Let me start by saying that my favorite meal of the day is breakfast. It energizes me in the morning and gets me ready for the day ahead.
Even when I’ve finished breakfast, I’m looking forward to lunch. I love eating.
However, recently my pot belly was getting a little out of control and I needed to do something about it.
I’m not one to diet, so I decided to try what keeps Terry Crews in top shape: Intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting before. Several research studies have found significant benefits to it.
According to Health Line, these benefits include: lower insulin levels, weight loss, lower risk of diabetes, lower oxidative stress and inflammation, improved heart health, increased growth of new neurons in the brain, and it may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m no scientist but those benefits sound almost too good to be true!
So, how do you practice intermittent fasting?
The most popular way is to not eat for 12 to 18 hours a day each day. This means you could have your last meal at 7 pm and your first meal at 12 pm. From 12 pm to 7 pm, you’re allowed to eat as much as you like. This is the technique I chose.
Other methods include going one or two days without eating 2 times a week.
Here’s what happened when I tried intermittent fasting for a month
1) It was tough to get into the rhythm of eating so late, but after a week you should be accustomed to it.
I’m not going to lie, I struggled the first few days. I love working early in the morning, but by the time it got close to 10 am, I was feeling so hungry it was distracting me.
My energy was completely zapped.
That being said, it was a euphoric experience when it hit 12 PM and I was finally able to eat.
But after a few days to a week, I became accustomed to it and it was much easier.
In fact, as I didn’t need to think about eating, my mind was clear and I just focused on working.
The morning coffee hit me really hard because I had no food in my system.
So, if you’re going to try intermittent fasting, it might be better to slowly wean yourself onto it. For example, for the first day, you could eat at 9 am, the second day at 10 am, the third day at 11 am etc…
2) My stomach felt less bloated and I lost weight.
Because the time period I could eat was shorter than usual, I wasn’t eating anywhere near as much as I used to.
This was one of the main advantages of intermittent fasting. Through eating less I started to lose weight and felt less bloated in my stomach.
The fact that I used to feel bloated suggests I had a tendency to overeat. So, this was a welcome change.
How much weight did I lose in a month?
3 Kgs. Yep, I was quite stoked indeed.
3) My gym sessions became more intense.
I started to really hit the gym hard during this time period because of 2 reasons.
- For an hour the only thing I had to do was the gym. I didn’t have to worry about breakfast. My mindset was literally: one hour of the gym and there’s no way out!
- Undertaking intermittent fasting meant that I was concerned with my health. I knew that exercise was good for me so I pushed myself harder than I usually do. The good news is I didn’t notice any ill effect from doing the gym on an empty stomach. In fact, running was slightly easier because I usually felt lighter.
4) My muscle mass decreased.
To be clear: This is what I “felt”.
I just felt skinnier as I was eating less and when I looked at myself in the mirror, my muscles looked smaller. Perhaps that was simply because I lost weight.
5) I was still able to eat dinner with other people.
You might think that intermittent fasting would affect your social life because you wouldn’t be able to eat later than 7 pm. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
To avoid this, I made sure that I didn’t eat for an 18-hour stretch each day. So if I had a meal at 9 pm, the next day I could eat at 2 pm the next day.
That means that you can enjoy eating out with other people at any time.
6) My immune system is fine.
There’s research that suggests intermittent fasting improves your immune system.
I didn’t get sick during this time period so that’s a plus. I can’t tell whether my immune system has improved. I’ll have to update this article in 6 months time when I can really know for sure.
(6-month update: I’ve continued to do intermittent fasting and I haven’t got sick once, yet… Obviously, this isn’t a scientific way to work out if intermittent fasting improves your immune system. It’s very subjective. However, I used to get frequent sniffles in my nose as well and they have become less frequent. Keep in mind that this could also be due to the fact that I’ve been working out pretty hard in the morning with aerobic and strength training)
7) I’ve enjoyed having an eating routine. It helped structure my life.
I’ve never really had an eating routine. I used to just eat when I felt like that. So intermittent fasting was great because it introduced some structure in my life.
I knew that when I woke up I would do the gym for an hour, then I would focus on work for a few hours, and after that, I could finally eat.
I felt like this structure has made me much more productive.
(To dive deep into wisdom and techniques to help you live a better life, check out Hack Spirit’s no-nonsense guide to taking responsibility for your life here)
The preconceived myths you need to dismantle before trying intermittent fasting
1) Your metabolic rate will slow down.
Some people think that because you’re not constantly snacking, your metabolic rate will slow down and you’ll eventually gain weight.
The truth is, not eating for a few more hours than usual will NOT change your metabolic rate. In fact, as I said above, I lost weight during this month of intermittent fasting.
2) You’ll automatically lose weight when you do intermittent fasting.
Just because I lost weight doesn’t mean that you will too. What helped me was that my eating time was limited, so I ended up eating less.
However, some people might eat more during that small time period. It really depends on your total calorie intake.
3) You can eat as much as you want when you stop your fast.
You’ve still got to be careful about what you eat, just like you would when you’re not doing intermittent fasting. If you eat badly in your eating time, then intermittent fasting might not be great for you.
4) Hunger pains are bad for you.
Actually, you don’t have to worry about hunger pains because they won’t do you any harm according to research.
5) You shouldn’t exercise on an empty stomach.
Exercising on an empty stomach is fine, according to experts.
In fact, it might even come with significant health benefits. I felt lighter when I was running in the morning without food and my energy levels were fine.
Research has also suggested that running in the morning is good for your brain.
6) You don’t enjoy your meals as much because you want to eat fast.
Quite the opposite for me. I enjoyed my meals a lot more because I knew it would be a long time before I eat again. I ate more mindfully.
7) You’ll become extremely fit from intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting alone won’t cause you to become fit. You’ll need to exercise as well.
My potbelly is still big, but that’s okay
The end result was pretty great. I ended up losing 3 kgs in just one month. Unfortunately, my pot belly still exists. Perhaps I need to stop drinking beer!
(6-month update: I’ve now lost 7 kgs after 6 months! That pesky pot belly is slowly decreasing!)
But I do feel more focused and energized throughout the day, so I think I’ll keep it going. Not having to worry about what to eat in the morning is a huge plus and my life is more balanced.
If you want to be inspired to try intermittent fasting, check out this video of Terry Crews explaining how he goes about it. It inspired me to give it a try and I hope it can do the same for you. After this video, we’ll go over what the science says about intermittent fasting.
[Not only does Buddhism provide a spiritual outlet for many people, it can also improve your health and wellbeing. Check out my new no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism for a better life here].
Intermittent fasting: What the science says
Intermittent fasting has many benefits but they are often lost on people who only focus on the weight loss aspect.
And yes, it can help you lose weight, but intermittent fasting is about resetting the way you consume food and provide your body with the downtime it needs.
Here are some of the many scientific health benefits of intermittent fasting that you might not know about.
1) Fasting can change the way your body produces cells and releases hormones
When you don’t consume food every hour of the day, your body needs to find reserves of energy – such as fat – to breakdown and process.
In its simplest terms, what you are doing is reprogramming your body to rely on itself to continue to function at a high level, even if just for a little while.
We’ve forgotten that our bodies don’t need to consume calories every day, as long as we have ample supplies of water.
Research has found the following changes can occur when the body undergoes fasting:
1) This study found that fasting causes blood insulin levels to drop, facilitating fat burning.
2) The blood levels of growth hormone may increase, which facilitates fat burning and muscle gain.
3) The body performs important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material.
4) There are positive changes to genes related to longevity and protection again disease.
2) Weight loss is a benefit of intermittent fasting
Okay, let’s just get this one out of the way up front because it is the number one reason people come to intermittent fasting practices: losing weight.
The entire planet is consumed with weight loss, looking better, feeling better, having smaller thighs, having less belly fat, having less chins. It’s an epidemic of the worst kind.
So yes, intermittant fasting can help you lose weight.
According to research, fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn more calories.
What’s more, fasting also reduces the amount of food you eat, which reduces the amount of calories consumed.
3) Reduce your chances of developing insulin resistance
When we feed our bodies a constant supply of sugar, carbohydrates, fat, and everything else that goes into us while we mindlessly eat our way through the day, our body doesn’t need to create anything for itself.
When we remove food, even just for a little while, we teach our bodies to again rely on itself for the resources it needs.
Some studies show that people who practice intermittent fasting can reduce their blood sugar levels by several percentage points.
4) Intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation in your body and help reduce symptoms related to inflammatory diseases
Inflammation is one of the leading causes of disease in our bodies, yet we continue to pump ourselves full of anti-inflammatory drugs to try to combat what would otherwise be solved by a change in diet.
Foods such as citrus, broclli, and anything containing trans fat is going to cause inflammation in our bodies.
Greasy burgers, red meat in general, and sugar all cause inflammation.
When we remove these things from our diet, or eat them far less frequently than we are eating them now, we see a reduction in the amount of inflammation in our bodies.
Not only do people feel better, but they move better, feel less stiff, and have more energy.
Some studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress and fight inflammation.
5) Your heart could use the help
Our hearts take a beating on a regular basis. No pun intended.
The amount of work our hearts need to do just to keep us alive is astounding, yet we do very little to keep it healthy.
Intermittent fasting helps reduce the amount of fatty deposits around our hearts, improves circulation, metabolism, and provides a cleaner slate for our hearts to work.
Let’s not forget about improved cholesterol levels, which drastically reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Plus, your blood pressure can be greatly reduced when the pressure is taken off your heart through a change in your diet.
6) Fasting improves cellular repair
We accumulate a great deal of waste in our bodies as our organs work to keep us alive.
Kidneys, liver, and our intestines all work overtime to remove harmful waste in our bodies.
But not every ounce of waste is removed. Some waste builds up over time and can cause a great deal of harm, become tumors, or create blockages in vital passageways in our systems.
When we practice intermittent fasting, studies have found that we are rerouting our bodies energy into areas that could use some attention.
While our body is busy breaking down new food and new substances and new waste, the old waste is left behind. Give your body time to break down old waste.
There are many more benefits of intermittent fasting. We’d be here all day trying to describe to you the overwhelming evidence that intermittent fasting works, not only to help you lose weight, but also to help you live longer, reduce your risk of cancer, give your brain a boost and even help fight diseases now and in the future.
Do you want to live a more mindful life?
The daily application of mindfulness can dramatically improve your health and wellbeing, and lead to greater success in all areas of your life.
Hack Spirit's eBook, The Art of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Living in the Moment, is the perfect introduction to mindfulness. You’ll learn what “mindfulness” really is, and uncover a set of simple yet powerful techniques to bring mindfulness into your everyday life.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.