I’ve been hearing a lot lately about intermittent fasting and how it can improve overall health. If you look into the benefits and the intermittent fasting results people report, it all sounds great. Combined with a healthy diet, intermittent fasting can result in improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced cell regeneration, weight loss, mental clarity, etc., etc. But I wondered – could I really skip breakfast for 30 days and not turn into an ill-tempered a-hole?
Before I get into my intermittent fasting results and all the detail, I have to give you a little bit of background on myself and my eating habits. For 38 years, or at least for all of my 38 years I can remember, I always ate breakfast. Three square meals a day was a rule I followed and didn’t see any reason to change that. Part of my rationale for eating three times a day was that if I didn’t eat around my normal meal time each day, here’s what my mental state was like:
The progression would go something like this:
- Getting close to meal time: When am I going to eat? Doesn’t anyone else realize we need to eat soon?
- Meal time is here: Boy I’m hungry, why is everyone around me so annoying?
- Meal time has passed: I NEED SOME FOOD. Also, don’t talk to me because I’m bound to give you a short, terse response no matter what you say.
- More time has passed: WHEN AM I GOING TO EAT? By now, I’m a complete jerk to anyone who I come into contact with.
- Even more time has passed: OK, I’M SCREWED. I’ve lost control of my emotional state and am in complete hangry monster mode.
Here’s what it might look like to the casual observer:
You get the idea. After I went through this progression and finally ate some food, I’d be fine. Halfway through the meal following this I’d feel a calm come over me and I’d start looking back on my former hangry self and shaking my head. Then, I’d go apologize for my irrational behavior. Sorry I was being a terrible a-hole a little bit ago, etc. etc.
Photo credit: Natalie Puls Photography
LET’S SEE WHAT HAPPENS
You can see why I was a little worried about how things would go if I tried intermittent fasting. However, hearing how it could actually HELP with insulin sensitivity, aka the cause of the “hangry monster”, I decided to give it a try. Looking into the intermittent fasting options, I decided to go with the easiest version for me, the 16/8 protocol.
WHAT IS THE 16/8 PROTOCOL?
I liked this version of intermittent fasting because it was simple – eat all of your food in an 8 hour window and fast for the remaining 16. For me, that meant that I would skip breakfast and eat between the period of 12-8pm or 11am-7pm depending on my schedule. I didn’t have to change anything with what I ate (I’ll get into that more later), just restrict my eating to that specific 8 hour window.
HERE WE GO
Admittedly, I didn’t plan on doing an extended period of intermittent fasting when I started. I first planned on doing only ONE DAY and seeing what happened. It was a total experiment for me. Plus, I was scared of my inner “hangry monster”. Ok, let’s give this a shot.
That’s me thinking about skipping breakfast – “Uh, I’m not so sure about this”
- I was definitely hungry around my “normal” breakfast time and had to work through it. The hardest stretch was probably 8-10 am.
- I felt a slight headache around 11am but it went away. I was counting the seconds until noon when I could FINALLY eat.
- I knew from past experience that I would be hangry and tried to mentally prepare for it. However, there were definitely some times where I was short and snippy with Erica (sorry love). Luckily she knew this might happen and tried to leave me alone to deal with it.
- Noon – Time to eat! Feeling good after lunch and I was full until normal dinner time.
- Afternoon – Didn’t snack and felt fine. I did my normal afternoon workout around 4:30 and it felt normal.
- Finally, I ate a normal dinner and didn’t snack afterwards.
At the end of the first day I thought, hey, that actually went pretty well. I’ll give it a try again tomorrow and see what happens!
THE REST OF THE FIRST WEEK
DAY 2: Ok, now that I’ve been through a day of this I know what to expect. I didn’t feel as crazy hungry in the morning and I didn’t feel as “hangry”. Basically, I felt more even-keel. I did have a slight “heady” feeling that’s hard to describe. I had two normal meals for lunch and dinner.
DAY 3: Things are smoothing out and I’m actually feeling pretty good in the morning. I’m still getting hungry but I feel even-tempered and in control. If irritating things pop-up, I feel less “on-edge” and able to deal with them like a rational human being. My workouts are feeling good. Plus, it’s Friday, so I even had a couple of cocktails with dinner!
DAY 4: My first Saturday, so it’s a little different from the normal routine. Usually if I have drinks the night before, I’m extra hungry in the morning. This is still the case, but I’m ok now dealing with a little hunger and move on. Erica and I went to a birthday party in the late afternoon so it pushed our dinner back, a normal trigger for irritability for yours truly. She kept asking if we needed to leave so I could get something to eat. I was hungry, but it didn’t trigger the “hangry monster”!! Wow, there is something good going on here!
DAY 5: This day describes the ultimate test of something that would have previously set me over the edge. We went to test drive a new truck and ended up buying it. You know how it goes – drive the truck, talk about options/pricing, negotiate back and forth for an hour, sign paperwork, etc. A super stressful morning, right? This went on until almost 1:30 pm and I hadn’t eaten a single thing! Erica and I were both hungry and ready to eat when we got home, but I didn’t lose my cool or snap at anyone – miraculous!
DAY 6: Ok back to normal on Monday. I think the busy weekend caught up with me because I’m irritable in the morning with Erica. However, I’m able to recognize it better than before and pull back. I guess this won’t always be smooth sailing right?
DAY 7: One full week of intermittent fasting in the books! It feels like the new normal for me and overall I’m feeling good. Adjusting to a new routine has been difficult but how even-keel I feel throughout the day is such a positive feeling I don’t want to stop. Maybe I’ll just try and do it for 30 days and see how I feel?
THE REST OF THE MONTH
WEEK 2: The “heady” feeling I had at the beginning of the first week is gone. My workouts feel good but not great, I notice that maybe I’m a little lethargic around workout time in the afternoon. On Friday, I did my first “fasted workout” around 10am and it felt great. My energy levels seemed fine for the workout and it was nice exercising without a full stomach.
WEEK 3: This intermittent fasting thing has me feeling pretty good! I’m telling friends and family about it and wondering how long I’ll keep it going. I like how I don’t feel overly “full” or “stuffed” even right after meals. Also, I feel strong in my workouts and I feel even more productive in the morning. My mental focus is solid and my temperament is consistent without the hangry spikes.
WEEK 4: Rounding out the 30 days strong! The new normal is not eating until noon. I never thought this “experiment” would make such a difference in how I feel. I’m eating two large meals per day with minimal snacking. I feel less bloated all the time and have solid levels of energy. Plus, the “hangry monster” rarely shows his face!
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM MY INTERMITTENT FASTING EXPERIENCE
- You only need a few days to try it out and feel the positive effects of intermittent fasting.
- Find the right schedule that works for you. I skipped breakfast, but maybe your ideal 8 hours of eating is between 9am-5pm.
- Eat real food. I found myself really wanting to make my meals count! This meant meals with a good mix of protein, vegetables and healthy fats. Healthy fats were key to keeping me satiated for long periods of time.
- It’s nice not feeling bloated all the time. I used to wake up and eat right away, sometimes when I wasn’t even hungry. This left me feeling overly full and bloated throughout the day, especially after meals. Now I feel full but not bloated.
- It clears up a little time in your day. One less meal to plan, shop for and cook equals a little extra time each day!
MY INTERMITTENT FASTING RESULTS
Overall, I have had a very positive experience with my intermittent fasting experiment. I don’t know if I will do it forever or what form it might take going forward, but I learned a lot about myself and my body through this trial. Mainly, I learned that I don’t have to totally be a slave to food and meal times. I no longer feel so regimented that I “have” to eat at certain times. It’s nice to have a little leeway in my day for life to happen (without me exploding and becoming crazy). Overall, I feel better knowing I can go without eating for a while and not turn into an irritable crazy person.
In addition, I now have a better understanding of how things other than food affect my mood (mainly sleep). I’ve noticed that irritability can be triggered by lack of sleep just as easily as it used to be triggered by lack of food. I wouldn’t have noticed that before but now I have better awareness and understanding of any mood swings that occur. This awareness has allowed me to look into the “why” behind irritability or mood swings when they happen, which has helped me to better understand myself and make adjustments to be a happier and healthier person overall.
Photo credit: Natalie Puls Photography
Interested in learning more about intermittent fasting and how it could fit into your life? Below are some resource links that I found to be very helpful.
- Beginners guide to intermittent fasting – Nerd Fitness
- Intermittent fasting for beginners – Diet Doctor
- The Beginners guide to intermittent fasting – James Clear
- Intermittent fasting Q&A – Diet Doctor
- Intermittent Fasting Update – Harvard Medical School
A FINAL NOTE
This blog post was written about my initial experiment with intermittent fasting. I ended up doing about 5 weeks straight of intermittent fasting before I broke my routine for a 10-day hunting trip. On that trip I didn’t fast, ate 3 meals a day, was very active and strayed a bit from my normal diet. However, when I returned home I went back to the 16-8 intermittent fasting schedule and felt just fine. I didn’t have any issues switching back to intermittent fasting after the trip. I think that was because I had already gone through the switch and knew what to expect and had a better understanding of what “true” hunger was.
Now, I still skip breakfast most mornings (following the 16/8 protocol) but do eat it on occasion. I can be flexible and switch back and forth and still feel good.
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