I Fasted for Two Months. This Is What Happened

Auriane Alix
Pitfalls, self-knowledge, and the discovery of a perfect in-between.
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I don’t think I have any weight to lose. I’m not the fittest, but I’m average. Of course, there are these small amounts of fat on my hips that I would like to see disappear. But weight loss wasn’t my main concern when I decided to try intermittent fasting.

Reduce the eating window so that the body has time to burn stored fat made sense to me. After all, if we keep eating at regular intervals, our bodies only use what we eat, not what we store. Plus intermittent fasting seemed quite easy. Beginner level represents 12 hours of fasting, most of which happens while sleeping.

I decided to give it a try. It’s been two months now. Here is my feedback.

For those who are not familiar with the notion of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is the current trend in weight loss. Chances are you have already read about it. Here’s a quick reminder of what it is and how it works.

Intermittent fasting is not about what you eat, but when you eat. Of course, if you want to lose weight or improve your overall health, you shouldn’t eat junk food. But the most important thing is when you eat, or rather when you don’t eat. A feeding schedule, if you prefer.

In prehistoric times, humans were used to surviving for long periods of time without eating because they had no other choice. We have completely lost that. We have food available 24/7. Intermittent fasting is therefore a more natural way of eating than the 3 meals + snacks that most people usually do.

Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, Ph.D., has studied intermittent fasting for 25 years. He explains to Hopkins Medicine that after hours without food, the body depletes its sugar reserves and begins to burn fat. He calls this a metabolic change:

“Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours. If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”

But that’s not the only benefit:

“Many things happen during intermittent fasting that can protect organs against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease and many cancers,” says Mark Mattson.

That was enough for me to give it a try.

Beginner level: 12 hours without eating

While some people fast for whole days, the most common approach is to fast for only part of the day. Level 1 corresponds to 12 hours without eating. If you eat dinner early, around 7 p.m., you only have to wait until 7 a.m. the next day to have breakfast.

Easy.

The only thing is, you can’t have some kind of midnight snack. But since I’m not used to doing it when I’m alone, it wasn’t that difficult. I just waited for breakfast the next morning and everything was fine.

Except that I didn’t feel any change. So I gradually increased the difficulty. Most people follow the 16/8 fast: eating for eight hours and fasting for 16 hours. I slowly progressed towards this goal. Since I wasn’t hungry right after waking up, I would only have a cup of black coffee upon waking up, and eat breakfast when the hunger would strike.

Important point: you can only have black coffee, tea, and water during your fast. Anything else would break it.

I found that I could easily go up to 14 hours of fasting. At that time, I began to know more about my hunger. I stopped running away from it when I saw it, and I learned to tame it and understand it. For example, I discovered that it’s not something constant. I am often hungry for half an hour and then it fades away.

I decided to push it further.

From 12 hours to 16 hours

As I didn’t feel much results with 12 or even 14 hours, I tried to go up to 16 hours without eating. But this made me confused between breakfast and lunch. What was I supposed to get after my fast? A late breakfast that put off lunch until later in the afternoon, or an early lunch that left me hungry by mid-afternoon?

That’s when I tried to skip breakfast. I felt capable. I would eat lunch early, around 11 o’clock, thinking that this way I would reduce my daily food intake and prolong the benefits of fasting.

I did this for 3 days. Only 3 days. Because I felt bad. I didn’t feel like my body would get used to it. I just felt like I wasn’t respecting my body’s needs at all. I had gone too far.

I had already noticed that after 14 hours without food, I started to feel weak. It wasn’t that bad, since I stay sat most of the morning to work. Besides, after a while, I wasn’t hungry anymore. But despite my 8–9 hours of sleep, I didn’t have any energy left. 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. By lunchtime, I was so impatient for the food to finally arrive in my body — plus I missed my delicious breakfasts — that I ended up eating too much.

On top of that, I felt unbalanced all day long. Since I was having an early lunch, I had cravings in the afternoon that I tried to avoid and that led me to overeat again at dinner.

It was a total mess.

I found an in-between that works pretty well

While researching the issue, I found that the benefits of intermittent fasting were controversial. Simply put, when your body is deprived of food when it needs it, it goes into “energy-saving” mode.

Your metabolism slows down to conserve resources, causing your body to burn fewer calories overall. On top of this, your body will think that you’re running out of food and will store more of what you eat instead of using it as usual, in case you run out of it again.

“There’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food,” explains Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Feeling starved during your fasting period might make you more prone to binging behaviors when you’re not fasting. If you end up going completely rogue on your non-fasting periods you’ll still gain weight. Many people also experience decreased cognitive functioning that they feel affects their ability to work.” — Trifecta Nutrition

That’s why I looked for — and found — an in-between.

I am now back to about 12 hours of fasting. I don’t even need to think about it anymore, because it happens spontaneously most of the time. I naturally eat dinner early, and I don’t eat breakfast until about 2 hours after waking up, because that’s when the hunger appears.

Final thoughts

If I had to provide overall feedback, I would say that I certainly got to know my body and my reactions better. I know more about my hunger and how I function with and without food.

In all things that one undertakes, and especially in matters of nutrition and health, the most important thing is to be informed and to pay great attention to one’s sensations during the trial period. This is the only way we get to know ourselves and what works and what doesn’t work for our body.

Don’t forget that each person is different: what works well for one person can be terrible for the other. Find out what works for you, both physically and mentally.

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