I was a diehard Intermittent Fasting (IF) opponent. As a matter of fact, I was frustrated by those who promoted it, believing that it was setting people up for a “starve-binge” cycle. After all, there IS evidence that people who skip breakfast tend to engage in unhealthy eating by the end of the day (here’s an easy-to-read synopsis from Science Daily of a recent study at the University of Missouri). And, being a student of psychology, I felt that it would only encourage a deprivation mentality.

Breakfast is served!

I was right, kind of. But that was because there was one aspect of IF that I didn’t take into consideration. It’s called fat-adaptation, and Mark Sisson (of Mark’s Daily Apple) does a great job of explaining it here. So, yes, if you were to try to engage in IF on the Standard American Diet, which is far too high in starchy, processed carbohydrates, you’d run into problems.

But even as I was cursing the IF fans, my own diet was becoming increasingly fat-adapted as I began eliminating starches (my simple sugars were already low) and increasing my nut intake. Then soy and beans became a rarity on my plate, and even my beloved whole-grain breads were replaced by larger amounts of fresh, in-season vegetables.

But what pushed me over to the fasting way of life was that I had a bad reaction to onions one night. And the pain in my stomach made me so wary of putting anything else into my mouth that I simply chose to skip my morning protein smoothie.

And, surprise, I felt good. Very good, in fact.

I ate about noon that day. Then tried it again the next day and lasted until 3:20. No headaches, no irritability…and no insatiable hunger either. I also found that I could train intensely (rowing, heavy weights, interval training) and simply not bonk — I even set some PRs while fasted. There was no feeling of deprivation, only an understanding that I won’t be eating now, but I will eat in a little while. Psychologically, that is the easiest concept for me to handle. I practice “staying in the moment”, the same mindset that enables me to work through high-intensity exercise. I accept what I’m feeling in that segment of time without worrying about what will happen later.

After all, why worry? I see so many people eat when they’re not hungry because they’re afraid that they’ll be hungry later. And these are not individuals who live under food-insecure conditions. Food will still be here in a couple of hours, or tonight, or tomorrow. We live in such a food-abundant nation, now more so than at any time in human history, and yet, that fear of being hungry exists.

Don’t believe me? Check out the “snack” aisle. Just a little something to hold you over until your next meal. We Americans snack incessantly. Snack foods have taken on a life of their own.

One of the things about IF…I don’t snack. I don’t worry about being hungry. I focus on what I have to get done, and if it’s not time yet to break my fast, that’s okay.

I realize that I’m simplifying the process of my dietary changes in this post, along with how I came around to accept IF (and by that I mean my own version of it), but you can see that it took a while for my body to get ready to do this, and for me to accept that this was an viable course of action to take. I have to admit, had it not been for Mark Sisson’s article on how he fasted “naturally” — not adhering to a strict schedule — I might not have succumbed to trying it. But as someone who puts a high value on being aware of my body’s cues and staying in tune with them, I felt that Mark’s comments clicked with me.

So I’m about a month into a low-starchy carb, higher protein/fat IF way of eating and I know that it’s something I can continue. I don’t have anything pulling me back into my prior feeding schedule, not that there was anything terribly wrong with that either. But this way, I am more at peace with my body’s signals. I will be doing more research into the science behind this and continuing to monitor my response, but for now, this is working quite well. Sometimes I hear water gurgling through my intestines, and I reassure myself that I will definitely eat…

…later.

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Disclaimer: I do believe that there are people for whom any form of IF is inappropriate. I do NOT feel that this is a one-size-fits-all way of eating; personal issues must be taken into consideration. However, there are individuals for whom this can be an effective meal schedule. If this is something you are interested in, DO.YOUR.RESEARCH!

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