My name is Annie & I don’t eat small meals every few hours. I don’t eat breakfast in the morning. And my body is loving it. Buckle your seatbelts kids, this is a story to hear.
I have been legit focused on eating clean and healthy for a few years now. I have always been active, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that I really realized that dialing in nutrition in addition to working out would really push my body past the ‘not fat’ stage and into the lean and toned stage. This post is about how I used to eat, how I eat now, and how both methods affected my body and training.
I’m sure if you’re in the health and wellness scene, you have heard from many places that feeding your body frequently, every 2-3 hours, is the best way to keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders and avoid sending your body into “starvation mode.” Eating in general DOES increase your metabolic rate (through the thermic effect of food), however that happens no matter the timing of your feeding.
I followed this method for a long time, and it did work at first, for quite a decent amount of time. I was working out consistently with intense programs like Insanity, just kind of plugging along. But it was after I completed the 21 Day Fix Extreme (see my full review here) and didn’t quite get the results I was anticipating, after following the nutrition plan 100%, that I got curious about other eating methods. During the 21 Day Fix, I went through three weeks of carb depletion cycles and my abs kind of had the idea of coming out, but they were NOT what I was expecting after eating the way that I was. I woke up hungry and my belly let me know every 2-3 hours that it was ready for my next snack. Which really is all I ever was eating, a round of snacks. I love food…just putting that out there…and my dinner portions compared to my husband’s made me sad and jealous. By eating in this frequency, every time I ate I would eat enough to not be hungry, but never was I ever “full.” Some people don’t like the feeling of being FULL, and I honestly don’t like to feel stuffed, but I do want my brain to tell me “Hold up sister, we are good.” When I was eating frequently, my brain was more like “oh come on THIS IS ALL WE GET?!”
“The problem with dividing your daily caloric allotment into many small meals; however, is that you will never achieve satiety from these micro meals. So the more often you eat, the more likely you will be hungry, which will cause you to binge between meals or eat more than your allotment per meal.”
-Dr. Sara Solomon
This did two things to me, both of which are mental and really had nothing to do with my physical results, but had everything to do with me and my relationships with food and my family & friends.
First, it made me constantly focused on what I was going to eat next. When I was eating frequently, I literally always had a snack on me, no matter where I went. Shopping for a few hours? Snack. Visiting someone? Snack. 2 hour commute? Snack. And of course, I continued to focus on keeping my carbs to a minimum so my snacks weren’t granola bars or something inconspicuous…I was the girl with a baggie of green peppers crunching next to you on the train. So cool, right? (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still that girl if I’m hungry on the train, haha.) The point is, I was hangry (hungry-angry) quite often and annoying to the people I was with.
Secondly, I was HYPER focused on my macro nutrients. To an unhealthy level. Croutons on my salad? I LOVE croutons, but in my head those 8 croutons would be extra carbs, so I skipped them. SKIPPED CROUTONS, PEOPLE! Now, for a figure competitor or someone like that, skipping croutons makes sense and is probably necessary for their goals. But let me remind you that I’m just an every day gal trying to look and feel her best and at least have my hard work be visible. But in my mind, things as small as croutons were going to disrupt my results and I had to avoid them. This also made me a maniac to be around and not very fun at social events. It is a mental issue when you become obsessed with food to that level and it seriously is no way to live. Healthy is one thing, obsessive is another.
It was around this time that I listened to two podcasts from Chalene Johnson that had lightbulbs blinking in my head and made me say WHOA, this is me. I need to try this.
Those two podcasts were featuring Melissa McAllister, the creator of the 8 hour Ab Diet, and Dr. Sara Solomon, Intermittent Fasting guru. A lot of the information I have regarding intermittent fasting is from Dr. Solomon and if any of what you learn here interests you, I highly suggest you check her out!
Dr. Solomon spoke of the same issues that I was having. Being hyper focused on calories in – calories out. Punishing yourself for eating something by working out extra hard. Just being in a kind of unhealthy mental place with food. My biggest problem was that when I did indulge, I spent the whole time thinking about how long it would take me to recover from this slip and I didn’t even enjoy it. Food, drinks, friends & family…they are all meant to be enjoyed. To bring us pleasure. I HAD to find a way to regain that pleasure while still staying healthy and charging towards my goals.
“Intermittent fasting is not a diet. You still eat your normal amount of food, you just eat it in a smaller time frame, referred to as your eating window. It’s simply a plan telling you when you can eat and when you cannot eat. Since you spend more time fasting than you do eating, it gives your body a chance to tap into its stored fat for fuel.”
-Dr. Sara Solomon
Intermittent fasting blows the concept of frequent eating out of the water. When you subscribe to intermittent fasting, you eat all of your food during a certain time frame, for instance 10, 8, even 5 hours during the day. The rest of your day (a lot of which is actually when you are asleep, #win) you do NOT eat, and it is considered your fasting period. You don’t graze and feed yourself all day, but only during that ‘eating window.’ (I actually love that phrase, it sounds so ridiculous and also…exciting? Haha.) It almost subscribes to some of the same concepts as the Paleo diet, in that our ancestors weren’t eating all throughout the day. They ate when there was food and that kept them going until the next time.
There are studies proving that dividing your daily calories into 6 meals eaten every 2-3 hours has the exact same metabolic effect as eating the same amount of daily calories in one meal. So the whole eating to keep your metabolism pumping is actually just an idea, not a fact. And it was an idea that was not producing results for me.
There are some versions of intermittent fasting diets that claim you can eat whatever the heck you want during your eating window and you will lose weight. I’m willing to bet this is true, and if weight loss is your only goal, go for it. But if you are trying to be healthy, gain muscle, tone your body…anything other than just lose weight, I definitely suggest not eating whatever and still focusing on eating healthy. My current plan for intermittent fasting looks like this:
- My eating window is 12pm to 8pm. I tried starting earlier, but I consistently found it difficult to be done eating dinner by 7 or 7:30 so I adjusted my window. This works perfectly for me.
- I eat breakfast at 12 noon, lunch at 3pm and dinner around 7:30pm. I may have a snack or two in between but I mostly just eat three meals now. I still eat the same amount of food and still focus on my macro nutrients like I did when I was frequently feeding…BUT I’M FULL!!!
- I drink black coffee first thing in the morning & lots and lots of water. This doesn’t count as breaking the fast. Which, um yay because COFFEE!!!
- I use the container guide from Insanity Max 30 and 21 Day Fix to make sure that my portions are within means and that I’m eating from the right food groups…but I don’t stress out about portions like I did before. If I want some more of something, I friggin’ eat more. And THAT rules.
Fasting for the Win!
There are a lot of benefits that I read about, and now can back up with my own results, to intermittent fasting:
- I am not hungry all the time. This is so glorious. I’ll be honest, I usually get hungry around 9 am (give or take?) and that is when I chug a huge jug of water and I am good to go until lunch. Not eating breakfast right away was a huge adjustment for me, but once I got in the swing of this I am honestly not even hungry for breakfast when I wake up anymore.
- I leaned out A LOT. This sounds like a vanity point, but I’ll be real with you. I was gaining and losing the same 2-3 lbs of water weight every week. I would go hard with nutrition during the week and then when I indulged or had some drinks over the weekend, I would puff up and look like a couch potato. Monday rolls around and I’m all …Welcome back to Bloatsville, let’s get to work. I can’t believe the difference in how I feel now that I’ve been eating like this. I can indulge without feeling like crap. I know a lot of people don’t agree with me…but half the reason I work this hard is so that I can play hard too. 80/20 all the way, baby.
- I’m just more easy going about my food. I’m at a good place in my health and fitness journey so I’m not focused on counting calories every day. I understand this isn’t the same place everyone is at, but I do hope that some day we all get there and an raise a beer together (and not be the least bit guilty about it!).
For visual proof, I offer these two terrible cell phone pics because well…I guess I’m awful at taking pictures of my abs, haha. Regardless, these were after a weekend of “over indulging”…if ya know what I mean.
I have been following intermittent fasting for about two months now and I honestly do love it just as much as I was hoping. It really makes me happy, I feel good, I feel FULL and I feel like my best me. I am constantly experimenting with nutrition and diet changes, so this wasn’t the first crazy idea I’ve tried, just the first one I loved. I like experimenting and that’s how I came to find that this works for me. I am not suggesting this is THE WAY to eat for everyone’s goals…I am a firm believer that there is no one size fits all nutrition plan for life. If you are interested, try it for a week or two. If it doesn’t float your boat…that is A-OK. We are all different, and the only way to find what works best for us, no matter what that is, is to TRY.