What Happened After I Started Eating Less

Man eating a salad

Photo: Louis Hansel

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.

Before and after weight-loss pics of Stuart Danker

On the left is how I looked most of my life. On the right is me about three months into intermittent fasting.

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.

Parting thoughts

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.

61 thoughts on “What Happened After I Started Eating Less

  1. Thanks for this post, Stuart! This really demystified many “food” concepts that I never bother delving deep into. Thanks for sharing :)

    • I still know very little about food concepts, to be honest. All I know is that eating less is better for me in general, and the best way I can do that is by giving myself a set time to eat, lol. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Congratulations on finding your groove. I did well on IF a couple of years ago and am going back to it because, like you said, it takes some stress away when you don’t have to plan to eat.

    • Dear Stuart Danker,

      I concur with momalotlife. Thank you for sharing some of your ‘lifestyle change’ and challenging moments with us.

      Regarding issues of wellbeing and body weight, for reasons of health and the environment, I am mostly a vegetarian and occasionally a vegan, even though I consume a little meat infrequently. In any case, I do not have a craze for meat, not to mention that eating less meat is good for the environment for many reasons.

      I also keep my consumption of fat to a minimum, preferably less than 10% of food intake or energy.

      Here are my general guidelines to remaining healthy and slim. I do not necessarily or invariably stick to them very strictly.

      (A) Diet:
      1. 20 minutes before every meal, either drink a glass of water or eat an apple.
      2. Use smaller plates to hold meals.
      3. Cut out all soft drinks, sugary drinks and fruit juices.
      4. Cut out junk food and processed food. (I do have some high-quality biscuits and chocolates in small quantity).
      5. Check food label to ensure that the sugar content is below 20%.
      6. Do not add too much sugar to home-cooked food.
      7. Reduce salt intake.
      8. Fast for two days per week. On the fasting day, either eat only one third at every meal, or eat only one meal. Not eating for a whole day or longer is also fine.
      9. Have two rather than three meals a day.
      10. Restrict mealtimes to within an eight-hour period, outside of which drink only water and have no food. In other words, whether a person has one, two or three meals per day, the meal(s) should be consumed within eight hours.

      (B) Exercise:
      1. Do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) once or twice a day, or at least once every second day. Each session needs to be as intense as possible and lasting no more than 20 to 30 seconds or one minute at most, followed by one to a few minutes of rests. Repeat twice. This can be running, skipping or cycling on the spot. Running upstairs and downstairs can also help.
      2. Reduce sitting time by standing to work or study. Buy something like Veridesk or make your own by improvising or using existing materials.
      3. Do some skipping or jumping.
      4. Whatever exercises you do, vary the intensity.
      5. Doing some physically taxing house chores can be helpful too.

      May you and momalotlife find the new Springtime very much to your liking and highly conducive to your writing, reading, thinking and blogging whatever topics that take your intellectual fancy!

      • Whoa, thanks so much for sharing your plan! I’m sure it’ll be useful for anyone who comes across this. I also appreciate your well wishes, and I’m sure momalotlife does too, so thank you for that as well.

        It’s interesting that you do HIIT so frequently. I find that my exercise routine is pretty boring now, with COVID and all, so I just either run or do some burpees. Great comment here, almost like a post of its own. I appreciate it!

      • Dear Stuart Danker,

        I am delighted that you have enjoyed my previous comment. You seem to have done very well with your intermittent fasting scheme.

        HIIT is not for everyone, as it is very intense, and some people can feel nauseating after such intensity. I don’t stick to any strict regularity in my exercising regime, and often just go with the flow of my body and mind. Dancing can be really beneficial as it also exercises the mind with learning the movements and choreography.

        I look forward to your visiting and commenting on some of my blog posts so that I may learn about your perspectives and insights in any of my posts that you consider to be thought-provoking and/or intellectually stimulating.

        For best viewing, you might need to use a desktop or laptop computer with a large screen to view the rich multimedia contents available for heightening your multisensory enjoyment at my blog, which could be too powerful and feature-rich for iPad, iPhone, tablet or other portable devices to handle properly or adequately.

        In addition, since my blog contains advanced styling and multimedia components plus animations, it is highly recommended to read my posts and pages directly in my blog so that you will be able to see and experience all of the refined and glorious details. Hence, it is prudent to refrain from viewing my blog in the WordPress Reader, which tends to ignore or strip away some styling and formatting components, and also fails to display animations, all of which are aplenty in my posts and pages, which will look very different and even improper or amiss in the WordPress Reader.

        Happy reading and Happy April to you soon!

  3. Good for you! I have dabbled with IF for a couple years now. It works and it doesn’t for me. I did lose weight but mostly bc I cut out liquor and snacking in the night time which as we all know add up! But I found in the eating window I would binge eat, and sometimes not the healthiest food… I don’t think it means IF itself doesn’t work, I just have to channel my inner superpower or something lol I might give it another go soon bc I am feeling pudgy again 😒

    • Oh yeah, I think IF is effective in doing exactly that, stopping our mindless munching. But I feel you on the eating once the feeding window arrives. For me, it’s still lower than my daily calorie intake at least. Thanks for stopping by, btw!

  4. This is interesting. I’ve thought of giving intermittent fasting a try a number of times.
    The thing is, I normally eat once a day already so am I technically already doing it? Idk lol.

    Glad it has worked for you and you are the fittest you’ve ever been. That’s really all I want 😂

    • If you eat just once a day, you’re already doing the ‘one meal a day’ (OMAD) version of fasting, and it’s the hardest variant I feel, so yeah, you’re definitely already doing it without knowing! Lol.

      How do you feel about that? Do you feel your current meal plan is helping? Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Wonani! It’s been a while.

      • I actually think it is. I’m not as fit as I would like to be but definitely better than some months back. Happier with how I look too 😊

        It has been a while for sure! Have an awesome week Stuart!

  5. Great post. Nice to hear that you’ve found a way that works for you. Have you come across the 5:2 diet? Five days of eating normally and 2 days of only eating 500 calories (I don’t count them). Basically fruit and veg with a small piece of protein I have eaten like this for about 4 years now, and maintain my weight as I feel healthy. The nice thing is on the 5 days you can eat as you normally would, so celebrations are easy as you make sure it’s not a 500 day. None of this saying “Oh I’m on a diet” which I never did. Blessings J x

    • Oh yeah I have! For some reason, I find it more difficult than 20:4, mainly because of routine. But it does feel intriguing to be able to live ‘normally’ for five days, and I might actually try that for a couple of weeks! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I really love food , I love eating a lot,. Like for me …there’s no “We” in my fries . It’s just me myself and I.
    But I gotta say , that’s the attitude I used to have until I also started going on a diet and trying intermittent fasting , the most challenging thing ever but I got thru it😁 so successful!!!

    • Oh yeah, I too didn’t care much for what I ate before I started on this journey, and going on IF did teach me how to appreciate healthy eating more. Wishing you all the best on your journey, and thanks for stopping by!

  7. Wow!!! You got some serious results man 👏👏👏
    I am doing IF for nearly a year now (16:8) didn’t notice much change there!!! I think I am doing something wrong

    • Maybe you were already pretty health before that. I myself was a mess before I started, so maybe there were more gains to be had.

      Also, I feel that IF also gives you non-cosmetic benefits that is probably taking place in your body right now (autophagy).

      Either way, wishing you all the best on your journey!

  8. It must feel great to see results from a lifestyle change! Seeing results must help keep up the motivation too. That takes a whole lot of discipline. And that will spill over into all other areas of your life. I don’t think fasting would quite work for me given a health/medication thing, but more discipline certainly would. ANY discipline would.

    I have covid and I’ve lost my taste/smell which at first upset me, but actually it keeps me from bingeing because it doesn’t appeal without the taste. So I can be healthier now because I can’t taste the healthy food I hate 🙂.

    • You know, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I don’t really feel the fun from ‘happy’ things now (I may be over-dramatising this), but because of this lack of fun, I do find it easier to restrain from the ‘sinful’ things in life.

      Anyway, that’s big news. Hope that the hardest times are behind you. Get well soon, and thanks as always for stopping by, Hetty!

      • Oh I get it with not feeling the fun. But not tasting/smelling has made me question, why is my past-time eating junk? Why is that fun in my life? Granted there’s an emotional thing where me and my fiance loved loading up on our favorite snacks and watching movies, but it turned into doing it to celebrate very minor things, or after a bad day, etc. It’s become associated with hanging out and bonding. And let’s face it, the longer you’re in a relationship, the less you care about the beach body So I realized, I’ve got to rethink what fun means. It could be a good time for you to learn about yourself and discover what real fun and satisfaction looks like for you.

  9. I’m a vegetarian, so I feel you about being “that person” in the room sometimes already. A lot of people seem to get weirded out if you don’t eat with them, or at least eat like them, so it can be interesting social waters to have to navigate. Good for you for finding something that works and that you like to do! I have been doing the IF thing off and on a little bit over the past two years and personally felt pretty good with the 16:8. Think I’d be worried I’d just turn into a 4 hour cookie monster if I went with the 20:4! Lol. It’s amazing how easy it is for me to rationalize adding desert into any meal planning. Lol. Great post. :)

    • Oh yeah, I’ve been on 16:8 for most of my time with IF, and have only recently started experimenting with 20:4 because of my work schedule.

      Lol, I can rationalise anything into my eating window, and I think that’s why I’ve stuck to IF for so long, in that I can still continue doing it no matter what I do, as long as I stick to my schedule.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciate it!

  10. I love that you said it is sometimes the smallest things that make a difference. And especially this I find is true:
    “try to make small changes that you can sustainably apply to your life.” A diet is useless unless you are going to stick to it forever. If a person returns to eating what they did before, their body will return to the same shape as before, and sometimes worse, if they have starved themselves for too long.
    I used to always eat breakfast but since finishing mobile work and becoming more sedentary, I do not need to eat breakfast. In this way, I am on a sort of intermittent fast. However, I am not as disciplined as you and I have normal days in between my fasting ones, so I tend to stick around the same weight, just up and down a bit.
    Keep up the good work, you look great!

  11. Dear Stuart
    GREAT post. Thanks for sharing.
    We love our breakfast but when we do our ‘fasting’ we don’t drink alkohol and don’t eat more than 800 calories which is quite easy for us. We don’t do fasting for loosing weight. In this way of fasting you loose hardly any weight (we don’t need to).
    The Fab Four of Cley
    :-) :-) :-) :-)

    • Oh yeah. I don’t know why, but it’s easier to stick to my plan when I’m not doing it for weight loss. Maybe that’s why I’ve kept with this for so long. Anyway, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate it!

  12. I’ve been trying out fasting too, and I’m also really liking it so far. I especially second your point that this a technique that isn’t biased toward the elite. Instead of buying expensive supplements or eating very specific foods, people can just eat a little less. It’s nice to have a healthy strategy that’s simple for a change! There is the social cost, but in terms of literal expenses it means I can actually save a bit.

    • Aw yis. I think this is particularly true in other parts of life as well. We could all stand to do a little less—drinking, spending, being angry at others—indulging for our very own benefit, and fasting’s taught me that too.

      All the best with your journey. Am glad to hear that you like it!

  13. I have been doing intermediate fasting for like an few weeks now and the results are amazing!! I lost some weight (which wasn’t the goal but yay) and I feel so much healthier now too. I have more energy, time since I cook less and I just feel so much better overall.

    • Oh yeah! As they say, your body is composed of 70% diet, 30% exercise, so it makes sense to focus on nutrition first. Great to hear about your story. Thanks for sharing, Pooja!

  14. Loved every bit of this post. Me and my husband are doing IF since long now. we started with 14:10 hours window and mostly do 16:8 but yes its rewarding in many ways as you feel different completely. I follow an Indian nutritionist “Luke Coutinho” and he always advice to listen to our body and eat when you really feel hungry. So well written and congratulations for your amazing results. Keep healthy always 👍😊

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