This is my experience with intermittent fasting, not all health trends are black and white. I recommend women, especially those with type A personalities or with a history of disordered eating read this before trying intermittent fasting.
There has been a lot of buzz going around about intermittent fasting lately, it’s no longer just a religious ceremony it seems. Partly from the recent trend of Keto dieting but also from the claimed benefits intermittent fasting has to offer such as:
· Increased energy
· Improved mental clarity and concentration.
· Body fat loss
· Improved fat burning
· Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
· Increased growth hormone for muscles
· Lowered blood cholesterol
Why I wanted to try IF
I was personally interested in trying intermittent fasting because in addition to some of the above benefits there was the rumor about how it helps with jet lag. Plus, I was attracted to the improved mental clarity/concentration, energy and of course, if it revved up my metabolism in the process that would great. I had a long 12-hour travel day coming up for a vacation to Spain and I wanted to test out the jet lag theory myself. I started slowly; I would always eat my breakfast around the same time. To ease into it, I patiently (well not so patiently) wait 30 minutes longer to eat working my way up to another hour or 2. I sip on my black coffee a little slower (or drink extra) to help get through the extra time.
Next, I started to fast on short plane rides (1.5 – 2 hour flights). This was hard for me because I get bored easy. I have always used snacks as a way to get through flights and keep my mind sane. The short flights were super easy at first. But as the flights got more stressful, delayed I would get more irritable. Trying to wait to eat until I landed turned into a race against the clock, every minute we were late was another minute I had to wait to eat. I started getting more frustrated and irritated by everything. The slow person waiting last minute to struggle getting their suitcase out, the elderly women taking her time to move out of my way. All the little things were in the way of my food.
Fast forward to my long overseas flight
Fast forward to my long overseas flight … I failed miserably. I ate the second I got on to my 9-hour flight from Miami to Valencia because I was stressed out and tired and needed that food to help me relax. Oh well right?!
This is when I realized snacks/eating while in the air are worth it for my mental healths sake. I was less stressed and less impatient if I had snacks and a meal on the plane to look forward to and help pass the time. I wasn’t hyper focused on every delayed minute and every passenger taking there time getting to their seat so I could land and eat - so I ditched this form of fasting quickly. I don’t eat a giant meal while flying, but I do allow myself some healthy snacks to occupy my busy mind and that is well worth any jet lag.
How intermittent fasting went for me while at home in my normal routine
Now lets talk intermittent fasting in general because I tried both, during flights and while I was home throughout my week. Most people who do this fast for 16 hours or longer – that’s eating until 7 PM and not having calories again until 11 AM the next day. Some people do a 24 hour fast 1 – 2 x a week (no thanks) and it works for them. I started with the 16 hours. I assumed this would be easy; I go to bed around 8:30 wake up at 5, workout out and get ready to work for a while and eat before noon. Can’t be that hard right? WRONG. I started obsessing over the minutes and hours of the day and usually never made it much past 9 am – if I did make it to 11 AM I would end up eating way too much from 11 – 7 PM. As someone who had a binge eating history, this really brought up triggers inside of me and just felt like I was repeating my past in some sort of weird way (restricting calories all day as long as I could to only shove ALL the food in my mouth later).
I did a little more research and realized why intermittent fasting wasn't right for me and more difficult for women
- I found that women, especially those who are thin and workout in the mornings don’t do well with fasting due to hormone imbalances.
- I also found that those who already have stress & anxiety tendencies, such as myself, are bad candidates for fasting. Intermittent fasting can worsen these symptoms, not only because of the additional coffee most IF dieters intake but also because of the low blood sugar in the body during fasting hours.
- In my research I also started to see several cases where IF triggered anyone with an eating disorder in their past. So if any of these above issues speak to you, you may want to forgo the IF routine.
The positive effects I experienced while trying IF
What I will say about intermittent fasting, I did notice some mental clarity on the days I fasted successfully. Even days when I am overwhelmed with work projects, I will go about 12 hours without eating without even noticing it (going to bed, waking up, working out, coming home drinking coffee and getting to work right away without eating breakfast until 10 am) on the days that this happens naturally, I do feel slightly more focused with a bit more energy however it goes away as soon as I eat and at times there is a thin line I will crash because my blood sugar is low. Confusing right? So I eat when I want to eat ,if I am not thinking about food until 11 am I wait until 11 to eat. If I am hungry right after my workout, I honor my body and feed it.
I just can’t figure out what the big deal is with fasting; to me it isn’t worth it, but I am clearly not a good candidate for it. As with all things, do your research and ask a lot of questions before committing to a big diet overhaul such as IF. And to those of you who can handle IF and enjoy it? A huge high five to you for leaving me more breakfast to eat 🙂