Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that involves fasting and eating on a regular or regimented schedule. When we fast, our bodies use stored nutrients and energy forms to continue functioning. Curious to find out if she will reap the proposed benefits of intermittent fasting (weight loss being the most notable one), a 25-year-old Singaporean gives this eating regimen a go.
“I am going to try intermittent fasting,” my friend informed me at a New Year’s gathering. This concept was not new to me, seeing that a family member of mine actually lost 10kg in 6 months through this method. I nodded in response and figured that it’s a great idea for someone trying to lose weight — it was probably just not for me.
That night, however, I could not stop thinking about it because, “Well, aren’t I trying to lose weight too?” At this point, I have been really proud of myself for consistently working out almost every day for a year, a habit that was born out of the circuit breaker. You know, when everyone figured that they could make better use of their time in quarantine. But recently, I found myself hitting a roadblock — I just wasn’t losing any more weight. To move past this stage, I knew I had to try something different, and so I decided to give intermittent fasting a try.
There are many regimens out there and I picked the 16/8 fasting method (i.e. not eating during 16 hours of the day with the exception of an eating window of 8 hours). I made no changes to my diet and did not control what I ate during my eating window, which was typically between 11am to 7pm. I didn’t believe in strictly adhering to the window. After all, if this was to be a long-term lifestyle change, breaking the rules every now and then was only normal. Of course, I kept my deviations from the regimen to a minimum.
Editor’s Note: I approached the contributor after her intermittent fast had commenced, so the log only documents the later half of her experiment.
Day 11 of Intermittent Fasting, Thursday
I have been working from home for almost a year now, but I still return to the office on certain occasions. I woke up early today since I had to attend an external meeting at 11am, right when I’m supposed to break my fast. Well, that’s out of the window now.
To judge when I’ll be able to have my first meal of the day, I referred to my calendar on Outlook. I realized that I’ll only be free at 1pm. Maybe I’ll munch on bread right before my meeting at 10.45am.
That plan fell through when the bakery I went to didn’t have anything that tempted me enough to break my newly formed routine. I decided to eat breakfast at 1pm, after my meeting.
I ended up eating at 2pm. I gobbled up my food quickly once I reached home as I was literally starving, all the while being conscious that eating too quickly will lead to indigestion. The perils of skipping your breakfast on a busy day, sigh. I promised myself not to do this too often.
I had fried chicken cutlet curry rice; it was delicious. I tried googling to find out how many calories that was but couldn’t find it, I’m estimating 700. For dinner, I had a Japanese bento set and finished my meal by 7pm.
Day 12, Friday
It’s another day of meetings, this time from 10am to 12.30pm. Thankfully, they were online so I could sneak in my first meal at 10.45am. It’s slightly earlier than 11am, but it was the only available window to do it. Breakfast was my usual — instant oats with banana, honey and milk.
At 1pm, I started preparing lunch though I just ate 1.5h ago. Lunch hours are between 12pm to 2pm, and I had to eat something to last till dinner time. Logically I should start eating at 12 and skip breakfast completely, but being awake from 7am to 12pm without food is just too torturous. I’ll continue with this weird behavior of having my breakfast and lunch one hour apart. Lunch was a good comforting bowl of beef udon — it’s really tasty and so easy to prepare that I call it my atas maggie mee.
Since it was a Friday, I went out to visit my friend after work. We ordered in but the food came pretty late so I was forced to eat after 7pm. We had mala, which tasted decent. I tried to control the portion I was eating but I still ate some luncheon meat. What’s life without enjoying food, right?
I also baked tons of chocolate chip cookies to bribe my nephew and niece and obviously had to taste them. They were delicious, as expected after the copious amount of sugar I’ve added. I left a third of the batch with my friend in return for “renting” her oven. It is also a good way to cut some calories, ha. It was a lovely day.
My eating window ended at 9pm because of the time it took to bake. I didn’t brood over breaking my eating curfew; Friday nights are meant to be a treat!
Day 13, Saturday
I started eating at noon. It’s supposed to be easier on the weekends since I usually don’t have to be up so early, but I had to do some work. Though I try to avoid it, clearing work over the weekend forces me to be much more efficient and helps to relieve some anxiety from the impending Monday.
But I digress. Lunch was delivered from a tze char chain and it was disappointing. Nevertheless, it was nice to have a meal with my family. I rewarded myself with two cookies since I didn’t eat much — not gonna waste my calories!
Afterwards, I went out to meet my friends. We were supposed to have tea at Paris Baguette but in the end, we settled for Starbucks. I drank a “free” green tea frappuccino since I found money in my Starbucks card. I was overly conscious that I was drinking liquid calories but did it anyway. Oh well.
Despite the drink, I was hungry again at 5pm. I’m not sure why. After church service, we headed for Thai food and the food was wild — super delicious — and I happily stopped eating at 8pm.
Day 15, Monday
I felt really depressed today. There was just so much work to be done in so little time. I felt overwhelmed, tired, and a little helpless.
Adding hunger on top of all that negativity was not a good idea. I broke fast at 10am to make myself feel better. Food is comforting. There’s no point in losing weight — if this eating plan achieves that in the first place — if my mental health is suffering.
It seems like my suspicions are coming true. I might not be able to adopt this fully as a lifestyle. But I told myself to still attempt to finish eating at 6pm if possible, though I highly doubt it since I will likely still be at work.
I reheated my lunch for dinner and finished eating before 6pm. Having a meal in front of your computer is not ideal, but it will have to do.
The problem with having your dinner so early is that the hunger pangs start even earlier. My stomach started growling at 8pm, and I know that I will have to sleep earlier tonight.
Day 17, Wednesday
Looking at my calendar, I saw that I had meetings from 10.30am to 1.30pm. Thankfully I’m working from home, so at least I know I can squeeze in a minute or two for breakfast.
In preparation for the back-to-back meetings, I went down to make my breakfast at 10.15am so that I can start eating once 11am comes around. My usual breakfast of instant oats tasted great, especially because I was starving since the previous night.
Day 23, Tuesday
I was really tempted to break my fast earlier. I face the same struggle every morning, but today I managed to wait till 11am.
It was an insanely hectic day, and working overtime seemed extremely likely. I heated up my Milk Pan bread from Saint Leaven and had it as “dinner” at 5pm. I only managed to complete my work for the day at 7pm, leaving me with no time to eat though I already made old cucumber soup.
I met up with my friend and ran 3.2km. I’ve stopped running since wearing a mask became mandatory, which was almost 9 months ago. I took my time to get back to it again.
Similar to last Monday, I had to sleep earlier to avoid giving in to the temptation to snack. This is part of why intermittent fasting helps in weight loss, I guess. It cuts out unnecessary snacking.
Day 26, Friday
At 10am, I was starving from not having had any food since 5pm the day before. I considered waiting for one more hour so that I can at least have dinner till 7pm. Otherwise, it would be next to impossible to finish eating by 6pm, ha!
I managed to wait till 11am since I had to present during a meeting with the senior leaders of my company. Once it ended, I switched off my camera and started eating my breakfast. I am thankful for the distraction provided by my presentation.
It was a quiet Friday night and I managed to finish eating before 7pm. Every day is a small step of victory for me, and I choose to delight in that.
The End of the Experiment
After a month of experimenting with this lifestyle, I decided intermittent fasting was really not for me. As a morning person, I typically wake up at 7 and really enjoy having my breakfast while mentally preparing myself to face another day of work. It’s somewhat a therapeutic routine and without it, I just don’t feel like I started my day right.
This is not to mention the hunger that I experienced while waiting for the clock to strike eleven. It made me grumpy and a terrible person to be around in the morning (poor mom, I know). Moreover, it was a distraction at work as I was constantly thinking about food.
I also found myself snacking a lot more during the time that I can eat to compensate for the hunger I experienced when I fasted. It’s almost as if the eating window allowed me to eat anything without consequences, which is obviously not true.
Soon after I stopped intermittent fasting, I even gained back the 0.5kg I had lost. So I ended an entire month of mental and physical torture without any gains. Great.
Plot Twist: One Month After Intermittent Fasting
I actually lost a kg in the month following my experiment with intermittent fasting. The irony.
I realized that while I was fasting, I channeled my energy into controlling what time I can eat instead of considering what kind of food I should be eating. Now when I look at snacks or desserts, I will consider how much exercise I need to do in order to burn it but still allow myself to have a few small bites. It’s all about portioning your food while making yourself happy.
Honestly, I feel really proud that I was able to persist for a month. Considering how much I love food and hate being hungry, it was no easy feat.
A Caveat: Prioritize Your Mental Health
For any sort of lifestyle change related to weight management, I recognize that mental health needs to be prioritized. I may not love the way that I look but I will always remind myself to be thankful for my functional body. To remember that I am healthy and that I can actually exercise and work to become the version of myself that I want to be.
My word of advice for anyone who doesn’t like who you see in the mirror is to remind yourself that you’ve got this. That you are more than how you look, or how others may perceive you.
It’s so important to give yourself reasons to love yourself. I admire my perseverance; I am thankful for my discipline; I am proud of how far I’ve come. I may not be where I would like to be yet, but I always want to remember that the process is as important as the goal.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that the changes we introduce into our lives for weight management need to be sustainable. Short-term easy gains are definitely not worth it if the methods used are harmful to your body or not sustainable in the long run.
Wishing you the best of luck in finding a method that is suitable for you. Goodbye for now, it’s time to run another five sets of intervals, ha!
Feature image by Sherryl Cheong and Stella Heng