I never thought much about intermittent fasting until I started dating Logan. He told me that he typically eats only 2 meals a day, and breakfast is the meal he skips most often.
“I could never do that,” I said. “I’m so hungry in the morning.”
“Drink some water” was his reply.
I may have rolled my eyes. Water?? That wasn’t going to cut it.
I didn’t think much more about his eating habits after that conversation and continued doing what I’d been doing for years – eating three smallish meals and a snack a day.
Earlier this year, though, we tried a low-carb diet for a month. In the process of learning more about low-carb health benefits, I read about intermittent fasting.
Still, I wasn’t interested in trying it. My reasons were lame – I believed breakfast “jump-started” my metabolism, I liked breakfast foods too much to give them up, and I felt hungry an hour after I woke up – but they felt like my truth.
Mental barriers were the biggest, well, barrier to trying intermittent fasting. I wasn’t willing to challenge my long-held beliefs about when and how much to eat. The messages I’d received about the importance of breakfast, and, really, my enjoyment of food were too strong to consider giving it a try.
I lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle.
Over the summer, I started thinking about something Logan had said to me. Most of us sit about 90 percent of the day – this is life in America. We’re at desks behind computers and get up only to get food or something to drink, or use the bathroom.
Sitting burns only about 134 calories per hour for the average 170-pound male and much less for the average female. A woman who weighs about 140 pounds will burn about 568 calories over a typical work day. That’s next to nothing.
Typically, I work out 5 days a week, burning on average between 250 and 500 calories per workout with HIIT, kickboxing, and lifting weights.
The recommended daily calorie intake for women is about 2,000 calories. Let’s say I’m burning 1200 to 1500 calories a day, adding in a few hundred additional calories for walking around my house and the office.
That puts me at a caloric surplus of about 500 calories. So, do I really need those breakfast calories?
Am I hungry, or just bored?
Another thing Logan pointed out to me is that I may not actually be hungry even when I think I am. This comment got me thinking about the few scoops of peanut butter that I often ate in the afternoon. Was I hungry, or just looking for a distraction?
I started to pay attention to my afternoon feelings of “hunger” and realized that I had eaten enough food only a few hours ago that I couldn’t possibly need more.
So why was I reaching for it?
It became clear. I’d feel the afternoon slump coming on and wanted the pleasure of food to pick me up.
In essence, I craved food but didn’t actually need it.
Do I need breakfast for energy?
I worried that I would be lethargic if I didn’t eat breakfast. I’m most productive in the morning and wondered if my mind wouldn’t feel as clear without the morning calories.
I read that while intermittent fasting, I could still drink coffee (as long as I stayed under 50 calories), but I worried that I would still feel lethargic without food for energy.
Reading up on ancestral living helped to clear this up for me. Our hunter-gatherers ancestors often went for much longer periods of time without food than modern humans do. They were not only able to survive, but thrive mentally and physically.
This challenged me to rethink my belief about how much food is actually necessary and beneficial for my body to run at an optimal level.
Can intermittent fasting actually prolong life?
Research on intermittent fasting is still in the early stages, but studies are showing that there are health benefits associated with intermittent fasting that can impact weight loss, insulin resistance, inflammation, heart health, cancer reduction and prevention, and brain growth. There’s even some evidence that intermittent fasting can increase lifespan.
Years from now, this could be proved wrong – who knows. But is there really a downside?
Sure, with intermittent fasting I don’t get the enjoyment of eating breakfast, but those types of food don’t have to be limited to breakfast. I often eat breakfast foods – like eggs and pancakes – for dinner, so that’s not really an excuse.
And the hunger pangs? I assumed they’d be there, but also figured I’d learn more about listening to my body for true signs of hunger and recognizing that even if my stomach is growling, nothing is going to happen if I don’t eat right then. And I can always grab a glass of water.
With the pros mounting, I decided to listen to the words of Lewis Carol, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take…” and give it a try.
Stay tuned to read how it went…