I Tried Intermittent Fasting for a Week
We decided I should start my fasting period at 15 hours, which meant on the first day I could eat between noon and 9 p.m but drink zero-calorie beverages at any point during the day. That didn’t feel particularly restrictive, especially since I’ve never been a big breakfast person and typically only have coffee and a smoothie by noon. But what I learned is that food restriction is like going on a road trip: You don’t think you need the bathroom, but the second you realize you won’t have access to one for a while, you instantly have to pee.
Day 1: Starving by 8:30 A.M., Then Panic-Eating Lunch
That first day I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Two hours later, I was famished. My husband makes smoothies for us every morning (usually a combination of spinach, kale, frozen pineapple, banana, ground flax seeds, and this superfood green powder he gets at some healthy place) and I was basically drooling as I watched him down his before work.
Right away, I noticed I felt especially tired and unfocused. For one thing, it took me three hours to write something that normally would take one because my mind kept drifting off to what I was going to eat later. Also, my stomach was literally growling and I got a pretty annoying headache, something that happened again and again during those first couple days.
Traumatized from how hungry I’d been before, I made myself finish the veggies.
One thing that helped me get through the mornings was coffee. I usually drink two or three cups, with a little creamer. (I know, I know, almond milk is so much trendier/better for you, but it tastes like nutty water to me.) Since I was fasting, London advised I switch to half and half because it’s harder to overdo. She also suggested not adding anything at all, but I just couldn’t swing drinking it black.
When I was finally in the clear to eat, I threw open my cupboard and panic-ate two handfuls of granola just to get something in my system. I thought keeping my smoothie as my first meal would be no big deal given that “lunch” wouldn’t be far behind. Big mistake. Huge. When you haven’t eaten for 15 hours, an 8-ounce blend of kale and fruit just doesn’t cut it. From that moment forward, I started planning a list of hearty “breakfast” options to replace it.
I decided to go a little café near my apartment for lunch and emailed London a couple items from the menu to get her opinion. She picked a bowl that had black and brown rice, tahini spread, roasted fennel, sweet potato, charred kale, pickled beet, a soft-boiled egg, and tamari dressing. I’d never had it, and it was super delicious and filling. In fact, I started to feel full about halfway through but, traumatized from how hungry I’d been that morning, I made myself finish the veggies to stave off any additional hunger pains. Afterward I felt like a new woman!
Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last. When I went to hot yoga that evening, it became clear that I was still very unfocused and low-energy. First, I lost the key to my locker and needed help looking for it. Then I forgot my coat not once, but twice. And I usually take every opportunity to flow through my vinyasa in class, but that day I found myself coming down from planks and spending more time in child’s pose than I’ve ever done before.
I was wiped by the time dinner rolled around, so I went super on-the-nose and ordered Mediterranean food: grilled chicken, Greek salad, rice, hummus, and whole-wheat pita. It was delicious and I went to bed that night feeling full, but not overly stuffed the way I sometimes feel when I don’t eat as healthfully.
Day 2: Less Hunger Pains, More Major Headaches
The next day was another 15-hour fasting day, but I woke up around 4:30 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep, which made for verrrry long morning of not eating. The good news is I learned from my mistakes and had my leftovers from dinner first instead of the smoothie. That solved the problem of my growling stomach, but the headaches and spacey feeling were still there.
For dinner that night, my husband made homemade whole-wheat pizza with lots of veggies and a teeny amount of cheese. I also had a glass of red wine. All of it was London-approved. She said the trick to drinking wine while doing IF is to not overdo it, since having more than a glass or two could make me dehydrated and trigger feelings of hunger, not to mention lose the willpower to avoid late-night snacking. I made sure to finish the glass by 9 — so not a problem.
Day 3: Ordering Out — And Skipping the Burger
Heading into the weekend, I upped the fasting to 16 hours on Saturday and 17 hours on Sunday. I knew I’d eat at least a couple meals out, so London advised me to order entrees that were at least 50% vegetable-based with some lean protein, healthy grains, and fats thrown in to keep me full. This made the plan very easy and simple to adhere to.
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On Saturday morning I made my own breakfast bowl with kale, cherry tomatoes, avocado, two eggs, and two slices of bacon. For dinner that night, my husband and I tried a new restaurant. Everyone around us got the burger, which is probably what I would have chosen had I not been doing this plan. Instead, I ordered an arugula, fennel, and tomato salad and my husband got the crab cake sliders. We also got a small plate of the lobster mac’n’cheese, and I used the “I’m on a Mediterranean diet” excuse to eat most of the lobster since London suggested I eat more seafood. (I don’t like fish, so this seemed like a win-win to me.)
Day 4: Drinking More Water Like an IF Pro
On Sunday we brunched at a Mexican place, and I passed up what would have been my usual go-to (tacos!) in favor of a eggs benedict-like entree that came with salad and potatoes — the closest thing to a vegetable-based dish on the menu. Later, I snacked on green pepper slices dipped in hummus, and ate leftover veggie pizza and a kale side salad for dinner.