This is a follow-up post on my results from taking part in a 21-Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge that I wrote previously about here.
If you're new to this idea, the program involves fasting overnight for 12 hours for a few days, then lengthening the number of hours you fast over a 21 day period culminating in a 24-hour fast on day 21. It sounds like it would be torture, but it wasn't.
Quoting from my earlier post on why people voluntarily take on a challenge involving Intermittent Fasting, here's why I did this:
The science says that at the terminal end of our regularly recurring daily fasts, while we sleep, fat burning occurs more efficiently. However, most of us wake up and consume a donut, a bowl of sugary cereal, some fruit, toast, or some other form of carbohydrates and we end the fat burning right then and there.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) prolongs the fasting time beyond the normal sleep period of 6-8 hours to a progressive 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, and 24 hours over a 21 day period, and by doing so I can boost my fat burning, resulting in an additional fat loss.
My top 3 insights
Whenever I undertake a personal journey of any kind whether it be losing weight, exercising, or looking for a job, I tend to learn more about myself in the process. The results are important, but even more meaningful are the lessons learned along the way.
What did I learn about myself in the process of fasting for three weeks? My top three insights are listed below:
1 - I don't need to eat breakfast. For decades, I've practiced the same morning routine when it comes to the first meal of the day. I bounded out of bed, made my signature pour-over coffee, and started cooking breakfast, usually consisting of eggs, perhaps a meat like bacon or sausage or my favorite, leftover fried chicken and eggs. OMG! So good! I'd then sit down, gobble it up and get on with my day.
Insight: My eating is largely linked to both habit and boredom, and not hunger. Animals eat only when they're hungry, yet we humans eat for all sorts of reasons. A study I read in college/university stated that humans eat more frequently if food is available, free, and presented in an attractive manner; further it found that if food is plentiful, people will consume more than their usual amount in one sitting. I can say I'm more conscious about why I'm eating now. If it's not due to hunger, I reconsider the choice.
2 - I eat far more than necessary to maintain optimal health. Most eating behaviors are a function of habit, as I described above. We tend to eat at the same times each day with little variation. That's not a bad thing, just an observation. We also tend to eat the same amounts at every sitting and this can be a bad thing. It's a bad thing because we don't need to eat these massive amounts of food to stay alive. We can get by on far less. Those who moderate their intake quantities are usually less obese and healthier overall.
Insight: Taking part in the IF challenge revealed to me just how little food I need in comparison to the amount I usually consume. I no longer eat breakfast and I don't get hungry until about 11am after a 16-hour fast. This feels normal to me now. When I do eat, I try to eat something light in carbohydrates and heavy in fat/protein. I keep a ready supply of walnuts and other mixed nuts handy for a snack mid-afternoon and then eat a keto-friendly dinner. I'm quite content eating only two meals per day in this manner.
3 - IF is a more effective weight-loss method if you're not already losing weight. After losing 30 pounds on the ketogenic plan, I plateaued. My weight loss stopped and even though I was still eating according to the plan, I wasn't gaining or losing. I started the IF to see if I could break through and open the gates to more weight loss.
Insight: I lost four additional pounds in 19 days. That, to me, was a key breakthrough and key insight—not so much for the effectiveness of IF as a weight loss method—but that I need to periodically aler my nutrition routine in order to keep losing weight. Some of the other guys taking part in the challenge had similar results. In my opinion, it's all about how many carbs you eat. If you want to lose weight, you have to cut the carbs. They keep you hungry and fat.
Will I do IF again?
I've just surfaced from a two-week period of long work days that included a week of business travel. It afforded little time for planning my meals. My plan is to get back on the ketogenic plan and observe its guidelines as religiously as I initially did in the early months of my journey for about 30 days and then undertake another IF challenge.
I'll report back on how this works.