Hi friends! Today I want to share an easy, pain-free diet change that can help you bust through a weight loss plateau: intermittent fasting. This quick change helped me break through my weight loss plateau and I also experienced a couple of great side effects that I never anticipated. But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you a little bit of background on how I decided upon intermittent fasting to help me reach my weight loss goals.
A few months ago, at nearly two years postpartum, I had hit a plateau in my postpartum weight loss and general toning (I’ll address why this took so long in another post!). I had been doing the Jillian Michaels Body Revolution for a couple of months, and though I was going through it more slowly than was suggested, I knew I was getting stronger and making gains in my aerobic conditioning. Still, I just wasn’t seeing much of a change in the way my clothes fit or in the numbers on the scale. I certainly don’t obsess over my weight, but I do find that it’s one of many tools to help keep me accountable in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Around this time that I was experiencing my weight loss plateau, I came across a Facebook post by Lindsay Brin, whom I had become a fan of in my postpartum fitness journey (and whose Prenatal and Postnatal Specialist certification I’m currently taking!). As her program had helped me correct my mild diastasis recti, I definitely trusted her guidance. In her post, she talked about how she does a modified intermittent fasting, eating at 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:00 PM, and 6:00 PM. I had heard of intermittent fasting before, and even experimented with it a bit, but never really gave it a chance. I found the idea of fasting until the afternoon overwhelming and also probably unhealthy for me given my history. But her approach of simply stopping eating at dinner and having a later breakfast? This version of intermittent fasting seemed to be a very reasonable approach!
Not only did I find her approach to fasting reasonable, I was happy to think of my breakfast and lunch being a bit closer together. I have always aimed to eat every 3-4 hours, with wiggle room if it doesn’t work out just so. That means that on most days, I would eat breakfast at 7 AM, but often have a hard time waiting until 11:00 for lunch (because I mean, lunch before that is just weird). Eating a snack at 10:00 and then lunch later never worked because that meant that I usually ended up eating two snacks and three meals, and that just didn’t agree with my body (I’d get hungrier, gain weight, etc.).
I decided to ease myself into this intermittent fasting by gradually making my breakfast later and later. I am one of those people who never understood how anyone could skip breakfast because I usually woke up SO HUNGRY, so I knew I needed to take it slow. Even waiting to eat at 7:00 when I usually wake up around 5:30 can be tough. So, on the first day of fasting, I only waited until 7:30. On the second day, I had breakfast at 8:00, and then I continued this pattern of increasing by a half hour until I had reached 9:00. The first few days were the hardest, but it quickly became easier to the point that it’s now become second nature. I no longer feel hungry at 7:00 and I now tend to eat breakfast between 9:00 and 10:00.
The harder part, though, was cutting myself off from eating after dinner. This time of day has always been tough for me and I’m guessing it’s tough for most of you, too. We’re tired, our willpower is low, and damnit, we deserve it after everything we do! I started having an after dinner dessert-like snack (usually plain yogurt mixed with peanut butter and some chocolate bits thrown in-yum!) while I was pregnant and purposely continued it for the first year of breastfeeding to support my low supply. Of course I didn’t need the calories to support breastfeeding my daughter in the second and now third year, when food was her main form of nutrition, but I still allowed myself this indulgence most of the time.
Committing to trying intermittent fasting was the kick that I needed to get help get me out of this automatic habit. I started by having my snack immediately after dinner only if I was still feeling hungry. Then I challenged myself to skip it altogether. That was definitely tough, so I gave myself some leeway and now I will either skip it OR have a little something at the end of dinner. This approach has worked best for me as I find all or nothing to be a bit too restrictive.
There are definitely still times that I eat at 7:30 or 8 if I’m hungry (though I try not to eat much past 8:00). During just this past week, for example, I was craving something sweet in a big way. We had had a stressful weekend with house hunting and had ended up putting an offer on a house that morning. The husband and I were both physically and mentally exhausted, so when I saw that he had bought some gelato that afternoon, I did a little happy dance. Yes, gelato was just the thing.
We sat down on the couch that night around 8:00 with our reasonably sized portions and enjoyed the heck out of that gelato. It hit the spot in a big way and I indulged guilt-free. My point? Even though I’m now following intermittent fasting, I give myself a break. I tried perfectionism once a long time ago and I ended up with an eating disorder. And speaking of eating disorders: if you have a history of one, approach intermittent fasting with caution. This may not be the right choice for you.
So what have my results been with intermittent fasting? I’ve lost weight more steadily than I had been before, and made it to my pre-pregnancy weight, give or take. The biggest change, though, has been fat loss. I know that part of this firming up has been the Body Revolution program, but I do believe intermittent fasting has helped it along. I’m seeing more definition in my abs and arms than I was previously and seeing change (as I quickly saw in the picture my husband took below) is always a big motivator for me to keep going.
Like I mentioned earlier, I also experienced some additional, positive side effects from intermittent fasting that I hadn’t anticipated. First, my digestion seems to have vastly improved. Though I haven’t experienced the incredibly painful bloating of my pre-gluten-free days, I had been experiencing some mild bloating that was regular enough to make me wonder if I needed to look at other foods as culprits. Now? I feel so much better! Sure, I still get the occasional bloat, but I can usually attribute it to a certain time of the month and when that happens I try to keep an eye on my salt intake and drink more water.
The other side effect I’ve experienced from intermittent fasting is one that seems counter-intuitive: I don’t get as hungry between meals any more. I get hungry, but not I-need-to-eat-right-this-second-or-I’ll-lose-my-mind hungry or get what I call the “hungry shakes” as a result of (what I assume was) my blood sugar being low.
And in case those reasons weren’t enough, do you want to know about another benefit of intermittent fasting? Reducing my risk of cancer and other diseases as well as increasing my longevity. Being in cancer research, we’ve heard a lot of buzz around fasting as potentially helping not only keep cancer at bay, but also helping those who have developed it (assuming they don’t have a compromised nutrition state, which some patients do have). More research needs to be done, but the research so far looks promising.
So, that’s my approach to and results of intermittent fasting in a nutshell. Have any of you tried a form of intermittent fasting before? Like it? Loathe it? Tried something else instead? Have you experienced a weight loss or fitness plateau? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments!