Ever since having my second child, I've been holding onto a few extra pounds around my waist. I know I'm not overweight by any means, but I made a decision that I was ready to change up my normal diet and workout routine to see how it would change my body and improve my current level of fitness. My hope was that I would become leaner and stronger and have more energy!
In July of 2016, I threw myself into the arms of CrossFit, since many experts agree that high-intensity workouts and weightlifting are effective ways of getting in great shape. Prior to this, I primarily worked out through running and doing yoga.
After eight months of CrossFit, I loved my newfound confidence and strength, but I was frustrated. I was working out at 5:45 a.m. four or five times a week and still not reaching my body goals. It became clear that I needed to change my diet. I was finding that after those intense morning workouts, I wanted to eat all day long. Ultimately, I gained weight, and it wasn't just muscle.
Early last year, I was looking through YouTube videos about — you guessed it — CrossFit, when I came upon someone talking about intermittent fasting (IF). I had no idea those videos would change my life forever.
"[Intermittent fasting] gets your body out of 'storage mode' and mobilizes fat stores for energy," said certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition. This means that without having a constant food source, your body will dip into the fat it already has stored as its energy source. Proponents of IF say that it can aid in weight loss and digestion and even help prevent disease.
After 3 Months
I did my research and decided on the 16:8 plan. You fast for 16 hours and have an eight-hour eating window. I aimed to eat from 12:00 to 8 p.m. It took me a few weeks to build up to not eating until noon, but after just one month, I started to notice a difference. I lost some weight and started to see definition in my abs and upper back.
I know what you're thinking (because I was thinking it too): many experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and if you don't eat it, you'll screw up your metabolism. While I am not a nutritionist, the results I was getting made it seem like my metabolism was actually speeding up. And even though I was essentially skipping breakfast, I still felt satisfied and full. Before I started IF, I felt hungry all day long and felt the need to eat every two hours.
But more than weight loss, I was in love with all the other benefits I was getting from IF: better digestion, less bloating, better sleep, and more energy.
After 6 Months
By month six of IF, I'll never forget looking in the mirror and seeing my body change even more. With this diet change, I was seeing noticeable results. Intermittent fasting wasn't hard for me. It was actually effortless by this point, and I wished I'd found it years earlier.
After 1 Year
Fast forward and I just passed the one-year mark of doing intermittent fasting. It's given me so much energy that I've been able to really push myself at CrossFit and lift heavier, so I've actually gained five pounds, but my body looks so different! I have way more muscle definition in my abs, arms, and upper back.
Not only that, but not eating in the morning has just about cured my belly bloat (as long as I drink enough water and don't eat too much sugar in my eating window). It makes me feel more focused in the morning, has helped me sleep better, and has also helped me learn what true hunger feels like and curb my tendency to overeat.
Another thing I've noticed is that my acne has gotten much better. Scars I've had from old breakouts disappeared and my skin just looks brighter and healthier. And even though my two kids are constantly bringing home running noses and stomach bugs, I don't get sick as much as I used to, and when I do, the duration of my colds are much shorter.
I also used to suffer from seasonal allergies, but this year, I've had zero symptoms. That's pretty amazing, right? One of the reasons I was excited to try IF is because I'd read that fasting allows your body a chance to heal, can boost your immune system, and can prevent disease. I was actually experiencing that for myself! With cancer, heart problems, and Alzheimer's running in my family, I'm hoping fasting can help me stay healthy.
What Worked Best For Me
Throughout the 12 months of doing IF, I played around with different methods and different eating windows. I tried the Warrior Diet, where you have a 20-hour fasting window and a four-hour eating window, which was not at all sustainable. I also tried shifting my window so I ate in the morning and didn't eat dinner, but that didn't allow for the family meals that are so important to me.
I'm so ecstatic that I've finally found a way of eating that allows me to meet my goals, is something I can sustain for years to come, and allows me to not feel deprived. I feel lighter physically, but more so mentally. I finally feel in control because I'm no longer worried about what I can or can't eat, nor do I feel self-conscious about my body. I feel more energetic and just all around happier. I'm excited for what's to come and what I'm able to accomplish with this strong body!