How to start time restricted eating

I loved snacking. In fact, when I couldn’t sleep I would have a spoonful of peanut butter at 2 in the morning. But I’m turning 40 this year. And with one health setback after another recently, I felt a strong need to do better so I could feel better.

I really liked the idea of time restricted eating. Unlike fasting and calorie restriction, I thought it was something I could actually do. I also liked the benefits that would fall on me like an avalanche from heaven when I gave my gut a break from food.

After I decided to do intermittent fasting, it took me 3 days to actually start:

The first step to time restricted eating

I know all the studies on time restricted fasting called the people who didn’t eat for 12 hours the ‘controls’. I’m like, you betcha! It takes control for me not to eat for 12 hours!

The moment I wake up, my tummy starts growling for food. If I don’t get a coffee and bite to eat within half an hour I start feeling faint and light-headed. So the first baby step I took was to not eat for at least one hour after waking up. This meant I made it to ‘control’ level -12 hours.

Surprisingly, I got used to it pretty quickly and within the week, I was managing to get away with just a cup of black coffee (no sugar of course) at about 5am and have my first bite of food at about 8 to 9 am. As our dinners are generally between 5 to 6pm, This made it a 14 to 15 hour fast. Yes!

That’s not too shabby for a food addict.

It’s my second week of time restricted eating. I made it to 16 hours of fasting one day but for the most part, have managed 15 hour fasts (6pm to 9am).

How did starting time restricted eating make me feel?

At the beginning, my tummy growled and my head spun a little bit. I was always a big breakfast eater and my body is pretty dependent on glucose metabolism to function.

But the elation I got from managing to pull out my night fast trumped those physical annoyances. And within days, they improved.

I felt cleaner, lighter and brighter in the morning.

But I wasn’t prepared for the rebound hunger.

How to overcome the initial obstacles to time restricted eating

‘Rebound hunger’

I was really surprised that I would feel fine until I had my first mouthful of food at 9 am. Then all of a sudden, my tummy is growling again and I’m craving for more food, specifically sugary food.

It’s been 2 weeks and I’m still getting these cravings the moment I start eating. As a result, some days I’ve actually eaten more than what I would usually eat for breakfast. Then I feel bad after that.

But doing these things helped calm down the crazy craving:

  • don’t start with any sugary food, not even in your coffee. Basically, go keto for your ‘breakfast’. The moment you have sugar, it will spike your blood sugar and then sent it crashing down, triggering you to crave even more sugar.
  • have nuts (or other good fatty, protein type food). This won’t spike your blood sugar and will keep you fuller for longer.
  • drink lots and lots of water. I found on the days I was dehydrated, I was more hungry.

Low blood sugar

When you get light-headed, have a headache or feel weak, that’s the effect of low blood sugar. When your brain can’t kick in and you feel like you’re in a fog, that’s low blood sugar.

When I say ‘low blood sugar’, in a non-diabetic, that’s not the dangerous hypoglycemia levels that diabetics get, that’s just relatively low blood sugar compared to what your body is used to.

Regardless, your body and brain will show their displeasure by making you feel bad. If you can persist through it, the symptoms improve over weeks as your body adjusts to the new routine and gets better at burning fat stores instead of sugar for fuel.

In the meantime, to speed up your relief from these symptoms:

  • try to cut back on sugar and carbs even during your eating window. This will train your body to stop relying on sugar for energy
  • Ceasing sugar will also stop all the sugar crashes that give you brain fog, hunger pangs and sugar cravings.
  • Have a high fat, high protein meal for dinner.
  • Go on a keto diet.

Admittedly I haven’t succeeded in any of these yet (at week 2). I’m still giving in to sugary crap and suffering the consequences. One day I will succeed. Watch this space.

Needing to eat out of habit

We are all creatures of habit. And when our body is under stress, for example, when depriving it of food, we cling to our habits and routines even more.

I have found willpower to be a pretty sad thing. We are so weak when it comes to indulging ourselves! To change your habit, don’t depend on your willpower to fast. Go in with a plan. For example:

  • plan ahead that when you feel like eating, you will drink some water/tea/black coffee instead. That way when the inevitable craving happens, you will automatically do that
  • distract yourself with work, study, exercise, anything really that will take your mind off food
  • put yourself in a position where eating is not an option anyway. You could schedule meetings in the morning or go for a long walk without snacks and without your wallet.

Lack of motivation

I hear you. Life is suffering enough without putting yourself through more stress. Why can’t I have my caramel slice? I earned it. What’s the point of torturing myself by fasting and restricting when I can eat. I wanna eat whenever I want!

But I also want to live a long, healthy life. I want to feel good about myself. And I want to teach my kids a better, cleaner way to live.

The best way to overcome a lack of motivation for intermittent fasting is to learn all about the benefits it will give you and find out exactly what you can and can’t do with time restricted eating.

To wrap up

The trick is to arm yourself with a strategy. For example, pre-plan what you will do when a craving hits. That way, when you inevitably waver, you can automatically fall back on your plan.




3 thoughts on “How to start time restricted eating”

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