I've never had an hourglass shape, so for years I was overcome with jealousy when I saw women who naturally had a small waist. I used to think it was something that could only be enjoyed if you had Jennifer Aniston's genes, and it became something I was wildly self-conscious about, especially considering the fact that I was teased for years for having a stocky build (one ex even told me I had the body of a linebacker).
When I started my weight-loss regimen several months ago, I was determined to find a way to get rid of my stubborn belly fat. From past experience, I knew how to shape up my arms and legs, so I included more strength training into my fitness program. It made a huge difference in my physique; my legs shrunk, I lost mass around my upper arms, and I even lost some fat around my cheeks.
But I wanted to see a change in my midsection, which is where I tend to look the most bulky. Because nothing else had really worked in the past (no amount of hot yoga or cycling on its own will give you a six-pack, unfortunately), I chose to change my eating habits. When I was preparing for my wedding, which was in September, I decided to take up intermittent fasting. I had done the 5:2 Fast Diet a few years before and had great results, so I figured I would have success with IF as well. I fasted for a 16-hour window, from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following morning, but only on weekdays. I did that for about a month, and I was thrilled with how I felt and looked for my big day.
Because my digestion improved so much in just that one month — I had less bloating than ever before — I decided to keep going with my IF diet. It's been almost two months since my wedding, so I've been doing IF for three months now. The results have been incredible.
For the first time in my life, I have a little bit of ab definition. It's not much, but it makes a world of difference to me! Because I stop eating in the afternoon, my body has time to digest and process all the food I ate before I go to bed, so when I'm sleeping, my body can just go into rest mode without having to work too hard. The result? A flat belly when I wake up every single morning.
Before you ask, no, I wasn't starving myself. In fact, I've been eating over 2,000 calories a day — I just eat them all in an eight-hour window each weekday. With how often I strength train and run, I have to make sure I'm getting enough food in my system in order for my muscles to develop (and the excess fat to shed).
While most people on the IF diet follow their eating schedule every single day, I choose to only eat this way Monday through Friday. I don't want my weekends to feel socially restricted, especially considering the fact that we often have people over for dinner or I like to go on a dinner date with my husband when we have some free time. Additionally, if there's something special going on during the week, like my monthly book club/vegan potluck, I toss my rules out the window and enjoyed an evening meal with my friends, because life is too short to watch everyone in your kitchen enjoying the jackfruit that you made the night before.
Here's another before-and-after photo to see the difference in my belly.
But IF wasn't the only thing that helped me get there. I also added one more running session to my weekly routine. In addition to two treadmill interval classes, I also do one long outdoor run on Sunday mornings, which usually lasts around an hour. I've never really believed too much in LISS cardio, but I really think adding this extra form of cardio to my schedule was a big game changer for me.
I kept my weightlifting schedule the same (three upper-body sessions and three lower-body sessions), continued to sleep for at least seven and a half hours a night, and drank plenty of water throughout the day. All of these healthy habits contributed to shedding the fat around my midsection.
One of the first things people ask me is if I restricted certain foods over the last couple months. I already eat a vegan, plant-based diet, so there was nothing I felt like I needed to eliminate from my diet. I kept enjoying desserts on the weekend, like banana bread or homemade chocolate doughnuts.
People also want to know whether it was painful for me to watch my husband eat dinner at home on weeknights when I wasn't eating. Honestly, there was discomfort with that at first, but it went away within a week or two of doing IF. The body adjusts pretty quickly to what you give it, so my body became so accustomed to cutting off my food supply in the afternoon that I was no longer starving when dinnertime rolled around.
Most importantly, I have never felt better. I go to the bathroom like a champion every single morning and I rarely deal with bloating anymore, even on my period! I never feel drained or burned out from my runs or workouts, and I have more energy than I did before I started IF. I'm going to keep on this path and see where another two months gets me. Even if I don't get to my dream of a six-pack, this whole experience has been totally worth it.