As I write this, I’ve been fasting for the past 15.5 hours. And — a statement that would have shocked me just a month ago — I’m not really that hungry.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting, a style of eating that divides each day into two simple windows: one where you may be eating and one where you don’t. One of the latest trendy diets of the past few years, intermittent fasting may be better described as time-restricted eating rather than a diet. Some studies have found it to be no more effective than outright calorie cutting, but others have touted intermittent fasting for its effectiveness as a weight-loss strategy, its potential to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, and its ability to lower blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity.
Generally speaking, there are a couple ways to go about intermittent fasting. One method, dubbed 16/8, involves a 16-hour fasting window, during which you can drink as much water, tea, and black coffee as you want, and an eight-hour period where you should consume all your calories for the day. Another popular eating schedule, called 5:2, recommends eating normally for five days and limiting caloric intake to about 500 calories for two nonconsecutive fasting days. (Jimmy Kimmel says he lost 25 pounds this way.)
After some expert counseling and calibration, I found that the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting suited my lifestyle. But in the beginning, mornings were rough. Accustomed to eating breakfast, I’d wake up hungry and spend the early part of the day feeling sluggish. By the second week, I was increasingly more chipper despite skipping my usual breakfast burrito, but even as my body began to adjust to the change, my mind wasn’t as on board. Physically, I was feeling better; mentally, I was still struggling with the long stretches between the sanctioned eating times I’d set for myself.
Instead of ditching intermittent fasting altogether, I talked to a few dietitians for advice on how to make the whole thing feel a little easier. If you’re looking to change up your eating pattern but need a little help getting started (or sticking with it), consult with your doctor first, and keep these tips in…