Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Intermittent fasting pre-and during lockdown

Longtime readers know I have been struggling to maintain my weight for quite some time now - traveling so much for work meant eating out 3x meals per day nearly two weeks a month.  It was some what easier this last year with spending so much time in the US where all of the hotels have gyms, there are healthy take-out options and the calories are nearly always listed on the menus, but nevertheless, it was a constant battle.

Since losing 60+ lbs several years ago, I have tried all sorts of different diets out there in an attempt to find one that worked for me and my lifestyle.  None of them ever really seemed to make much of a difference until I decided to try intermittent fasting last September.  I was just tired of spending so much time thinking about food and meal planning, not to mention being frustrated with the extra 1-2 kg I could never seem to get rid of, so the idea of being able to eat normally but just during a limited time window seemed really appealing to me. 

If you've not heard of intermittent fasting, there are a few different ways to go about it.  Some people eat normally and then do a full 24h fast once or twice a week.  Others eat normally 4-5 days a week and then limit themselves to 500 calories 2-3 days per week.  And then the final method is limiting all of your calories to a 6-8 hour time period day. 

I had sort of tried the second method when I tried carb-cycling, and didn't like how hangry it left me feeling, so I decided to give the 6-8 hour window intermittent fasting option a go.  I've always noticed that if I eat breakfast, I am hungry ever 2-3 hours for the rest of the day, whereas if I don't eat breakfast, I am a lot less hungry throughout the day, so I decided it would be the easiest for me to skip breakfast and start my eating window at 12pm and end it at 7pm.  

Pre-confinement, this usually got pushed to 12:30/12:45pm since my colleagues typically weren't ready to eat right at noon, so I would usually end up eating a piece of string cheese stick at noon to tide me over.  I also drank several cups of hot tea throughout the morning.  Then I would eat my normal lunch + a piece of fruit for dessert.   My afternoon snacks consisted of green or herbal tea plus four 2-ingredient cookies and another piece of fruit spread out over the afternoon.  I would typically try to make it home for dinner by 6:30pm or alternatively eat a protein bar if I was going to the gym after work, so that I could wrap up my eating window by 7pm. This has made C very happy since he has always wanted to eat dinner earlier since he comes home starving and prior to IF, we were usually eating dinner around 8-8:30pm.

Pretty quickly after starting, I noticed a few major benefits - first, the quality of my sleep improved greatly.  I have always been a light sleeper and often suffer from insomnia, but I can probably count on one hand the number of nights I have laid awake in the past 6 months on one hand.  After so many years of sleepless nights, I typically fall asleep before my husband now (who is a champion sleeper) and usually sleep straight through to my alarm.

Second, I have a lot more mental clarity in the morning.  I used to say my best working hours were from 4-7pm, but I find it much more easier to concentrate in the morning now.  I'm not sure why this is - I mean, you'd think your brain would be struggling after being without food for so long, but this is definitely a benefit of IF that others mention as well.

Third, I feel a lot less bloated in general.  It's actually really nice to go to bed without feeling so heavy and it's great to wake up to a flat stomach and feeling 'lighter'. 

Lastly, I have been able to easily get rid of the extra kilos hanging around, while not depriving myself of anything.  I mean, I still eat healthy meals, but my colleagues bring a lot of treats into work and I feel free now to eat them without guilt.  At least for me, as long as I limit my calories from roughly 12-7pm, I can eat normally and not gain weight.

Side note - this works even for alcohol - for whatever reason, drinking after 7pm doesn't appear to impact my IF, as long as I don't eat anything with the booze. Pre-confinement, I was also going out with friends or colleagues after work, and was still able to maintain my weight even if I ended up eating after 7pm 1-2 nights per week.  So my goal was to be pretty strict about my eating window at least 5 days per week and 1-2 days per week be a little more relaxed so I could still have a social life.

In addition to weight loss, mental clarity and better sleep quality, IF supposedly has a lot of other benefits for your body as well, such as improved cellular regeneration, reduced inflammation, improved cholesterol & blood sugar levels, etc since in theory, your body can use that time to work on repairing itself vs just digesting all day/night long.

All of this worked out really well pre-confinement since I was at work and busy with meetings all day - I felt confident and comfortable in my body and my clothes, and it was just nice not to be thinking about food so much. 

However, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to go at home during the lockdown, especially with my plan to work-out at 7:30am every morning.  I didn't know if I would feel light-headed working out or if I would be tempted by food all day since my desk is literally four steps from the fridge, but I'm happy to say things are going pretty well.  I feel energized working out in the mornings and often again at noon before lunch, so it hasn't been too challenging to my willpower to wait until after 12pm to eat. Afternoons can be a bit more tricky since I do love to snack, but I've been trying to limit extra snacking to things like fruit, yogurt or nuts. 

I have also still been trying to limit alcohol to 1-2 nights per week, but I admit I have been going a bit overboard on the weekends with the sweets since I find #confinementbaking to be very soothing.  So there have been a lot of Saturdays & Sundays full of things like cinnamon rolls, cookie dough, etc, and I can usually feel my muffin top coming back by Sunday night, but it goes away really quickly Monday/Tuesday once I'm back to my normal eating.

Overall, intermittent fasting has been a great gimmick-free way to overall feel better in general and maintain my weight.  There is nothing to buy, no extra work to be done, no need to avoid certain food groups or be picky when you go to a restaurant, etc - you just need to eat normally and limit your eating to a 6-8 hour time period depending on what works for you.   Has anyone else out there tried it?



Blogger gz said...

Interesting to see what works for different people.
I don't think that we could follow that routine...but we do start with coffee then our eating tends to be between 10 am and 7pm... possibly an allowance we make being nearly 70 and over 80!!

April 19, 2020 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger wcs said...

Intermittant fasting is something that I've done for years and years without knowing it was a "thing." Like you, I sleep very poorly on a full stomach, so I just stopped eating in the evening (although occasionally I do have a small something like a yogurt or some left-overs). I've never been a big breakfast eater, either. My main meal of the day is lunch. I also try not to drink after 3pm, also an insomnia thing, but I'm often not all that successful, lol. My body doesn't like to process alcohol at night.

April 20, 2020 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Lesley said...

I have been doing this too. I find it really easy to skip breakfast so my open window is generally from 12H30 to 20H30. I find it doesn't really make much difference weight-wise but it is very effective in promoting a feeling of general well-being.

April 21, 2020 at 11:19 AM  

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