Intermittent Fasting: A Self-Experiment

Lucie Janik

A quick show of hands, if you have ever tried a diet or some new health trend! Yes, my hand is up as well. And today I will take you on my newest journey: intermittent fasting.

This diet, or let’s call it lifestyle choice, is not about what you eat, but rather when and focuses on set fasting and eating periods. One of the most popular methods is 16:8, where you fast for 16 hours, followed by an 8-hour eating period. According to Mark Mattson, a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, who studied intermittent fasting for 25 years, our bodies are able to go hours or even days without food, a trait we still hold from the hunters and gatherers. They simply had to fast, because it took a long time to hunt prey and gather nuts and berries, therefore their bodies evolved to meet these needs.

Intrigued, I wanted to channel that same energy and a quick survey among the writers staff of artil revealed that I was not alone in my fasting experiment. Some had just started the process while others were superstars who stayed on intermittent fasting for months and shared some tips on how to get through it. The thought of fasting for months seemed like a stretch for me, because who was I kidding? I’m the person that after breakfast is already discussing what’s for lunch and dinner, so instead I decided to opt for two weeks of fasting. 

Since the sheer amount of information online overwhelmed me, I asked some friends for advice. They recommended using an app to help me on my journey. I downloaded Bodyfast, an app that offers different versions of fasting, including the ever popular 16:8 method, a relaxed fasting approach and the fat killer version which promotes weight loss. The masochist I am, of course I chose the fat killer option, because if I’m doing this, I can also go all in. I liked the overall layout and set-up of the app, but it also comes with a price tag, which in the end motivated me to try sticking with the fasting process, because if I’m paying for it, it better be worth it.

Similar to the 16:8 method, the fat killer option started me out on 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating, but switched things up after a couple of days with longer or shorter fasting periods to stimulate my metabolism. This intrigued me, because I was already scared of having to fast every day for such a long period. So without further ado, let’s get right into my fasting diary.

Day 1: “Why am I doing this again?"

Having stuffed my face with potato chips the night before, I wasn’t too hungry when I got up at 8am and took my dog for a quick walk. My normal routine would be to feed the furry beast and then have some yogurt or porridge, but not today. Today was the first day of fasting. 

According to my research, I was allowed to have water, tea or coffee in the fasting period, basically VERY low-calorie drinks, so coffee it was. Normally I would go for a cappuccino with almond milk and cinnamon (yes I know, I am 80 years old), so chugging down black coffee was, simply put, a challenge. Three coffees later I was still missing my almond cappuccino but at least I was awake and not feeling hungry yet. I’m stressing the ”yet”.

Fast forward to 11am, my stomach was raging and I already started to doubt the process and my decision to try intermittent fasting. Why did I do this? I love breakfast, maybe I should switch to cancelling dinner instead or quit altogether, because hello, I love food. Luckily, my discipline kicked in (I thank years of competitive swimming for that) and I did not cave. Instead, I decided to fight the hangriness by keeping busy. Cleaning, working, writing, you name it, anything to keep me distracted from the hunger monster. 

Around 12pm my furry son loudly demanded a walk and I was glad for another distraction. Only one more hour to go until the shiny doors to all my food cravings would open and I could finally turn off the hanger. Living right next to a forest, I decided to take my dog for a new route through the wilderness and to my surprise, the fresh air and movement helped my overall feeling of hunger and we stayed out longer than expected.

By 1:30pm I was back home and SO pumped to get my snack on. Having now fasted for 16,5 hours, I was ready to eat anything. Cereal, bread rolls, chocolate, you name it. But of course, anything is not the key word, mindfulness is if you want to see results. Instead I channelled my inner food guru and made banana porridge with cinnamon and almond butter. The first spoons of porridge felt like a warm hug from the inside and I was so happy to finally eat. 

The rest of the day passed fairly quickly since my mind wasn’t consumed by the thoughts of food anymore. I had a light dinner around 8pm and was just in time to start the next fasting period at 9pm.

Days 2 and 3: “I can totally do this”

The second and third day passed fairly easily and quickly for me. I was so proud of myself for completing the first day, that the high of success carried me swiftly through the next few days. I kept a fairly similar routine to the first day and just distracted myself with work, doggy walks and light workouts.

Instead of my usual runs in the forest, I decided to focus on lighter pilates classes at home, because passing out in the forest was not something I wanted to cross off my to-do list. I opted for 45 minute workouts with Melissa Wood, who I can only recommend if you are looking to up your pilates game and enjoy the comfort of your own home.

Day 4: “Fasting and hangovers don’t match”

Just when I thought that fasting wasn’t that bad and that I could totally do this, the German government decided to throw rocks into my path. For the past seven months, bars and restaurants had been closed and were finally allowed to be open again. As happy as I was about the news, of course this had to happen right in the middle of my fasting experiment. Let’s just say, I’m not proud of myself for what happened on that day, but I also had a blast.

Several visits to breweries (beer is not food) and multiple greasy late-night snacks led to a massive failure on the fasting front, but oh was it worth it. Or at least I thought so till the next day, when I woke up with an epic hangover and an involuntary commitment to fasting. To say I felt bad would be an understatement, but it also helped in sticking with fasting, because the pure sight of food already made my stomach feel funny. By 5pm I was finally able to eat again, but let’s just say that this day was not a fasting success in terms of willpower.

Day 5: “I’m back on track”

The day after the hangover, I was ready to recommit to my fasting goals and refocus. I still hadn’t quite gotten used to not eating in the morning and had made it a new ritual to avoid people before 1pm, because my hangry mood was not improving. Doubts snuck in at that moment, because why should I continue doing the fasting experiment, if my body and mind were clearly not loving it?

To soothe my worried mind, I hopped on a call with a friend, who was already a fasting superstar, and shared my thoughts with her. Since she had been fasting for a few months, she was quickly able to extinguish my concerns and pointed out that I just had to get through the first stage and my body would soon adapt to the new regimen. Another tip of hers: distractions, distractions, distractions.

Day 6: “Distractions are key”

Sticking to my friend’s advice, I made myself busy. To bridge the gap between getting up and finally eating, I engaged in several activities that normally would have never crossed my mind or were put off for too long. 

I can now say that I know how to make my own bubble candles, am a super seller of secondhand items on Vinted and gave baking a wool bread a try. The latter was of course immediately devoured once the clock hit 1pm and if you love soft and spongy bread, give it a try! 

Day 7: “Who needs food when you have sex?”

Following my busy day of distractions that can be summed up as a starter course for the ultimate housewife, I indulged in the ultimate distraction on day 7: Sex. Since I’m newly single, multiple dating apps are currently on my roster (I can recommend Raya and Bumble) and after a few conversations with worthy candidates, I was down to meet up with one. 

Not to share too much detail, but I would count this as the best distraction to not think about food or hunger, because you are already taking care of another hunger.

Day 8: “I’m over this”

Remember when I talked about my so-called discipline from years of competitive swimming on day 1? By day 8 I had run out of it. During the morning walk with my dog I was fighting with myself. On one hand I wanted to get through the two weeks and not be a quitter, but on the other hand I was miserable. I missed my morning routine and as friends and family pointed out, I was not really a joy to be around when I was hungry. 

For the past seven days I had taken my dog on a modified walk, since we normally always pass by a bakery on his usual round and I didn’t want to torture myself even more, but not today. Something in my brain (or stomach) clicked and I straight up walked into the bakery, ordered a walnut bread roll with ham, egg, lettuce and remoulade (this ingredient is key) and made my peace with intermittent fasting. 

Obviously I would have loved completing the challenge, but what’s important is to also listen to your body and mind while embarking on those challenges. If it makes you miserable and you don’t enjoy it, don’t overthink it, don’t stress yourself and find an option or lifestyle choice that works better for you.

In the end I am happy that I gave it a try, because it actually taught me that my body and mind really need fuel in the morning. The other option would have been to skip dinner, but again, I love it way too much and I enjoy sharing meals with my friends and family in the evening. The only option for me would be to skip lunch, but then I would never complete the 16 hours of fasting, so I just decided to close the chapter of fasting and focus on a balanced diet without restrictions.

Of course this is only my experience with intermittent fasting. I know plenty of people that have been doing it for months or even years and swear by it, so don’t be discouraged by my experiment if you want to give it a go. Maybe you will reach the same point as me, but you might also enjoy the process and incorporate fasting into your routine. Whatever the outcome, just listen to your body and do what feels good for you.

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