In the fairly short existence of Milwaukee Record, I’ve made a point to chronicle foolish adventures that have damaged my spirit, tested my eating endurance, and depleted both my physical and emotional well-being. I have no regrets (except maybe that George Webb one), but with the arrival of a new year also comes new perspective and a new opportunity to forge a different path. Over the course of 2018, I’m going to seek inner peace, personal growth, and healthy choices while documenting my experiences with a series of columns under the ’18 And Life To Go umbrella. Will it work? Probably not, but I’ll try anyway.
It’s tough to maintain your weight during the holiday season. Here in Wisconsin, the abundance of fattening and sugar-coated comfort foods at countless social gatherings, coupled with the worsening outdoor conditions and the inevitable drinking that occurs as we hunker down to wait out another winter make the idea of weight loss between Thanksgiving and the New Year a near impossibility. Figuring a lack of time and nice weather wouldn’t allow for much in the way of exercise and knowing I’d be confronted with tons of occasions to eat, drink, and be merry, I thought I would look into an unconventional method to stave off seasonal weight gain this year.
Intermittent fasting has recently gained popularity and viability as a way to control what you put into your body. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. As intimidating as the term “fasting” seems, intermittent fasting is far less daunting than what most would imagine a full-on “fast” to be like. The rules are strict, but simple. Basically, you choose a block of time in which you’re permitted to eat (and consume liquid calories) each day, then you don’t eat for the remainder of the day. I’d read that Terry Crews is a staunch believer in intermittent fasting, and I learned more about it from listening to The Dumbbells podcast. Figuring I didn’t quite have a body like Terry Crews, I figured he might be onto something. On November 27, the Monday after Thanksgiving and the day after a Sunday night Packers game, I started my intermittent fast.
There are a few forms of IF, but the most common one seems to be an eight-hour consumption window, followed by 16 hours of fasting…other than water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee. (Black coffee is a debated allowance, but fuck that. I’m not taking coffee out of my life.) I opted to set my daily window to be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., but any eight-hour block can be selected. Ultimately, I chose that block because my mornings are often quite busy, and I often forget to eat breakfast anyway. However, 11 a.m. is the golden hour in terms of having breakfast or lunch food. Plus, I knew I’d have late morning interviews, lunch meetings, and whatnot. On the other end of the spectrum, I felt the 7 p.m. ending allowed me to be able to go out to dinner with people and squeeze in some happy hour drinks. That’s right…you’re still allowed to drink while intermittent fasting.
Unlike traditional calorie-counting or prohibitive diets like Whole30, there are no specific rules about what you can and cannot consume while intermittent fasting. The idea if that the limited window of eating allowance will eliminate a significant amount of potential calories due to having fewer (or smaller) meals, omitting nighttime drinking, and taking away the option of snacking before bed. So long as you don’t eat like a total asshole in your eight-hour window or cram a whole day’s worth of bad dietary decisions into your block, the math checks out. You’ll be taking in fewer calories every day and, over a sustained amount of time, that should result in weight loss.
My first day was fine. Like I said, I oftentimes will forget to eat until 11 a.m. (if not far later) anyway. As 7 p.m. approached, a finished a sensible dinner and my second beer of the evening before preparing for 16 hours of nothingness. But by 11 a.m. on Day 2, I was starving. Water and coffee helped a little, but I absolutely didn’t forget to eat once my eight-hour eating window opened. In fact, I started making my breakfast at 10:45 and ate the moment the clock struck 11. Similarly, once 7 p.m. approached, I took the final bites of my meal in an effort to make the two-thirds-day gap seem as small as possible. Day three proved even more taxing and exhausting. However, much like “the wall” I’d faced during my Whole30 experience, things started to become much easier and way more manageable after that.
Within five days, IF just became second nature to me. My body started to adjust to the schedule and I was no longer starving when 11 a.m. hit. Around that same time, the first weekend came. The toughest part of intermittent fasting is the weekend. However, thanks to setting the 7 o’clock end time, I could still go out and drink with friends and on dates…I just had to stop earlier—sometimes much earlier—than I normally would’ve. However, I made up for it with High Lifes, taco dip, and treats during noon Packers games. Other times, I’d start out on a normal Friday or Saturday night, then take the role of designated driver. I repeat: I still felt free to eat and drink whatever I wanted…I just had less time to do it.
After a week, I felt noticeably better than when I’d started. I was down a few pounds (note: I wisely forgot to weight myself when this all started) and I didn’t feel my life was nearly as controlled or socially isolated as when I was banished from virtually everything during my Whole30 ordeal. Of course, I’m far from perfect and, while I’m happy with the block of time I selected, circumstances didn’t always allow me to stick to the terms I’d set. One night, a restaurant was busier than expected and I didn’t finish eating until 8 p.m. It’s far from scientific, but I simply waited until noon to eat the following day. Another time, a meal I was preparing wasn’t done until 7, meaning I’d be done eating at 7:30. I waited until 11:30 to eat the next day. I went to the Packer-Falcons game on December 9 and started eating and drinking at a tailgate at 9:30, but stopped for the night around 5:30, before resetting at 11 the following morning. You get it. It’s limiting, yes, but I’d gladly eat dinner earlier and switch to water at a bar after 7 p.m. than modify my entire life around the terms of a fad diet.
After three weeks of intermittent fasting, I temporarily stopped. It wasn’t because it didn’t work, but because the rigors and expectations of the holidays simply didn’t allow the schedule to continue on a daily basis (though I still try to hold to it when I can). Admittedly, the results during such a short timeframe—not to mention a timeframe where I was too busy to exercise whatsoever, where I indulged in holiday sweets and heavy seasonal beer, where I went all out during sporting events and seasonal group gatherings—weren’t astounding. That said, I lost five to 10 pounds (again, sorry I’m an idiot and neglected to weigh myself when this all started) and, more importantly, I did so during one of the hardest times of year for people to manage their weight and control their diet.
After the holidays, I’ll definitely try to pick up on intermittent fasting and, with semi-wise nutritional decisions and increased exercise, I know it will pay off even more. I’m far from an expert and I’m still not exactly being mistaken for Terry Crews, but I can’t speak highly enough about intermittent fasting. Whether you choose to eat from 11 to 7 or you prefer a different span of time, all you have to do is pick and eight-hour block and stick to it. It’s that easy.