Writer: Sean Park
Designer: Jericho Krueger
*Please Note: If you are considering intermittent fasting, please seek health advice from a doctor or registered dietitian.*
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Imagine saving some money on grocery costs and losing weight simultaneously. That’s the plan I had as I laid out my long-term weight loss project. Intermittent fasting is a method of fasting by choosing a specific time to eat. For instance, I went with the daily approach and ate between 12:00 PM and 7:00 PM. According to Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, this method of fasting can help lose weight over time because “after hours without food, the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat.”
A University of Alabama study further explains how intermittent fasting works. The study focused on two groups: one would restrict their meals from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM (8 hours) and another from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM (12 hours). Both groups showed no significant changes during the first five weeks, but afterwards, the 8-hour group had better results. They had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure… [with] significantly decreased appetite” on top.”
What Was the Experience Like?
When I started this project, I weighed 74.70 kg. A new smart scale, which I bought to help me monitor my health, advised me to target the 60 kg range to be fit and healthy. I noticed a slightly faster drop in my weight when I combined intermittent fasting with exercising regularly. The lowest I registered was 70 kg, but it rebounded quickly once my classes started. I couldn’t spend a lot of time exercising and eating at irregular intervals.
Due to the quick turnaround and speed of the journalism program, I had a lot of cases where my lunch quickly turned into a dinner or a midnight meal. It was hard to track when to eat since all the deadlines were pouring down, but the best part was that I was too busy even to feel hungry. A few bites from my lunch kept me going until midnight
Any Side Effects?
As a positive side effect, I noticed that my grocery bill went down. Before I began, I spent around $12 to $14 on lunch, and it was quickly piling up to around $300 a month. As I didn’t need to cook anything for breakfast, I could save some costs and even get an extra hour of sleep, which was a refreshing change.
Other positive side effects included feeling quite full and energetic once my body got accustomed to eating a single meal a day. However, it did take me around a month to get used to this new eating habit. I went from three meals daily to just two and gradually worked towards one. I knew that having only a single meal a day would turn me into a grumpy gremlin that coffee alone cannot solve.
Overall, it was a positive experience. I was able to save some money and lose some weight, even though the latter is slowly climbing again. As I don’t feel hungry throughout the day, it has been helping me stay active in class so I can push through and focus on meeting deadlines. Amid my chaotic schedule, intermittent fasting helped me stay slightly healthier than three meals daily. My journey so far has been like killing three birds—grocery costs, weight, and productivity—with one stone, and I hope it can continue to stay that way.
Four Recommendations from Harvard Health’s Blog Post on Intermittent Fasting
- Avoid sugars and refined grains. Try fruits, veggies, beans, grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats instead!
- Be active throughout the day and burn those fats between meals! It’s important to build up your muscle.
- Try taking the simpler approach to intermittent fasting. Set a specific hour when to eat and try to make it earlier in the day, between 7:00 AM and 3:00 PM for maximum effect. However, try to avoid setting it right before going to bed.
- Avoid eating at nighttime, even a light snack.