A year ago, when I first talked to my friends about fasting and the idea of skipping breakfast, I always got the same response: “Not eating? Are you out of your mind!? You can’t skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day.”
Today, it’s one year since I started intermittent fasting.
My mental focus has improved, I’m less anxious, and in the first two months I lost 13 pounds (6 kilos) of fat.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s just a way of controlling when you eat and when you take a break from food.
It all started with an article I read on Collective Evolution. This article really caught my attention, especially this argument
“When you start saving all the energy used to digest food, it starts getting diverted to other places like brain function and healing. I’m not sure how to verify this scientifically, but all I can say it that I felt it for sure!”
Before fasting, I was eating three meals plus a couple of snacks a day so, most of the time, my body was digesting something.
I was curious to see what would happen if I changed my lifelong eating pattern and went for extended periods without food.
It’s now been a year since I started intermittent fasting. I cheated a few times but, in general, I was very consistent and, best of all, I plan to continue. Why?
Because it’s a habit now. I’m used to it and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. In fact, it’s the opposite, I feel like not eating is the best way to start my mornings.
So, I skip breakfast, and that’s it. That’s what I’ve been doing for a year. My fast lasts from dinner until lunchtime next day. So, if I finish dinner at 10 p.m. I will fast until 12 p.m. (sometimes longer) next day.
Why Intermittent Fasting?
There are many different fasting patterns. I picked intermittent fasting because it seemed the easiest to me. I was already quite familiar with it because in the past, I used to skip breakfast and have a midmorning snack instead.
Plus, you don’t usually have morning social breakfasts or any other social occasions where you would “have” to eat – like a dinner party.
My mornings are usually spent sat and working in front of my computer. Although, after a while, as some friends commented “you don’t move so you need less energy” I started to add some exercise into the mix, I’ll talk about that later.
What Happens When You Fast?
1. Your Cravings Kick-in
This is the hard part of this story. Your first task is to deal with cravings.
I quickly understood that I wasn’t feeling hunger; what I was feeling were cravings for added sugar and wheat (bread and cereals).
I didn’t feel hungry for carrots. I only wanted a piece of bread with ham. I was suffering from withdrawal from a long-term habit: eating bread almost every morning.
During the first two months, I cheated and had coffee or tea. Then I realized that fasting gives you so much energy that you don’t need uppers like caffeine. So, after eight years, I ditched my daily caffeine habit. It wasn’t easy, but that’s another story!
Dealing with Cravings: It’s a process of not reacting to your emotions. Not reacting doesn’t mean ignoring. Instead, you take a breath and observe and acknowledge the emotions inside you. Don’t let your mind trick you into giving in to your emotions.
I recently published an article about how to deal with emotions and How to Stop Sugar Cravings.
Cravings generate a lot of emotions, and our minds play a lot of tricks on us. It’s not easy but dealing with your emotions and training your mind are probably the two most important skills you need to develop to improve your well-being.
2. Less Anxiety
Cravings come and go in waves, just like sleepiness. Once you ride out the wave, the cravings will go away and suddenly there’s a beautiful inner peace combined with a vibrant energy.
I have felt this level of peace only twice before: right after having an orgasm and just before falling asleep, and in the last ten minutes of the meditation part of my yoga classes.
This inner peace took me by surprise, but it was a beautiful surprise.
It seems like my inner voice has changed from a hysterical diva to a monk!
Cravings beaten, I feel good and nothing can wreck my mood. That is, until the next wave of cravings come along. But now you know you can do it and you’re highly motivated to continue the ride.
3. More Mental Focus
As my inner voice become calmer, and the noise in my head quietens down, I found I was able to stay focused for much longer.
Before starting fasting, my normal attention span was very short. Sometimes only few seconds, and other times just a few minutes. I often found that while working on one project, ideas and thoughts about other projects would jump into my mind, distracting me from what I was supposed to be doing.
With my morning fasts, I can focus better and for longer on what I’m doing. My work productivity has improved, and so too has my work realization. I feel like I make better use of my morning hours in terms of greater productivity, better mood, and feeling calmer.
This increased mental focus was what gave me the motivation to continue with my intermittent fasting routine.
4. More Energy
During the first two months of fasting, tea and coffee gave me a lot of energy, but it felt different to the usual burst you get from caffeine. This energy didn’t go away after a couple of hours or before my next caffeinated drink.
I was curious to discover how much of this energy was from the coffee, and how much was caused by fasting. To find out, I decided to ditch the coffee.
Quick note: Tea and coffee are known to suppress your appetite. It’s a shortcut for many, myself included. During the first two months of fasting I used tea and coffee to suppress hunger during fasting.
Many people and doctors say that coffee and tea are allowed during a fast.
But while using caffeine might help you to deal with hunger and cravings, it can make your addiction worse, and it’s not a sustainable solution for cravings.
Quitting an eight year daily habit (drinking coffee) wasn’t easy. I was so sleepy for the first few days that I could barely concentrate. You really feel how this substance affects your emotions and your mind when you first give it up. But, that’s a story that might go into another article so drop me a comment if you would like me to share it with you and subscribe for my newsletter for new post updates.
I no longer have caffeine running through my veins but now I wake up feeling a vibrant energy. I’ve started to wake up earlier, before my alarm clock sounds, and I have extra time to do the things I need to do each morning – such as make breakfast for my girlfriend or clean the flat.
Thanks to fasting and no coffee, I have a high level of energy with no jitters. I’m more focused and have no headaches at the end of the day. Around 11 p.m. I’m off to bed, tired but happy, and ready for a good night’s sleep.
5. I Lost Weight
I measure 5.5 foot (1,70m) tall, and one year ago my weight was 155 pounds (70 kilos). I was not looking to lose weight, but after two months of fasting, I’ve lost 13 pounds (6 kilos) of fat – without really trying!
When you fast, you burn energy, and if you extend your fast you start burning fat.
The key to burning fat is keeping your insulin levels low. While fasting, your insulin levels are low, and it’s only when you eat that your insulin levels spike, and that stops you from burning fat.
As time passes, depending on your diet and your activity levels, you will use all your quick-access energy called glycogen (glucose stored in the liver) and you start burning fat.
The only way to lose weight is to have low insulin levels. Every time your insulin levels are high you’ll be in “energy storing mode” and your body stores that energy in the form of fat.
It’s well documented that when you give insulin (oral or intravenous) to patients, they will gain weight.
Insulin is a hormone that triggers the body to store energy, and energy is stored in our body as fat. That’s why weight gain and obesity are the result of a hormonal imbalance and not a caloric imbalance, but I will explain that in another article.
Before fasting, I weighed 70 kilos, and I lost around 6 kilos during the first two months. Today, I keep my weight at 63 kilos without counting or cutting calories, and only by fasting. Sometimes, if I overeat, I extend my fasting period to allow my body to cleanse and to burn the excess.
I’m working on a detailed article on how to lose weight with fasting and will publish it soon. Stay tuned or subscribe to our newsletter to get an email when the article is published.
6. More Organized
After a week of intermittent fasting I found myself organizing my room, my desk and my kitchen. I found an urge to have a clean, tidy, and organized environment. I don’t know what science has to say about this but my guess is that as your mind becomes more calm and peaceful, you find the need to unclutter your space and your life.
7. New Better Habits
We all know that bad habits tend to encourage more bad habits. If you order a pizza, you’ll probably order a coke and have a dessert too! One bad habit triggers another, and then another.
The opposite is also true. If you exercise, you are less likely to go for a fast-junk-high-in-sugar-food straight after.
When fasting, because I’m in a happy, calm mood, I don’t want to wreck it with chocolate, bread, or any kind of processed fast food.
Why? Because I’ve done that, and I know that I’d rather feel good all day than have the short-term jolt of pleasure that junk food will deliver.
As you soon as you eat junk food, your inner peace vanishes. I never thought that junk food would negatively affect your mood, but it actually has a huge impact. More about that in the next section.
To maintain my happy mood, I focus to staying on track and searching for new healthy habits like ditching caffeine, reducing my alcohol intake, avoiding meat, and enjoying sugar-free treats.
8. What You Eat Affects Your Mood
When you break your fast it’s highly recommended that you go for easy-to-digest foods like fruit. The longer you fast, the more important this step becomes. Because of this, my breakfast, when I break my fast, has been always fruit.
An hour after, I cook my lunch which is usually vegetables or fish as I’ve been avoiding meat lately.
I’ve come to realize that meat takes a long time to digest, draining all my energy. Two hours after eating meat I feel sleepy, foggy headed, and all my inner peace has gone.
One day, I decided to swap my usual meat lunch for a raw salad. I got a bunch of vegetables, and some nuts, and seeds. I seasoned it a little salt and olive oil. Tasty!
Digestion was much easier, my energy levels remained high, and my inner peace continued. And best of all? No hunger.
I didn’t know that food could affect my mood. I did some research and learned that what you eat doesn’t just affect your body, but your brain too. I found a very interesting video showing how fruit and vegetables makes you happier. (video here)
As I tried different foods, I noticed that they affected my emotions very differently.
- High sugar foods make me feel bloated, sleepy and tired
- Meat makes me stressed and impatient
- Fruits gives me energy and elevates my mood
- Cheese makes me bloated and tired
- Veggie meals are easy to digest and don’t make me feel bloated
This motivated me to avoid certain foods like: high sugar foods, bread, white rice, pasta, and any processed food.
Today, I occasionally eat fish but very rarely eat meat. I try to eat at least one raw meal a day.
I avoid and rarely go to standard grocery stores. Instead, I do most of my shopping in fruit, vegetable, and fish markets.
In the beginning, I did miss some specific foods like burgers, bread, etc. Processed foods are engineered for overconsumption, creating cravings and addictions.
As I stopped eating processed food and allowed my body to cleanse itself, my cravings become weaker, and those fatty-sugary desires went away.
The combination of intermittent fasting and my new diet has left me feeling great!
9. Exercise While Fasting
“If you don’t eat you don’t have energy.” That’s not true. When you fast, you start to use glycogen for fuel, which is basically sugar stored in your liver and is very quick and easy to access. You burn that source of energy in about two hours if you exercise, and 24 hours if you are sedentary all day.
After glycogen, the next source of energy is fat, assuming you don’t eat anything or elevate your insulin levels.
As you start to burn fat you get into a state called ketosis, where your body produces ketones. Ketones are used for energy. Ketones are now very popular due to the famous Ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet has some good aspects, but in general, it’s just another diet that will make you feel miserable after six months. You may even gain weight after having lost it in the first place when you go back to eating normally. When I share my thoughts about the ketogenic diet I will update here. Subscribe to my newsletter and receive on your email post notifications.
Ketones give you the energy to continue running, working out, or playing any sort of sport.
I’ve experimented with doing two hours of intense sport after ten hours of fasting, and I felt very good, having high concentration and energy levels. If I work out in the morning (my fasting window) I always do so in a fasted state.
Many professional and elite athletes work out while fasted, and have their meals after exercise.
What I like the most about intermittent fasting is that it is not a diet. Instead, it’s a pattern of eating. As you eat less your body burns fat and you heal. You also improve your mood and mental focus. These positive changes have greatly helped me to start other habits that have really improved my mental and physical well-being.
Fasting is natural and provides your body with the perfect way to heal and burn fat, so why not use it? It’s as simple as skipping one meal. Interested in fasting? Have you tried it? Email me or make a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!