Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

In short, Intermittent Fasting is going an extended period of time without eating.  Although it might sound like an eating disorder in the making, Intermittent Fasting is simply a different style of eating that is safe, effective and comes with a slew of health benefits (including fat loss) when done the right way.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

No matter how or what you eat, weight loss boils down to a calorie deficit.  After using calorie counting to successfully lose 35 lbs in 2008, I still struggled with gaining and re-losing those last 10 lbs in the years that followed.  It took me a while, but I eventually figured out that calorie restriction (at least the way I had been doing it) was not working in the long term.  I don’t regret counting calories for weight loss, it was how I first began to truly understand how and what we eat effects our weight.  Lifestyle and habit change kept the majority of my lost pounds off for good, but I would always have to resort to cutting calories and limiting my food intake to re-lose a pesky 10 pounds, only to have it inevitably backfire – I would struggle with insatiable hunger, overeating, constantly thinking about food and my next meal, and then slowly but surely would gain those 10 lbs back.  This was not how I wanted to live and I knew something had to give.

A Little Background

In early 2011 I’d been working for a couple months to re-lose my those 10 lbs (again) when I first read the term “Intermittent Fasting” in Mark Sisson’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple and also in his book, The Primal Blueprint.  A short while later, this study was published and based on what it said, I was very eager to give Intermittent Fasting a try.  The little reading I’d done about IF at that point gave me the confidence to try it without worrying that my “metabolism would slow down” or I would sabotage my weight loss efforts by skipping breakfast.

I made my way around the interwebs with my friend Google and found The Retired Dieter, a blog devoted to IF and is extremely informative and informative.  From there Eat, Stop, Eat and The Fast 5 (both e-books) presented themselves, followed by Martin Berkhan at Lean GainsGetting Stronger and Fitness Black Book - more great blogs all containing scads of helpful info on Intermittent Fasting.

I was intrigued by IF because it seemed like it would be an easier way to reach a calorie deficit without so much effort and discomfort.  I hoped it would help me avoid all the negative repercussions that can come with the calorie restriction needed to achieve weight loss.  Call me crazy, but I don’t particularly enjoy feeling deprived or the obsessing about food that comes with cutting calories, or the after math (binge eating) if/when you do manage to find the willpower it takes to (essentially) starve yourself thin.

As it turned out, Intermittent Fasting was exactly what I was looking for - an easier way to achieve a calorie deficit without food on my brain all the time.  I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to lose FAT without driving myself crazy in the process.

How to Start Intermittent Fasting

There are many different ways you can approach IF.  Some people prefer to fast for 24 hours and then eat ad libetum for the next 24 hours.  Other fast 24 hours fast just once or twice a week.  The Fast 5 recommends a daily 19 hour fast with a 5 hour “eating window” and declares that you can eat whatever you want during that 5 hour window – without going COMPLETELY crazy – but yes, you basically can eat whatever you want during that time.

If it seems overwhelming and scary to go such a long time without eating, start slow.  Try a 12 or 14 hour fast to see how it goes, increasing your fasting length as you’re ready.  If you’re ready to jump in head first, go for 19 hours and see what it feels like.  I found that longer fasting windows (19 – 20 hours) were most effective when it came to weight loss, but too many days in a row of fasting for 19 hours would backfire on me and I would be overly hungry in the days that followed.  I eventually found that a 16 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window was effective and felt the most “normal” to me.  (I will also say that you will likely find IF more sustainable and easier when you eat a nutrient dense diet with quality carbs – more on this below.)

While losing weight, I tried and experimented with many different fasting lengths and eating windows.  I would do a 19 hour fast (of which 6 – 8 of those are hours are spent sleeping) 2 – 3 days a week, doing a 12 – 16 hour fast the other days.  An example 19/5 day would be having an “eating window” of 12:30pm – 5:30pm.  Basically, I skipped breakfast (with exception of some coffee with cream) and would officially break my fast with lunch.  I’d often eat a snack if/when I felt hungry again and then would try to finish up with dinner before 6.  Other days I would do a 12-16 hour fast to give myself a break from the longer fasts or because I needed to accommodate something in my schedule or my family’s schedule.  (i.e., Eating dinner together is more important than an eating window of exactly 5 hours.)  If I meant I finished dinner a little later than 6 some nights, no biggie.  I was very happy that it was possible to shift or extend my eating window as needed without derailing my weight loss efforts.

Simply put, I found IF a great way to eat fewer calories because I was only dealing with hunger once a day (typically in the late morning as I was closing in on the end of the fast) as opposed to spreading a small calorie allotment over the course of a whole day, needing to use willpower or distraction between meals, ignoring hunger on and off all day, feeling like certain foods were off limits and having to eat small, less satisfying quantities of food at each meal.  One of things I love most about IF is that it allowed me to eat my favorite foods while still continuing lose weight – nut butters, real cream in my coffee, dark chocolate – all foods I would usually need to avoid when trying to lose weight.  With IF, nothing had to be off limits.

More practical tips based on my experience with IF can be found here.

Intermittent Fasting as a Lifestyle

I began using IF in March and by mid June I was down 15 pounds and comfortably back to my “happy weight”.  During that time I came to find that I really liked this way of eating, and especially the way it allowed me to effortlessly maintain my weight once the fat loss was done.  It got even easier after I began to follow a more Paleo-esque diet (not perfectly strict Paleo, but fewer grains, high quality carbs, quality fats, very little sugar) and my body continued to adapt to burning fat for fuel and relying less on carbs for energy.  I don’t even “deal with hunger” in the mornings anymore – while maintaining my weight I eat breakfast when I feel hungry.  Sometimes it’s been 16 hours since my last meal (dinner the night before), and sometimes it’s 12 hours.  Thanks to IF it’s easier to trust my hunger signals and I know that I’m eating because I’m truly hungry, not because I’m bored, stressed, lonely or sad.

In general, my eating window is usually 8 – 9 AM through 6 or 7PM most days of the week.  Basically, I eat a late breakfast and don’t snack after dinner.  An 8 – 10 hour eating window with a 14 – 16 hour fasting window works very well for me and feels very normal.   I do drink coffee with half and half or heavy cream (no sugar) first thing in the morning.  I’ll sometimes put coconut oil in my coffee as well and find that it gives me a nice energy boost and nixes my appetite for a while too.  Due to the fact that cream (or coconut oil) is just fat with no carbs, I believe this has little to no effect on my fasting metabolism.  Therefore it seems that I still achieve the benefits found from fasting, even with some calories in my coffee.

Intermittent Fasting and Exercise

If I exercise in the morning, I do so in a fasted state with no problem at all, mostly because I believe I have metabolically adapted to using stored fat for fuel.  I enjoy being active, but my fitness regime has never been as easy and laid back as it is now.  After spending years doing steady-state cardio 5 days a week to help keep my weight in check, I now go for fun, enjoyable runs once or twice a week (because I love it!), I practice yoga regularly, I play with my kids, I ride my bike when the weather is nice and squeeze in some short HIIT workouts when time and energy allows – and I walk a lot!  Some days I can get out for hour, other days I only have 15 minutes to spare.  I don’t panic if I “miss a workout”, I change it up frequently based on what’s going on in my life (and the weather.)  I now understand that your diet and the foods you choose to eat has the biggest impact on your overall physique.  Exercise and staying active are absolutely an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but what and how you eat matters more in terms of body composition.

How to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

Intermittent Fasting is easiest when you eat whole foods – you’ll likely find it easy to jump into IF if you already “eat clean”, and (at least in my experience) is easiest of all when you follow a lower carb, higher fat style of eating.  I spent a full year trying to go low carb and struggled with the low carb flu.  I read every Paleo book under the sun, I went “very low carb” for  while, but finally came to find that I needed more carbs to support my lifestyle.  I still eat pretty low carb when compared to the Standard American Diet, and any carbs I do eat are mostly high quality (sweet potatoes, fruit, some oats and sprouted grain bread) and I keep processed foods and sugar to a minimum.  I basically did it backwards – practicing IF lead me to tweaking my diet in a way that makes fasting (and subsequent weight loss and weight maintenance) extremely easy and effortless.

If you find that you’re really struggling with IF, it might make the most sense to take a step back and look at foods you choose to eat and why, then return to IF when you’ve got healthier eating habits in place.  Intermittent Fasting becomes MUCH easier when you have metabolically adapted to burning your own body fat for fuel and have gotten off the blood sugar rollercoaster that comes with eating a diet that is heavy in refined carbohydrates and high in sugar.

It’s worth noting that “low carb” doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat refined grains (and even sugar) ever again, but you’ll have better luck if these foods are the exception instead of a rule.  If you can’t imagine cutting back on grains or significantly reducing your sugar intake, don’t stress about it too much.  Simply start by eating them less frequently and focus on making progress.  You will probably find that you’ll lose your taste and interest in most processed foods when you educate yourself on why grains and sugar are not good for us and the incredible impact the right foods can have on our long term health.

If You’ve Got a Weight Loss Goal But You’re Not Losing Weight

If you’re practicing IF and you’re not seeing any results, consider counting your calories for a few days to see where you’re at.  Calories do still count!  And while IF makes the calorie restriction necessary for weight loss easier and less noticeable, it is still possible to over do it and eat an too many calories during your eating window that halt your fat loss progress.

If you are actively trying to lose weight, also consider adding a few short, high intensity workouts into your week.  HIIT can go a long way when it comes to keeping the scale moving in the right direction.  Strength and resistance training are important too (this is true even if you’re not trying to lose weight!) to help you maintain muscle mass while cutting calories and also because the more muscle you have the more calories you burn, even at rest.  The only resistance training I do is yoga, so know that you can keep it as simple as body weight training (yoga, Pilates, etc) or with weights if it’s something you have access to.

Practicing Intermittent Fasting While Breastfeeding

I had to stop practicing IF at the end of 2011 through the first half of 2012 during my pregnancy with our third child, but I returned to IF within a few months of his birth.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had no trouble getting back my 8 hour eating window after a hiatus, even while exclusively breastfeeding.  I will say that I didn’t even try IF until I felt recovered from pregnancy and child birth and was confident that my milk supply was well established and baby was gaining well.  I found IF to be helpful with losing 15 pounds of “baby weight” (although I did count calories during that time.)

The Unexpected

The most amazing thing that happened in the months following my start with Intermittent Fasting was the way my body adapted to my changed eating schedule.  I have NO craving for food in 14 – 16 hour period I am in a fasted state.  I use to wake up ready to dive head first into breakfast.  No more.  I get up most days between 5 – 7 am and I don’t even start to think about food or feel the first inklings of hunger until 9 AM.  I have completely broken my habit of snacking after dinner, something I’ve struggled with in the past.  I do still occasionally eat later than 7 pm – at a party or when out for the evening with friends or if I had a later workout that day.  I might wait to break my fast until later in the day when I know my eating window will close later than usual – but not always.  Some days my eating window is longer than others and that’s fine.

And when I do eat?  I EAT.  Trust me.  During my eating window I eat until I’m full and satisfied, which is not something you normally get to do while you’re losing weight or putting a lot of effort into maintaining your weight.  It’s important to eat enough calories - yes, you are working to lose weight and need to reach a calorie deficit to do so, but you want to lose fat at a nice, modest pace.  Quick weight loss is usually not fat loss, it’s not sustainable and often leads to quick regain.  If you’re eating whole, nutrient dense foods, there is no reason to skimp on meals and snacks during your eating window.  During my eating window I eat whatever I want (fortunately I “want” healthy, whole foods – but I’m a girl who loves to indulge from time to time too!) and the vast majority of my meals consist of a nice serving of vegetables, a decent amount protein and plenty of healthy fats to help me feel deeply satisfied between meals.  Gone are the days of forcing myself to stop eating because I’ve “reached my calorie limit”.  I’ve got a hearty appetite and I love to eat – but IF has also helped me become more aware of my sense of fullness and I stop eating when I’m no longer hungry.

Going long stretches without eating was absolutely a challenge in the beginning – I won’t deny that.  The road was a little bumpy at first, but practicing IF lead me to making further improvements with my diet with higher quality carbs, healthy fats, adequate protein and keeping processed foods to a minimum.  These habits have lead to a lifestyle that has freed me from yo-yo dieting, junk food cravings and the frustrating, annoying weight loss/regain cycle.  If you persist with patience and make adjustments to the foods you choose to eat, your body and brain truly do adapt.  It still amazes me that some days I go 16, 18, sometimes even 20 hours between my last meal of the day and my first meal the following day without any perceived effort or discomfort.

I’ve counted calories on and off since adopting to this way of eating and know that some days I eat way under my BMR and some days I easily go over.   It all balances out over the course of a week and thus maintaining my weight has felt effortless for the first time ever.

Dig Deep

My start with Intermittent Fasting unexpectedly gave me some new perspective about my relationship with food and all the reasons I eat that aren’t related to true hunger.  IF has been one of many stepping stones on my journey to leading the healthiest life I can live – both in body and mind.  I now find it much easier to enjoy food without all the preoccupation with The Next Meal – something I struggled with during my initial weight loss years ago.  Intermittent Fasting in conjunction with a lower carb/higher fat approach to eating has made it surprisingly easy for me to break mindless and emotional eating habits, have no interest in unhealthy foods that I use to find very tempting, to stop eating when I’m full and to find other things to turn to when I’m bored, stressed or in need of comfort.

I know that IF seems to go against everything we ever thought was true;  Going too long without eating screws up your metabolism.  Your body goes into starvation mode.  You lose muscle mass.  You’ll totally binge and go nuts if you go too long without eating.  If you’re intrigued but concerned about the safety of IF, do your homework and see for yourself that when Intermittent Fasting is done properly it can be very safe, as well as super effective at helping you reach your weight loss goals.

As always, please remember that I am not a trained medical or weight loss professional!  I’m just a random woman on the Internet writing about what works for me and what I’ve learned in my journey to achieving and maintaining my happy, healthy weight.  Intermittent Fasting has changed my life, I know it works well for many people and could potentially work well for you too.

Be sure check out an article on IF from the May 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, “Lose Weight Fast?” (with a quote from yours truly!)

149 Responses

  • Jane/you-know-who says:

    “ad libetum”… I love it

    • Lauren says:

      I just started with IF. I am also breastfeeding. I’m keeping a journal on my blog at RunHoly.com I hope that I have the same experience as you. So far, I do! ditto on the stopping late night snacking urges. That feels great. My window I actually set for later… i eat from 1 or 2 until 9 or 10. This was just easiest for me.

  • Cyndy says:

    Just found your site! LOVE IT! I’ve lost 50 pounds in the last year, but am becoming in bondage to food–what do I have to eat to keep up my metabolism, etc.. Been on a protein/vege diet for a year now and SO ready for some real food (steel cut oats, dates, raisins, more fruit!) I’m already used to doing “steak days” on the HCG Protocol (the method I used to lose weight) while I’m trying to maintain, so IF seems SO appealing! I’m praying it works for me :)

    • Hey Cyndy, congrats on your weight loss! IF is so FREEING, you won’t believe it. It does take a little while to adjust, but once you it becomes incredibly easy. This has been my way of eating for over six months now and I love it! Good luck, if you have any questions along the way don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Cyndy says:

    Do you count calories on the IF lifestyle?

    • yes and no. Weight loss went a lot faster when I did count calories – thanks to my love of nut butters I can knock back a scary number calories if I don’t pay close attention! The weight came at a much more satisfying rate when I counted calories about a month or so after I started experimenting with IF.

      I’ve had no problem maintaining my weight loss though with IF alone and no calorie counting – something that was NOT always the case before IF!

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Alison! I’m so glad you told me you posted about this! Love this post…and I have a feeling we could have a really good chat about IF.
    I’m off to check out some of the resources you listed that I haven’t seen yet!

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  • lisa lancaster says:

    Love your information. I have recently read the leangains approack, eat stop eat and many you’ve mentioned. These two being the most informative. I spent my life from 20 to 42 at 5-10 from a size 2 to a size 6. Lean and a sports enthusiast. At 45 I’m 30 lbs heavier and hating my body. Still fit, very active. Body has changed. But so has my life style. I have tried “diets” pills and calorie counting in the last three years – eatingnhealthy, little and often. Spent months eating 1100 calaries a day. Recently I just went back to eating anything I felt like then looked in the, mirror and said time to stop eating fatty! Went on a 24 hour fast and felt good.I ate and then fasted 18 hours and ate again. Continued that for a week and then actually looked at what I was doing………I have spent the majority of my life fasting 15 hours a day, eating literally whatever I wanted and weight was NEVER a thought. I simply didn’t like to eat before about 1. I ride jumping horses cmpetatively and really never took the time for breakfast with my morning routine. My body was use to what now is called intermittant fasting. I have now done allot of research on a lifestyle choice I had voluntarily used unknoingly for 20 years. BTW the weight has dropped off I have a renewed sence if energy and I feel absolutely fantastic. The only thing I do differently is monthyvutamin B12 shots. I don’t like the pills and this is simple for me. Again, thank you for the affirmatiin I personnelly got for reading your info:-)

  • lisa lancaster says:

    Apologies for all the spelling mistakes / typing to fast on my phone – needing to get going with the horses this morning – I also drink a cup of coffee in the morning with cream and 1 raw sugar and drink hot water with lemon slices through the day – just something I enjoy:-)

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing your story. It’s amazing what we instinctively “know” to do when we just listen to our own bodies and follow its lead! Glad IF works for you, it’s always nice to hear others who have had good luck with it, knowingly or unknowingly!

      • Nadia says:

        Since I was a child I never felt to have breakfast I always start eating at 2-3 after noon, and the next meal @ 6-7 @ night. Mentioning that I eat lots of sweets too. I always felt perfect. Even through my pregnancies and after having 3 kids my weight always stable never had to be huge.
        However, every one always made me feel guilty that I must have breakfast followed by the 5 meals. I tried hard to let them know I am happy I eat everything I crave, but they look @ me say you are small and u must be eating more. Anyway I just want you to know I lived my whole life following the IF without knowing about it, and I am extremely happy. Honestly for the first time ever felt better after I read about IF. I am extremely healthy, and I started to exercise 3 days a week for one hour when i reached 43, I am going to be 46 in few days I wear size 0-2 depends on the style of the cloths. So please try IF and you will never regret. It is so good to have empty stomach for few hours and it feels great when you fill it up with healthy food. You would enjoy every bite you eat.

  • Carrie says:

    I also did this for 6 years without realizing I was intermittent fasting! I lost 80 pounds years ago and was a little surprised it had been relatively easy for me to keep it off. After a break up and a move, I started eating breakfast because I thought I was being healthier. I immediately found myself with an extra 5 pounds I couldn’t get rid of, no matter how much I tried watching my calories and going to the gym. I thought back to what had changed, worried about my thyroid, and then one day I googled about not eating breakfast and it all became crystal clear! I’ve since dropped breakfast, gone back to saving my calories for lunch and mostly dinner, and have easily dropped those pesky 5 pounds. With the rest of the benefits I’ve learned in my research, I will happily eat this way the rest of my life! One of my favorite parts about it is the decrease in appetite.. takes so much less to fill me up!

  • Nick says:

    When I first made the shift to intermittent fasting, I did notice a decrease in energy as I was consuming less carbs on my non-WO days. After the shift, I’ve noticed a mental clarity upon waking up. Also, I don’t have such a foggy haze, almost like i was waking up from a hangover.

    The weight I dropped was from an initial 180lbs to 162lbs. I couldn’t believe it, since I already thought I was pretty lean at 180lbs.

    There is a huge increase in the amounts of protein you eat, which can be more expensive.

    Either way, the pros far outweigh the cons and I’m a advocate of intermittent fasting for life.

  • tess901 says:

    I’m fairly obsessed with I.F – a month or two of intermittent fasting and the results really do show.

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  • Krys says:

    Hello,
    Please I’m curious about whether water intake is allotted during your fast or do you completely abstain from any consumption of anything during the 16-20 hours of IF’ing?
    Thank you

  • Caroline says:

    Hi Cyndi,
    Very inetersting read and very well written!

    I just started intermittent fasting a few weeks ago. And I found it surprisingly not so hard… I have one question though when I fancy to drink something else than water during my fasting I usually drink hot water with a slice of lemon and honey. Is that ok to drink? Otherwise I don’t drink anything else during my fasting…

    Thanks,
    Caroline

    • Honey is sugar, and sugar creates and insulin response which (as I understand it) will effect your fasting metabolism. If you’re drinking water with a little honey and still losing weight then personally I wouldn’t worry about it, but if you get stuck, the honey could be the problem.

      Hope this helps, and please remember I’m only going by my own experience and what I’ve found in my own investigation of IF!

      • Lindsey says:

        I am really interested in IF but I’m not sure where to start! I would like to try fasting for 2 days then 5 days or relatively normal eating. Can you give me an idea of what to eat when I’m fasting and how often?

        Thanks

        • Hi Lindsey,

          On the days that you’re fasting, you’ll eat normally during your “eating window”. Eat a meal that you’d normally eat. Or if you’re looking to improve the quality of your diet, the blog is full of ideas if you browse the archives.

          http://mamasweeds.com/eat-your-veggies/

          When I’m fasting I eat until I’m satisfied (being careful not to go overboard, it’s easy to do that when you’re really hungry and first learning to fast!) and try to choose clean, whole foods, staying away from processed, packaged foods as much as possible.

          I found this page helpful when getting started too.

          http://gettingstronger.org/2010/11/learning-to-fast/

          Good luck!

  • Lindsey says:

    Sorry that should have read ’5 days OF relatively normal eating’!

    Thanks

  • I’ve been doing a 24 hour fast once per week for several months now, and I look forward to these days.

    I’ve also started missing breakfast (so having a 16 hour fast) on a daily basis too. I do eat fairly healthy though, with low carb days when I’m not training – unless I go out or something.

    It certainly works well, and takes the focus off food all the time. Great article.

  • Julie says:

    Hi, I have been doing IF for the past 3 days now and its still a bit hard and I do get hungry when I am doing it, so my question is, about how long did it take you to get used to it where you weren’t hungry all the time? thanks.

    • Hi Julie, how long is your fasting/eating window? This is a tricky question to answer because I did a lot of experimenting with fasting lengths. For a while I did 20 hour fasts (for maybe a week or two?) and came to see that 20 hours was too long for me. I eventually settled into a 16/8 hour fasting/eating window, that was much more comfortable for me. I 16 hours felt easy fairly quickly, but I’d already been practicing IF for two or three weeks by then. I’m not sure if this helps, if you’re feeling really uncomfortable, definitely experiment with fasting lengths. You might want to consider counting your calories too to be sure you’re not eating too little!

      • Sibongile says:

        Hi Alison!
        I want to start IF, my question is, is eating too little a problem in IF? Cos i want to eat one meal maybe for 5 days in a week and eat normally for two days.

        • Usually when someone wants to eat very little (i.e., one meal a day) they do that twice a week – and then eat normally the other five days, instead of the other way around as you’ve described. You’ll probably find that it will be too hard to eat so little 5 days a week, at least to be able to stick with it in the long run and have it be a sustainable weight loss method for you.

    • And know that you WILL feel hungry, the important thing to remember is that it will pass (usually within 15 minutes) and continues to get easier with each passing day. I found this site very helpful when I was getting started.

      http://gettingstronger.org/2010/11/learning-to-fast/

  • uma says:

    Hi, Its been three days since I started IF… I workout intensely too and the good thing is I dont find it crazy hard … but I wanted to ask how fast does someone usually see results…how do I know if its working..whats a good time fame? a week? two ? Thanks a ton

  • Hey Uma, how quickly you see results depends on what your calorie deficit is… it takes a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. If you cut your calorie intake by 500 calories a day, you’ll lose one pound a week (500 x 7 days = 3500) 1000 calories a day would be 2 pounds a week. Initially you might see more than 1 or 2 pounds a week, but it’s probably water weight. REAL weight loss comes from burning calories, and fasting is just another way to reduce your calorie intake. (And in my experience, an easier way!)

    More explanation here on how true weight loss happens

    http://mamasweeds.com/weight-loss/doing-the-calorie-math/

  • Jordan says:

    I love your site! I have been back and forth with IF for about 6 months. Recently, I switched jobs and now have to sit a lot more 8 hours a day. :-( Sadly, I have gained about 10 lbs. I’ve always been an avid exerciser, and I try to eat healthy, but Lord knows I have my bad days where I eat WAY to much. I’ve slowly started following the 8 hour eating window, and I have basically maintained it. I haven’t lost any weight yet (it’s been about 2 weeks), but I am wondering how long you started to see a difference? Granted, I have had days where I probably have eaten too much in my 8 hour window, but I have pretty much stuck to it. Should I started counting calories in order to see actual weight loss? Thanks again for your blog!

    Jordan

    • Hey Jordan, yes, if you haven’t lost any weight, then my thought would be to count calories to sure you’re maintaining the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. Calorie counting can be such a drag, but it’s what I had to resort to as well, even though I first tried IF to AVOID calorie counting in the first place! It always shows me where I’m going wrong and where extra calories are sneaking in… even just a few days of food journaling might be enough to get your on the weight loss track!

  • tia says:

    Hi i have been fasting on and off for about a year it worked wonders for me, i just recently starting my twice a week 24 hour fast and i get through them, the hunger passes or sometimes i dont even get hungry, but its the non fasting days where i struggle, i feel like breakfast makes me ravingly hungry and craving things i normally dont eat. Yesterday i went up about 300 cal. and ifasted the night before and now today again is it okay if i go over my calorie needs or do you know how i can control my hunger when not fasting? sorry for all the questions!

    • Hi Tia, when I find that I’m ravished and craving things I don’t usually eat or a lot of sugary, high carb foods, it usually means that I’ve been depriving myself too much. (I loved the book Intuitive Eating for help and insight with this!) I found that the 20+ hour fasts way too hard for me. I could handle the not eating part, but much like you describe, I felt a strong urge to overeat when the fast had ended. I came to see that those fasts were simply too long for me and fell into a much easier rhythm with the 16 hour fasts (fasting from about 6:30pm until 10:30am the following day).

      As far as calories and weight loss go and having high calorie days when you’re not fasting, watch the scale. Some say that calorie zig zagging can keep your body guessing, but if you’re gaining weight, you’re eating too much.

      Hope this helps some, I know how frustrating it can be to struggle with those non-fasting days after long fasts!

  • Yvonne says:

    Hi,I wonder if you can give me any advice about whether it is ok to have a odd glass of wine on non fast days or would advice no alcohol

  • Yvonne says:

    Hi, has anyone had problems with heartburn when fasting?

    • Yvonne, how long have you been trying IF? I wonder if your stomach might get the clue to stop producing so much acid unnecessarily after you’ve been doing it for a while, but this is just my amateur opinion. Hopefully someone with experience with this will chime in.

  • synnamon says:

    I just had a baby girl n May but I’ve always struggled with my weight I don’t need to eat breakfast, but I do eat burgers sometimes I’m interested n IF but don’t understand the on off days. I can go a day easy without eating but when I feel hungry or get bored I will over eat or eat wrong things like order pizza. I’m bout 100 lbs overweight what can u suggest for easier weight loss with IF. Thank you.

  • synnamon says:

    Thanks I will try IF I’m goin to also stick to my daily calorie intake its pretty high even just to lose weight but another is being up hungry at night when that’s when I’m suppose to be fasting no food bit I can have tea right or diet soda. I really am wanting to get food off my mind all the time I think this will help.

  • synnamon says:

    This is cool not to have to think about what and when and how much and little to eat seems Luke u fall into an eating schedule n pretty much follow that. I say uh, I 24 houred then now I’m on the 17 to 18 hour fast which I will break tomorrow at 2pm-8pm eat no more than 2100 calories is what the calculating webpage said then go everyday on that schedule. They say don’t go underside of 2150 calories but will that hurt me for weight loss. Thanks

    • I’m not qualified to give you a clear cut “yes” or “no” answer here, but I do know that going too low on calories can stall weight loss. I will say that I wouldn’t expect being slightly under 2150 calories a day to be an issue. As I understand it, it’s usually more of a concern when people are over-exercising and not eating enough to make up for all those calories burned.

  • synnamon says:

    I’m 5’7 in 270lb female calculating said no less than 2150 for weight loss seems much when u want steady results.

  • synnamon says:

    Cool thanks ur great

  • Joanne says:

    I have been investigating the 16:8 fast online as I have been getting sporadic results with my weight due to cravings, especially with snacking between meals. Years ago I never used to eat breakfast and although I had some weight to lose I didn’t struggle with it like I have the past few years – little did I know that I was naturally having a 14-16 hour or more fast without even realising.

    Like so many other people I have fallen for the ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ information that we get from everywhere and I am so glad I came across the daily IF information which has finally helped me make sense of why I sometime struggle and for me to know that my old way of eating in some ways was so much healthier and more natural for me.

    In my research this is one of the most useful blogs I have come across for this topic because it is aimed at us non-bodybuilding folk and also women. Today is my first 16:8 fast, I am due to eat in 30 minutes time and feel absolutely fine, just a little hungry.

    I just wanted to say a big thank you for such an informative and honest account of your experiences and for all the comment Q&A that have also been so helpful to me.

    • Thanks Joanne, my experience has been similar when trying to read about IF, a lot the information out there comes from body building forums and websites. IF is definitely not just for body builders! I’m so glad you’ve this and the comments helpful, I hope IF works well for you!

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  • Helen Lindemuth says:

    Hi Allison,
    It is good to find a woman that is pleased with IF and that it seems to be working well for an extended period of time for you; no health problems. I just stumbled on IF a week ago. I have been doing 16:8 for 4 days. And it just seems to be too good to be true. I am a very healthy eater and have been green juicing for my breakfeast with a light snack for about a year. So the transition to this IF style was pretty easy for me. I teach dancing and led a class in the morning just yesterday and was nervous to do it without eating something prior to it, but was stunned how clear headed and energetic I felt. In the last four days I have definetly lost weight. I don’t have a scale, but my pants are hanging off me and I can tell I just look leaner. Most posts are by men and they look like mean lean fighting machines. I don’t really know how much long term research on this has been done, and esepcially for women. After digging I found 2 articles that scared me about how IF can affect woman: http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/reviews/how-intermittent-fasting-saved-mewhile-slowly-killing-me/
    and this one: http://www.paleoforwomen.com/shattering-the-myth-of-fasting-for-women-a-review-of-female-specific-responses-to-fasting-in-the-literature/ I am a very strong woman and love to eat healthy and exercise responsibly. IF was attractive to me becasue I am doing just about all I can do to be lean and I just can’t seem to lose that last 5 pounds. I would love to continue with this IF, but after reading these articles I am worried I will hurt my adrenal glands among other things and thus screw up my whole body long term. It makes me wonder if woman are just not supposed to be hard bodies – strong, but not with a visible 6 pack. What have you heard about the effects for woman? Are you still feeling good? Thank you.

    • Hi Helen,

      I read the two blog posts you linked to and their experiences definitely do not match mine. I can tell you that when I was fasting longer than 16 hours on a regular basis (the first few weeks after learning about IF my fasting lengths varied from 18 – 22 hours) and it did feel like that was too long for me. That was when I found leangains (mentioned by the woman in the first post) and 16 hour fasts were much more comfortable and easy to maintain on a daily basis. I do occasionally have fasts that last 18 – 22 hours, but 1. I do drink coffee with half and half during that time and 2. those fasts are few and far between, and usually I’m not feeling hungry because I’d had a higher calorie day somewhere in the recent past! I can say for sure though that I haven’t had any of the issues those women are referring to. There are so many variables and we are all so biologically diverse, it’s hard to say what will work for one person will work well for someone else.

      I can also tell you that I got pregnant (unexpectedly!) in the fall of 2011, and at that time I’d been practicing IF in various forms since the spring, so I definitely didn’t have any fertility issues! I do not seem to have an metabolic issues from IF as far as I can tell either.

      I’ve recently relaxed my IF regime a bit as I’ve gotten closer to my pre-pregnancy weight . I usually don’t break my fast from the night before until 10 – 11 AM in the morning, I know our bodies get use to what time you have breakfast, lunch, etc. I do sometimes eat an evening snack now though, mostly because I am exclusively breastfeeding my baby (currently 5 months old) and he nurses many times throughout the night. I’m just listening to my body and not feeling bad if I feel like I need to eat something between dinner and bedtime right now!

      In short, my thought for you is to trust your body. It sounds like you are very much in tune with your physicality and you’ll know if something is amiss! Your question about women not being meant to have hard bodies reminds me of a link a dear friend just sent to me a few days ago – written by a woman who is of that opinion that no, women are NOT supposed to have the same rock hard abs and bodies that men have, and it’s OK to embrace that we’re supposed to have a little extra padding! I liked what she had to say, maybe you will too.

      http://www.ancestralizeme.com/2012/03/27/paleo-women-are-phat/

      I hope this helps, good luck!

  • Helen Lindemuth says:

    Hi Allison!

    I was so excited to see your response. The internet and blogging is such an neat way to connect to people and share ideas. Thank you for all your input!! Very interesting to me that you got pregnant during IF. That is great! But like you said everyone is different and it is imporant to my own body. My plan is to tread carefully. I like your idea of being more relaxed with IFing and eating a light snack if you feel hungry. I think I’d like to do a little more tinkering with it, but really watch how my body responds.

    Oh my goodness I loved the link you sent me, Paleo Woman are Phat. You can tell the author is a strong woman in every way, and her article gives me more conviction to relax a little and love and appreicate my body right now! This article just makes me feel good. I am going to send it to all my sisters and sisters in laws and friends.
    Thank you for all your help! It is very satisfying to connect with someone on this issue. Have a beautiful week! ~Helen

  • Ideth says:

    im 22yrs old i weight 142 i wanna lose 10lbs . if i fast 18hrs a day and eat only 2000 cal of healthy eating, when eating . do you think i will be able to lose 10lbs in a month with regular excercise?

    • Probably not, at least not while eating 2000 calories a day with regular exercise. Whether you’re practicing IF or not, the calorie math is still the same. 10 lbs in a month is about 2.5 pounds a week, which means a 1250 daily calorie deficit. At 140, a 2000 daily calorie intake is probably about what you need to maintain your weight – which means you’d need to achieve a 1250 deficit through exercise every day (the equivalent of a 12.5 mile run!) I’m assuming that’s not regular exercise! In my experience, fasting can help you lose weight because it makes it easier to eat fewer calories in a day, so perhaps you’ll find it easier to eat less and burn additional calories to achieve a calorie deficit through exercise… but 10 lbs in a month, that’s a lot! Do-able? Possibly. Comfortable? No.

  • jacki says:

    I have been IF for about three weeks. I do 8/16. I have lost 5 pounds

  • Bill says:

    I haven’t tried intermittent fasting yet because my whole life I fasted the traditional way-going without food for a certain amount of days. I have done fruit fasts and water fasts. From all I read though, I think IF is a great thing and plan on giving it a shot. Great post.

  • allison r says:

    i’ve read on a lot of other sites that intermittent fasting is bad and/or not helpful for women. what is your opinion on this? i’m assuming, of course, you disagree. but im just wondering what your thoughts are on it.

    • Intermittent Fasting has and continues to work well for me. I first found IF because I was looking for an easier way to lose a little weight in early 2011. I initially tried doing long fasts, but then found that going longer 18 hours lead to overeating when I finally did break my fast and it wasn’t helping me lose weight because I was still eating too many calories. From there, I did more reading and found an article that said women don’t need to or shouldn’t fast as long as men do… and whether or not that was accurate, I knew I needed to modify my approach to IF, so I shortened my fasts and increase my eating window. I experimented with a 16 hour fasts with an 8 hour eating window and found that this felt much easier and more “normal” (eating from 11AM – 7PM, roughly) and worked very well for me. This is what I do most days of the week now. I do sometimes go longer than 16 hours, but that’s more the exception than the rule. I haven’t read anything other than personal experiences of a few women (linked in the comments above) who had bad experiences with IF, and it’s hard to know what else they were doing. I’ve never read any sound research or studies that says fasting is contraindicated for women.

      Hope this helps!

  • Margret says:

    Thanks, Alison, for sharing your experience and knowledge in such a clear and helpful way. I love all the links you included. Can’t wait to read all the yummy information!

    I’m just starting to experiment with IF. I’ve been eating 16/8 for two days and am surprised, as a former can’t-go-more-than-3-hours eater myself, that I really like not having to eat right away in the morning. I worked out fasted yesterday, HIIT-style with a trainer, and she was impressed; I blew past the rest periods and worked out harder than usual. Bonus, In two days I already lost one pound that I’d gained from vacation last week. In the past, those pounds have taken much more time to take off. And considering I had a “cheat meal” of rich pasta and wine last night (I mostly eat Paleo), I’m thrilled!

  • Julia says:

    I just started to do IF. I have several questions.
    1) How often do you do 16/8 fasting / week?
    2) Approximately, how many calories do you eat during 16/8 fasting and how many calories do you eat non-fasting days?

    Thank you and I love your blog!

    • Hey Julia,

      I do a 16/8 hour fast (or very close to it) just about every day – it’s really a lifestyle choice for me now, but there are of course days where my “eating window” is longer, and days when my fasting time is longer too.

      As far as calories go, your calorie intake is the same as it would be when you’re trying to lose weight, you still need to eat in a calorie deficit – I just found maintaining a calorie deficit needed for weight loss to be a lot easier while doing IF. I didn’t feel as deprived or that I was hungry all the time in the middle of the day, etc. Any hunger you deal with is usually in the morning (in the case of fasting overnight) and I found it to be easy to manage with coffee and a little half and half, heavy cream or coconut oil (no sugar). I incorporated any of the calories from the creamer into my daily calorie allowance, but this still allows you to get the benefits of fasting because you’re only ingesting fat, no carbs. Another benefit to IF after you’ve been doing it for a while is that your body starts to get use to the times that you eat.

      Simply put, I found it easier to feel more satisfied on fewer calories eating in a smaller “eating window”. IF also helped break me of the habit of snacking at night after dinner, which helped keep my calories in check.

      I tried the longer fasts, i.e., fasting one day and eating more calories the next, and it was just too hard to maintain and didn’t feel “normal”. I kept eating too many calories (with weight loss in mind) because I had so much rebound hunger! That’s why I explored other options and found the 16/8 worked so well for me… I don’t really have non-fasting days anymore. No matter which approach you take, remember that calories still count when it comes to weight loss.

      I hope this helped answer some of your questions!

  • Julia says:

    thank you very much for the reply. I did IF for one week and have already realized your way of doing 16/8-IF everyday fits my life style. I have one more advice. Do you intentionally vary the calorie input (e.g. 2~3 days for very low calorie and 4~5 high calorie days)? I cm concerned that fixed low calorie eating everyday many lower my metabolism. Thank you again.

    • I don’t intentionally vary calories, it just sort of happens that way… if I’m very low on calories one day, I’m usually very hungry the next! And in that way I naturally make it up for. Everything I read about your metabolism and IF mentions the importance of staying active while losing weight to keep your metabolism up. (I believe this to be true of any calorie restricted diet, IF or not. In my own experience, 4 – 5 days a week of sensible exercise works well for me.) The links in the main post point to other articles that say the same thing if you’re looking to do more reading about the effects of IF on your metabolism.

  • Anna says:

    I’m a long-term low-carb-high fat (LCHF) eater, and I’m over 40 years old. LCHF worked a dream to remove pregnancy kilos the first time I tried it. However, it seems that my body has gotten used to LCHF and something new is needed to get the new pregnancy kilos off. I hesitated for quite a while before trying IF since “fasting” sounds a bit difficult to combine with 5 children and full-time work. Recently however, I saw a documentary where the benefits of reducing calories to around 600 kcal per day on IF days gives the same hormonal effects as a total fast. With this in mind, I deviced the following programme, which works fantastically well (about 1 kg per week in weight reduction, with lean mass retained):

    day 1: low carb, high fat, ad libitum intake.
    day 2: soft IF. Breakfast: 1 boiled egg, lunch: three thin slices of turkey, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, olive oil. Dinner: green tea with deodorized coconut oil. The food should be of the “low food reward” tasteless type.
    day 3: see day 1
    day 4: soft IF = see day 2
    day 5: see day 1
    day 6: Carb refeed. Everything is allowed. Really! The point here is to actually overeat. I still avoid food that I suspect may contain transfats, but that’s about it.
    day 7: see day 1.

    Every day: coffee with cinnamon, but neither sugar nor cream. Always remember to drink a fair amount of water, especially during IF days. There’s no need to push the water intake, just remember to have a glass or two with meals.

    The idea behind the programme is to maximize leptin sensitivity and insulin sensitivity and minimize IGF (insulin growth factor) long-term. I also minimize dairy (including cheese and butter) and nuts on all days but day 6.

    In summary, only two days per week are calorie reduced diet days.

    BMI right now: 22.8. Aiming for 20.

    • Anna, what was the documentary you saw?

      What you’ve written here is right in line with what’s in the May 2013 Harper’s Bazaar article on IF titled “Lose Weight Fast?” – basically 2 low (1000) calorie days and normal (but sensible) eating the other 5 days.

      I appreciate your comment very much, thanks for sharing. Please feel to report back with an update, I’m curious to know how you make out. Good luck!

  • Boo says:

    This sounds perfect for me. My husband is not a breakfast eater. He’s super thin and doesn’t get hungry until around noon. Seems like he is already naturally adjusted to IF. I tend to eat breakfast around 10 am if I wait until I’m hungry vs. being told to eat within 30 mins of waking up to get my metabolism going. I am currently nursing and need to lose about 20lbs. It’s a few extra lbs I should’ve lost before I got pregnant. I only gained 16 lbs and lost that in less than 6 wks after the birth.
    When you say you count calories, do you adhere to a certain amount? How much was your caloric intake during nursing and how quickly did you start to lose weight?
    Cardio 4 times a week is doing nothing for me and even chasing a toddler around aren’t helping me shed. I’ve been nursing since Dec 2010 with the birth of my first child.

    • Hey Boo, yes, when I count calories for weight loss I stick to a certain amount – I like The Daily Plate for food tracking and they calculate all the numbers for you based on your current weight, height, activity level and how quickly you want to lose. (i.e., 1 lb a week, 2 lbs a week, etc.) In the fall I did a little “Project Weight Loss” to lose the baby weight after my son was born in June. I used IF during that time too – basically just sticking to my 11 AM – 7 PM “eating window”. In each of those posts I list my daily calorie consumption so you can take a look to get a feel for how it works if you’re new to calorie counting.

      I also had a couple posts where I specifically talked about calorie counting when breastfeeding, I gave myself an extra 350 – 500 calories per day to account for exclusively nursing and to be sure my milk supply didn’t suffer. I lost 12 lbs in about three months through calorie counting, IF and a normal amount of exercise. More specifics are in each of these posts linked to under Project Weight Loss.\

      Hope this helps, good luck!

  • Erinn says:

    Hello! I am just entering into the IF world and your blog post was very helpful! I used the 16/8 strategy while on vacation (where I normally gain 5-8 pounds) and it was a miracle! My question is now that I settle into my IF routine at home, can you tell me if you think a green juice (all veggies with lemon and apple) will affect my fast. I would like to keep drinking my green juice in the mornings after my 5 AM workouts. Then I wouldn’t eat anything until 11 AM Thank you!

    • Hey Erinn, good thinking using IF to prevent vacation weight gain!

      From my own understanding, to get the benefits from fasting you want to avoid foods that will trigger an insulin response. This is why something like cream or heavy whipping cream in coffee is fine, because it’s only fat with very few carbs, therefore it does not cause any change in blood sugar and subsequent release of insulin to bring your blood sugar back down. (Insulin also tells your body to store excess calories as fat, among other things.)

      If I had to make an educated guess, green juice made with apples probably raises blood sugar some (because of the sugar in the fruit… it’s not a lot, but there is still some) – and so personally, I wouldn’t drink green juice if I was doing a fast. With that said, if it’s just weight loss that you’re after – you could try it and see what happens. If after a week or so you’re not making any progress, you could hold off on the green juice on your fasting days and see if it makes a difference in terms of weight loss. It all comes down to calorie intake, so as long as you’re eating in a calorie deficit during your eating window (taking your green juice calories into account), you should still lose weight.

      Also keep in mind that you don’t have to practice IF 7 days a week to see results. So the days you don’t work out (and don’t drink green juice in the early morning hours?) could be your fasting days.

      I am not a professional or an expert… but I hope my understanding helps you some. Trial and error is probably the best way to go here.

  • FaithLovesKids says:

    I think this is so neat! I have been doing this for some time (off and on – I’m a yo-yo dieting and am working to counqor that :) and didn’t know there was a name for it or that other people did it. Most days I get up 9-10 AM (I’m a night owl) have bruch,late lunch,and supper. I don’t eat after supper (5-6PM) till bruch the next day.

  • Melissa says:

    Alison,

    Great post, very informative. I am considering the IF path (16/8) as I have lost 21 pounds by counting calories and working out but feel like I have hit a plateau and I still have at least 40 lbs to lose! My question is regarding the working out. You say that you train/workout during your fast. I workout after work before I eat dinner as that is the time I have the best suits me, I can still fit that in with the 16/8 but will that affect results if I don’t workout WHILE I am fasting?

    Your help is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Melissa,

      Congrats on your weight loss! In my experience, working out while in a fasting isn’t necessary for IF to be successful. I’ve read anecdotally that working out in a fasted state can be beneficial, but I only mentioned it to explain that I was able to work out in a fasted state without issue for anyone else who found themselves in a similar situation. (i.e., working out in the morning) As you know well by now, weight loss boils down to maintaining calorie deficit, and I found that IF made it easier to maintain a calorie deficit without feeling like I was eating very little or feeling deprived. If you’ve hit a plateau with 40 lbs to lose, I’m wondering if you need to be a little more carefully count calories? (It can be SO easy to underestimate calories/overestimate portions!) Or perhaps IF could be your ticket to moving forward or making progress again. Good luck!

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  • Chris says:

    I believe that weight loss is about getting healthy and therefore you need a healthy weightloss plan. Intermittent fasting can give you a both practical and healthy way te diet. This is my latest lense about intermittent fasting Intermittent Fasting Blog

  • Keep inspiring people and congrats on your weight loss! I’ve been wanting to know all the methods to lose weight that will suit everyone’s preference. I have to keep your blog in check because it is interesting. Cheers!

  • Alisa says:

    Thanks for writing this! I am still mostly breastfeeding my 9 month old but have started experimenting with my diet and just assumed I couldn’t do extended fasting. In just a couple weeks I can see that this is a style of eating that works well for my body. I don’t really have trouble with the 16 or so hours and I like that in my 8 hour window I don’t really have to worry about number of calories. I’ve been keeping track just to collect data so I can more easily gauge on my own how much I am eating but when I would try to track all day long I would reach my allotted calories or macro number way to early in the day.

    Thanks for the information and for sharing your journey!

    Alisa



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