My happy journey with intermittent fasting
The following article is not medical or nutritional advice, just a recollection of my experience with intermittent fasting.
Usually, I’m not very fond of trending practices related to health. And there are lots of them. Like following a ketogenic diet that promotes eating a lot of protein from livestock, or the complete opposite, following a plant-based diet because of fear of illnesses related to meat.
The first time I heard about intermittent fasting was from my aunt. Her point was that our digestive system is like a machine, one that is working all day long unless we are sleeping, so extending our fasting time allows it to rest and heal. That made sense to me, but when she started telling me that after 16 hours of fasting, our bodies create new stem cells, then I was off that train immediately. Too cuckoo for me.
But some time after that, I saw one chapter from a documentary on Netflix about fasting. I learned that there are facilities where people can go to fast, and they do it for as long as 21 days or longer just by drinking water. That blew my mind. I was almost sure that you would die after a couple of days with no food. But on the contrary, fasting for extended periods of time seemed to help some people, according to the documentary. Of course, they also warned viewers that extreme fasting had presumably caused death to some people.
Anyways, I was intrigued. I also wanted to lose weight, “let’s try it for a week”, I thought. My usual breakfast was dark coffee with cookies, some bread, an arepa, and just occasionally some fruit.
Also, I am more of a night owl than an early bird, so when I wake up I have little time before starting to work. In fact, sometimes I work straight out of bed for a few hours, and just after 10 am, I would prepare a breakfast high on calories and low on nutrients.
While doing my intermittent fasting, I still take some hot beverages during the morning. It can be a hot coffee, black tea, or even some hot cocoa. I remembered my aunt and conceded to her that there is some logic in starting your digestive system gently only with liquids.
Although my initial goal was weight loss, intermittent fasting provided me with unexpected advantages. For instance, I did not need to think about putting together a breakfast, like what kind of bread and pastry goes well with my drink, if I should put butter or cheese on the arepa, if maybe that day I should have a more healthy breakfast with fruit and eggs, etc. Lately, I have identified that my body doesn’t get along with wheat, but unfortunately I love bread and pastry; as a consequence, I used to get bloated and my brain went foggy after breakfast, but not anymore. Now, I save time and I am more efficient during the mornings.
I think these benefits will not be the same for everyone, but for me, the improvements did not stop there. I usually ate breakfast around mid-morning; therefore, I was not hungry until 2 or 3 pm, but now I feel very hungry at noon. Taking lunch at this hour gives me a lot of options here in my country because there are places that offer a daily menu from 12 to 2 pm. These daily menus usually are well-balanced meals. They include soup, beef, pork or chicken, rice, greens or vegetables, and fruit juice.
Another point is that asking for delivery around 11:30 am helps me to avoid rush hour, so I get my delivery faster. Not only that, but I also enjoy my lunches more because I am hungry and I have the time to eat them and savor them during my lunch hour, instead of ingesting my breakfast while looking at the screen of my computer.
Now, let’s talk about weight control. Lots of people have recommended that I stop eating at night, or at least just have a very light meal. That has proven to be extremely difficult for me. For starters, dining is a social convention, and when you meet up with friends after work, not all the restaurants have a good low-calorie alternative, or maybe that day you are not in the mood to eat a salad while everyone else eats burgers.
On certain nights, I find falling asleep difficult and the last thing I want in those cases is to feel that hunger is not helping. On the other hand, skipping breakfast is very easy for me because I know I will have a delicious and nutritious lunch a couple of hours later, so the required effort is manageable.
After taking lunch, I just ate normally, not too much, but also not restraining myself from traits like sweets or cookies or anything that I might crave. Of course with moderation. After the first month of doing this, I lost 5 pounds. In the second month, I lost just 3 pounds. And in the third month, I maintained my body weight.
I think what happened in the third month is that I indulged myself too much in sweets and pastry after lunch, but the way I see this is that skipping breakfast is something natural and sustainable for my body, because I would not like to keep losing weight indefinitely. So, if that is the goal, one needs to accompany intermittent fasting with a low-calorie diet and exercise.
Losing 8 pounds in three months may not seem like a big deal, but I am thrilled with the results. I feel I am in control of my weight in a sustainable way finally, and not with hard-to-follow diets, over-exercising, or giving up on food that I love. I just do a minor effort in the mornings and then I can eat without worrying much for the rest of the day.
What about that famous phrase about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? Well, there are reports it was part of some advertisement by Kellogg's company. Of course, if your breakfast has fruit, fiber, and protein, giving it up can affect the nutrients you’re getting, but in my case, I was just getting empty calories. So skipping breakfast is how I start a great day nowadays.