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Starting out strong is arguably the most important factor in having a successful weight loss journey. Few things are as discouraging as failing as soon as you begin. But failure at the start is common – breaking old, unhealthy habits or creating new, better habits is difficult for everyone.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has been linked to numerous benefits, from advancing fat burning to balancing blood sugar to improving heart health, and much more. But it can be extremely difficult to get into the practice. After all, you’re suddenly forcing your body through long stretches of time without eating!
But if you’re determined to try IF for its beneficial effects, here are six important tips that can make starting out a little more comfortable:
Start off slow
No need to dive into the deep end with the 16:8 method (16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour eating window). Consider the 12:12 fast to start out with – a 12-hour eating window and a 12-hour fasting period. For example, in a 12:12 fast, you’d finish dinner at 8 pm and fast until 8 am the next day, 12 hours later. Studies show that results in weight maintenance between 12:12 fasting and 16:8 fasting are similar at first. Note that fasting longer does have better results for improving insulin sensitivity and blood pressure in the long term. Master the 12:12, then pace yourself up to a wider fasting window.
Don’t set out for perfection, set out with determination
When starting something new and particularly difficult like fasting, leave perfectionism at the door. There is a huge chance that you may “fail” at first, so make peace with that possibility. Perfection is unattainable and therefore unrealistic. But determination – the ability to pick yourself up and try again – is a forgiving and encouraging mentality, and it’s one you need to have when trying IF!
Drink more water
We know you’ve heard this tip for everything from skincare to brain health to weight loss. But it wouldn’t make the list if it wasn’t important. Make sure you’re getting adequate levels of water daily (9 cups for women and 13 cups for men). It is possible to mistake thirst for hunger, or even boredom for hunger. Before you jump to snacking, try a glass of water or a hot tea and see how you feel after that.
Caffeine, caffeine, caffeine!
When starting out with IF, you may feel low-energy towards the beginning. But here’s the good news: coffee and tea, both rich in caffeine, are IF-friendly! Warm drinks may help make you feel fuller, and caffeine can stave off fasting-related fatigue.
But hold the cream and sugar. These will definitely break your fast and are largely empty calories. If you’ve got a serious sweet tooth, here’s an IF pro tip: try monk fruit. This is a natural, plant-derived zero-calorie sweetener that’s much less disruptive to blood glucose levels.
You might’ve heard whisperings of bulletproof coffee and its potential compatibility with intermittent fasting. While that’s a rabbit hole entirely of its own, you should know that bulletproof coffee – that is, coffee blended with MCT butter – does break your fast. However, of all the macronutrients, the fat present in bulletproof coffee is least disruptive to insulin, so it isn’t the worst offender. Plus, in many ways, IF and ketosis can go hand in hand to maximize weight loss potential. But will fat in your coffee break your fast? Short answer: yes.
Be mindful of your snacking urges
If you’re a chronic snacker or binge eater, you may find that your habits are a response to your emotions. Food can offer solace from external stressors and mental health issues. Sometimes, we simply snack as a reflex response to boredom. Be mindful of why you’re snacking, how quickly you’re eating and how present you are when you eat. Addressing the root trigger behind bad habits is key to stopping them. And of course, when you do reach for a snack, opt for clean, nutritious options.
Practice good overall health
The more unhealthy your current habits, the harder challenges like IF will be for you. But when you take care of the rest of your lifestyle, good eating habits become a lot easier to follow. A healthy diet is congruent with a healthy lifestyle. Begin with practicing the following important habits for better overall wellness:
- Get the recommended number of hours of REM sleep for your age.
- Sleep early and wake early for best results (check out our recent article on the benefits of eating breakfast before 8:30).
- During eating hours, prioritize foods that are filling and energizing (like our healthy and satisfying Mediterranean Shrimp & Farro Pilaf).
- Stay on top of your vitamins.