Paleo Plan

My Intermittent Fasting Experiment

Neely Quinn, Nutrition TherapistThat pic is of me, just in case you don’t know what I look like…

Anyway, Max Shippee’s guest posts on intermittent fasting part 1, part 2, and part 3 really got me thinking about experimenting with intermittent fasting. Yeah, I’d played around with eating windows before, like when I was slightly anorexic and not eating anything past 6pm every day, which left me struggling to make it up a flight of stairs with my extremely decreased caloric intake. But I wasn’t as healthy as I am now when I was doing that.

By healthy, I mean that I can go for many hours these days without eating if I have to, whereas before I would wake up in a hypoglycemic state of alarm and keep bags of food in my pockets and purse at all times, lest I go into some sort of angry, dizzied coma. Paleo has worked wonders for my old hypoglycemia. Thank you, Paleo.

So I decided I’d give intermittent fasting another shot with my newfound glycemic stability, and see what good could come of it, or not. My eating window for the last month-ish has been 10am to 8pm. In IF terms, that’s 14/10. That is, 14 hours of fasting and 10 hours of eating, and that’s what Max said many women do well with. In my opinion, that’s not that strict. It just rules out my late night coconut milk ice cream eating and makes me wait a little while to eat breakfast in the morning. Before, I never would have been able to wait that long for breakfast without some serious consequences. After 3+ years on Paleo, I can.

Here are the hefty benefits I’ve reaped from this situation.

1. I have less of an option to think about food after 8pm, which is relieving. However, if I need to eat after 8pm, I do. Like last night I was very hungry at 10pm and couldn’t sleep (not normal), so I had a little bit of a buffalo brat. Even if I needed to eat some ice cream, I would. I don’t want this to feel restrictive. I just haven’t been hungry for it for some reason.

In fact, I’m almost never hungry for food after 8pm. Very strange. Sometimes when I’m in a sugary mood, I’ll get really excited during the day about making myself something sweet at night, but then night time comes around and I just don’t want it. Has hell frozen over?

2. I don’t feel like I have to carefully divvy up my allotted calorie allowance between breakfast & lunch and then between lunch & dinner. Let me explain. When you eat breakfast at 7am, you often get hungry between 9am and 11am. If you eat when you’re hungry, then you’ve already had two breakfasts by the time lunch comes around. Then you have lunch at like 12 or 1pm and then a snack between lunch and dinner. Then dinner. Then dessert? By the time the day is over, you’ve eaten 5 or 6 meals and possibly too many calories.

When I eat my breakfast at 10am or later and it’s a big breakfast, I don’t get hungry until like 2pm or 3pm – sometimes later. By that time, I have lunch or maybe even just a snack, or recently I’ve actually been forgetting about lunch some days (VERY unlike me). Then I’m not hungry until 6pm or 7pm and then I don’t think about food again until the next morning. Some days I’m hungrier than others, but this is really how it’s been going for the last few weeks or so.

3. Through all of this, my energy is really stable. Yeah, I get hungry, but I don’t really care like I used to. I get hungry and I get through it and then I eat. My blood sugar can handle it. I have aspired to be an efficient user of glucose for many years, and (for now, at least) I’ve finally triumphed!

4. I’ve lost a little weight. Don’t get me wrong: I said in a recent post that my body image is way healthier now than it ever has been in my life, and I didn’t necessarily need to lose weight. I didn’t do this to lose weight. However, it is climbing season again and lower weight for me usually means more success, so I’ll take it. I dropped 3 pounds in the last couple of weeks. That’s approximately one trip to the bathroom for a lot of people, but as a petite person it’s like 3% of my bodyweight and noticeable. And it’s still going down.

5. I’m eating what I usually eat. I know that when some people intermittently fast, they eat crap food and pretty much binge during their eating windows. I’m not doing that, and I don’t feel deprived. If you’re interested, here’s what I ate today.

10am – 2 eggs, 1/4 lb ground pork, 2 sticks celery (all sautéed together) and 1 or 2 cups of watermelon

2pm – 1/3 of a buffalo bratwurst (just buffalo and spices) and 1 giant tapioca crepe (about 1/3 cup tapioca flour, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 2 eggs), which probably had about 30 or 40g of carbs in it.

6:30pm – 1 and 1/3 buffalo bratwurst, 1/4 avocado, 1 cup peaches

This is a really low veggie day for me for some reason, but it is what it is. Anyway, I’m eating fewer calories – that is for sure.

Potential Confounding Factors

Summertime
But maybe I’m not as hungry and eating fewer calories because it’s summertime and it’s hot so my appetite is lower? I don’t think I’ve experienced that before, though. I’ve always been a girl who could eat, regardless of the season.

Stress
Or maybe it’s because I’m stressed about the wedding and just don’t think about food as much? That could be, but I tend to only forget about food during deep depressions, and I’m definitely not in one of those right now.

Proper Sleep Schedule
One of the main issues I see with other people following this schedule is not having my sleep schedule. I go to sleep at around 12 or 1 usually, and wake up at around 8am or 9am. Yes, I know: how slovenly! But my work schedule (or lack thereof) accommodates that, so don’t judge me! If I had to get up at 6am or something, I don’t know what I would do to stave off the hunger. Probably lots of water, some glutamine, and a few lines of cocaine. Just kidding. This is where we get into caffeine land, which I wrote a post about here. If you get up at 6am, maybe you could eat at 7am until 5pm and stop then. Especially if you go to bed early. But if you’re going to bed late and getting up early, in which case you have other problems you need to work on, then this schedule would be difficult to keep.

Exercise
If I were to be working out in the morning, I would not do this. Even with my heartier blood sugar control now, I wouldn’t be able to do much physical exercise on an empty stomach after 14 hours of not eating, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. So, either change your workout schedule or change your eating schedule to accommodate your workouts. I just went to a CrossFit gym where the owner told me he had negative thoughts about Paleo. He said people come to his gym in the morning on an empty stomach because they’re doing intermittent fasting and their performance and energy suck. Fuel your workouts, unless you know that you actually do well working out on an empty stomach (and there are plenty of people who do).

So that’s my story. I’m psyched on this eating schedule, and I’ll keep doing it. By the way, as an update, I just went and had a snack at 11pm because I was legitimately hungry. My final caveat is this: if you’re hypoglycemic, I’d try to ease into this. Get your blood sugar back on track by eating Paleo regularly for a while before you do intermittent fasting.

I’d love to hear your experiences with this!

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for a while now myself. I’ve been paleo for about a year or so and had seen remarkable health gains but for some reason eating breakfast had started to make me feel really crappy; upset stomach and a constant feeling of nausea. Couple this with riding a subway train every morning which jostled the system a bit made each morning a fun bit of “am i going to be sick on this crowded train today or can i keep myself together to get close enough to work where i can walk.” Luckily, I never got ill, but I was tired of feeling that way, so I had been reading about IF and gave it a shot.

    It was really simple for me because I was seeing an immediate benefit (no nausea) while also easing into some of the other benefits mentioned above; decreased hunger overall, stable energy, able to go longer without eating if need be (this week i went 22 hours without eating because I stupidly scheduled a dental appointment for when I normally eat lunch and thought it would be rude to walk in with a mouth full of food), additional weightloss, etc

    My own take on IF is “skip breakfast” which typically means I eat two meals, one a noon and one at about 6-7 (varies depending on how long it takes to cook). I’m a fairly sedentary male at about 230 (I don’t weigh myself very often) so it’s typically easier for my to go longer without eating. I get hungry, but my body has enough fat to keep itself occupied without causing me to crash and burn horribly (like my non-paleo gf).

    I don’t know if I’m going to do this forever, but it seems comfortable to me for now. I hear about people who go all day without eating until dinner and that seems strange to me, even after I’ve done that a few times by accident. I get a little too anxious to go that long, though I’m fairly certain that my block is mental rather than physical.

  2. I love Intermittent Fasting and reduced eating windows… I, too, in the past have suffered from an eating disorder and hypoglycemia so I definitely eased into IF but I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. I do a 19-22 hour fast 3-4 times per month, usually lunch on Monday to lunch on Tuesday and the rest of the week I follow a 7-5 or 8-6 eating window…depending on what time I get up in the morning which is pretty early usually…I try to be in bed by 930 or 10…
    As far as benefits for me…I feel in control and it’s easier for me to just eat when I’m hungry during my eating window but I try to stick to three nice sized meals and very little snacking…I feel like I sleep better and have plenty of energy. And…I really look forward to my meals…

  3. I have found that Paleo itself is more than enough for me, but I can see IF being huge for people who’s biochemistry is a bit more testy than mine.

  4. Great to hear all these success stories, especially yours Neely!!!

    Great to hear that once you felt like you got your metabolism back with Paleo, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to play with IF a bit.

    Woohoo! My blog posts actually worked!! Yeah us!!

  5. Chelsea

    Neely! Congrats on the wedding, and hope you both are enjoying the month off. I was wondering, time permitting, if you could possibly write an article that delves into your ‘slightly anorexic’ stage? And how you specifically overcame this? I’ve been paleo for over a year now, but I’m still in that same mindset of slight to extreme restriction. I am seeking out medical/psychological help…but would love an inspiring story. I read your body image article, but if you have any other specifics I’d greatly appreciate it. If not…TOTALLY understand. I’m asking a lot. ;)

    xx

    • Neely

      Chelsea – I’ll write one for you right now :) Stay tuned! Glad you’re getting help.

  6. I love all I read on this site. I’ve benefited weight loss wise from 1 and half days of IF. On Friday I don’t eat till lunch and on Tuesday’s, starting after dinner on Monday, fast till dinner Tuesday. Weight has melted and my tummy flat as a board. I do this combined with my low curb high protein diet. I am a long distance runner, now, the challenge is, I am quite weak to run or even want to run. I do kettle bell and free weights quite successfully but need to get my running fix again.

    • Sasha – Running and eating Paleo are compatible, but you either need to eat more carbs or go into ketosis. If you need more help with that, just let me know.

  7. I use IF once or twice a week. I usually skip breakfast and then have a large late lunch and a normal dinner. I find I can lose 0.5-1 kg using this method (1-2 lbs). Can only do it if busy doing something like going for an early morning scuba dive.

  8. wait, didn’t i just read an article on this site arguing the absolute importance of eating breakfast?

    • matt – Yes, you probably did. I’m actually a big breakfast advocate, but breakfast can be prolonged if your blood sugar is stable enough to be experimenting with it like that.

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