Disclaimer : I write health articles based on my own experience and research. In case you want to start intermittent fasting, kindly speak to your doctor beforehand, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
It's been almost 3 years since I began intermittent fasting, in June, 2018. The last 3 years have been a rollercoaster ride - from starting my weight loss journey to the grief of losing my dad, to the stress and frustration of failing in examinations and finally to succeeding in those examinations.
My weight has fluctuated a lot over this time, but I'm currently only a few kilos heavier than I was at my lightest, in 2018. I am guilty of not having maintained a 100% clean diet like I mentioned in my first weight loss post, but one thing I've been consistent with is intermittent fasting. (Read 'Intermittent Fasting - The Basics.')
I have always advocated about introducing changes to your diet/lifestyle which you will be able to stick to for the rest of your life. If I hadn't stuck to intermittent fasting all these years, and if I instead ate food throughout the day, healthy and unhealthy, I'm sure I would have gained back all the weight I lost in 2018 and even more. (That's why fad diets are so bad - they introduce changes which a person follows only for a short duration of time, which leads to regain of all the weight lost once the person gets back to his/her old lifestyle.)
I've learnt the following lessons and made the following observations during my 3 year Intermittent Fasting journey:
1) Learn to be uncomfortable -
There are days when I'm extremely hungry, and my subconscious mind wants me to eat, but my brain has been trained to know better. You need to train your body to be uncomfortable, and fasting teaches you just that. I always say that it's imperative to listen to your body - if you're hungry then eat, and if not then don't - but that doesn't give you a free pass to eat whenever you feel the slightest bit of hunger. Drink some water, and distract yourself from constantly thinking about food, by either engrossing yourself in work or by exercising.
2) Value sleep -
I've experienced this way too often - whenever I sleep badly, I eat badly. I've noticed that if I get a good 8 to 9 hours of sleep at night, I can fast for more than 24 hours with ease. But when I have a restless sleep of 6 hours or less, I feel hungry after just the 10th or 12th hour of fasting. Prioritize sleep over everything else, it's vital.
3) Do more fasted exercise -
Exercising in the fasted state allows your body to burn off your glycogen reserves, so that it can then access your stored body fat for energy. Way before I started fasting, I wasn't even able to go on a short walk without my blood sugar plummeting. Since the past 3 years, I've only exercised in the fasted state. That just goes to show that if you give your body a chance and treat it with love and respect, it will surprise you. (Read 'My Exercise Schedule.')
4) Give yourself a break -
You don't have to stick to a 100% clean diet, because that usually backfires after a few weeks/months. When I began my weight loss journey, I gave myself a tough time whenever I ate a lot of junk food, either outside or at home. Over the years I have realized how much of a journey weight/fat loss and maintenance really is. So now, whenever I consume a lot of empty calories, I make sure that I either fast more or exercise more the next day, as well as eat healthier meals. This has brought a lot of balance in my life, as I do not obsess anymore about having eaten too much. Make sure that your diet consists of 80% healthy food and 20% indulgences, and you'll enjoy the journey.
5) Make adjustments -
Although I was really rigid with the number of hours I fasted in the beginning (I used to actually stare at the clock waiting for the hour when I could break my fast), over time I've learnt to listen to my body. Like I've mentioned above, there are days when I'm capable of fasting for 24+ hours with ease, and on other days it's a struggle to even fast for 10 hours. Listen to your body, it knows best!
(For example - before Easter Sunday, I did a 38.5 hour fast. And since then, over the past two weeks, I've varied my fasting hours between 22 to 24 hours per day. But there have also been a few days during these two weeks, when I've eaten after just 9 or 10 hours of fasting, because of my weird sleep schedule. In short, don't be too rigid.)
6) Change patterns :
This is similar to the previous point. In the beginning I followed the 16:8 method of fasting, then I shifted to OMAD (one meal a day), then I shifted back to 16:8, and now I don't follow any specific pattern. The different methods are really helpful in the beginning, when you're learning to fast. But in the long run it really doesn't matter, as long as you fast daily and you eat nutritious food during your eating window, following the 80:20 rule.
7) Challenge your body and mind :
I use this approach for healthy eating, fasting and exercise, and it really works.
All our bodies function differently - some adjust to fasting soon, and some don't - but I've realized that it's mostly the mind that you have to convince. If you challenge yourself to fast for 16 hours a day for a week, and you make sure that you don't get distracted by thoughts of self-sabotage, there's a 100% chance that you'll succeed.
I hope that this post has been helpful. It's vital to note that each of us has a different body type, and are on a different journey, so always do what's best for you.
A few tips :
1) Learn to observe your body - what works for you and what doesn't.
2) Keep shaking things up and challenging yourself.
3) Refrain from comparing yourself to others, and instead aim to be the best version of yourself.
Good luck! You got this!
Thank you for reading! Stay blessed!