Like many people, I wanted to lose a few pounds in January. I’m actually in probably the top 10% physical shape that I’ve been as an adult, but Gwenn and I leave for Costa Rica on Sunday, and I wanted to be a little slimmer for the beach. So this month we’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting. For those who may not know, intermittent fasting is basically where you limit your calorie consumption to a certain window during the day and don’t consume any calories during the other part. (There are versions for people doing it for digestive reasons that also have restrictions against non-caloric beverages during the fasting window, but I just focused on the calorie part.) There’s a nice WheezyWaiter video where he describes his 30-day experiment:
The most common schedule is the 16-8, where you fast for 16 hours and eat (or ‘feed’) for 8 hours. For most people, that tends to just mean not eating breakfast. So you may, for example, limit your eating to 11 am – 7 pm. Then before 11 or after 7, you can basically only consume water, tea, coffee (no milk, sugar, etc). Gwenn enjoys an instant cappuccino in the morning, so she opted to skip dinner. I’m fine with just black coffee in the morning, so I would have lunch and then a smaller early dinner, making my schedule closer to 18-6.
I’ve noticed a few changes along the way:
- Skipping or having early dinner can definitely mess up sleep in the beginning. I read a fair amount about how waking up in the middle of the night can be common the first few days, but after that most people sleep better. However in my experience, I still have sleeping issues most nights.
- BUT, my energy levels have been improving over the month. Even some days when I wake up at 4am and can’t go back to sleep, I still seem to have lots of energy in the morning and during the day. Huge caveat here though because I have changed a lot this month. I have heard that supplementing with magnesium can help with the sleeping issues, so I began taking some twice a day a few weeks ago. It hasn’t solved those issues, but it could be contributing to the energy boost. I also think that the psychological boost of this challenge and writing daily in a blog that I meant to start three years ago has added to my energy as well.
After a couple weeks though, I didn’t notice too many changes on the scale. But since my hunger levels had stabilized, I thought to do a slightly more extreme form for the last week before leaving.
Disclaimer: I’m not a real doctor and I don’t play one on the internet. Please consult with your physician before doing anything (even remotely) extreme.
The high end version of intermittent fasting (before getting into actual longterm fasts) is the 20-4 schedule, where you fast for 20 hours each day and eat for 4. So I planned to eat a big salad with lentils or beans for lunch and a small snack later, then just water, coffee, and tea the rest of the day.
A few things have happened:
- I can’t recall a week where I have both had this degree of energy, focus, and happiness in a long time. I’m guessing I am in a state of ketosis, although I haven’t done any blood work to test my ketone levels, but I haven’t actually felt hungry either. Like really all week. I’ll have black coffee in the morning, lunch, then maybe fruit and/or chia seeds for a snack, and tea when I get home. Some days I’ve only had the salad. But I have been happy and more productive than ever.
- Sleep continued to be a bit of an issue, but for whatever reason it didn’t seem to affect my energy or focus this week. I would just get up at 4 am and get more done in the morning, be focused throughout the day, and then go to bed around 10 pm. It’s been a bit surreal in a good way.
- When I measured myself on Saturday I was 5.2 lbs away from my goal. I’m working more on loving the process rather than focusing on the destination (something I’ll talk more about in a later blog post), so I figured that I would not hit it and was okay with that. And then in the last two days:
My jar dropped. I didn’t expect that. I’ve been doing lots of bodyweight training so I don’t think I’ve lost muscle. I’m not sure how much is water and how much is fat, but I’ve never seen the needle move like that before.
And here is where the ‘slow’ part comes in. My default setting is ‘all or nothing’, and for most of my life, I would want to see how far I could take this. To run in the red until I crash. But then it takes a while to get back into a rhythm again. I’ve measured my weight almost every morning for more than six years and you can see that there have been some swings:
But I’m trying to focus on playing the long game more. So I wanted to try this 20-4 or more schedule until today, and now I will just enjoy packing over the weekend and going on vacation. While I plan to go for some runs or do some yoga on the beach to stay in shape, I’m sure there will be some bounce back and that’s okay. I’m thankful for the success I’ve had, but now I’m taking it slow and steady.