Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting
Last Updated on November 16, 2019 by Paula
Now that you’re all excited about the benefits of intermittent fasting, the next step is to actually get started.
But first, you might like to read these:
✅ An Introduction To Intermittent Fasting
✅ What Intermittent Fasting Is and What It Isn’t
✅ Why Intermittent Fasting Is Such A Powerful Weight Loss System
A lot of people over-complicate starting intermittent fasting.
They just overthink it and pretty much make it all that much harder on themselves.
There’s really not much to think about.
Well, I’ve got some good news for you.
You’re already fasting.
For at least 6 to 8 hours every single 24 hour day cycle, you are already fasting.
Since fasting is technically defined as a period of time where you don’t ingest any calories, then sleep is fasting.
Isn’t that good news?
You’re already starting the game with an advantage. You already have 6 to 8 hours squared away.
The only job that remains is for you to add a few more hours to that time window.
I’ve got other good news for you. When you’re awake, I’m sure that you’re like most people. You don’t constantly think about eating. You get hungry in the 16 to 18 hours that you’re awake. Those happen at certain times.
Even if you eat a lot, you don’t think about eating the whole 18 to 16 hours you are awake.
Are you with me?
Your job is to add some of those hours when you’re not thinking about eating to your sleeping hours!
When you put all this time together, you have a fasting time frame. What’s left over is your feeding window.
That’s the good news because you already are not eating for a significant amount of time during the day. All you’re doing is adding some organization and order to this pre-existing pattern. This is what’s so awesome about intermittent fasting. You’re not really doing something drastically new.
It’s not like you’re completely and totally re-engineering your lifestyle.
That’s not what’s happening.
You’re just moving blocks of time around.
Sure, this takes quite a bit of doing because we are creatures of habit like I’ve mentioned before. But it can be done.
All it takes is just some minor adjustments and before you know it, you will get used to it.
First things first: Check with your doctor
Before you get going with intermittent fasting, it’s always a good idea to check in with your primary care physician or your family doctor. Regardless of what you’re doing involving weight loss or any kind of lifestyle modification, always make sure that your doctor is in the loop.
This is especially true if you are pregnant or you are taking special medication. I’m talking about medication that is not over the counter. Maybe you’re taking cold medication or some other stuff that you buy at the corner drug store. That’s okay.
But if you’re taking any kind of special medication, especially anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication or heart medication, you need to talk to your doctor first before you adopt an intermittent fasting protocol or get into any kind of weight loss system.
Additionally, if you are sick or you have a special health condition, you need to let your doctor know that you are thinking about intermittent fasting. It doesn’t hurt. Make sure that your doctor is aware of what you’re planning to do so they can guide you correctly. Always check with your doctor before doing anything else.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the steps that you need to follow so you can adopt an intermittent fasting protocol.
Pick your feeding window
This is the most important step in intermittent fasting. A lot of people would tell you that they have an ideal schedule for you. Don’t listen to those people. Everybody’s different.
Some people are night owls. They’re most effective and creative late at night. They wake up at 6 in the evening and they continue until 6 in the morning. That’s when they sleep.
Other people are early birds. They wake up really early. We’re talking about 3am and that’s when they do their best work. By the time noon time rolls around, they’re winding down.
Most people are somewhere in between. You have to pay attention to your body rhythm. The worst thing that you can do is to impose intermittent fasting as some sort of straight jacket on your current body schedule.
If you are an early morning person, it doesn’t make sense to adopt the schedule of a night owl. You’re not doing yourself any favors. The reverse is also true. Stick with your schedule.
This means that when you’re picking your feeding window, you have to look at when you’re most active and when you are most likely to eat. With that piece of information in mind, you can then piece together the 8 hour feeding window needed by males or 10 hour feeding window recommended for females.
Base your intermittent fasting feeding window on your existing lifestyle. I can’t emphasize this enough. There’s no need for you to change your lifestyle just so you can adopt intermittent fasting. It doesn’t work that way.
Pretty soon, you will snap out of it and you’ll go back to your old eating habits. Don’t do that! Instead, look at how you’re eating, when you’re eating and what your overall body clock is like. Adopt intermittent fasting to that pattern.
Pick your feeding window wisely. There’s nobody to impress. You’re not trying to live up to somebody’s expectations. You’re doing this for yourself. So make sure you put together something that works for you right here, right now.
Decide on a start date
A lot of people might think that this is so basic that I shouldn’t even be talking about it. Well, I’m sorry to report, but a lot of people make all sorts of plans. I do it, you do it, I’m sure everybody around you does it.
We have all these things that we know we should be doing. So we make all sorts of plans and guess what? When that day comes, we’re unprepared. So we do what most other people do in that situation. We kick the can down the road.
“Tomorrow” never comes. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re always saying to yourself “I’ll do that tomorrow.” or “I’ll have more time tomorrow.” you’re not doing yourself any favors. All you’re doing is you’re just postponing the start date.
If you keep this up long enough, you never ever start. I know that sounds sad. But that’s the truth. This applies across the board. This applies to all sorts of people. To short circuit this, you have to decide on a start date.
This is one of the most important decisions you have to make when it comes to intermittent fasting. You don’t do this lightly. When you decide on a start date, you want to pick a date that you are sure you will start on.
That’s the day you would say that “From 6am to 2pm, it’s okay for me to eat. After that, I will not eat anything.” This is the date that eating pattern starts to take hold. It’s important.
This is why it’s crucial for you to set the right date. A lot of people think that if they give themselves enough scheduling cushion like, let’s say 2 months ahead of time, by the time their start date comes, they will be prepared.
If only things worked out that way. Most people who set start dates that far ahead are just as unprepared on that actual day as the day they planned their decision. Sounds crazy, right? But it happens all the time. Why?
The rest of your life happens when you set up such a big cushion. You have so many other things that you have to attend to and by the time that your chosen start date comes, you’re unprepared. You’re unprepared mentally, physically and logistically. It just hits you like a ton of bricks and guess what happens.
That’s right. You postpone it again and again until you forget about it. You can’t set a scheduling cushion that is too big. It has to be close enough for you to have some sense of urgency. It has to be immediate enough for you to prioritize it.
On the other hand, scheduling a start date that is too close can freak you out. If you’ve ever seen caught in headlamps, please understand that most of the time, the deer is fast enough to avoid an oncoming car especially if the car is fairly distant.
The problem is when we choose deadlines that freak us out, we freeze. Just like that deer who is otherwise capable of getting out of the way, we’re just frozen in our tracks. We can’t do it. We feel we’re incapable.
We are under the impression that we have no other option. This is exactly the kind of mindset you get into when you set up a start date for intermittent fasting that is too immediate. Let’s say you decide that all this information that I’ve given you is so awesome that you want to do it right here, right now.
While I applaud your decisiveness, I would caution against it. Why? It may be so intimidating that you end up failing. You don’t even get out of the gate. Or you stick to it for a short period of time and then you bounce.
This happens quite a bit because people realize that they’re not ready. Remember, when you make a decision, whether it’s financial, romantic, physical, medical or dietary, all parts of you have to be aligned.
I’m talking about being mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally prepared. When you set a start date that is so immediate, that alignment doesn’t take place. Part of you wants it yesterday. But the other parts of you are not quite ready.
You have to decide on the right start date. How would you know? Well, you have an intense enough sense of urgency that you can focus on it and follow through while at the same time having enough distance so it doesn’t freak you out or emotionally intimidate you into inaction.
Unfortunately, there is no golden rule for this. This varies from person to person. Regardless, you have to pick the right start date. Otherwise, all the information that you pick up from this book is not going to help you.
Plan your meal so that you will fill full for the rest of the day
The name of the game when it comes to intermittent fasting is satiety. This is the sense of fullness you get from your food. You may be thinking that this is all physical. When your saliva breaks down the food in your mouth that it releases all sorts of compounds.
That’s true. But it’s also mental and emotional. If you’re the type of person who eats food for comfort, then you know that your satiety signals is different from somebody who eats because they’re hungry.
You have to plan your meal within your 8-10 hour feeding window (depending on whether you’re a male of female) for full satiety. Again, there’s no golden rule for this. There is no one size fits all solution to this because everybody is different.
Some people get really satiated when they eat a chocolate chip cookie. It may only have a certain number of calories but in terms of emotional satiety, it packs quite a punch for some people. Others need something more meaty. Maybe a double patty quarter pounder burger or a thick, juicy hot dog. Whatever works for you, make sure you focus on satiety. You are eating to feel full. It’s also very important to make sure that you’re looking for satiety for the rest of the day.
In other words, pick your battles carefully. When you eat foods that are high in protein and fat, they fill you up and make you feel full for a much longer period than if you were eating a piece of fruit or something that has sugar.
Plan your meal with satiety in mind. I don’t expect you to get this right the first time around. Maybe you will experiment with this for a few weeks. But before you know it, things will fall into place. You would notice that eating certain foods make you feel fuller throughout the day.
I’m not just talking about physically feeling full. I’m talking about emotionally and mentally feeling full. How do you know? You don’t crave as much for the rest of the day. That should be your benchmark.
If your cravings can easily be taken care of by drinking water or a non-calorie drink, then you know you’re on the right track. On the other hand, if your cravings are so intense that you can’t help but eat something, then you might want to look at what you’re eating during your feeding window and make some changes.
Again, the only person that would know what changes to make is you. You’re the person who’s going to detect the patterns. Not me or anyone else. Pay close attention to satiety. Focusing on flavor and texture are great and everything. But at the end of the day, it’s all about eating food to feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Add some physical activity to your day
At this point in the book, a lot of people freak out. Whenever people hear or read the word “exercise” they check out. It’s as if that word is so loaded and so negative that they’d rather do something else.
Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t necessarily have to pack up your gym bag and go straight to the gym and do some weight lifting or spend some time on cardio machines. You don’t have to do that.
You don’t have to sweat buckets. You don’t have to sign up for a Zumba class. You don’t have to buy special tights so you can do Pilates in the morning. Any additional physical activity would do.
Believe it or not, I started losing a lot more weight after I adopted intermittent fasting by making small changes to my daily physical activities.
Previously, I would park in a spot right next to the main entrance of my office. When I got on my intermittent fasting protocol, I decided to park 20 feet away, then 50 feet away. And now, I’m parked close to 100 yards away.
Walking that extra distance has forced me to burn more calories. The best part is it doesn’t feel unnatural. It just feels like this is part of my routine. This is just how I park and walking from point A to point B is just something I need to do.
So my mind doesn’t put up a fight. It has become part of my routine although I consciously chose it at first. Paired with intermittent fasting, these few small hacks and tweaks to my daily physical activity levels paid off handsomely. I lost 50 pounds.
The same goes with stairs. Previously, I would just go on an escalator, then go on an elevator, then go on to another escalator. Now, I would take the stairs, take the elevator then take a few flights of stairs to get to my office.
Here’s the good news. You don’t have to do this all in one sitting. As I mentioned in my description of my parking habits, it happened gradually. It started with parking immediately next to the entrance of my office and then slowly moving further and further away.
The same applies to stairs. Start with one flight and then take the elevator or escalator the rest of the way. Once you get used to that, scale up to 2 flights, then 3, then 4. You get the picture. In fact, I know people who refuse to take the elevator at all. They’ve leveled up to the point where they just take the stairs all the way.
Maybe you’ll be one of those people. The point is it’s okay to start small. It may not seem like much, but it will have an impact.
As I’ve mentioned in this chapter and previous chapters, you already have a powerful asset when it comes to intermittent fasting. You are already sleeping 6 to 8 hours. Sounds awesome, right? Well, not quite.
If your sleep quality is very poor, you’re not doing yourself any favors. In fact, don’t be surprised if you wake up hungry. Do yourself a big favor and sleep well. This is one of those things that can not be assumed.
A lot of people are under the impression that as long as they choose to sleep 6 to 8 hours that they are automatically sleeping well. No! They’re not! Quality and quantity are not equivalent. I’m sure you already know that.
Sure, you may be sleeping 8 hours. But if you’re tossing and turning all that time, you’re probably waking up groggy or restless. Choose to sleep well. How does this happen? You have to have a pre-sleep ritual.
This means skipping caffeine or sugar for a few hours before you sleep. It also means winding down your mind before you sleep. You don’t want to go to sleep thinking about the stuff that you need to do at the office or big decisions that you need to make or relationship problems. That’s the worst way to sleep.
Don’t be surprised if your dreams reflect your worried state of mind. You definitely don’t want to sleep angry or upset. Pay close attention to your mindset before you sleep. It’s a good idea to engage in some sort of calming ritual like meditation, mindfulness or simply listening to calming music before you go to sleep.
It’s also a good idea to set a cut off time for work. Too many people take their work with them wherever and whenever they go. When they’re on a vacation, their work follows them. When they are with their loved ones, they’re always thinking about stuff at the office or bills that they have to pay.
The key here is to come up with some sort of mental cut off where you refuse to worry, be fearful or anxious about stuff that you do for a living or stuff that pays the bills. You have to give your mind a rest during the day.
This means that you have to come up with some sort of mental cut off point. You have to decide on this. You have to say to yourself “Past this point in time, I’m not going to care about anything. I’m just going to enjoy myself with my loved ones and live in the present moment. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”
I know it’s easier said than done. After all, a lot of us gain a sense of control and effectiveness when we’re kicking things around in our heads. But that’s an illusion. “Solving a problem” by worrying about it is not much different from trying to control the weather by chewing gum. It doesn’t make any sense.
Establish a mental cut off for all your worries, fears, anxieties, hang ups, emotional issues or whatnot and then enjoy a few hours or a few moments right before you sleep.
Sleep is not one of those things that you just turn on and off like a light switch. You have to ease into it. You have to be mentally prepared. In fact, you have to be prepared on so many different levels for you to get awesome quality sleep.
When you’re fully rested, then you’re less likely to wake up hungry. Most importantly when it comes to intermittent fasting, you are more likely to recharge your willpower. Believe me, it takes a lot of willpower to eat within your eating window.
You recharge your willpower when you get high quality sleep.
Drink when you get hungry
A lot of people think that when hunger pangs hit them, they have to automatically rush to the fridge or make a quick stop at the nearby McDonald’s or fast food chain store. It doesn’t have to be that way. Pay close attention the next time hunger pangs hit you.
Did it last forever? Was it excruciatingly bad? If you’re honest about it and if you bother to actually become aware of it, it’s not really as bad as you think. Think of hunger pangs like storm clouds.
Sure when you’re right under a storm cloud and it’s raining, it seems like it’s going to rain forever. You might even be on the lookout for Noah and his ark. But if you’re objective about it and you look at the big picture, it doesn’t really rain all that long and then it moves on.
The same applies to your hunger pangs. It may suck when you’re in the middle of it. It might seem to drag on forever. But if you’re able to weather it, it will pass. This is why I suggest that you drink when you get hungry.
At the very least, it takes your mind off your hunger pangs. Drink clear, clean, fresh water. Don’t drink soda. If you have a sweet tooth and you can’t help it, do yourself a big favor and drink a 0 calorie soda. But as much as possible, stick with water.
You’d be surprised as to how effective drinking water is when dealing with hunger pangs. As formidable as hunger pangs may seem, on an emotional level, they pass quickly. You just have to give yourself the proper tools and mindset to let that dark cloud of hunger move away from you.
Extend your hunger waiting time
Everybody has a hunger waiting time. It’s like a fuse. You can stay hungry for an X period of time until you breakdown completely and raid the fridge or order out or even make a stop at the nearest fast food joint.
Everybody’s different. Some people can wait a little bit longer. Others fold like a house of cards when the hunger pangs come. For this step, I need you to make a game of extending your resistance to your hunger pangs.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a person who completely folds the moment you get hungry or you can last quite a bit. There’s always room for improvement. If you feel that you have no willpower and you just have to eat whenever hunger pangs get to you, resolve to wait it out for 5 minutes or 2 minutes. That’s your starting point.
Once those 2 minutes pass, go ahead and eat. But make sure to resolve that the next time hunger pangs happen, you’re gonna try to scale up from those 2 minutes. Next time, shoot for 3, then 4, then 5. I think you know where I’m going with this.
Never underestimate your ability to adapt. What’s crucial is that you’re conscious about the adaptation process. This enables you to wait out your hunger pangs.
Let me tell you, when I first started with intermittent fasting, I would fold like a house of cards whenever hunger pangs hit me. It’s like the big bad wolf showing up at the house of the 3 pigs and he is at the first pig’s house, the one made out of straw. It was sad.
But I resolved to do better next time. And believe me, there was always a next time. So I would make it to 1 minute, then 2, then 3. And before I knew it, I would make it long enough for my hunger pang to go away.
Remember, everybody’s different. Some people have hunger pangs that seem to go on forever. Others have quick short bursts. Regardless of what you’re dealing with, don’t take it all lying down. You can chose to adapt. Act accordingly.
In the next chapter, we’re going to talk about an uncomfortable topic. In fact, this topic is so uncomfortable that a lot of diet books don’t even cover this topic. They automatically assume that if you follow their step by step directions for weight loss that you won’t have to worry about what I’m about to cover.
But like I said, this book is based on real life experience. Just as importantly, this book is intended to actually make you succeed with your weight loss plans to intermittent fasting. That’s why I will cover in chapter 4 what you need to do if you fail to eat within your feeding window. See you there.