Intermittent Fasting: The King of Easy Diet Plans

“I had literally starved myself for four months – not a morsel of food – to get into that pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans.” – Oprah Winfrey

Intermittent fasting is one of the easiest ways to lose weight.

Let’s face it.  There aren’t many easy diet plans out there.  It’s ironic that so many people focus on what to eat in order to lose weight when one of the best ways to lose weight is to simply not eat anything. I began intermittent fasting about a year ago and since then, I have reduced my body fat percentage by over 65%. Sure, there were other factors that contributed to this, but intermittent fasting was a big one. There are two main reasons people don’t consider intermittent fasting when trying to lose fat. First, they are afraid of causing their body to go into “starvation mode”. Second, they think it’s too difficult.

Maybe you should keep this sign up in your kitchen while you’re fasting.

First, let me address the starvation mode myth.

Your body will not go into starvation mode if you go without food for 18-24 hours which is the length of time I recommend for fasting. There is no internal panic button that goes off after a few hours of not eating that signals to your body that it is in danger and that it must immediately hold on to body fat stores. On the contrary, your body will burn off stored body fat as energy after a few hours due to the absence of food energy.

I would actually argue that eating infrequently is the natural way to eat because this is the way our bodies were genetically programmed to eat.

Think about it. Does going into starvation mode after a few hours actually make any sense? Our hunter gatherer ancestors often went for 24 hours without eating because they didn’t have readily accessible food and they were leaner and fitter than we are. They had to hunt and it’s not like a deer or bison would show up on their doorstep every few hours. The starvation mode myth was created by the food industry to convince people that they need to eat every few hours so that they will buy more food… what a shocker.

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that intermittent fasting isn’t a bad thing, on to the next point.

Intermittent fasting is not difficult if you go about it the right way. It’s actually more of a mental challenge than anything. It mostly involves changing the way your mind is programmed to think about eating. I think we have all experienced a time when we weren’t hungry, but somehow convinced ourselves to eat. Well, it can also work the other way around. This might cause some temporary discomfort, but if it were easy, everyone would do it. Just suck it up and get over it. Quit telling yourself you can’t skip a meal or two and just do it. So without keeping you in suspense any longer, here are three tricks that I use to help me get through my intermittent fasts.

Fast anyone?

If you don’t feel like eating during a meal time, then don’t.

Sometimes, I don’t feel hungry in the mornings. So, I skip breakfast. Sorry to burst the food industry’s bubble again, but skipping breakfast isn’t a bad thing. I know people who never eat breakfast and stay very lean. If you aren’t hungry at night, then skip dinner. Maybe you had a huge lunch or just had a long day and would rather hit the sack than eat. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. An unplanned skipped meal is the perfect way to kick-start a fast.

Keep yourself occupied with something.

Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to eat? I know this has happened to everyone at some point. Or maybe not even busy, but preoccupied with something. I’m sure we all remember the days we were 10 and stayed glued to the television for eight hours straight playing a brand new video game without any thought of personal hygiene, sleep, or food. I’m not suggesting you do this, but the general principle really does work. Schedule your fast within a time period when you are extremely busy or engaged in something. This makes not eating much easier to pull off because you won’t even think about it.

Pick a convenient time window.

Some people find it easier to begin their fast in the morning. Some find it easier to begin at night. It all depends on your preference. My personal preference is to begin my fast in the evening right after a giant cheat meal. This is why I usually fast on Saturdays. I typically go out with my friends on Friday evening and eat an enormous cheat meal so my fast usually begins around 7 or 8pm. Then, I sleep in on Saturday. I tend to stay up pretty late on the weekends, so I usually have no problem sleeping in until 11am or later sometimes. I then either workout or do some chores around the house and eat my first meal on Saturday around 3 or 4pm. There’s my weekly fast: about 20 hours without eating and it doesn’t bother me one bit. This also becomes easier once you make part of your routine. I’m not necessarily suggesting you do what I do. Most people I know can’t sleep in as late as I can. Like I said, it’s different for everyone, so just figure out a strategy that works well for you.

Here’s a short video by Brad Pilon emphasizing the importance of the mental aspect of fasting.

One more important thing to note…

When it comes to intermittent fasting, remember that you’re not starving yourself. You are working towards a goal. Also, you should only do this once or twice per week max. Any more than that and you are less likely to stick with it over the long haul. And sticking with it over the long haul is what yields results. In fact, I recommend only one 18-24 hour fast per week. To learn more about intermittent fasting, the best resource you can read is Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn how intermittent fasting works and why it beats the pants off of other easy diet plans.

esignature

About Alykhan Gulamali

I'm an introvert, number nerd, food junkie, personal finance enthusiast, and fitness blogger. I specialize in fat loss and stress-free fitness for busy people.

Comments

  1. Nice post mate.
    Im actually interested if there are negative effects to fasting whilst being sick from colds and flu.
    This isn’t covered in the E-book. Im guessing it shouldn’t really matter as long as fluid intake is high.
    I’m fasting today off the back of an infection, so I’m keen to see if I survive it :)

  2. Definitely, fasting does work but its not for everyone (although it should be).
    You can always start off with shorter fasts.When I first tried it, I would have breakfast and fast until Dinner. After a few weeks then I srarted 24 hr fast ..now I do 2 day fasts over 3 days.
    It really does drop weight.
    Raymond
    Raymond-ZenMyFitness´s last blog post ..Cabbage Soup Diet- Crazy Celebrity Diet I Had To Try

  3. @ Clint,

    I’m not sure about the protocol for fasting during sickness. I would think that you’d actually want to eat more (nutritious) foods during this time to help with recovery. On the other hand, sometimes when I’m under the weather, I have zero appetite, so maybe fasting is the natural thing to do.

    @ Raymond,

    Wow, 2 day fasts? I don’t think I could handle that. Good tip on starting out with shorter fasts. I sometimes don’t even make it 24 hours. My fasts probably average around 20 hours.

  4. Excellent points. The “psychological obstacles” are much bigger than the actual ones when it comes to IF. I save a lot of time by not having to drag food around and find that my appetite is blunted anyways.
    Darrin – Lean, Mean, Virile Machine´s last blog post ..Plyometrics Exercises- Vertical Jumps

  5. @ Darrin,

    I agree. Sometimes when I’m fasting (or even when I’m not fasting but in between meals), I’ll experience intense periods of hunger. If I can avoid giving in and eating and instead start doing something to keep myself busy, I’m able to power through these and the hunger disappears after an hour or so. It’s a weird phenomenon.

  6. I have noticed more and more this fasting trend really taking hold. I understand that most people are looking to lose weight as their primary fitness goal, but at what price?

    Am I willing to lose 4 pounds of muscle to lose a total of 10 pounds? The answer, for me at least, is no. It is absolutely possible to lose weight, and not put the body into a catabolic state, which exactly what fasting does.

  7. Great post.

    I think it’s also important to consider your exercise with IF. I find I have a lot of energy to exercise during an IF but if I do intense cardio in the morning, I struggle later in the afternoon. I try to create a large calorie deficit with hardcore cardio or IF but not both.

    Darren@moreprimetime.com

  8. @ Josh,

    Ideally, we would all like to lose fat and maintain or grow muscle. By running a calorie deficit while regularly performing some form of strength training, anyone can accomplish this. It takes a lot less to maintain muscle than people think. Dropping fat is the hard part.

    @ Darren,

    Thanks for stopping by! I agree. I always try to exercise on an empty stomach, but I rarely do intense cardio during my IF days. As you mentioned, exercise and fasting are great tools for creating a calorie deficit so it’s helpful to incorporate both into your routine, but not necessarily go all out on both at the same time to the point where you burn out.

  9. I think fasting is one of the best things that I have learned this past year. I am a big fan of it. I totally disagree that fasting is going to cause muscle loss, especially if you do it right. I am leaner than ever and also more muscular than I have been in years and I have used fasting to drop fat for the last eight months. It is amazing how much confusion is out there about fasting from people that have never tried it! I have never heard anyone that has actually fasted the eat-stop-eat way complain about losing muscle. Only the ones that never tried it, but read about it from some other confused so called expert.

    Josh: If you are losing four pounds of muscle to lose ten pounds, than you are clearly doing something wrong. If you were so calorie depleted to lose four pounds of muscle, you would lose more fat than six pounds, unless you didn’t have any more fat to lose. If that was the case, you most likely wouldn’t be fasting anyways.

    -Kelly
    Kelly-Fitness Overhaul´s last blog post ..Fast Ways to Lose Weight- Warning- This May Piss You Off!

  10. @ Kelly,

    I’m in the same boat. I’ve been fasting regularly for quite a while and I haven’t lost any muscle mass. Much of the confusion is a result of the food industry mind warping everyone into thinking that if they don’t eat all the time, their muscles will evaporate. The truth is your body would much rather burn carbs or fat as energy. Muscle is a last resort and this only happens when you are actually (not figuratively) starving.

  11. Great tips on making fasting a little easier to handle. Once you master it, food cravings in general subside and you don’t feel controlled by a meal schedule. Sometimes the first step is the hardest for newcomers…just try it!

  12. @ Dave,

    It definitely does get easier over time. It’s amazing how much more control you gain over your overall calorie intake once you realize you don’t necessarily need to eat just because it’s a meal time or because others around you are eating.

  13. Hey man, I think you’re right about the mental aspect. Thats the toughest part. The first time I did it, I didnt know what to do with myself, in fact I spent most of my time walking around, drinking water. I dont think I did any work that day. but after the first day, I got myself busy and that made all the difference.
    Alejandro “The Fittest Vegan”´s last blog post ..The Best Vegan Supplements!

  14. @ Alejandro,

    Once you get past the mental hurdle, fasting becomes easier and easier. I also remember when I first started just sitting around doing everything I could not to eat. Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, my timing has improved and I’ve learned to take advantage of the times when I’m naturally not hungry.

  15. I have been doing a fast for 23 hours, 2 days a week for 3 weeks now. I first started it because of stomach issues I wanted to give my body a rest to try to clear up the stomach issues. I have no problem with my stomach now. I kept on doing it, because I’m more aware of what I eat now. Not as hungry. Hunger cravings have definitley went down. Still try to eat a bit healthy, but I still have my nachos 1 a week. I have dropped down 5 lbs so far and hope to continue this. Usually on my fast days I drink Ruby Red grapefruit light to drink throughout the day, along with water and chicken broth. It is alot easier to do fast days at work, on the weekends it’s really hard to not eat when I have to fix meals for my kids. When I do fast on the weekends I just try to stay busy to not think about it.

  16. @ Linda,

    Sounds like you have a good system going. I usually only fast once per week for 20-24 hours, but I don’t ingest any calories during my fast. I just drink water and tea. Staying busy is key to fasting. It makes it so much easier.

  17. When do you think is the best time to exercise when following this fast diet? I am guess that after lunch is probably best. When do you train? I generally do circuit training exercises at home, but need to cut some more fat.
    Jon´s last blog post ..Swimming Is Best Exercise For Women Over 50

  18. @ Jon,

    When you’re fasting, anytime is a good time to train. You will burn more fat when training towards the end of a fast. On the weekends, I usually train in the morning before I eat anything and on the weekdays, I train in the evenings a few hours after lunch but before I eat dinner. I always train on an empty stomach to maximize fat burning.

  19. Interesting. Do you ever find that you lack the energy to train at full intensity though? I wonder if there have been any studies on this, comparing fat burning on an empty stomach with fat burning when fuelled fuelled.

  20. @ Jon,

    You will burn more fat working out on an empty stomach than right after eating because your body has no choice but to use stored body fat as energy rather than carbs from food. I personally don’t suffer from lack of energy when working out in a fasted state. However, if you are used to always working out after eating, then your body will need some time to get used to burning fat as fuel instead of carbs. After a while, though, it will adjust and you will have no problems.

  21. Nice post, clarifying a lot of misconceptions!

    I must say that my natural fat burning only got a real kick start once I learned about intermittent fasting from Rusty Moore.

    I believe it’s a very healthy, effective and actually very natural way of eating … or not eating, in this case! ;-)

    Thanks,

    Mark
    Mark´s last blog post ..How To Get Bigger Arms: The Checklist

  22. @ Mark,

    I completely agree. Once you get into the habit, it feels very natural. When I eat frequently, I feel slow and sluggish. IF is so simple and effective which is why I love it.

  23. I’m quite new to IF, as are most people in the UK. The form popular here at the moment is called 5:2 and is effectively reducing your calories on a fast day to 500-600. Some of us are following a 24 hour fast broken with that meal, which seems to be more effective. And I’m just busy researching how it all fits together.
    Fiona Maclean´s last blog post ..5-2 Diet Shirataki Noodles with Beef

  24. @ Fiona,

    I agree that breaking a fast with a small to normal-sized meal is more effective than breaking it with a binge meal. I know that many people can eat more calories in a single meal than they should in an entire day. Thanks for reading!

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge