(Notes from @ddn: Jake has a habit of texting me on a weekly basis to remind me how awesome intermittent fasting is. In an effort to channel his creativity, I asked him to relate his personal experience with IF. If you want to learn more about the how and why, try this 100 word article I wrote.)
It’s 6pm and my stomach just started rumbling. Makes sense, I suppose, since I haven’t eaten since 10… PM… last night. You read that right. I haven’t eaten in 20+ hours and I’ve barely noticed. I do this two days a week (Mondays and Wednesdays). My trainer calls it intermittent fasting. I call it the easiest thing I’ve ever done to shed fat while still enjoying a sustainable (see: realistic) diet.
“Is that okay?”
“Dude, are you anorexic or something?”
“I’m not sure that’s healthy.”
I know they mean well. The questions seem logical. Hell, I would have responded the same way six months ago. But six months ago I weighed almost 30 more pounds than I do now, with 5% more body fat.
While the notion of fasting was introduced to me by a trainer, it wasn’t pushed. Ever. That’s a key distinction because, like any lifestyle change (including the many I’ve failed at), if you don’t choose to commit to it yourself, the chances of it sticking are slim. When I started experimenting with intermittent fasting I weighed 274 pounds. This was down from a high of 281 when I joined Movement Minneapolis three months earlier, and I was improving in the gym, but 30% of those pounds were fat and it wasn’t going anywhere. At least not at the speed I wanted it to.
To some, skipping meals sounds like a nuclear option — a dangerous last resort for people who can’t push themselves away from the table. It certainly sounded that way to me the first time I tried it. How did it feel? Mostly like I was forgetting something. Sure, I felt hungry by about noon, but that hunger eventually (and quietly) subsided. My body had forgotten something as well. It forgot it was hungry. Or maybe it simply started snacking on my love handles (which, incidentally, have almost vanished).
One key element of my fasts is water. I enjoy lots of it. On the rocks. Sparkling. Forced through strong espresso grounds. You name it. Water and black coffee/espresso are a huge part of why fasting has become so easy for me.
Another key element of my fasts is the ability to stop them. Whenever. For whatever reason. Fasting isn’t a punishment you have to endure. If it feels that way for you it might not be a good fit.
I prefer to think of fasting as an exercise in the limitations of my will power. Of course there are also deeper, human/global truths being learned when you gain the ability to differentiate passing pangs from true, life-threatening hunger. The irony of a (dangerously) overweight person asking himself whether skipping meals is dangerous was lost on me before I started fasting. Not anymore. Mondays and Wednesdays are now days I look forward to. In fact, I often save my workouts for 18+ hours into a fast, when, for whatever reason, I become hyper focused and am able to run faster, lift more and jump higher than I normally can. I could probably pen an entire blog about this phenomenon alone. It’s absurdly cool. (note from @ddn: a favorite author of mine, J. Stanton, wrote about this phenomenon, noting it may be linked to ghrelin, a hunger hormone.)
The science (and there is some (@ddn’s note: lots)) of what’s going on, metabolically, when I fast is probably better explained by my trainer. Some will disagree. I look forward to the debate. I’ll donate an old pair of pants as evidence to support whoever dare defend intermittent fasting as a viable way to shed fat. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s past 7pm, meaning I’m 21 hours into this fast. I’ve got some pizza and a couple cold beers to enjoy.