I completed a 6 week Intermittent Fasting challenge today and it was an unbelievable journey!
Read on if you want to learn more about the Why, What, How and the So-What.
Why did I do it?
6 weeks ago, my wife and I were going through an emotional roller coaster. The pandemic and rising cases in the US, stress about loved ones back in India and the all consuming guilt of being worthless parents, was raising the temperature of our mental pressure cooker. Before it burst, my wife came up with a solid idea - Let’s do intermittent fasting and workout 5 times a week. Her goal was to keep our
minds focused on things we can control and build a healthy lifestyle. I admittedly knew just enough about Intermittent Fasting to dance my way through a conversation and was very much on the fence. But something changed on June 7th. It was the 4 day in a row where I was operating on less than 3 hours of sleep after a 2 AM snack. The bags under my eyes and the weighing scale were screaming and begging me to make a change. I was kicking myself as none of my poor habits were a result of any work or life related stress. So, with the goal of developing healthy eating and sleeping habits, we started our 6 week Intermittent Fasting challenge on June 8th.
What is Intermittent Fasting? How did we structure it?
Quite simply, it is a pattern designed to balance between periods of eating and fasting. It is NOT a diet but more a discipline that focuses not just on what you are eating but more importantly, when you are eating. Our Intermittent Fasting worked like the schedule below:
11 AM - Chai with Breakfast (The proper Indian Masala Chai. None of the Chai Tea Latte stuff)
1 PM - Lunch
3/4 PM - Snack
5 PM - Workout (30 Minutes, 5x/week cycling through Upper and Lower Body High Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT)
6 PM - Dinner
7 PM - Intermittent Fasting for 16 Hours
(On Friday nights, we treated ourselves to a cheat meal)
SO...What Results did we see?
Firstly, we exceeded our goal of cultivating healthy eating habits. Research says it takes 21-30 days to build a habit and through the last 42 days, we were able to maintain a healthy diet, cut out foods with high sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol and managed to work out 5x/week.
We lost 10 lbs. each and unlike our previous dieting efforts, Intermittent Fasting drove a gradual and structured weight loss. Our previous dieting efforts like the 7 day detox provided instant gratification but was completely unsustainable while following this structure can and will be a sustainable lifestyle.
What was the hardest?
Honestly, just the initial mental resistance. I kept wondering how is it humanly possible to fast for 16 hours but when we got into it, it really wasn't that hard. And this is coming from a guy who would have anxiety pangs without his 2 AM snack!
So...What did we learn from this experience?
The past 6 weeks were unimaginably rewarding and while there were a ton of lessons, I can call out 5 reasons worth taking away from our experience
Doing it with a partner can make this easy and fun: I hate working out and need the disciplined push from someone to follow through on lifestyle improvement related efforts. Fortunately, my wife is that motivating force and made this journey possible. Going through this process, experimenting with different ingredients and working out was easy thanks to her push.
Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan:
If you are juggling work, kids, pets or any other personal commitments, you don't have time to think about your next meal. We planned for next week’s meals and lined up our groceries in advance. I always thought meal planning = boring food but we were able to experiment while having a structure. Each recipe was repeated at least twice a week to further minimize the guesswork. With a few tweaks for the kids, they enjoyed our kitchen experiments too!
Tracking your food is important: Intermittent Fasting does not prescribe which foods and how much you should eat very strictly but that doesn't mean we go to town during the 8 hours of eating. We kept a log of our calorie intake and ensured that we are meeting 3 goals: Consuming 60-70 grams of Protein while keeping Carbs under 200 grams and Saturated Fat under 19 grams. We noticed that by keeping an eye on these numbers, we were getting the right energy and right distribution of calories. Finding enough proteins for vegetarians can be tricky but I was surprised to see the options once we got down to meal planning - Chickpeas, Black Beans, Tofu, Lentils, list goes on.
Know your physical limitations: One of our friends does 100 push-ups a day and yet another does P90X for an hour daily. That is fantastic and truly enviable. Going on a tangent here but my friend’s workout reminded me of a line from a popular Hindi movie “Tum se na ho pai”, loosely translated as “This is not for you.” While my wife could workout for an hour, my upper limit is 30 minutes and if I was promised a watch, 40 minutes. Understand your physical limits and once you do that, push yourself to your max levels. I promise you will see the results!
Have fun and watch the halo effect: Life can be hard as it is. Something like this does not have to be in the same boat. Create the mindset that you are doing your overall well-being a massive favor, follow through with a resolute stick-to-itiveness and watch the halo effect! Our 6 week journey was not only tremendous for resetting our mindset but it also elevated our overall energy and positivity. There is a ton of negativity, waiting like quicksand to suck us in and staying focused on what you can control, can be a game changer in ways we could not have imagined 6 weeks ago!