Intermittent Fasting as a College Student

Last year, I was getting frustrated with confidence and my self-image, so I decided to try something new: intermittent fasting. I had heard of it a lot, but never totally knew what it was. I know that it’s somewhat controversial, and people are very opinionated about whether or not it’s healthy/beneficial. For some reason though, the majority of information that the internet has on IF is written by an adult, or at least someone with a very routine life. So, in my experience, intermittent fasting which I love is very difficult to do in college.

First, let me give you a quick explanation of what intermittent fasting actually is. It’s a method of scheduled eating that is meant to promote weight-loss, increase energy levels, lower cholesterol levels, and protect against type 2 diabetes (among other things). The biggest reason I did it was for weight loss and overall to feel better and healthier in my body. In the past, I had tried countless diets, I even tried cutting out dairy, sugar, and gluten all at the same time for a few months which was not fun. Ultimately, I realized that I don’t do well with constricting what I eat, and I don’t like categorizing any foods as “off-limits”; life is too short for that! That’s the reason I absolutely love intermittent fasting, and have been able to do it so consistently without feeling constricted at all. There are a few different kinds of intermittent fasting schedules but the most common one is the 16:8. This means that for 16 hours of the day, you are in a fasting state, and you have an 8 hour window in which you can eat whatever foods you want. I started out with this method and slowly transitioned to 18:6 as I got more used to it. During the summer, I would usually work 11am-6pm or most often 11am-2am (yes, I’m a crackhead and had 2 jobs in the same day). My typical eating schedule would mean I would start eating at around 12:30 or 1pm, and start fasting at 8:30 or 9pm. This was very manageable, especially because I was always busy so I didn’t really have time to sit around and be hungry. Issues would occasionally arise, like when I went out for my best friend’s birthday and we had dinner at 9 and stopped eating at around 10:30pm. While I was so happy to celebrate with her, it was hard that I had to stress about not being able to eat until 2:30pm the next day, while working the whole time. This happened a few times throughout the summer, and it wasn’t the best, but it was definitely manageable, especially because it was very infrequent that I would need to change my schedule so much. 

When I got back to school in late August, I had been on a consistent 90-something day streak of intermittent fasting, and I felt so good and energized and had gotten so used to my schedule. However, as we all know, people go out quite a bit during syllabus week because you barely have any homework, and it’s exciting to be back on campus. The issue is, that when you go out, the pre games don’t usually start until 10:30, which means you’re drinking until at least 11:15. If you decide to drink at the actual function, you can end up drinking well until 1:30am. And then, of course, there’s the drunk snacking and pizza-ordering. The first time I went out that semester, I had to make a few rules to stick to in order to continue my progress and not ruin everything I had achieved over the summer. I decided I would only drink at pre games; no use drinking at the event (this is also great for any safety concerns as well). I would also not eat anything afterwards, as this would be a complete waste of my scheduled fasting, and would ruin the entire next day. 

The first time I went out was a Thursday night, and ended up starting my timer at 11:20pm. This meant that I would not be able to eat until 3:20pm the next day. The biggest problem there is that I had a 9am on Friday (it was only art, don’t worry), so I couldn't even sleep through half my fast. It was definitely a struggle, and I was exhausted by 3, but it made me come up with another rule: don’t go out if it won’t be worth it. What I mean by this is that I would stop going to Mag’s because I never have fun there anyway, and I wouldn’t force myself to go out if I didn’t think I would have a good time because the impact on my schedule is too big to waste on a semi-fun night out. 

The reason I’m writing this is to help anyone who is thinking of starting IF, but has no idea where to begin or how to manage it with classes, work, and social events. While it is definitely not an easy thing to do, it is so rewarding to be diligent and maintain a schedule throughout whatever phase of your life you’re in. If you’ve tried diets and they don’t seem to work, or if you simply just need more self-control, I would recommend trying intermittent fasting for at least two weeks, and see how you feel!