6 weeks of intermittent fasting by a woman

Six weeks ago, I started an intermittent fasting eating schedule. I wanted to lose some belly fat. From what I gleaned on the internet about intermittent fasting, when we go longer than usual without eating, our bodies burn fat for energy instead of the customary fuel source, glucose.

Feeling some hunger is also in line with the experience of most humans throughout history. They put on fat from feasting, and when food was scarce, they felt hungry and burned fat. Hunger was part of their lives, and the human body is designed for occasional fasting.

After reading about various configurations of going without food (some fast 1-2 days a week, some do 12-hour daily fasts, etc.), I decided to go with a 16-hour daily fast, 7 days a week. Breakfast is the easiest meal for me to skip. I do more physical work in the afternoons and need energy for that, and I enjoy unwinding with dinner. So from 8 pm until noon I would fast. A good chunk of that time, I would be asleep — a natural 8 hour fast. So really, I only had to abstain from eating the first few hours of each day.

IMG_4330I would, between noon and 8 pm, eat what I regularly eat: a healthy Paleo/Weston A. Price Foundation diet, which works for me after years of struggling with food sensitivities: No grains or legumes, animal protein at nearly every meal, lots of veggies, not much fruit, very little sugar or sweeteners except stevia, very little egg, no dairy, healthy fats, bone broth or gelatin daily, and fermented food/drink every day. I’ve been eating for health for years. Just the timing is changing.

I did not eat extra fat, since I want my body to burn fat. (That, I learned later, is a myth. Check out the ketogenic diet.) I didn’t cut back on fat, either. The meals I ate included fish, shellfish, bacon, liver, avocado, seeds, nuts, raw almond butter, coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, avocado oil, vinaigrette made with olive oil, and mayonnaise made with either avocado or olive oil. I got plenty of healthy fats.

IMG_4724

In the mornings, I drank a glass of water with 5g L-glutamine/1T gelatin/1T apple cider vinegar/sea salt. I’d sip on cups of tea all morning, switching among green tea, matcha, pu-erh, and/or yerba maté, adding lemon essential oil, ginger, mint, and/or stevia. Occasionally when my bowels felt sluggish (after traveling), I drank water with psyllium husks and bentonite clay at bedtime.

I created and kept a food tracking chart and filled it out religiously like a true data geek. Tim Ferriss and the body hackers out there would be proud of me! I’m sharing this publicly because there’s a lot more information about men doing IF than women.

beet kvass, The WellTypical lunches and dinners:

  • protein: smoked oysters (in olive oil), sardines (in olive oil), bacon, turkey slices, canned wild salmon salad, chicken liver paté, cod, chicken bone broth
  • veggies: pulpy green juice; gazpacho made with tomato, onions, cucumber, parsley, cilantro, bell pepper, and garlic; sea vegetables, kale, beet greens, avocado, lettuce, celery, sweet potato noodles, spinach, carrots, cabbage, plantain chips, tomato juice
  • fermented foods: beet/ginger kvass, sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha
  • nuts and seeds: a Brazil nut daily, soaked dehydrated sunflower seeds, my friend Diji’s awesome sprouted seed crackers, raw almond butter
  • sweets: stevia in tea, almond milk/banana/cacao/almond butter/sea salt smoothie, strawberries dipped in maple syrup dipped in raw cacao powder, blueberries, dates, 72-85% dark chocolate pieces
  • alcohol: red wine with dinner sometimes

I ate out a few times. My favorite Austin restaurant is Koriente, and my favorite dish there is Jap Chai, made with sweet potato noodles, veggies, tuna or salmon, and avocado. Also I’ve eaten at Vinaigrette, which I also recommend for Paleo eaters in Austin.

The other places I ate out don’t bear mentioning because I would usually stray, having a bit of dairy or corn chips or sugar or egg and no telling what kind of oil. Not often, though, and never gluten. As time passed, I ate out less and less. At least I know what kind of oil is used in my mayo and salad dressing at home.

I also got better at meal planning. Eating only two meals per day, I made sure I always had suitable food on hand. I would bring a tin of sardines and an avocado with me when I had to eat away from home. Eating out was nearly always a social occasion, and not a necessity because I was hungry and hadn’t planned ahead.

I hit the scale at 128 a few weeks before beginning this program and felt really bloated. That inspired me to want to start a weight/fat loss program. I didn’t have a weight in mind for a goal. I wanted to have less belly to pinch. I’ll know when I’ve lost enough, and then I’ll start eating breakfast often enough to maintain that size. I’m thinking it’s probably going to be between 108 and 115 lbs. on the scale.

I also worked out 3-4 times a week at home, doing squats, pushups, and Sun Salutations, and occasionally dancing or walking.

I weighed myself every day I was home, first thing in the morning after peeing, before drinking anything, buck naked. (You know that trick, I’m sure.)

Week 1: Starting weight 124.2, ending weight, 122.2 (net loss: 2.0 lbs), peak weight 124.6. I was really hungry for lunch, watching the clock for noon to roll around. Lunch usually tided me over until dinner, but if hungry in the late afternoon, I would eat a Brazil nut and some nori.

Week 2: Starting weight 122.4, ending weight 121.8 (net loss: .6), peak weight 123.6. I donated blood this week. My cholesterol was 206, lower than normal. Getting used to feeling hunger in the morning. It doesn’t feel as urgent.

Week 3: Starting weight 122.2, ending weight 122.6 (net gain: .4). I weighed 120.0 one morning and that felt like a milestone! But on Friday and Saturday of Week 3, I was at the Kerrville Folk Festival, plus the Sunday and Monday of Week 4. While there, I didn’t record my weight, and I didn’t stick to intermittent fasting. I was doing massage at the Cureville tent for 4 hours each of the first three days, burning calories. One thing I dislike about travel is my bowels get irregular.

Week 4: Starting weight (on Tuesday) 121.8, so I didn’t gain weight at Kerrville after all. Whew. That was my ending weight too (so net loss: 0). My peak weight was 123.4. Sigh. Feels like this is stalling. I didn’t feel like quitting though.

Week 5: My starting and ending weight was 121.6 (net loss: 0), and my low weight was 120.8 one morning. Still on a plateau, although I fit better in my jeans, which was a nice surprise. One morning, I ate breakfast.

Week 6: Starting weight 121.2, ending weight 119.0 (net loss: 2.2 lbs) with a steady decline all week. Finally a breakthrough! I believe my body is finally getting the hang of this. I’m going to continue.

Summing it up, I’ve lost 5.2 lbs in six weeks using intermittent fasting. I’ve lost 9 lbs from my peak weight of 128  before starting this program. My energy level is really good.

I feel some hunger in the mornings, but it has lessened in intensity so I don’t think about it much. I’ve been so wrapped up in whatever I was doing that I’ve forgotten to notice it was 12 o’clock.

I think feeling hunger every day is a very good thing for us modern Americans who have so much food available and have to really discern where the nutrients and fuel are and choose well for health.

We can move beyond the belief that feeling hunger = starvation = death. Instead, feeling hunger = discomfort that goes from moderate to mild = burning fat. 

I also wonder if hunger = emptiness = death for some people with overeating issues. Go into the emptiness, grasshopper! It’s not what you expect!

If you want to lose weight and it’s been a long time since you felt hungry, here’s a challenge: go 12 hours without eating, feel your hunger, then eat. Just try that for a week and notice what happens with your hunger, weight, and energy. You could eat between 7 am and 7 pm, or 8 am and 8 pm, whatever works for you.

If you get good results and want go for it, try 16 hours without eating. Please share in the comments!

Also, if you can compare IF results by men and those by women, I’d love to know about it. It appears now that the fat loss for women might be slower but still worthwhile, or it might take a few weeks to really kick in.

Related: A lazy woman’s experiment with the ketogenic diet.

6 thoughts on “6 weeks of intermittent fasting by a woman

  1. Hey MaryAnn, I’ve been doing a little of this 8 pm to noon fasting and want to do more. I have a question I wonder if you know the answer to. You say you drink some tea with stevia in it. Any idea what a spoonful of coconut palm sugar and a little milk (in tea or coffee) would do to the fast? Would the sugar and milk (usually almond) stop the fat-burning ketosis of the fast, do you know? Also, I wonder what having a glass of wine after 8 pm would do to it. Any thoughts?

    • Shelley, from what I’ve read from long-term intermittent fasters, you want to avoid consuming more than 50 calories total during your fasting hours. So if you can get milk and sugar under 50 calories, do it! As to wine, opinions are mixed. Obviously a drier wine would be better than a sweeter one. You could also alter your fast to start at 10 pm and end at the same time or later. The main thing is whether you can make it work for you and get results. I want to hear how it works for you!

      • Thanks MaryAnn! So far it’s working pretty well. I don’t eat after 8 pm, and I cut off wine (typically 2 glasses) by 9 pm. Fortunately I far prefer dry wine. Then I don’t eat again until 11 am to noon. My biggest problem by far, is that I feel very sluggish, brain fog and low energy in the mornings – which used to be my most productive work time of the day! Did this pass for you? I’m only in week 2. I’m wondering if it doesn’t pass how to combat it. I need to be able to work productively in the mornings.

      • I usually have pretty high energy in the mornings, Shelley, and fasting didn’t change that. Maybe some yogic breathing (nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, comes to mind) or sun salutations would help? Or a cool shower, or two cups of coffee? Let me know if you hit on something that energizes your mornings, please.

      • PS the milk I use is 60 calories per CUP and I only have a splash in my coffee. Then I use coconut palm sugar and it’s only 16 calories per tsp (I just use one). SO I think for a cup of coffee in the mornings I’m well within the 50. I do know I need to drink more water, that’s so hard for me for whatever reason.

      • Yay for milk and sugar in your morning coffee while intermittent fasting! As for drinking more water, maybe a little mint would make it more appetizing. I sometimes add a drop or two of an essential oil like lemon, lime, orange, etc., to plain water to make it more appealing. If you try this, just make sure the watercontainer isn’t plastic. I’ve been told that high quality oils can degrade plastic.

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