING!? Yep. And its something everyone does, to one degree or another. When you sleep in and wake for lunch, when you run out of the house without breakfast. When you are asleep. While fasting can sound scary, but done the right way it can work wonderfully.

Understand that IF is a very broad, and from this point on, I'm talking about how I customized it to fit my current needs. I use probably the tamest version of this plan, but there are many many versions. I do not support them all, or will cover them. I'm only reporting on what I've used IF for.

IF taught me when to eat.
By sticking to the '3 times a day' meal schedule that most people follow, I was always trying to keep full, but failing. And I'd overate even when trying to diet. I couldn't tell the difference between hungry and full, which was a big problem.
First, understand that losing weight requires calorie restriction. Fasting, intermittent or not, does not necessarily restrict calories or make you loose weight. It's a tool to relearn your body, and what is need for fuel.
We are taught that we should eat at set times, and several times a day. I ate more than my body really required, which resulted in weight gain. In retrospect, it felt like I was conditioned to stop paying attention to my body's signals and to look at a clock instead.

I found that my schedule is not conducive to 3 meals (or 5-6 small meals) a day. Many people can eat like this (many do!) but I am not one of them.

6am-9am- Work from home.
I then have a few hours off. Errands or nap.
12:30pm- Leave for work
2pm- Arrive at work
7pm- Leave to go home
8:30pm- Get home (if they trains run well)
11pm to 12:30pm- Bed at some point.

Trying to eat 3 set meals on that schedule made me feel like I was starving myself. I had just enough time between breakfast (7am) lunch (12pm) and dinner (9pm) to feel like I was totally dying. And, of course, I was trying to loose weight so imagine that those meals are incredibly healthy and unsatisfying.

When I tried to stick to that schedule, I found myself eating and then eating and then eating. And then getting cake. And then feeling bad and vowing to do better the next day.

In 2012, when I had initially heard about IF, I was definitely intrigued. While it seemed like a legit way to loose weight, I did if for the wrong reasons. I wanted a cure-all, end-all weight loss solution.

The first week I lost 5 lbs. I was thrilled. And then it stopped and I went back to my norm of eating 3 meals a day. And then the weight came back. I had learned nothing, and never used IF the way it was supposed to be used. I didn't understand why IF worked for all those people I had read about. I would eat whatever I wanted (same old junk) and just assumed that I would just drop some pounds. Nope. I read all the literature, but just wanted to get the benefits without doing 'eating well' portion of the plan.

The scale started to drop. A pound a week. Or so. 3 pounds lost in the entire month of February. 3 pounds in March. Nothing remarkable, but just enough to keep me going.

It taught me what to eat.
During February and March I was still sneaking bad food into my diet though, and once I started truly eating healthier, the weight started coming off. This is a somewhat recent thing. In this past week, I've lost three pounds. I lost three pounds in all of February (and again in March) having eating poorly. Having healthy food on my plate has helped significantly.

When I determined that I really did need to lose weight, I re-examined why I failed the first time.

I read about IF, a lot (scroll down for links). And this time around, I only used IF to 'learn what it felt like to be hungry'. If at any time I thought it wasn't working for me, I would adjust it. And find a way. Because there had to be a way to shed the weight I had been putting on over the years.

I wanted to understand why I, like most Americans, feel like I should put dictate my stomach by a clock. And while it works well for so many, why wasn't it working for me? It took a week for me to relearn what hungry felt like, and I was not a happy person for that week. But after a week, I did not feel hungry like I used to. The smell of someone's bacon-y BLT in the breakroom doesn't send me into fits. And, dare I say, I felt energized.

And, I now eat in the morning. If I'm hungry, I'll eat an apple for breakfast, or a hard boiled egg. Yesterday I munched on some raisins. Now that I've learned how

Funny thing is, around 4pm my coworkers say they 'want something sweet', and then usually head out and grab some type of treat from the convenience store. They ate at noon, and already are getting signals that their stomach are loosing volume. We don't need to keep ourselves thoroughly full. Like exercise, we should have our body stretch and learn what it can do and how it feels.

It taught me how to eat. 
Intermittent fasting has taught me what my cravings meant. If I did happen to stick to a lower calorie diet but ate 3 meals, I would slip up and eat sugar. Mmmmm sugar, I love you so much. But now, when my stomach is on empty and I decide it's time to eat, eggs are satisfying. Almonds are a treat, and that apple tastes like apple pie.

Intermittent fasting is simply changing the times you eat so that they work for your body versus against it. We were designed with our fat stores and the ability to go long (longer than a few extra hours) periods of time without dinner. Our ancestors didn't have a set dinnertime. They were forced to eat when food became available.

At this point, I sincerely believe that eating meals together started as a social activity, and with the increased availability of food we mutated it into something that fit overly scheduled lives, in an effort to streamline things. Humans. We love to make everything easier. It just seems easier for everyone eat at the same times of the day. But no person is the same (shocking, I know) and no person has the same dietary needs.

There are the naysayers, of course. This is America, the Internet, people around you. People feel like if you're doing something different (and it's working) then you must be pointing fingers at their shortcomings. Or their lack of initiative. Or, just doing something different. How dare we?

Well, here I am. Saying that I did find that IF works (when used correctly). I am not saying that it will always work and will work for everyone. Use common sense.

Common Sense Disclaimer:
This shouldn't replace any medical decisions you and your doctor may come to, so please just take this blurb as my way of saying "don't take medical advice from me". It's sad how we have to give disclaimers all the time, right?

Also, I do count calories. Using My Fitness Pal has taught me about what makes up the food I eat. Being more aware and making better choices are the two things that have helped me get down 20 pounds in just over 2 months.

I learned how to tell the difference between real hunger and emotional/boredom/fixated hunger. Maybe that's what is most important here.

AGAIN... before you click a link below and see something I didn't mention above...
IF is a very broad, and from this point on, I'm talking about how I customized it to fit my current needs. Which are always changing. So maybe I'll revisit this subject, if things change again in the future.

Have you hear about Intermittent Fasting?
If so, have you tried it, and how have you tweaked it for you?

The Links

This post was brought to you by the A-Z Challenge, and the letter:


  1. This looks great and continued best wishes in your efforts, Farin. My grandmother used to have a saying, "there's only one way to lose weight and that's to stop eating." it is so true, many times people eat way more than they need, and too frequently. I know some overweight people who really believe they will starve if they miss a meal. And, most folks don't realize that every food consumed does not have to be a big meal. Many people in history ate together not only as a social means, but also because hearty meals were only served at specific times of the day- ranchers, farmers, and then of course, in Spain, small dishes are consumed throughout the day and into the late evening.

    1. I'm loving your insight here! Seems like every time you stop by to comment, I learn something new about food. Hearty is my new word, what a good way to say it. Now, when I explain that I ate lunch already, I can say that my hearty meal is dinner, when I am most hungry anyways. Thanks!

  2. My father started doing this about a year ago, and he swears by it. I've been trying it myself since about August. It's different, but in a good way.

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

    1. Sometimes it's the things that are different that surprise you with how well they work!

  3. Hmm, I've never heard of Intermittent Fasting before. I love how much there is to learn from reading new blogs! Good for you and all your hard work Farin :)

    1. Thanks! It's interesting to think that something so basic as eating when hungry is so widely disputed.


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