In the spring of 2017, after using calorie counting and mindful eating to successfully lose nearly 40 lbs., I hit the dreaded plateau. For the rest of the year, I struggled to bust through the plateau and by the time 2018 rolled around, I had gained back 8 lbs.
Between January and August of this year, I've danced back and forth within an 8 lb. range. I'd lose, I'd gain. I'd gain some more, then I'd lose. Back and forth, back and forth, but not never making any headway or losing more weight beyond what I had initially lost. It's been frustrating, embarrassing at times, and above everything else - exhausting. Don't get me wrong, there's a part of me that is very proud to have been able to hold my own and stay within this 8 lb. range because maintenance has never been my strong suit. But, I'd by lying if I said that I wasn't also disappointed.
On August 1, I began intermittent fasting (IF), specifically utilizing the 5:2 approach. A friend of mine had some success with it and after reading about it over the summer, I decided to give it a try. If you're unfamiliar with 5:2, it's a form of intermittent fasting in which a person eats normally five days a week and then fasts the remaining two. On my fasting days, I eat about 25% of my estimated total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which equates to around 600 calories.
It's been one month since I started 5:2IF and here's what happened. In the spirit of full disclosure, I promise to be completely honest.
The First Day
The first day was awful. Let me say that again - It. Was. Awful. I was absolutely ravenous, I had a pounding headache, and I was
That day taught me a very important lesson, that I was not going to be able to depend solely on two 100-calorie protein shakes to see me through the day (before dinner) on days that I fasted. In order to make it work, I needed real food.
The pounding headache of the first day faded into a dull headache that persisted each fasting day through mid month. But, by the sixth fasting day, as my body adjusted, they subsided. Hallelujah!
I won't lie, I experienced a lot of hunger pangs, but here's what I learned about them. First, hunger pangs are okay and I don't need to jump at the first hunger sensation and eat. Second, drinking water often curbed my pangs, so I realized that I probably wasn't hungry like I thought I was, but simply thirsty instead. Third, hunger pangs won't kill me. They may be uncomfortable, but they will pass. I learned to sit with my hunger and wait and, above all, be okay with it.
The Best Thing
I did Atkins years ago and dropped a decent amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time, but I inevitably put every pound back on and then some. It didn't work for me because the list of what I could and couldn't eat was too restrictive. Sure, it was great being able to eat all the bacon I wanted, but not being not to be able to eat a biscuit or a piece of cake... It was just wasn't for me.
Throughout the month while doing the 5:2 intermittent fasting, I ate pretty much whatever I wanted on non-fasting days within reason. I had pizza, ate a Twizzler or two, and even enjoyed a small piece of Dairy Queen ice cream cake at a goodbye party for a colleague. But, despite my being able to eat whatever my heart desired on non-fasting days, I didn't go crazy. I was very mindful not to binge and potentially undo everything that I had done on my fasting days. I love this freedom and flexibility.
The biggest challenge I faced was making sure that I had food on hand that would work on my fasting days. I learned quickly on that first fasting day that I had to be prepared, that I couldn't just wing it because I needed to make every calorie count. This involved marinating and grilling chicken breasts in advance and making several trips to the grocery throughout the week to make sure I had enough vegetables, apples, and hard boiled eggs to see me through.
Something I Noticed
When I only had 600 calories to work with, you better believe when I ate that I savored every damn bite. I ate slower, chewed longer, and really tasted my food. Interestingly, I found myself doing the same thing on non-fasting days, too. This, according to my husband, is a HUGE change because I'm typically a very fast eater.
The Bottom Line
I lost 6.8 pounds. Yep, 6.8 pounds in 30 days. 6.8 pounds after being stuck for nearly a year and a half. Honestly, I am absolutely amazed by the results. I had read about intermittent fasting success stories online, but wasn't convinced that it would work for me. I also think this is something I can maintain long term because of the flexibility and freedom. In the end, I'm not denying myself, I just delaying.
I like 5:2IF and here's my main reason - it was easier for me to restrict calories in order to create a calorie deficit for two days a week (and eat sensibly the other five) than to restrict calories in a traditional dieting sense every day. That is what I find most exhausting - constantly having to think about what I'm eating and doing the math every single day.
For the Record
- I received no compensation for doing this post.
- This post is solely based on my experience and the results I achieved may not be typical.
- I'm not necessarily endorsing this method. I think weight loss is unique and everyone has to find what works for them.
- I'm not a doctor, nurse, nutritionist, or diet guru. I'm also not an expert on 5:2 intermittent fasting. I'm simply a gal who's trying this out, seeing what happens, and sharing my experience with you.