I Tried Intermittent Fasting for a Month. Should You?

For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, intermittent fasting (I.F.) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Many people choose to adopt this pattern of eating to lose weight or improve their overall health. Therefore, my mother and I decided to try one month of intermittent fasting. Intermittent Fasting appealed to me because it wasn’t about what it was you were eating but more about when you were eating. There are a variety of I.F. methods such as fasting for one or two days a week or the more common 16/8 method in which you fast for 16 hours and eat within an eight-hour time frame. This is the method we decided to follow during our month of fasting. We would break our fasts at 12:00 in the afternoon and then start fasting again at 8:00 p.m. 

Before I go into the specifics of my experience with Intermittent Fasting, I am not a doctor and not telling you what you should or should not be doing regarding your eating habits. I am simply sharing my experience and want to provide insight for those who might be considering adopting this lifestyle for themselves.

Concerns before starting…

Should I be pursuing a strict eating regiment with a history of an eating disorder? 

My initial answer to this question was NO. Don’t do it because I was worried about developing restrictive eating habits again such as time control or eating in a caloric deficit. My mom told me to just remember the reason why I was doing intermittent fasting, which wasn’t to lose weight, but to improve my digestive health and that advice really helped. 

Will I be able to wait 3+ hours before I eat?

The hardest part of I.F. was definitely waiting until I could break my fast at 12:00. Sometimes I would wake up at 8:00 am or earlier and have to wait 4+ hours before I ate anything. Another concern was that I liked to workout in the morning but if I wasn’t able to have a post-workout recovery snack or protein drink, should I even do it? However, overtime my body adjusted to the change and waiting to break my fast got easier everyday. 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Should I skip it?

Personally, what was more important for me was the food with which I was going to break my fast, not so much when. In this case, the benefits of I.F. trumped the fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I saw it as giving my digestive system a break and reducing bloating early in the morning when I didn’t eat first thing in the morning.  

Will I reach my daily calorie requirement?

I have to preface this by saying I don’t track my calories and so I couldn’t really tell you whether or not I was reaching the daily recommended intake of 2,000 calories or not. My main concern was that because I was working out so frequently that I wouldn’t be properly fueling my body. On a normal day I would eat every 3-4 hours but when I started fasting, I would only eat two meals and maybe a snack within the 8-hour time frame. I structured most of my days by eating a meal at 12 to break my fast, maybe a bowl of fruit right after, a snack around 3:30-4, maybe another small snack before dinner, and then dinner at 7:30. I also made sure to drink a protein shake everyday even if I didn’t workout just for the extra calories.

My overall experience…

No preparation is necessary.

Most people before they start a new diet or lifestyle will build themselves up or take it slow in the beginning to get properly adjusted. However, my mother and I did not do this. Instead, we decided to jump right in on day one. It definitely did not make things easier but it wasn’t terrible either. If you decide to try intermittent fasting, I highly recommend trying it a few days a week to see how it goes and then go up from there. 

It will get worse before it gets better. 

The main reason why I decided to try intermittent fasting was to see if it would help my stomach and digestive system. I have had a lot of issues in the past with bloating and other similar symptoms, but my body did take the same time to adjust before I noticed anything change. Nothing happened the first week besides feeling hungry in the morning, but during week 2 was when I felt like my stomach issues had gotten worse. It made me think I.F. wasn’t for me and I wanted to stop, but my mom reassured me that it was my body adjusting to the new lifestyle and I had to give it time. I am glad I toughed it out and took her advice because by week 3, I had noticed how my stomach felt a lot more settled after meals and I wasn’t as bloated at night. 

Be flexible and don’t be so hard on yourself if you mess up.

During our last week of fasting, my mom and I decided to take a trip to the Netherlands before I went back to school. However, we knew we might have a hard time with skipping breakfast especially since it was included with the B&B and we would be out all day on bikes so we needed the fuel. We compromised and told ourselves we still would stop eating at 8:00 pm but we would let ourselves enjoy our week away and not feel guilty about it. 

Hold yourself accountable.

My mom has always been my biggest supporter for anything I did so it was wonderful having her partake in I.F. alongside me. We were each other's cheerleaders to get ourselves through mornings when we wanted to break our fasts early or got the midnight munchies when our fast had started again. That is probably one of my biggest pieces of advice if you decide to do intermittent fasting—tell someone about it who will keep you on track and motivated or get someone to do it with you. It’ll help you stick it through and reach your goals!

Figure out which fasting time frame works best for your lifestyle.

Like I mentioned before, there are a variety of different intermittent fasting styles out there. All you need to do is figure out which one works the best for you and your lifestyle. I stuck to the 16/8 method but adjusted the time at which I would break my fast. Due to my workout routine and internship schedule, sometimes I would break my fast an hour earlier instead of at 12. Everyone lives very different lifestyles, therefore, one method doesn’t work for everyone. Adjust it as you see fit and works the best for you!

Now, you’re probably wondering, did it work? Was it worth it? My answer is: Yes (kind of)! Some of the notable benefits I did experience were improved digestion, being more in tune with my hunger cues, I wasn’t constantly hungry or thinking about food, I didn’t go to bed hungry, and it suppressed my urge to snack throughout the day. I would highly recommend you try this lifestyle if you are looking to get more in tune with your hunger cues or control your snacking habits, but I do believe living by this regiment should only be a temporary thing. It was very beneficial to do for a month and I feel like I could’ve done it for longer, but I believe I got out of it what I needed and just felt like eating breakfast again. My main concern was that I would start losing weight too quickly so I decided to revert to my normal routine, but if that is your goal, then I would first go and talk to your doctor to figure out if I.F. is something for you!