Your body knows better than you.
Image par freeillustrated de Pixabay
It all started two months ago with intermittent fasting. I read a lot about it and I felt it made sense. After all, we keep eating at short intervals, so our body certainly doesn’t have enough time to use the fat that we inevitably store regularly. So I felt like giving it a try.
I started with the beginner level. 12 hours of fasting. I knew that to make a lasting change in your lifestyle, you have to do it gradually. Just like when you start exercising. Committing right away to work out for one hour a day every day will result in nothing more than a drop out in the first week. Yes, I’ve tried. And not just once.
12 hours of fasting was easy enough since most of the time is spent sleeping. As the days and weeks went by, I felt more and more comfortable and slowly but surely extended my fasting period.
Until the moment when, eating breakfast later and later, I became confused about when to eat my lunch. So I started skipping breakfast.
Which was disastrous. Let me explain.
Breaking a 23-year habit
Since I was a child, I’ve always had breakfast first thing in the morning. I would get up and head to the kitchen, still in my pajamas. That’s how I was raised, and I didn’t mind. I even liked it.
But a few months ago, as part of my self-awareness journey, I discovered that there was a lot of nonsense behind this habit.
I was absolutely not hungry when I woke up in the morning. I actually ate without the slightest appetite — which made it impossible to rely on the feeling of satiety, and therefore to regulate the amount of food I consumed— only to find myself starving at 10:30 am.
I decided to change that. But it took me a while to break a 23-year long habit. I didn’t know what to do when I got up. I stumbled upon intermittent fasting shortly afterward.
From 12 hours to 16 hours of fasting
Most of the fasting hours take place during sleep, making it a fairly simple habit to adopt. Besides, I am often hungry early in the evening. I eat dinner between 6:30 and 7:30 pm, so my fasting ends around 7:00 am the next day, the time I get up.
I had practically no effort to make, except for not snacking after dinner. This is not difficult for me, as long as I am by myself and not at my parents’ house, who usually make bread in the evening so that it is ready the next morning. Have you ever tasted fresh and warm bread with melting butter on it at 10 pm? You would understand what I mean.
That’s how I increased my fasting period. In the morning, I could actually eat breakfast if I wanted, since the 12 hours were over. But I got into the habit of having coffee while reading and drinking water first thing in the morning, so I was hardly ever hungry until later in the morning.
My fasting went from 12 to 14 hours, which is when I would head to the coffee shops to work and order breakfast before starting my workday.
As the days went by and by paying attention to how I felt, I discovered that if I ordered black coffee instead of breakfast, I could maintain my fast a little longer. My problem is that I keep pushing the limits, wondering how far I can go, especially when it comes to food and fitness. I figured that the longer I pushed my fast, the better the results would be.
After a month and a half, breakfast became closer and closer to lunch. So I tried to skip it. I felt capable. I ate lunch early, around 11 o’clock, thinking that this way I was reducing my daily food intake.
Except… my body didn’t agree
I did it for three days. Only three days. Because it felt terrible.
I had already noticed that when I fasted for 14 hours, I started to feel weak. It wasn’t that bad, since I stay seated most of the morning. Besides, after a while I didn’t feel hungry anymore.
But despite my 8–9 hours of sleep, I had no energy. My body lacked nutrition, and I could feel it. At the same time, I felt in control. I knew the food would come soon, and that I was “doing good for my body”, so I waited.
The problem was that I was starving myself. At lunchtime, I was so impatient for the food to finally arrive in my body — plus I missed breakfast — that I ended up overeating.
On top of that, I would feel unbalanced throughout the day. Since I was having an early lunch, I would get cravings in the afternoon, which I tried to avoid and which would lead me to overeat again for dinner.
After three days, I had to face the facts. Intermittent fasting was good for me. But not skipping breakfast.
I’m back on track. I listened to what my body told me and acted accordingly. There is a difference between changing your habits and trying to improve, and pushing the limits too far. I believe that our body knows best.
So I started fasting again for about 14 hours. I start on a 12-hour basis, and I push the fasting until I get hungry. I don’t eat before the hunger appears, and I don’t eat afterward either. It works on the principle of intuitive eating. Eat when you are hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. That’s what seems to work best for me.
For now, I have no idea what the physical results will be. The only thing I know is that I feel good. I like my meal schedule, it corresponds to my desires and needs. I choose healthy foods and eat them when I need them. I guess it’s the healthiest thing I can do for my body and mind.
The biggest lesson here would be this: when it comes to anything in life, but especially food and fitness, be curious, learn, try new things by implementing them slowly and carefully in your life, but always be aware of how you and your body are reacting. It’s all about feeling good. Sometimes it’s hard at first because changing your habits is anything but easy. But you’ll immediately feel the difference between shaking up your habits a little to make them more comfortable later, and pushing yourself too far. Deep down, you always know.
Everyone is different. The secret is to find out what works for you, and for you only.