As of April 3rd, I am already 5 months in to my Intermittent Fasting journey. Wow! I can’t believe it’s been that long already! Over these last 5 months of living an intermittent fasting lifestyle, I have learned some very important lessons and they continue to keep me focused and successful. I’m so excited to get to share them with you today! My hope in doing so is that you will be able to apply these lessons to your own journey, whether through intermittent fasting or anything else, and receive strength to continue working hard toward your goals.
So, without further fluff and stuff, here are five lessons I learned in my first five months of intermittent fasting:
1. November: Just Start. Right Now!
If you’re anything like me, starting something tends to become a major process in and of itself (*ahem* starting this blog, for instance). I seem to get so wrapped up inside my own head, focusing on all of the little tiny details that “need” to fall into place in order for me to be able to begin a goal. This means I’m quick to forget to look at the big picture and what I’m losing out on the longer I wait. But, in all honesty, all of these reasons we create in our minds for why we can’t start that thing that’s been exciting us for so long today – right now – are just fear or excuses coming out in the form of legitimacy. Once I realized this for myself that blustery November morning of bloated regret, it became so much less taxing to just go for it: thus, my intermittent fasting journey had begun. And let me be the first to say taking that first step toward saying “I’ve had enough!” and starting this journey has literally changed my life, even though it wasn’t on that “Perfect Monday” that I always told myself was necessary.
Those first few weeks of intermittent fasting were tough, but the results were so worth enduring for the massive success I had my first month: 15 pounds gone! Even through the Thanksgiving celebration, I was able to maintain my focus and stick to my plan, increasing the value of my successes. Obviously, we all know this is most likely a mixture of water and body fat; but, just seeing that number on the scale drop was enough to push me on each and every day, regardless of the headaches, withdrawals, and constant eye twitches toward the clock.
So, Lesson #1: Go for it. Now. No more excuses. Now is the time. “Right now” is always better than “some other day”. Personally, having decided to “Just Start” was the exact right move because I strongly believe if I’d waited any longer, I wouldn’t have made it through the rest of the holiday season and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now. Don’t miss out on what could be any longer! If you know you want to do something, especially if it’s something that will improve the quality of your life, just start. Right now!
2. December: Consistency is Essential, No Matter What
I moved out of my first month of IF on cloud nine, ecstatic about my massive success and determined to continue the trend. However, knowing what December holds in store for my Christmas-crazed family, I was careful to keep my expectations realistic and aimed for at least 5 pounds for the month.
Keeping this in mind, I continued doing intermittent fasting with determined consistency but also making sure I enjoyed the season. Day in and day out, I focused solely on completing my clean fast of 18 to 22 hours; I even managed a couple of extended fasts ranging from 36 – 48 hours. While my food choices during my eating windows were not exactly on point given the holiday business, I was still able to maintain a certain level of cleanliness in my meals. By the end of the month, I had only lost 3.4 pounds, but I was not disappointed by this in the least. “Progress is progress, no matter how small.” All together, this consistent focus and hard work was completely worth what some would consider an insignificant 3 pound loss.
Thoughts on Lesson #2: No matter what challenges you face, do your absolute best to be consistent with your goals and you will see progress. It’s often said that a little bit of progress each day brings about great success (not a direct quote, but it’s to the same effect).
3. January: You Must Take Care of Yourself First
Monday, January 1, 2018: I spent this day of renewal wrapped up on my living room floor, floating in and out of consciousness as Phil took over “Mom duties” with our girls. The flu – the ultimate flu – had hit me hard and I was certain that death by 1000 cuts would be more welcomed. Needless to say, that first week of 2018 was spent recuperating and focusing on feeling better. And, because I have this unnatural love of eating when I’m sick (except with stomach flu, obviously), my concern for continuing my daily fasting routine was tossed out the frosty window. I loathe being sick and I was going to do anything in my power to feel better. Period.
Finally, after a couple of weeks – yes, weeks; it was a killer strain that I caught – I was able to let go of my need for external comfort and begin to refocus on my goals; however, the return to fasting was much more difficult than I was expecting. Because of the length of my hiatus, I’m certain my glycogen stores had been replenished which meant
once again suffering through a bout of “fasting flu” (like keto flu, but with the enjoyment of glorious carbs). This re-induction phase was not nearly as long as the initial one I experienced in November, but it was unpleasant enough. But, as I learned in December, consistency was important and since I was feeling better, it was time to get back to work. I started with 16 hours and slowly worked my way back up to regular 20-22 hour fasts. Overall, January was not much of a success with no weight loss, but it don’t mourn the lack of progress because I know I did my best given the circumstances.
Lesson #3 is one that we would all do well to remember, no matter our goals: taking care of ourselves first in whatever way we need is essential! If we don’t make sure that we’re performing at our best, burn out happens very quickly and the set back could prove to be harmful. Number One comes first. Period.
4. February: Internal Motivation Must Be Stronger than External De-motivation
Okay, so Lesson #4 sounds like some deep psychological philosophy, but I’ve come to realize that it holds true with all goals we want to accomplish. If you think about it, we’re never always going to be determined and wanting to work toward the end result. We’re going to face fatigue, stumbling blocks, and so on. But, if our desire for success is rooted deep within our minds, these outside obstacles are much less likely to derail our efforts.
For me, February was basically one big road block in my journey to Intermittent Fasting success. Once again, I’d come down with the flu (although it was not nearly as severe as the first bout, thank goodness!); Miss Sweets seemed to be teething all_month_long! so sleep was basically non-existent; and, to top it all off, on Valentine’s Day I began
my menstrual cycle for the first time in two years!
Can we just say “Hormone Hell”?! Ugh!
For the first time in my intermittent fasting journey, I was facing an overwhelming desire to throw in the towel. I really just wanted to call it quits. I’d only lost a measly three and a half pounds in two months and my clothes were just as tight as they had been at Christmas. What was the point?!?
Thankfully, I was quick to remind myself that I’d promised to not give up at the first wall I hit, and this definitely wasn’t the first. So, I continued, day in and day out. And, guess what! I lost over six pounds in February! My determination to see my goal weight again was (and still is) so much stronger than anything I’ve encountered thus far.
5. March: Moderation is an Absolute MUST
February flew by after that final decision to stick to my fasting and March blustered in promising a new month of excellent losses and renewed confidence. However, those promises could not have been farther from reality.
My fasts were consistent and of adequate length, but they were far from clean. And my feasting windows…..well, I don’t think I could ever keep track of the amount of sugar I’d eaten throughout the month of March even if I was determined to do so. It was absolutely excessive! I’d open my window with 10 rolls of smarties, eat 3 to 4 bran muffins, gorge on large meals of fast food, and finish it all off with a deep mug of Reed’s Dairy Praline’s and Cream, all within a 2 – 4 hour eating window.
To be honest, I still don’t even know why I was eating this way. Maybe I was just being lazy? Or the justification of using extended fasts to forgo the effects of gluttony were too easy to accept? It also could have been the fact that I’d started exercising extensively in the beginning of March and was subconsciously using this as an excuse to let loose. I don’t know, but for the first time in my new lifestyle, I was digressing faster than I was progressing.
Thankfully, I eventually snapped out of my glucose trance (I’d just had enough, I guess) and was able to reroute my mindset back to it’s original path, recognizing that March could never be repeated if I was to make any sort of achievement before Summer came.
We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t out run a bad diet”; well, I’d just like to add my two cents to this and say that we definitely can’t out fast a bad diet, either. Ugh! I chose intermittent fasting as my plan for weight loss because I knew I could still enjoy the foods I love while having success; but, it was essential for me to learn that those food, like with anything, must be enjoyed in moderation.
Now, there’s a second part to this 5th lesson and I hope that I can make my point clear because I feel this part is just as important. The mentality of moderation must be applied to our failures as well. If we become distraught and flighty over every single jump from the wagon, we’ll quickly lose focus on the big picture and end up barreling head first off of a cliff. Rather, remembering that we cannot have our successes that keep us going without a few failures to gauge our progress will go a long way to helping us maintain a healthy perspective. Thus, “moderation in all things” is key to success.
*Bonus!* April: It’s Okay to “Start Over”
It’s now April, my sixth month of intermittent fasting, and just in the last 10 days I’ve already lost 4 pounds, I’m in a new set of 10s, and I have been able to significantly decrease the amount of sugar I was consuming.
“So, what brought on such a drastic change?” you might be asking.
Well, much like last November, I’d had enough. Having learned some valuable lessons these last few months, I just decided to start over. And that’s okay!
New and Improved Routine
Now, technically I didn’t start all the way over since I hadn’t regained the nearly 30 pounds lost, but my technique and plan were way off base by the end of March, so those were my focus. Following is a list of the changes I’ve made thus far into April and I am so excited about the results:
- Squeaky clean fasts: I only drink water or plain, unflavored mineral water during my fasts (Perrier, anyone?) And, I have to say that this has made all the difference. My energy and focus throughout my fast as improved immensely. Not considering I still struggle with sleep and what I’m sure are some hormonal imbalances, the energy I’ve experienced these last few days has been wonderful!
- Renewed focus on nutrition: I am cooking meals made of real food with a lot of raw vegetables and fruit as the sides. Simple.
- OPAD (and some days OMAD): One Plate a Day, meaning when I sit down for my meal, I get a significant portion of food, eat until I am satisfied and do not get seconds. This may seem very restrictive to some, but I’ve been making it through my fasts with no issue so I know I’m eating enough in my meals. If I was struggling in my fasts, I’d allow for seconds if needed. Generally, my window is now between 30 minutes to an hour long.
- One standard serving of a “treat” per day: when my meal is finished, if I’m feeling like I could enjoy something sweet, I will have one serving of something that I enjoy, usually ¼ cup chocolate covered raisins or 4 pieces Dove Dark chocolate (YUM!!!) I do this so as to not completely deprive myself of things that I truly enjoy but to also apply the concept of moderation to my new plan.
- Increased focus on quality sleep: I am not a good sleeper. For whatever reason, I am a morning person and a night owl, so not a good mix. Rather than forcing myself to get 8 hours of sleep and feel like I’ve wasted my life away, I’ve been aiming for a minimum of 5 hours of QUALITY sleep, meaning no phones or distractions, aiming for a consistent bedtime, and making sure I take my magnesium religiously (yes, it really does make a difference for me!)
These are the significant changes I’ve made to my intermittent fasting lifestyle and they’re already paying off nicely. With these new changes, I’ve also decided to focus on time framing rather than numbers on the scale. So, my first goal is 10 weeks of implementing these changes and determining what other things could be tweaked along the way. I’m already feeling amazing and am to a point now that I look forward to seeing the “after shot” more than I ever have before.
Overall, I am very pleased with the progress I’ve made these last few months and am even more grateful for these lessons I’ve learned about myself along the way. I’ve begun applying them to other goals (like working on this blog!) and am loving how much more productive and confident I am becoming! I truly hope that you’ve gained something from my experiences and can start seeing the results you’re looking for, no matter what your goals are. I would love, love, love to hear about any experiences you feel comfortable sharing with me about how these lessons or any others have impacted you. As always, send me a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be sure to reply as soon as I can.
I’ll also make it a priority to update regularly about my progress – probably every 2nd week or so – in order to keep everyone in the know. If you’d like a more detailed account of my intermittent fasting journey over the next ten weeks, please, subscribe to my newsletter! With the increased details, I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite intermittent fasting hacks, sending out free printables and information tools of things I use to maintain focus on my goals, and am even working on organizing my first giveaway, the details of which will be included in my newsletter!
I look forward to sharing these next 10 weeks and beyond with you! Thank you for reading.