Back in November I ran across an excellent article on Medium about How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You. I loved it, and spent the better part of an evening implementing many of the recommendations on my phone. There were several recommended apps that I had never heard of that I set off to explore, including one called Zero — Fasting Tracker. I downloaded it and started to do some research on Intermittent Fasting, the practice the app helps you track.
The What of Intermittent Fasting
I was raised in a household that practiced dry fasting one day per month, so I’m not a stranger to fasting, though it was also one of the things I hated most and tried my hardest to dodge. (Which is hilarious because my kids now try the same things to get out of it that I tried for all of my childhood. As if they could play a player! 😂)
Intermittent Fasting (or IF) is different than the fasting I had experience with. While there are a number of variations, the principle is simple: don’t take in calories for a certain number of hours between dinner and your next meal. Drinking water or drinks with no calories is fine, but eating is not. I use the 16:8 IF variation, with a 16 hour fast and an eight hour window for eating.
This isn’t really a diet since you can eat whatever you want during the time you’re not fasting. This is one of the things that appealed to me most — it’s dead simple. Don’t eat when you’re fasting, and eat when it’s time to eat. No restrictions, no food logging. Easy as pie 🍰.
How IF has helped me
I wouldn’t say I have a bad relationship with food, but it’s definitely complicated. Guilt around eating is a very real thing for me. IF has helped.
The first immediate change I noticed was that I stopped snacking. After the first two days, which were hard, I stopped eating anything between meals. (The routine I have been following is fasting from after dinner, usually starting at 6 pm, until at least 10 am. The eating window starts then and ends at 6 pm.) I eat a good lunch, have a nice dinner with my family, and don’t really eat anything in between. It’s not that I’m trying not to snack; it just hasn’t happened. This is a big change for me.
I have been able to use IF as a trigger for new habits. 1 When I get hungry in the morning I make a cup of herbal tea or fizzy water. This helps tide me over until lunch and is a great time to do a mindful activity. I started writing in my journal during this morning tea time, another habit I’ve tried and failed to be consistent at in the past. Being more mindful isn’t a strictly physical benefit of IF, but it’s had a very real effect for me.
There have been some good physical changes as well. I have lost some weight. Nothing dramatic, but enough that it’s about time to go buy some new pants. My skin is clearer than it’s been in years. I have more energy, particularly in the afternoon. (I haven’t had a post-lunch lull since I started with IF.)
I also feel particularly clear headed and sharp in the mornings. I’m a morning person and tend to get all of my most important tasks for the day done before 10 am. This was actually my main concern before starting IF — if I’m tearing-my-hair-out hungry during my most productive time of the day then the quality of my work will be in the toilet. The exact opposite has happened. I am able to focus and power through tasks in the morning, which makes the rest of the day much better.
Resources on IF
Here are a few of articles and videos I found helpful in learning and practicing IF:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting from James Clear. This was the first article about IF I read and one that helped me decide to give it a try.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting | Nerd Fitness from Nerd Fitness. They cover a lot of information in a really fun way. This is a good place to start if you feel intimidated by the concept of fasting.
- Intermittent fasting: Surprising update Some research here, as well as a good list of further reading at the bottom.
- Intermittent Fasting 101 — The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide. This article covers much of what is covered in the other articles, but with excellent source citations. If you’re interested in learning research-based facts on how IF works this an excellent resource. This article makes a strong case about the benefits of IF in fighting insulin resistance. This is a big deal for me as my family has a history of type 2 diabetes.
- 5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which One Is Best for You?. Overview of various IF methods in a more structured regimen than what I’m doing now.
- How to do Intermittent Fasting: Complete Guide — YouTube from Thomas DeLauer. This guy has built his business and fitness principles around IF and gives good practical advice.
- How to do Intermittent Fasting for Serious Weight Loss. This gives a good overview of IF. The method he pushes leads towards a 20:4 fast, which I’ve tried a few days. The hardest part of this is scheduling time to eat 😂
- Introducing “Zero,” a new app to help you fast — Kevin Rose — Medium This is the app I use to track fasts. Very unobtrusive and helpful.
- I got the idea of habit triggers from James Clear’s excellent book Atomic Habits which I highly recommend. [return]