Intermittent fasting for a week

Intermittent fasting (IF) has proven to help people with weight loss, increase energy and prevent type 2 diabetes. What even is it? Essentially its irregular fasting and eating within a certain time frame, or as I like to call it ‘skipping breakfast’.

IF has been around for a long time. In fact, it goes back as far as 2 million years when food was limited and cavemen would spend hours, if not days without eating. There are several types of IF such as 16:8 (fasting 16 hours, eating for 8), 18:6, 20:4 and the longest; the monk fast which is 36 hours. I decided to stick with the shortest 16:8, which was probably a good idea since I had never gone a day before without skipping a meal. 

Sunday night: I spent the evening with my family, a trip to a café and then the cinema. The start of my fast struck at 8pm, as I was on the car journey back home. Simultaneously, my mum exclaimed ‘Let’s get McDonalds!’. I declined and had surprising faces come back my way. I’m not one to turn down food. This was my first test, however the hardest part was actually resisting the temptation to steal a French fry or taste testing a burger. Anyway, I passed, but this was only one of many. 

Monday: I allowed myself a tea for the morning and water, of course. Nevertheless, I did not actually feel hungry which was unusual as I normally had breakfast between 6:30 and 7am every day. I downloaded the ‘zero’ app which timed my fasts and eating hours as well as acting as a diary and recording my mood. I also had my first weigh in: 57.2kg. 

15 minutes to go, and I started to feel a little peckish so I made my breakfast so that it would be done in time for midday. Porridge with bananas and dates, pumpkin seed bread with a slice of cheese and orange slices – a little more than what I would eat on a normal day but then again, I had just been fasting for 16 hours. I finished my food in about 15 minutes and instantly felt my eyes close. I needed a nap. I felt bloated for the rest of the day which resulted in me not being able to eat anything. At 7:30pm, 30 minutes to go until the next fast, I forced myself to eat –  anything I could find from mince pies to apple slices and greek yoghurt – I did not want to suffer the next day. 

Tuesday: The case of daytime bloating had miraculously disappeared as I woke up feeling fairly normal. I was meeting up with a friend for lunch and lucky for me, the restaurant opened at 12, giving my enough time to be distracted on the journey and allowing me to wait a few minutes after my fast to eat food, instead of making yesterdays mistake. I was introducing my friend to Sri Lankan cuisine so we ordered almost everything on the menu. The meals were light, so I didn’t get full. We also had doughnuts after at a stall we walked passed – mine was filled to the brim with Nutella, not the best choice when you’re fasting but how could you resist! I got home just before 8 and like before, I had to gobble down a meal in the space of 10 minutes. Before sleeping every night, I make sure to drink at least half a litre of water mostly so that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night as if I’m in the midst of a desert. Drinking water when you’re bloated however, was proving difficult, it felt like there was no place for it to go and had stayed in my oesophagus, leading me to have uncomfortable night. 

Wednesday: Sleeping was getting easier. Eating more food in one go was making me tired, hence getting easier for me to fall asleep (this had been a problem before). On the other hand, it also gave me less energy during the day; opposite to what the diet proposed. My fast broke a little later on Wednesday, 45 minutes later than intended. My first meal stayed the same, but I tried to eat it over a long period of time rather than all in one go. I was still bloated, leaving me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. At 4pm, I left for work, knowing fully that when I got back home my fast would be over. 10pm and I was hungry again, another test. Here, I was extremely tempted to have some fruit at least but opted for water – it was my only choice.

Thursday: Weigh in day- 57.7kg.

It soon became clear that I was either doing this diet incorrectly or it just wasn’t for me. How had I put on weight (even if it was just 0.5kg) on a diet that was designed specifically to lose? There were several explanations. Perhaps it was muscle weight (highly unlikely), the fact that I hadn’t worked out for a few days (likely), or that my diet was not actually healthy. I decided that it was not worth the bloating and tiredness to only put on weight and stopped my diet craze there and then. 

Overall, IF, to me was just not how I imagined. There’s no pleasure in waking up and having to wait 6 hours to eat your first meal. Throughout the week, I was so fixed on having only 8 hours to eat which lead me to binge eating and snacking more frequently. Skipping breakfast is already a crime, but constantly feeling full also made me skip dinner. So IF wasn’t for me, but it has worked for millions of people. Perhaps it would have been more effective had I tried for a long period of time, who knows? I surely won’t be going back to it any time soon.