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.

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The mindful diet

First. Let yourself get hungry. Abstain from eating so that you feel hunger. Check in with what your body is feeling every so often for an hour after you first feel hunger. Notice whether the sensations stay the same or change.

Drink water and notice what happens. Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. Learn the difference.

Savor these sensations. They are wisdom from your body. They are real, present sensations. Hunger for them. Trust them. You may have been ignoring them. You may have trouble recognizing them.

(Don’t worry. If you are reading this post, you will not die from hunger in one hour, or thirst, although your mind may be telling you differently. Your mind has been conditioned to mindless eating. That’s what is changing.)

If your mind starts thinking about food, write about it. Make a list of foods you daydream about. Evaluate this list. Is it good for you? If not, could something else satisfy you — a hug, a walk, dancing?

Notice the difference between what you feel with your body and what your mind is doing. Each way of being has a signature.

What would your life be like if you only ate after you fully and consciously felt hunger? Would you eat at certain times, or might the times vary? How often do you really need to eat to maintain or improve your health?

Second. Eat. After an hour of hunger and its sensations has gone by, eat. Eat some food that is healthy. Eat it slowly with an eye to noticing the sensation of satiety, of having eaten enough.

Do not eat with the goal of cleaning your plate. Give yourself a small serving.

The goal is to really notice eating and “enough”. Take one bite. Chew it. Taste it. Notice as many qualities of the taste as you can. Swallow.

Take another bite. Chew, taste, swallow. Move your arm slowly as you pick the food up with your fork or spoon or fingers and bring it to your mouth. Chew slowly.

After the third bite, pause for a minute. Notice the sensations in your stomach. How have they changed? Do you still feel hungry? Do you feel less hungry?

Remember that your empty stomach is the size of your fist, and your full stomach is the size of both fists. You don’t even have to fill your stomach to feel satiated.

Eat ten bites and notice your stomach sensations.

You might decide to stop then, or you might decide to eat 15 or 20 bites. But stop when you’ve eaten less than you would mindlessly eat.

Then see how long it takes for you to feel hungry again, and do it all again.  It might mean you need to have food available as you go through your day, perhaps some nut butter, a banana, an avocado. Just enough to stave off your hunger pangs. You could eat half a banana or avocado, or a teaspoon of almond butter.

You might also think about where the food came from, plant or animal, soil, rain, sunshine, farmers, and all the places it has been and hands it has passed through to get to your mouth. With gratitude.

Third. Do this often. It’s a great way to lose weight, because it’s portion control, but more importantly, it gets you back in touch with your body, and it extends your experience of gratitude and connection to the planet.

Also, if you are only eating when hungry, and only eating enough to stave off hunger for a couple of hours, you will want every bite of food you eat to be nutritious as well as delicious. No HFCS, please.

And that’s it. I’m posting this to remind myself that I can eat like this, because I have put on a little more weight than I’d like. I’m having a small cup of quinoa tabouli for breakfast, then it’s off to work.

The most effective diet tip of all

Get in touch with your hunger.

That’s all. Just get in touch with your hunger.

How long has it been since you actually felt hunger? We live with abundant food all around us, but our bodies haven’t evolved much from 10,000 years ago when the human species was hunting and gathering its food, feasting in times of plenty and going hungry in lean times.

Many modern people go for years without ever feeling hungry, so that when it does happen, they don’t know the sensation—and if they do know it, they gobble food down to avoid feeling it as quickly as possible. Feeling anything has become something to be avoided.

Many people eat according to the clock, not according to their stomachs. And we wonder why we have such an obesity problem. It’s not just the HFCS. It’s not being in touch with our bodies, with our hunger, with what “enough” actually is.

If you feel stuck with unnecessary weight or a poor diet, if you’ve used food to numb your feelings while comforting yourself, try this:

Postpone your next meal until you feel hungry and really notice the sensations in your body of feeling hungry.

There are wonderful wise lessons to learn from feeling hunger that can help you live a healthy life that you actually experience and enjoy first-hand.

  • You can allow yourself to feel hunger and know that you are going to survive. You are not going to starve to death from a little hunger (even though your mind may be telling you so). Death by starvation unfortunately did happen 10,000 years ago and sadly still happens even now, but it’s pretty rare in first world countries. How much discomfort is actually there, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excruciating discomfort? Can you feel it as simply sensation without judging it as painful?
  • You can recognize the signature of feeling hungry. How do you know it’s hunger? Where in your body do you feel it? Feel it for 5 or 10 or 30 minutes. How does it change—does it ebb or constantly get more intense? Do you forget sometimes that you’re feeling hungry? Can you distinguish between feeling hungry and feeling thirsty? What happens to your hunger if you drink water?
  • You can experiment with how much food, and what kinds of foods, you can eat to no longer feel hungry. After fully experiencing your hunger, eat three bites of food slowly, savoring the taste and the mouth-feel and thoroughly chewing each bite before swallowing. Wait one minute and notice your hunger again. How has it changed? Now eat three more bites and notice. Notice how many bites of food you need to eat for your hunger to go away, and notice how long it stays away before it returns.

You can totally play with eating in this way! A couple of weeks of eating like this is quite refreshing after mindless eating and pretty much guarantees that just by being in touch with your hunger and eating accordingly, you will drop a few pounds.

More importantly, you may feel more energy and gratitude for your life.

~

Caveat: When is it not a good idea to play with hunger? When you have issues with your blood sugar. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic or have hypo- or hyperglycemia, or get really shaky when hungry, you need to take extra good care of yourself and consult a knowledgeable professional first.