So I’ve been intermittent fasting for some two years now, and I’ve taken to this diet much easier than I thought I would. I started off with the 16:8 method, and have since moved on to 20:4 (that’s fasting for twenty hours a day and eating within a four-hour window).
And you know what? I kinda like it.
Weirdly enough, I started fasting not because I wanted to lose weight, but because I was curious. After all, I had also embarked on a vegetarian diet for about a year or two prior to that, so I wanted to know what fasting had to offer.
Turns out, not only did it help me see my abs for the first time in thirty-seven years, but it’s also helped me save so much time trying to decide what to eat.
And perhaps a handful of you are also considering trying out a new diet, so I thought why not share my journey for those who are equally curious?
So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the things that happened to me once I started eating less.
I learned what ‘lifestyle change’ actually meant
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my fasting journey, it’s that if you want change to happen in your life, you’re going to have to change your life.
So that means no ‘no-sugar days’ just so you could feel good about yourself once a week, and definitely don’t plan a regime that only lasts until you hit a particular weight.
Instead, try to make small changes that you can sustainably apply to your life, then watch as those little wins snowball into a thinner waistline or a better cholesterol reading.
I know how it feels to want a beach body. I’ve probably written that goal down like twenty times over the past decade. But you know what? The only time I actually achieved some semblance of a beach body was when I stopped looking at the scale or in the mirror.
Fasting allowed me to be clear about what I had to do each day, and as they say, first you make the habit, then the habit makes you.
Hunger now means something different to me
I used to think I was the type of person who wouldn’t survive a morning without breakfast.
My old routine involved eating something typically Malaysian (like nasi lemak) for breakfast, then spending the few hours before lunch thinking about more food. Then I would proceed to have lunch, a couple of snacks in between meals, then dinner, then supper.
I now eat half of what I used to within my four-hour window, and I barely feel hungry in between.
Had I not embarked on this journey, I wouldn’t even have learned what real hunger was. Our typical cue to eat—especially between meals—are just pangs that are born out of boredom more than hunger.
If I can maintain a healthy weight with the amount of food I’m eating now, then I shudder to think about how much unneeded crap I was shoving into my mouth (and belly) before I started on this programme.
I’ve now become ‘that guy’
It’s not all fun and games when it comes to fasting. Humans are social creatures, and breaking bread is still a bonding ritual that we can never escape.
So imagine being that guy in the office that doesn’t eat before six, yet still wants to leave the office for some fresh air during lunch hour.
“You really won’t eat anything?” a colleague would ask. “But it’s just soup! Surely that doesn’t count?”
After a while, explaining yourself becomes quite a chore, so you either become that guy that lurks in the office the entire day or you became that weirdo that doesn’t have a plate on the table during lunch.
The plus side is that I sometimes influence a colleague to give intermittent fasting a go, and we get to be weird buddies during lunch, but only until they quit one week later.
Eating healthy has become so much easier
I didn’t start off eating healthy food. In fact, my first six months or so were still filled with the aforementioned Malaysian food. So junk like fried kuey teow and nasi lemak still dominated my daily menu.
But fasting has changed all that. It’s so much easier to plan for healthy meals when you only eat twice a day.
I’ve been eating salad and fruits every day for more than a year now, and that’s only because that’s what I break my fast with. Then I give myself some leeway for dinner.
Imagine having to plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus all the snacks in between. That’d be so much tougher to do, and something I wouldn’t have thought of doing had it not been for the simplicity of intermittent fasting.
I’ve learned to accept my mistakes
My fasting regimen hasn’t always been perfect, though. There were times when a drinking bender would send me off on a night-long supper binge. Then there would also be the times when I’d be overseas on assignment, and I’d have to choose between eating when food is present versus not knowing when my next meal’s going to be.
In those instances, I’ve learned not to judge myself, because as much as I want to do things by the book, sometimes life happens and the best thing I can do is to not beat myself up and just try to pick up where I left off.
Sometimes it’s not about doing things perfectly, but about making sure that you do the good things more often than not.
So maybe you’re trying to stop drinking and you’ve relapsed. That doesn’t discount the fact that you stayed sober for however long you did till you drank again.
Most people would chalk that up as a failure and stop trying. But once you accept mistakes as part of your journey, then you’ll see them as exactly that—a setback that you can put behind you once you get right back on track.
I can do the hard things
Like I said, I was at my fittest at the age of 37. I’m turning 38 this year and I feel like this new lifestyle has shown me that I am indeed capable of doing the things I never thought I could.
For one, I thought that healthy eating was only achievable by a select few, an elite group of people who had the discipline gene seared right into their bones. But now I’m starting to realise that it’s all about finding a process that works for you.
And just because someone’s found success through intermittent fasting doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you. Plenty others have thrived on paleo, keto, and even carnivore diets. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your personal growth.
But that also means that your greatness lies somewhere out there, and it’s up to you to get off your ass and discover where it is.
People often say that you are what you eat. I really believe that, not only because your food determines how you physically look, but because you are the sum of all your diet decisions combined.
You can always justify why you’re picking that burger over a healthier meal, but there’s no bluffing the scale or cholesterol test. In the end, it’s all about doing what you need to do, no matter the circumstances.
And I guess that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned from my intermittent fasting journey: sometimes it’s not the biggest things, but the smallest things that have the power to change our lives.