Intermittent Fasting: 7 things I discovered about hunger

The more you eat, the less flavour; the less you eat, the more flavour.

~ Chinese proverb

I never thought I would try something such as Intermittent Fasting {IF}.

I first heard about it from my brother-in-law, then a client mentioned it to me, and then I read Kate Langbroek’s article in the paper.

So, after some research, I decided to give IF a try to see whether it would increase energy levels and mental clarity, as others had claimed. I also wanted to see how it would affect my relationship with food, including understanding my hunger cues. It was an experiment.

Before I dive into what I discovered, let me first share the IF method I used. I did IF for 6 weeks, and started off with Dr Michael Mosley’s method: you eat very minimally for 2 days each week {females: 500 calories, men: 600 calories}, which are the fasting days. The other 5 days, you can eat anything {and any amount} you want.

This method only lasted for 2 weeks, because I truly don’t believe in counting calories. So, for the remaining 4 weeks, I ended up with a method similar to what my brother-in-law employs. One fasting day each week, with no food during the day {I ate a piece of fruit if I felt really hungry}, with dinner at night — something nourishing, complete and not calorie restricted.

What I discovered:

1. Food tastes better

When you’re truly hungry, food tastes so much better {ergo the Chinese proverb}. Even the simplest of simplest things were extra delicious. And I was less likely to get bored with food. I can clearly recall eating a Kiwi fruit and how much I truly enjoyed it.

2. I was satisfied with less

When it came to a non-fasting day, I didn’t feel like eating more to compensate. In fact, I ate less. This, I must admit, put meal times a little out of whack for non-fast days, which also made me realise how much ‘meal time’ influences our hunger.

3. I became more mindful

Because I was eating so little on my fast days, I paid extra attention to my food. I wanted to take time to savour my meal, to satisfy my  hunger, because I knew it’d be over soon. {All meals are best eaten this way — it helps us to feel satiated too, and less likely to go eating more soon after a meal.}

4. I became aware of what triggered hunger other than hunger itself

Even when I was not feeling hungry, looking at food photos {Instagram!} made me hungry. Just goes to show that being surrounded by food advertising and pictures everywhere {TV, magazines, social media etc.} can impact our hunger and relationship with food. My solution: limit the media, and be mindful with what and when you ‘consume’ media.

Other things that also triggered my hunger were resistance that arises when I write and boredom.

{Tip: when you get a craving to eat something, ask yourself what you were doing or feeling before you got hungry.}

5. It’s ok to feel hungry

Sure, I felt hungry. But those moments did pass. Keeping purposefully busy, enjoying what I was doing, helped to get over hunger too. And I was ok. More than ok. Suffice to say, I did not ‘suffer’ because of my hunger. I eat well and feel nourished most days — so one day per week of limited food was not going to harm me. In fact, eating less than what we normally eat in the developed world makes us healthier.

6. I needed to be properly nourished

To get through my fasting days, I needed to  eat what I call nourishing, complete meals {explained thoroughly in Nourished} on my non-fasting days, I wouldn’t have been in a good state physically or mentally.

I also needed to be nourished with enough sleep and rest. Feeling overwhelmed, tired or stressed doesn’t help with fasting.

7. I learned to listen to my intuition so I could be kind to myself

I fasted on a set day each week, but I tried not to be so dogmatic about it that I would override listening to my body {which is hard to do as it is given the power of the ego/mind}.

If my fast day fell during that time of month or when I was feeling quite tired, and I was getting grumpy, I decided to be kind to myself and ate something nourishing — it could have been just a piece of fruit or a complete meal. And I did my best not stress or feel guilty about breaking my fast to feed my hunger. It wasn’t worth it.

Overall outcome

Overall, I don’t think I fasted with one method long enough to notice a change in mental clarity that people talk about. But I certainly noticed how I related to hunger and that’s a good thing.

What I do now

I no longer fast, but I do my best to listen to my body and eat when I’m truly hungry. And I also listen to my appetite {how much food to eat} too, which may mean eating more, less or nothing at all come meal time.

This means I generally eat 2.5 meals, and rarely snack in between — I’d had started this before IF, and I like it. I make sure my meals are nutritious, delicious, and enjoyed mindfully. {Please note: this is what suits me and my energy needs. To work out what’s right for you, experimenting is key.}

If you’d like more information on IF I recommend watching this 1-hour video with Dr Michael Mosley {it was featured on BBC, and is quite entertaining and interesting}, and his book The Fast Diet.

16 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting: 7 things I discovered about hunger”

  1. Very interesting. I feel like this would be a great experiment. In a world of convenience we have food in abundance, so much so maybe we don’t know what real hunger is anymore? (haha… such as the urge eat when looking at instagram pictures even though I just had dinner!). This has inspired me to try it and learn to understand what my body wants.

    1. “In a world of convenience we have food in abundance, so much so maybe we don’t know what real hunger is anymore?” Love it Elyce, well said! Good luck with experimenting, Lesh xx

  2. Hi Lesh.
    My husband and I have been following the 5:2 Diet since May 2013 and love it. I am retired and have the time to calorie count on our fasting days. We eat fairly well so did not encounter mental clarity either however we do feel an overall wellbeing.
    A lot of our friends and family are following it too and are gaining the numerous health benefits. So I urge your readers to take a look at the 1 hour documentary. Our fasting days are generally dictated by our social life and therefore are flexible. On non fasting days we eat as normal but like you we found we weren’t eating as much at meal times. I highly recommend this way of life to everyone! Regards, Diane.

  3. My husband and I also watched this at the suggestion of my father. We tried it for two weeks; Mike liked it, but I found that I really struggled. On fast days, I found myself overeating at my one meal because I knew I wouldn’t get to eat again for a while. I’ve already gotten to a place where I can eat mostly whatever I want, and what I want is usually healthy, so I didn’t really feel the need to continue this kind of fast. However, it was very interesting as you noted that I became much more aware of my hunger, what caused it, and how much I enjoyed my food. I also found that if I was going to fast, eating breakfast and lunch and then fasting dinner one night a week was much more doable for me. I find your experience quite interesting as well. I do think occasional fasting is very helpful, as it gives the digestive system a break and creates the kind of awareness you’re talking about.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Emily. Agree about occasional fasting, which I have been contemplating ever since I wrote the post! L x

  4. I am so glad you wrote about your experience with IF as I have been contemplating giving it a go myself and wrote about the very topic on my blog last week. I was thinking of taking the route a previous commenter did with fasting from lunch to lunch. I was wondering if you noticed a difference with your digestive system or alleviating water retention. I think it would be nice to get a break from food preparation and clean-up, too, once in a while. And, I love cooking and feel that way! 🙂 Thanks for the share!

    1. Hey Lori, it’s worth a try to see if it works for you. I didn’t notice anything about water retention. I eat quite well anyway, ad don’t snack, so probably didn’t see a huge benefit for me. All you can do it try and see how you feel. If you give it a go, would love to hear what you think. L x

  5. I cannot sleep if I am hungry at night. I only eat when I am hungry and I stop when satisfied so often I a very hungry at bedtime because I did not eat enough at dinner. Still, this one day fasting intrigues me

  6. I have been IF for for about three years. I do stop here and there for a week at a time, if I’m travelling or if we are having guests or celebration.

    My method is I only eat every second day during daylight hours. Sometimes I have an extremely early supper (3am), but most times I do not. It was originally done as a spiritual practice – but i find it extremely balancing.

    Digestion can slow down deep tissue healing – and so when we fast, we not only cleanse and detox, but we give our body a chance to take the focus off processing and digesting foods and place emphasis upon healing, detoxing and even our emotions can become very calm and subdued.

    The key is to know when to fast and when to eat. I don’t fast when I feel that the benefit of eating is greater – ie when you are ill, or have a large workload, when you are demanding more from your body.

    I am more in tune to my body. I body I feel uses its resources better, I eat more ‘mindfully’… I choose what nutrient I think I need to break my fast on.

    Also I sometimes do full-time juice fasts for several days of freshly made juices, and I do shorter water only fasts for 3-4 days only water, then reintroduce food with fruits for a while, then slowly start eating. The benefits are truly profound. My hub says I reboot into a new woman more tranquil, more centred. I recommend it to women.
    btw – I used to have very bad pcos and other extreme hormonal issues that are now completely dormant. Its amazing!

  7. IF is an interesting topic. There are a few different ways to do it, I follow a “reduced eating window” approach – where I try to eat all my meals in an 8-10 hour window. Life gets in the way sometimes and it doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the general rule.
    I tried and failed with IF a few times before and I’m like Carol, I can’t sleep if I’m hungry either. I think women especially need to be a bit careful to make sure IF doesn’t add extra stress to your body (who needs that!).

  8. I find this very interesting and it strikes a memory of a research talk I sat in on last year (I am a kinesiology student) where they were talking about weight loss methods for obese people. According to the scientist giving the talk, the method posing the most successful in terms of maintaing weight loss each week and maintaining subject participation through to completion of the clinical trials was similar to what you have just described. The subjects alternated between fasting days (where they ate ~500 calories in the day, usually liquid form) and days where they were allowed to eat whatever they wanted. Makes me feel like we might be onto something!

  9. I tried the 5:2 fast and managed for a few weeks but work full time and found by 3pm I was finding it harder to concentrate which wasn’t always helpful. It certainly brings awareness to food and what and when and why we eat. I especially appreciate Mary’s comments about fasting in general.

  10. I’ve been going through old emails and just came across this post. It’s wonderful that you are able to get such positive results form any kind of fasting. Unfortunately I generally do not do well with fasting. Despite all the work I’ve done to overcome a very negative past, I find that fasting is like eating late: the result is that I want to eat more. Basically,, I think that’s about feelings of deprivation, left over from childhood experiences. Thanks to some things you’ve written, I am trying to look into that and find ways to overcome those feelings. But even if I do overcome the negative feelings, I still get very hungry when I don’t eat on a regular basis. Thank you, once again, for making me think about important topics.

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