My quarantine 15 (or 20, actually) went in the opposite direction. Yep, somehow during lockdown I managed to lose weight instead of gain it. How on earth did that happen? I stumbled into intermittent fasting.
This eating pattern has gained traction in the last few years, but it never grabbed my attention because, frankly, it sounded awful. Skip meals — what? Why would I ever want to do that?
Well, a growing body of research suggests the benefits of intermittent fasting are numerous. It turned out to be the easiest way I’ve ever lost weight.
My weight-loss journey with intermittent fasting
It didn’t start on purpose. I found myself without an appetite from worry in the early days of the pandemic, so I’d skip breakfast and sometimes lunch, then eat when I got hungry again.
Sound unhealthy? When I spoke with Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, an expert on intermittent fasting and co-author of a recent New England Journal of Medicine article on its benefits, he explained that it’s actually only relatively recently that humans began eating three meals a day. Prior to the agricultural revolution, he explained, humans couldn’t store food in the way we do now that enables us to graze and snack 24/7.
I rarely weigh myself, so I didn’t realize what was happening until my pants grew looser. Intrigued, I started looking more into intermittent fasting, as it’s sometimes called, and fell down the rabbit hole. Since it had seemed so easy, I decided to continue it with purpose, choosing to fast from dinner until anytime between noon and dinnertime again the next day, depending on how I felt. (Another approach to fasting involves eating normally five days a week and limiting calories to about 500 on two non-consecutive days.)
In the space of a couple of months I’d lost about 15 pounds (based on the last time I’d been weighed at the doctor’s office) with my intermittent fasting plan. I dialed back the number of long fasting days, but continued to skip breakfast, and another five pounds eventually came off, bringing me down two clothing sizes to the size I’ve been most of my life — when I haven’t let weight creep up on me like I had in the year leading up to this, that is.
I kept wondering why I never knew how easy this could be. Was I hungry? Sure. But not hangry, and that I could handle. I’ve tried — and hated — calorie counting in the past. This was dead simple; when it was time to eat I ate until I was full, mostly avoiding empty white flour carbs and processed food. If I got too hungry, I skipped fasting. It grew easier with time, which is typical, Mattson said. If people are going to adapt, it takes about a month to adjust.
Why was this so wildly effective? And is intermittent fasting healthy? It boils…