I’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting for the past three months or so—and so far I’m not looking back.
There are various ways to go about this trendy eating practice. I do a 16-hour fast and don’t eat between 8 p.m. and noon the next day. And while I can’t say with certainty how intermittent fasting has impacted my health (I haven’t yet gone in for blood work), I can say that I’ve noticed some unexpected benefits.
There’s plenty of research out there about the health advantages. Intermittent fasting has been linked to potential benefits such as weight loss, reduced risk of chronic health conditions, improved heart health, better brain health, and more.
Since starting, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how I approach eating, how I think about hunger, and a boost in mental clarity. Plus there’s been one unexpected benefit that you rarely hear about, but is my favorite.
Here are four ways intermittent fasting has changed my daily experience:
1. It’s made me more present with food.
Each day, when I take my first bite around noon, I savor it. I feel grateful for it.
Yesterday, I broke my fast with a strawberry. And let me tell you: I’ve never tasted a sweeter strawberry. (And it was a winter strawberry, no less!)
Now I’m more mindful than ever about food. And I usually end up choosing something light and healthy to break my fast because it’s what I want.
2. I’ve realized there’s nothing wrong with being hungry sometimes.
Like many people, I grew up being told, “When you’re hungry, you should eat!”
But guess what? I learned there’s nothing wrong with being a bit hungry. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you stop feeling like every time a mild hunger pang creeps in you have to drop what you’re doing to eat. It’s liberating.
It seems like every day, right around 10:30 a.m., I start to feel hungry. But lemon water or tea usually sends it away. Then, it’s back to work. And before I know it, noon—and with it, my first light meal—has arrived.
And if I feel a bit hungry late at night? So what? I’ll eat tomorrow.
3. I’m more clear-headed.
I have just as much energy and clarity, if not more, than before I started. Of course, it’s hard to disaggregate what’s due to intermittent fasting and what comes from other lifestyle choices, like exercise or a good night’s rest. But I’ve definitely noticed a recent increase in mental sharpness.
4. Now for the big one: It reduces my cognitive load in the mornings.
Deciding what to eat for breakfast and preparing it puts a lot on your plate first thing in the morning (pun intended). I used to rummage through my fridge, whip up some scrambled eggs, mixed veggies, a smoothie, or whatever I finally landed on, and then clean up. By the time I’d decided what to eat, made it, eaten it, and straightened up afterward, I’d exerted thought, time, and energy.
And even when I took the “grab-and-go” route, I would trudge to a cafe, figure out what I wanted, and then end up with one more thing to carry between BART and my office.
Intermittent fasting has helped me eliminate one source of mental drain: deciding what to eat in the morning, not to mention the work to prepare or procure it.
It’s like the “Mark Zuckerberg hoodie” method—or, the “Steve Jobs black turtleneck” approach: You wear the same thing every day to prevent “decision fatigue.”
I actually enjoy wearing different clothes, so you won’t see me in the same daily hoodie or black turtleneck any time soon. 🙂
In my case, having the same breakfast every day—nothing—is the one less choice that keeps my life lighter and simpler. It preserves my mental energy for more important things, like deciding how best to move the needle for my business that day.
And I’ll get around to that bloodwork soon. It will be interesting to see if the purported health benefits that got me started have actually kicked in!