MY INTERMITTENT FASTING RESULTS AND WHY I PRACTICE IF
*THIS IS A VERY WORDY GUIDE ON MY EXPERIENCE WITH INTERMITTENT FASTING. IF YOUR MAIN GOAL IS WEIGHT LOSS, SCROLL DOWN FOR THE PHOTOS, BUT I STRONGLY ADVISE READING THE ENTIRE POST CAREFULLY*
Fasting, IF, Intermittent Fasting, 16:8, and even the cruel label of “starving yourself” might be some of the ways you’ve heard of this historic practice being referred to.
Firstly, this blog is not for you to understand the science of intermittent fasting, but more so, so you can understand why I do it and how I’ve done it. I'm guilty of reading diet fads or health practices that sound beneficial, but I typically give them up because I don’t actually know someone who can testify as to whether or not they benefitted from supposed health practice. For readers that know me firsthand, here’s a written testimony of why I practice, will continue to practice, and firmly believe in intermittent fasting.
Really, if I can reach just one person, the labor put in to writing this will have been rewarding enough.
Intermittent fasting is far from something you can pick up overnight. If you’ve never fasted before and you try to go 12-24 hours without eating right now, you will inevitably end up hangry (hungry+angry) and light-headed, prompting you to throw in the towel immediately.
Let’s get something out of the way; I love the act of eating. I love trying new foods, going to new restaurants, creating new dishes, and sharing meals with people I love. That said, you might be wondering why I would choose to eat less often. Even though I’ve been practicing IF on and off for years, it’s still a little difficult on some days for me to go a full 24 hours without consuming food.
Here’s a timeline of how I started the practice:
Mid 2013: I started drinking Bulletproof Coffee, or butter coffee, in the mornings and kept this up for about nine months. Bulletproof coffee made sense to me mostly because of where I was located geographically. Had I not had direct experience with where Bulletproof Coffee derived from, I would have likely thought it was total bullshit.
Inner Mongolians make black tea steeped in goat or cows milk with dried beef, butter, or even millet in it. It’s really hearty and they drink it to stay warm and well-fed during rough winters. Dave Asprey, the creator of Bulletproof Coffee, came up with the concept after visiting Tibet, where milk tea with yak butter is consumed to stay warm and well-fed in high altitudes. Mongolians and Tibetans are incredibly similar in their culture and cuisines, so I happily gave it a shot since I was living in Inner Mongolia at the time.
Butter, however, in China is not cheap, especially in small towns. Because Inner Mongolia is a dairy-rich province that supplied us with grass-fed butter on the cheap, this made BPC (Bulletproof Coffee) more accessible than ever.
My physical routine consisted of tons of cardio with very little strength training. I was not overweight, but I still had zero muscle.
End of 2013: As a former “breakfast person”, I started no longer being hungry in the morning after getting used to BPC. I would sometimes have an appetite, but wouldn’t be able really stomach food so early in the day. Lunch would come at exactly noon. Mentally and physically I would become really weak if I didn’t eat right at that time.
2014: I kept up BPC, although, I would get pretty frustrated with it. When you haven’t had coffee yet, and your goal is to put it in a blender that early, and actually listen to the noises of a blender at 6am, it’s essentially more of a chore than a benefit. I even cracked two blenders over the years, but still kept at it.
It’s important to remember that while Asprey claims that BPC will put you in a fat-burning fasting state, it’s more so a high-fat meal replacement. With that many calories in your body, you’re not fasting. Plain and simple. Most people have carbohydrate-filled breakfasts of sugary granola, meaningless bagels, or whole grain toast. So yes, replacing insulin-spiking breakfasts with quality fats is better for you. But still, it’s not fasting.
Mid-2014: I fell off. I started just adding coconut milk to my coffee in the mornings and ate breakfast on the rarest of occasions. The boyfriend switched to black coffee because we were both just too lazy to make BPC. Lunch would still always come at 12:00.
I learned that sprinting was doing much more for me than distance running. My diet was mostly paleo and I had plenty of time to meal prep. This got me down to 135lbs from probably 150lbs just before I would eventually move to Beijing.
2015: I would switch between BPC, coconut milk, regular dairy, and even added honey to my coffee in the mornings. Still, I was supplementing coffee for breakfast, but it wasn’t necessarily healthy from the honey I was adding to my coffee. Sugar, processed or not, first thing in the morning made me feel a little queasy. I would rarely eat breakfast, and lunch still came at exactly noon.
The boyfriend and I had almost completely let go, drinking a few days a week with no exercise. We had a vacation to Vietnam coming up and I had gained all my weight back. We did Whole30 all From February to March and each lost about 10lbs. As Whole30 is heavily restrictive, we quickly gained the weight back during and after vacation.
End of 2015: From October to January I was in America. There I would put organic half & half in my coffee, but my cravings for sweets in America would spike way more than in China. This eventually led to me using the high fructose-packed creamer most American families keep in their fridge. Starting my morning off with sugar would make me even more hungry throughout the day. Not only was I more hungry, my skin would have awful breakouts from the spike in my blood sugar. I left America again with even more weight gained and felt sick from sugar overloads.
Beginning of 2016: Just before I left to America in October, my boyfriend had signed up for a newly built gym right next to our house. I signed up upon my arrival to China in January of this year, and decided to cut sugary substances from my coffee, while still not eating breakfast.
Side note: To be clear, I do not believe you need a gym to get fit. This gym happened to be right next to my house. They also have hot showers, a luxury I am not provided during a Beijing winter in my own home. Seriously. I haven't showered at my own house several months.
Lunch started coming at around 1pm and we were working out before lunch. Without sweetener in my coffee I felt less hungry, and my skin was getting better. I would go to the gym early in the morning and practice cardio and strength training with body weight, which curbed my appetite a lot.
As of right now, this is what my eating, exercise, coffee habits look like:
As you can see, I never actually go an entire day without eating. I just have longer periods between meals.
I’ll touch on a few questions you may have about this chart:
Why has coffee been such a big part of my diet?
I understand how regularly coffee is put under the “health no-no” column of dieting. This, to me, never made much sense, unless you're talking about any specialty drink. Think fraps and lattes. Black coffee is one single ingredient that comes from the Earth. It’s organic, a natural source of energy, and an appetite suppressant. Much like green tea. I have just one cup of coffee every morning. Anymore than that and my body gets back at me by making me jittery, light-headed, and anxious.
If coffee has never been your thing, by all means, don't consume it. Just do whatever you can to avoid sugary beverages and energy drinks, especially first thing in the morning.
Distance running is no longer a big part of my life for weight loss. Don’t get me wrong - I too find it therapeutic and meditative, but it makes me too hungry. I love sprinting. Challenging myself to see how fast and hard I can work my body is a natural stress reliever. Because I can’t rely on the Beijing air quality regularly, I either sprint outside 100 meters x10-12, or run at an incline of 3-4 on a tread, at a speed of 13 for one minute, and then walk for one minute. I repeat this 10 or so times, resulting in 20 minutes of high intense interval training (HIIT).
Guess what? Health experts have been wrong for.ev.er. Walking burns way more calories than previously thought.
One of my favorite parts of living in the city and outside of America is that I have to walk everywhere. WeChat, the largest social media app in China, has even added a competitive feature to the app that counts your steps, so at the end of the day you can see which of your friends has the most. It’s a small and highly effective way to get more active. On 24-hour fasting days, if I can’t walk outside, I put the tread on the highest incline possible and walk for at least 30 minutes. Sweat pours, but I don't tire myself without having food in my body.
On Saturdays I eat a light breakfast only when I practiced boxing. Typically, just a two-egg omelet (seriously, don't skip the yolks) with fruit on the side if I have some. Boxing is the most intense form of exercise I’ve ever done, from both a physical and mental standpoint. I previously boxed while fasting, and I just wasn’t fueled enough to give it my all during class. This is both a waste of time for my trainer and myself, so I eat a high-protein breakfast with a small serving of complex carbohydrates to keep me energized through an hour of vigorous training.
Saturdays I go all out, as far as eating and drinking go. Now that I don't box, I run. As I mentioned, it's not something I would make a regular habit because of potential muscle loss, but once a week, a long run helps me sweat it out and keep my cardiovascular health in check.
Depending on how Saturday’s go, Sunday can be hit or miss. Sometimes I join a sports group and do something active if the air quality is good. More often, I just walk all over the city for 5-10 miles. Sunday’s are never spent doing nothing, but my diet from Saturday’s shenanigans tend to roll over. Sunday is not spent consuming calories through beer and cocktails, but isn’t nearly as well-balanced as Monday to Friday.
So, what has drinking black coffee, intermittent fasting, and strength training done for me in the last four months? A lot. Here’s what I can physically notice and feel:
- Less time spent sick or in poor health
- Less intense menstrual fatigue and cramps, I can even kick box the first day of my period
- Muscle formation
- More satisfying lunches and dinners
- Weight lost, 16lbs of fat in 7 months
I want to talk a little more about each of the physical benefits. But, if you want to know about internal benefits, I strongly advise you read this. As someone that recently lost a good (and young) friend to diabetes and also comes from a diabetes-ridden family, the fact that intermittent fasting lowers your blood sugar is more than reason enough for me to continue the practice.
LESS TIME SPENT SICK
In general, I have a good immune system. I don’t typically get sick much, but there are a few circumstances where I always end up with a cold. The first is when I enter America coming from China and the second is when I enter China from any other country.
Fasting is the primal instinct of most sick animals. Dogs, for instance; when they’re sick or injured, they hide away and shy from food offered. This year, I have found myself on the verge of being ill with an itchy throat or runny nose a few times. If I go a day with only drinking water, I feel 100% revived the following day that comes from cellular repair provided from IF.
LESS MENSTRUAL CRAMPS AND FATIGUE
I might be one of the luckiest of my girlfriends when it comes to cramps. I get cramps, but they have never prevented me from being even minimally active. I normally would never go running or do intense lifting on the first day of my period, but I would still be able to be a normal human being, a luxury a lot of females can’t afford during the first couple of days of menstruation.
I attribute being able to practice something extreme like kickboxing on the first day of my period to my diet, fasting, and a very low processed sugar intake. I'm not one to pop pain medicine or any medicine generally, so I suffer through it. Over the last two months, I really haven’t had anything to suffer through.
Have my intermittent fasting results ever affected my period coming? Yep. I was once late for nearly two weeks. I have been tracking my period for about five years with an app. Prior to IF, my period would come a couple days before or a couple days after the predicted start date. Since the one mishap where I was really late, my period comes on the exact day my diary predicts.
As for menstrual fatigue, I’m heavily effected by it. I’m pretty lethargic and unfocused during the first couple of days of my period. Again, over the last several months of practicing IF, I have moved passed it.
I gave up the idea of distance running a long time ago. If you want to build muscle, it’s just not the worth it, especially for females.
It wasn't until about four months ago that I took lifting seriously and made it the central focus of my workout routine. I now bench 27.2kg (60lbs), deadlift 50kg (110lbs) curl 12kg (26.5lbs). My entire life, I have had the weakest and flabbiest arms of any girl I knew. So gaining muscle is a huge milestone for me. Because I eat at different times now, I can’t afford to exert so much energy on cardio that only just makes me hungrier. I have to use my energy wisely, so lifting and practicing HIIT fit perfectly for my eating schedule. This allows me to burn more fat while my body is fasting and build muscle.
More importantly, the program I'm on only requires that I lift three days weekly. Three days. I slaved away at gyms in my early 20's without having a clue as to what I was doing. I was there for sometimes hours, not because I wanted to be, but because I thought I had to be. This made me resent working out, which ultimately ended up in me giving up completely. Today, it's something I look forward to, allowing longevity and consistency.
EATING BETTER AND APPRECIATING IT
Most people eat 21 meals weekly. I eat about 12-14. Plus, they're huge.
Each meal is precious to me. I care a lot about what I put in it, where it’s sourced, how it’s prepared, and how it’s consumed.
I eat my food slower, it tastes better, my two meals on non-fasting days are larger and more filling, and I don’t feel awful about spending my Saturday’s refeeding, which is a nicer way to say “cheating”. The food I cook and eat is colorful and creative. I never count calories, I save time cooking, and I feel good.
One important thing to remember is that fasting does not necessarily mean you eat less unless you're trying to lose weight. Currently, I am trying to lose weight. That said, I eat about 1500 calories daily. Because I eat just two meals daily, this means I get two massive and satisfying meals. On a 24-hour fast, it's hard for me to consume 1500 calories in one sitting. I usually have a big dinner and some dessert and/or a couple of beers.
Consider that some nutritionists suggest eating several small meals throughout the day to "keep your metabolism going." Really, this sounds like bullshit. Not only because there is little evidence promoting that it does in fact speed up your metabolism, but it makes no sense assuming people have that much time to eat that much daily. As a business owner that has the luxury of working from home, I personally do not have the time, let alone someone that spends 10-12 hours in traffic + work time.
Anddddddd...drum roll, please....
Yep! I lost weight. Like I have a million times before. I’ve also gained it back a million times before and looked like a total doofus after bragging about how I lost it.
Keep in mind, this is so not the reason I practice intermittent fasting. It's just the cherry on top.
The difference between how I’ve lost fat then and how I’m losing it now is about time and stress. Previously, I’d do these crash diets, lose weight really fast, and then gain it back faster than I lost it. I’m just so chill about intermittent fasting. I don’t really think about it, I just do it, and it feels primal and natural.
Alright, I already feel like goon for doing a before and after photo, but I want to highlight a couple things about the two comparisons: Belly fat and muscle growth. The last picture in July is taken the DAY OF me getting my period. Normally, I'd have intense bloating. My intermittent fasting results have heavily assisted in reducing that. Between May and July I haven't had drastic results because I went on vacation, which followed up with removing two wisdom teeth. Ultimately not allowing me to train as hard and as frequent as I'd prefer.
You can see our intermittent fasting results are completely different from male to female.
Here’s where I’m going to hit some nerves, if I haven’t already. I do not give two shits how body positive you are. I don’t care if you’re some obese BuzzFeed writer that prances around in a bikini because “every body is a bikini body”. I agree with that statement. I agree with confidence. I agree with feeling comfortable in your own skin. I do not agree with fat shaming. But, the bottom line is that belly fat = disease. More specifically heart disease, diabetes, and liver damage from fat deposits to the liver.
Being overweight is being selfish in so many ways. Consider the American health system. Consider the corrupt pharmaceutical companies that profit from your illness, and how those profits made them so greedy that other families can't become insured because of the obesity epidemic. Consider the health care providers that won’t insure you because of your weight, which will cause more health problems in the future. Consider the food and beverage companies that love feeding you sugar and processed chemicals. Consider over-the-counter "diet pills". This is all terrifying.
Fasting proves how little we need to consume to survive to still build muscle and lose fat. Again, "fasting" does not mean starving yourself. It's evident in the above photos that strength training and fasting have made us leaner and stronger. Not skinny.
A few things about me: I’ve never been skinny. I’m still not skinny. I never want to be skinny. On the flip side, I've also never been strong, even at my leanest of 127lbs, I wasn't healthy. I was just obsessed with numbers on the scale, counting calories, and cardio.
Americans want results on the quick, so often, they push it really hard and eliminate everything they love from their diet. Social lives are distraught and there’s stress about why fat isn’t burning fast enough. It’s an overall shit show that screams failure. I’m 100% guilty of this.
To me, intermittent fasting is sustainable. I don’t stress about what I’m going to eat or what muscles I’m going to train. I have a plan. It's natural and something that is practiced in hundreds of cultures for its health purposes. It’s something our bodies want us to do, but when we throw around words like, “starve”, it just becomes a turn off and sounds unhealthy. In reality, what’s unhealthy is thinking our bodies need to intake so much food all day, every day.
THE TAKE AWAY
Should you practice intermittent fasting? Chances are if you ask your doctor that does not double as a nutritionist, she or he will tell you no. Do the research. Count your macros. Eat the food you like. Be active. Eat real, unprocessed food every single day, just not from the moment you wake up to the moment you catch z’s.
Do you need to do two 24-hour fasts a week? Not at all. I'm thinking I'll take it down to one 24-hour fast a week in the very near future. Again, if you’re already thin, but want to build muscle, consider the other benefits of fasting. Especially as a female.
Is intermittent fasting just for weight loss? No, no, no. I can't stress enough that with fasting and strength training, I've never been stronger and I've never eaten better.
I’ve done Whole30, I’ve been vegan, I’ve done the low-fat diet, I've adopted paleo eating habits, I’ve counted calories obsessively, I’ve trained at the gym for two hours a day, seven days a week. I've done muscle-erasing cardio, I've been sold on the diet pills. Really, I've done it all. Intermittent Fasting, strength training, and HIIT are things I all look forward to every week.
So, do you fast? What are you experiences with intermittent fasting? Share your thoughts with readers that want to physically start from scratch!