It may not seem like it, but what we all really want is to look good. To be slim yet healthy at the same time, and when we do eat, we want our portions to be at least somewhat normal-sized, because let’s face it – the idea of starving ourselves to be only able to pick up a carrot or an apple afterwards isn't exactly satisfying. This is where IF (intermittent fasting) comes in – the way to go! Still not convinced? Then read on...
The main problem of anyone deciding to adopt a new lifestyle is that it usually never lasts long, because the food portions are either too small or the diet is generally too monotonous.
However, this is where intermittent fasting comes in as a good alternative, allowing you to not go hungry and at the same time – surprise, surprise - lose weight and keep it off as well. And last but not least, to be able to eat enough. Which definitely matters.
Sure, there’s getting used to everything here as well. You’ll have to embrace the feeling of a pretty loud locomotive passing through your stomach for some time, because going 16 hours without eating when you were used to eating all the time before is a bit of a shock. But then – the feeling of being able to eat normally without having to count every single calorie - is absolutely perfect!
As it happens, I was kind of introduced to intermittent fasting - by a friend, who had been eating this way for quite some time. It was at a point in my life when I wasn't feeling quite right, my stomach was hurting often (I was later diagnosed with an egg allergy) and I actually found myself not eating all morning and the first meal I started the day with was lunch.
That's when I unknowingly mentioned to her that I actually feel better and have more energy, if I sort of skip eating before noon. My friend told me that she does the same thing, but she goes by the 16/8 intermittent fasting method, which in practice means that she doesn't eat for 16 hours and allows her body time to recover, and then eats the way she wants for 8 hours, and actually also eats whatever she wants. Of course, some kind of regime is necessary here as well.
Every eating plan has its own rules, and that is - fortunately, or unfortunately – the case here too. So it's not about going 16 hours without eating and then stuffing your face to bursting just because you have "only" eight hours to eat.
Actually, you don't even have to start with the 16/8 option, 14/10 or even 12/12 are also allowed. At least to start with, until you get used to it, because the truth is that not eating all day and then rushing to have your first meal at noon and your last at 8 pm can be quite a challenge at first.
I didn’t mind, though, and I started with the 16/8 option right from the beginning. I can tell you without pulling teeth that I’m sort of a masochist, always picking the harder path, because I feel the easier one won’t get me further in life – not the way I want to.
The advantage was that my stomach got in check a bit more, since I gave it a chance to recover without having to digest food all the time, even though the real reason for my nausea was not overeating, but an undetected food intolerance.
I’m a sucker for rules, a stickler and someone who enjoys polishing things to perfection. I love having a challenge ahead of me, knowing that I have to overcome it in order to "pass". Therefore, having to go 16 hours without as much as touching a bit of food was actually encouraging for me.
The only possible disadvantage I can think of was that my first meal of the day gave me stomach heaviness, although I don’t attribute that to the amount of food eaten, but to the fact that this first meal usually consisted of eggs. If you have some kind of food or nutrient intolerance, your stomach reacts by releasing an excessive amount of histamine, which in turn makes you feel like you just ate half of a pig after eating just one egg.
I felt that I can eat my fill, since by fasting for 16 hours you actually spare a nice amount of calories. In practice, it means that morning without food equals a caloric deficit of skipped breakfast and mid-morning snack.
Of course, you still have to put some thought into this. Having a strict window for eating doesn’t mean you should overeat without control while you still can, thinking about how you’ll have to endure without food until the next window.
However, I had this sorted out right from the start. First, I’m not an overeating type at all – aside from my egg intolerance I also have a gluten allergy, therefore I have to take care to not overwork my stomach. Then again, I’m not even used to eating more than I need to, that’s just how I am.
I call this meal a breakfast even though I eat it at midday. I was used to eating two sunny-side-up eggs, a piece of gluten-free pastry with ham and cheese and something like a piece of a chocolate bar. Nowadays I either eat the pastry with ham and cheese together with vegetables, or I straight up cook a lunch of rice or buckwheat with meat and, again, vegetables – the key meal component for getting enough fibre in your diet.
„Eat breakfast alone, share lunch with a friend and give dinner to your enemy“ really doesn’t apply here at all. If I gave my dinner to the enemy, I’d probably starve to death. After those 16 hours you’re really starving and need to eat well, allowing yourself at least 8 hours to do that.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t exactly say how many meals you should or can eat during those 8 hours. I usually eat two main courses with a small afternoon snack. I go by my feelings and don’t treat this method as a dictate. When I’m hungry, my body will let me know – surprisingly, all I have to do is to pay it a little attention.
For me, the advantage of intermittent fasting is definitely the fact that you can watch your weight better. Because, unless you are a person who constantly overeats, with IF you never eat as much as you would, if you ate from morning to evening. Skipping breakfast and mid-morning snack, already puts you in a certain calorie deficit, and that allows you to actually have a normal-sized portion for lunch and dinner. That works for me just fine. And I know that munchies, cravings and the like don't concern me. Thank God!
Another reason I've taken to this style of eating - yes, it's really not a diet or some orthodox approach - is the fact that I simply want to be healthy and fit. And overloading my body with food is not healthy for me. Not everyone knows it, but we need relatively little to survive.
For me it means giving my stomach and my body in general more time to rest. You don't have to count calories, since you are in a deficit almost every day, and I, for one, have much more energy this way. Some might argue that going a whole morning without food is hard, but you can get used to absolutely anything if you set your mind right.
I don't see any disadvantages, except perhaps the fact that by the end of the fasting interval I'm quite hungry, so if - purely by chance - I'm late, it's noticeable and I feel slightly tired because my body is "running on fumes". But as soon as I eat, my body gets its fuel and I feel absolutely great. Plus, I don't get glycaemic index swings because my blood sugar levels are more balanced, meaning I can do some yoga instead of taking an afternoon nap.
Intermittent fasting has also been rated by Forbes magazine as one of the most popular diets lately, calling it literally "One of the hottest diets of 2020".
"Intermittent fasting is extremely beneficial for weight loss, focus, energy and lowering insulin resistance. Fasting actually helps regulate insulin, a hormone correlated with weight gain and fat storage. Fasting has also been widely used among many cultures for spiritual reasons."
In addition to IF, the top diets of 2020 include the Keto diet, a diet rich in probiotics, a raw food diet, and flexitarianism as a way to achieve your dream weight by limiting your overall caloric intake by eating vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and plant-based proteins.
Whatever your diet, whatever you eat, the important thing is that you feel good, have plenty of energy, your weight fully corresponds with BMI and overall health, and most importantly, that you feel completely comfortable in your own body. Because whatever we think, the body is the only place we really have to live. And that's why we should take enough care of it!