Full disclosure: Back in March, before the quarantine life, my weight was hovering around 125lb (56.7kg) and I’m 5’5″ (168cm) in height. I was able to weigh myself at regularly at work because they a scale in the restroom. Since Shelter-in-place started I haven’t been able to weigh myself. The results of my intermittent fast (IF) are subjective and are based off of my physical energy levels, how I was feeling mentally and through shirtless selfies (all of which I’m trying immensely hard to flex in.) During this month the only thing that change was when I ate. Sleeping, working, and exercise times were consistent.
I’m not a health professional, nutritionist, nor physical trainer. I’m just a regular person exploring things while under lockdown.
How I Got Into Intermittent Fasting (IF)
When quarantine started I knew it was imperative to create a morning routine to maintain some sense of normalcy. Pre-COVID, I’d start my day with a bike ride into the office. Then I’d hit the building’s cafeteria, devour all the free bananas and grab a coffee before settling into my computer. In March I was lucky to be blessed with the ability to work from home, until…? Now that I’m always home and without a steady supply of free bananas, I naturally fell into skipping breakfast. Coffee, however, I can’t live without. I don’t need the caffeine, but I enjoy the manual process of making coffee. The feedback loop of touching, smelling and tasting coffee triggers a work-focused mindset for me.
For the first months of quarantine, I prepared my coffee with almond milk, and collagen before jumping on my computer. Then serendipitously in July, a conversation amongst friends steered towards the benefits of IF. IF has been shrouded in promises of numerous health benefits including:
- Thinking and memory. Studies discovered that intermittent fasting boosts working memory in animals and verbal memory in adult humans.
- Heart health. Intermittent fasting improved blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as other heart-related measurements.
- Physical performance. Young men who fasted for 16 hours showed fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Mice who were fed on alternate days showed better endurance in running.
- Diabetes and obesity. In animal studies, intermittent fasting prevented obesity. And in six brief studies, obese adult humans lost weight through intermittent fasting.
- Tissue health. In animals, intermittent fasting reduced tissue damage in surgery and improved results.
My friend (@porterduong) noticed that I had already been following a time-restricted diet and if I simply took out all the additives in my coffee I could be doing IF. Because I’m always curious about personal development and changing my coffee habits isn’t too bothersome I decided to commit to a 16:8 fasting window for a month. Also, quarantine life is boring! I need to mix things up with exciting activities that can be done while alone in isolation. Yes, fasting is fun. Yes, I’m losing my mind.
How Things Went
I had to relearn how to listen to my body. I didn’t feel fatigued or tired, but my stomach kept making sounds around noon and right before bed. I also felt slightly bloated with all the gurgling. Around this time is supposedly when my body is getting used to its new eating schedule and is adjusting to using fat for energy. I set my eating window between 1-9 pm and during those hours I’d eat as I normally would. Going to the bathroom also wasn’t an issue. Everything was more or less normal. I wasn’t really hungry, if anything I felt annoyed with all the stomach sounds.
However, I fell prey to an onslaught migraines over the weekend. That weekend was wretched. I kept seeing auras whenever I looked at a screen or bright lights. The sides of my head consistently throbbed. I popped ibuprofen and slept for most of this weekend. Moving forward, I promptly became more mindful of my water intake. Migraines suck.
There was a noticeable surge of continuous energy during the middle of Week 2. I’d be awake up before my alarm with invigorated alert acuity. There was zero hesitation with jumping out of bed to conquer the day. Before IF I faced a bit of resistance starting my day. The alarm would go off, I’d hit the snooze, and then ponder at the ceiling wondering when what’s the appropriate amount of time to lie in bed before getting up.
My stomach growled less and the immediate uptick in mental clarity and energy was addictive. I believe that through a combination of less brain fog and making fewer decisions in the morning I became more productive throughout the rest of the day.
Fasting became a lot easier around this time. I really enjoy how energized I felt. The hard start and stop times of my eating window simplified my daily agenda, which lead to less decision fatigue. I also was curious if I could “push” myself more and decided to squeeze my eating window. By the end of Week 3, I committed to a 17:7 schedule.
One surprising discovery I made while reviewing photos from this week is that these are the first images in which I’m not obscuring my face and I’m looking directly at the camera. I’ve never been a person who’d thought much of my self-image. I think around this time I started to feel comfortable in my body. I just felt good about myself, plus seeing my body composition change in the mirror was definitely encouraging.
I had my period during this week as well. Part of me hoped that IF would affect my cycle with a more convenient and lighter flow. Nope, denied. I had a normal period. Periods, like migraines, suck.
I think my body has finally adjusted to a fasting lifestyle. I haven’t experienced a headache since Week 1 and mood-wise, I’m consistently at peace. My mornings remain quite energized and I don’t experience any crashes later in the day. I cannot overstate how much elated I am with this version of myself.
I’m also a bit shocked to see that my body evaporated through this process. I dropped a pants size and my shirts are baggier. Part of me wonders if this is my “true” size and if I had unknowingly overeaten in the past. I don’t believe that I’ve lost any muscle mass. I haven’t skipped a day of body-weight exercise since quarantine started and I roughly keep track of how much protein I’m eating.
The boost in my morning energy levels and mental sharpness is the incentive to adopt intermittent fasting as part of my lifestyle for the foreseeable future. This could change pending if life ever returns to a time before a global pandemic, but until then I’m going to continue IF. It’s relatively easy to start and simple to maintain. The long term benefits are definitely in the back of my mind, but without professional medical advisory, I can’t say with certainty that this will help me when I’m old and feeble. However, as long as researchers are finding good things and my body doesn’t feel off I’m going to continue with IF. I’ll let you folks know how I’m doing in six months.
|What I Liked||What I Didn’t Like|
|It simplified my lifestyle||Headaches sucked in the beginning|
|I’m extremely alert in the mornings||People will think you’re crazy|
|I can still eat whatever I want||My clothes don’t fit|
|I feel good about my body||I’d have to wait to get boba|
|My bodyweight workouts appear to be more effective|
|It’s free and I can do it while isolated in my tiny apartment|
- Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work? | John Hopkins
- How does fasting affect your brain?
- Doctor Mike On Diets: Intermittent Fasting | Diet Review
- Intermittent Fasting & Hunger – What the Science says
- Fasting vs. Eating Less: What’s the Difference? (Science of Fasting)
- Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits | NIH
- Effects of short-term fasting on cancer treatment | NIH