Getting comfortable with intermittent fasting (shortened to IF) is definitely not easy. It requires a lot of discipline, particularly in the first week, when you need to restructure your eating habits and learn how to push your first meal a little later.
In all honesty, it took me about a month to get over my cravings and hangriness. For some people, skipping breakfast is an easy task (my mom does it), but for others it’s something slightly terrifying. Once you’ve gotten over the first hump and have realised that you actually won’t die of starvation (dramatic but one of my fears), it’s all smooth sailing.
My focus now is to hit 18 hours a day, so only eat within a 6 hour period with zero snacks. I’m getting there.
I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, and use them daily to keep my eyes on the prize.
So without further ado, I give you my fasting tips.
Zero – Fasting Tracker App
The app allows you to fast through a number of different methods: circadian, where you eat as close to sunset as possible, the 16-hour intermittent fast which I do, or a custom fast. My girlfriend has been maintaining a 20-hour fast for over a year now and has lost a little more than 11kg (between 25 – 30 lbs) since starting.
It’s named after the amount of food you eat while fasting (smart one, guys), and it helps me keep on track with my daily fasts. After my last meal of the day, usually around 6:30 or 7pm, I hit the “Start Fasting” button and start a countdown for 16 hours. Once I hit 16 hours the following day, I get a notification, and I can have my first meal.
I like using the app because it has a countdown timer showing me when I can eat. It takes away the emotional aspect of my hunger, helps me stay motivated. Very often I’ll continue fasting after the 16-hours with no issues at all, and it’s very satisfying to track the data over time. You can also export the data as a spreadsheet to track long-term patterns.
The app is free for iOS. Try Vora if you have an Android.
With a barren ingredient list and an immaculately clean list of nutrition facts, sparkling or fizzy water as I like to call it, is one of my favourite things to keep full while fasting.
Zero calories, zero sugar, zero sodium, zero carbs, zero grams of fat. It’s simply carbonated water with a natural flavour, and the bubbles in the drink give me an extra bit of energy and keep me feeling fuller for longer. I’ve found that since beginning IF and keto, I drink much much more water than before, and I probably put away about 3.5 litres a day. Some of my favourite brands are LaCroix, Refreshe, Trader Joe’s Sparkling Water and Kroger Seltzer Water.
TIP: To keep it cheap, stick to the local brands in your neighbourhood supermarket. Kroger and Safeways’s brands are the cheapest I’ve found so far.
Stay busy & Stay Active
It sounds easy, but when your mind is on food and the rumble in your tummy, it can be a little tough. I’ve started doing a morning hike around 7am, which I do over about 2.5 hours. Blogging also keeps my mind distracted, as does reading. Some people suggest meditation which is an all-round amazing tool for optimal mental clarity, but I haven’t gotten into that one yet.
I think the main issue I had in the beginning was my tendency to stick to a routine. I would have a big breakfast each morning with an iced latte, followed by a snack before lunch. I enjoyed waking up to the thought of “What’s for breakfast today?”, and it was a very pleasant part of my day. The idea of completely scrapping that in favour of eating after midday and only eating two meals scared me.
I worried how I would fill that time and what I would do with myself once the hunger kicked in. After a few weeks of successfully hitting a 16-hour fast, I realised that I can totally do it and that I don’t need to be a slave to old routines and unnecessary hunger.
Plan your meals
It sounds a little counterintuitive but it’s extremely satisfying. While you’re in the midst of your fast, go grocery shopping. I’m following a ketogenic eating plan at the moment, so I love browsing the supermarket for goodies that are keto-friendly. I plan my lunch, which is always high in fat, moderate in protein and very low in carbs. I put more attention into my diet, because I only want to eat nutrient rich, whole foods that are going to benefit my body. No more quick takeouts, sneaky stops at the bagel shop or impulsive chocolate bars anymore. Planning meals means put more effort into what you are eating, and I firmly believe that only good can come from that.
[I’m posting about my Trader Joe’s Keto Haul soon]
Spend more time on yourself
Now that you need to spend less time thinking about food, prepping food, eating it and cleaning up after yourself, you’ll find yourself with a whole lot of extra time.
I’m a massive fan of treating myself, with some of my favourite things being hiking, visiting museums and window shopping. Having quality me-time doesn’t need to cost a cent, and you may discover that you have a few new untapped hobbies or talents.
The moral of the story is that intermittent fasting is totally possible and not as difficult as it initially appears. Download an app to keep track of your time, plans nutritious meals for later in the day and spend time doing things you enjoy.
It’s that simple.