Health: Intermittent Fasting for 9 Weeks Challenge

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This post will be updated weekly through 9/6/2020.

If you know me or read my blog at all, you probably know that Jacky and I love food. Not just a little, but really loooove food, so dieting was really never going to happen for us. However, we both independently heard about intermittent fasting (IF) and the health benefits it supposedly provides whilst not restricting one’s diet in any way whatsoever.

It only required us to eat all our meals and snacks mindfully between certain hours of the day, which actually sounded doable for us. Our physician friends have confirmed that it’s perfectly healthy and normal to do, so Jacky and I decided that we would start it together after July 4th, so here we are!

We’ve been guilty of getting hungry late at night and snacking on baked goods or instant noodles or even having a full-blown meal just before bed. Often times, one of us will get peckish and start eating and then the other will follow, even if we’d resolved to not eat any more that day. We know that’s not good for us, so now that we’re both in this together hopefully we’ll be able to overcome these bad habits.

I know we’re taking on a lot of challenges at the moment (sleeping/waking early, exercising and now this), but we consider them less to be short-term challenges and more lifestyle changes that should provide long-term health benefits.

Please note: we are only taking on this challenge as neither of us have ever experienced eating disorders or exhibited signs of an unhealthy relationship with food. If you have a history of disordered eating or are triggered by such topics, it may be wise for you to stop reading now.

I am also not using this post to recommend IF – every body is different and every person’s history with food is different, please be kind to yourself as you are already beautiful in your own right. Especially as we’re all stuck indoors these days, please take every opportunity to love yourself more.

I am, however, trying to document this journey on my blog to keep myself accountable since I tend to have problems with perseverance and tend to give up easily. If you are considering starting IF, I hope my experience can provide some interesting insights for you. If not, I hope you’ll find it somewhat entertaining haha.

Challenge Details & Goals

My goals are to see if it can help boost my metabolism (not that I’ll know, to be honest), immunity and mental clarity. In addition, whilst I am genuinely happy with my weight and the way my body looks, it turns out my BMI is considered overweight for a Chinese woman of my height, and my body fat percentage is close to obese even by American standards… o_o;;

I don’t believe I look fat at all, but just knowing that I am at greater risk for severe health problems purely based on my weight and body fat percentage is reason enough for me to want to make the change. I want to be at healthy weight, not just look a healthy weight.

Jacky is also interested in all the health benefits, and is even more determined to lose weight than I am. When I asked him how long we should try IF for, he said he’d like to do 9 weeks because that’s how long it’d take for him to get down to his ideal weight whilst aiming to lose 2lbs/week. I didn’t have a duration goal in mind, and it’s not like we’re going on a restrictive diet, so 9 weeks it is.

Start Date: 7/5/2020
End Date: 9/5/2020
Fast time: 15:9
Daily eating hours: 10:15 – 19:15
Duration: 9 weeks
Jacky’s IF App Tracker: Fastic for Android (free)
My IF App Tracker: Simple for iOS and Apple Watch (free)
Dietary Restrictions: low-lactose for me as I am lactose intolerant.
Drinks to Curb Cravings: Warm (lemon) water or green tea in the morning, decaf pourover in the evenings.

My Current Numbers
Height: 5’1 (155cm)
Weight: 123.2lbs (55.88kg)
BMI: 23.2 (according to Joslin Diabetes Center)
Body Fat %: 30.8% (according to Calculator.net)
Photos: click here

My Ideal Numbers
Height: 5’6!! (just kidding…)
Weight: 108lbs (49kg)
BMI: 20.1
Body Fat %: 24%
Target weight loss per week: 1.67lbs

Honestly I have no idea if it’s possible for me to hit 49kg. I don’t have high hopes; I’ve never been that weight in my adult life and I don’t think I’ve ever been that weight post-puberty, but I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

We are taking this weight-loss journey slowly and at a pace that I believe we can handle. We won’t be too hard on ourselves as we’re beginners, but if we stick it out it should get us somewhere close to goal, and we can always adjust as necessary. Our friend Noah will also be trying it out, and it turns out Jacky’s parents have just started doing IF too (though they are doing 16:8), so that’s super exciting and extra motivating for us!

The app Jacky is using will only be used to track when he eats and to remind him to eat/fast, whereas the app I’ll be using actually encourages you to track every single thing you eat along with your water intake, so I’ll be trying this out to see how it goes, since I feel like it’d be interesting anyway.

However, given the app that I’m using, I’ll be monitoring myself and if at any point I begin to feel like I am becoming obsessive with the food I eat, I will change to using Jacky’s app instead, and if I start to feel myself using it as an excuse to not eat at all, I will stop IF entirely. We want the experience to enhance our lives, not control it.

Check back to see how we get on :)

Weight Tracker

WeekWeightLoss/GainHrs FastedAvg Hrs/Day
0123.2lbsn/an/an/a
1 – completion notes123.9lbs+0.7lbs11015.7
2 – completion notes123.2lbs-0.7lbs10915.7
3 – completion notes123.2lbs+/- 0lbs10615.2
4 – completion notes123.0lbs-0.2lbs10214.7
5
6
7
8
9

Weekly Updates

You may notice some updates added before the end of the week; I’m writing them as I go if I feel a need to note something down.

7/12 – Week One Completed Update.
General mood: No noticeable difference.
Hunger levels: Very mild – mild. I didn’t really feel hungry this week, or if I did it wasn’t like I was dying to eat anything. I’m still learning the difference between physical and emotional hunger but as long as I’m not really upset from being hungry I don’t think it’s a big deal right now.
Progress charts:

Mental clarity:
Deterioration from day 4 evening through day 5. That could also have been due to poor sleeping habits this week, or from switching out my morning latte for a matcha latte instead. I also felt very tired on day 7, but I really think that’s a matter of sleeping late rather than IF.

Health notes:
This bit may be TMI, but I feel it’s important to note if you’re thinking of doing this. On day 2 I started feeling constipated. Uncomfortable, but no big deal… day 3, still constipated. Jacky, on the other hand, did not have this problem at all.

By day 4, I was getting worried so started doing more research into it and messaging my friend Annie about it. She’s a GP in the UK (what US would call ‘primary care doctor’) and she’s also been doing IF too. And uh… well, apparently it’s a thing…?

It makes sense: your gut doesn’t have as much to process so you don’t excrete as much. She recommended drinking lots of water, eating bananas and if all that doesn’t work, take some senna. I mean, from the beginning I was already drinking over 3 litres of water per day (100+ fl oz) so I guess I was willing to try the bananas.

And then I realised that I had gained 1.5lbs! What the heck… Jacky suggested that it may be water weight, which I guess could be true. I suspect it’s also from the constipation though. But seriously… was not impressed.

I remembered a colleague who said he once fasted for 3 days and just drank water, just to see if he could do it. He said he’d felt great after and his body had really, um, cleaned itself out afterwards. So I figured, okay, I gained weight, I can’t poop properly, so why not try for a longer fast today… so I basically finished my last real ‘meal’ at 3pm, had another iced matcha latte, then had watermelon at 6pm and tried for a 17-18hr fast. Didn’t go well.

I mean, I managed the fast, but day 5 I was groggy and my mind felt clouded for the entire day. I didn’t have as much energy in the morning for my workout either. I don’t think that was healthy for me, and I don’t plan to do it again. Lesson learned.

Jacky and I realised early on that we were actually able to do closer to 16hrs of fasting than just our 15. However, we spoke about it and made the decision to not change our fasting goals because we still want to ease into this, and I don’t want to become obsessive over it (I have those tendencies and I fear they are already beginning to reveal themselves).

I also read that women apparently fared better with a shorter fast period, and after my experience on day 4-5, I decided it’d probs be best for me too. It takes discipline to not take good things too far as well, and I’m recognising that as a weakness in myself that I need to tackle here.

On the bright side, I was finally able to do my business again as usual on day 5 and 6, without the use of laxatives or eating bananas, woohoo!

Other thoughts:
I’m a bit miffed that I somehow managed to gain weight from IF, but it could be due to the amount and type of exercise I’m doing that may be building muscle, or due to me not getting enough sleep lately. I could also be a bit bloated from my period, even if I don’t actually feel bloated today. Or it could be because I was a bit constipated again this morning (my weight dropped back down to 123.2lbs on day 5, just saying).

It’s only the first week so nothing to be alarmed at, though I seem to be even further from my goal right now. That’s okay though, we’re taking this as a marathon and not a sprint, and hopefully the start of a long-term lifestyle change.

At present I’m less concerned about my eating and more about my sleeping habits (which would in turn affect my eating habits), but that’s a different challenge altogether.


7/19 – Week Two Completed Update.
General mood: Lower due to increased tiredness.
Hunger levels: No noticeable difference.
Progress charts:

Mental clarity: No noticeable difference. If anything, potentially a little lower due to poor sleeping habits and exhaustion.

Health notes:
This week I’ve been flirting with a cold and a lot of stress due to Tax Day so I think that’s just affected my mental well being overall. I haven’t been sleeping well, but I have been eating well. You can see from my charts that I completed 6 fasts. There was one day where I just could not be bothered to wait the full 15hrs before I ate because I was tired and very hungry after an intense workout and didn’t want to pass out from low blood sugar.

I don’t think that dramatically affected our results. My average fast remained the same, and my fasting record even increased to 16.6hrs. This was just a weird week overall. I don’t know what to make of it, really.

On the bright side, my weight started dipping past my starting weight at long last… before shooting back up today. I realised that I’d previously been drinking like 16oz of water before weighing myself in the morning, which inflated my weight, so this week I’d ensured that any weigh-ins I did were before I’d drank anything (and after I’d relieved myself in the morning).

On the not-so-bright side and speaking of my weight shooting back up, constipation has returned today. And I don’t know why! I’ve been eating bananas and having my daily coffee… My water intake is lower but it’s still more than 80oz per day. Ugh. It might have been the stress.

I don’t know if this lifestyle is working for me to be honest, but I guess I’m glad it does keep me mindful of eating until I’m full and then stopping, as well as keeps me from mindless snacking in the evenings.

Other thoughts:
I’m back to my starting weight, which I suppose is always better than being almost 1lb heavier.

Jacky hasn’t lost any weight from IF either. Annie said that it could have something to do with doing Chloe’s workouts because you do build muscle from it. She said that she always loses weight after a fast during periods where she is not doing an intense workout.

We are almost done with the Summer Shred 2020 challenge and I’ll be taking on another challenge in the near future… I’ll probably rest a week or so before getting into another challenge though, so next week’s results should be interesting.


7/26 – Week Three Completed Update.
General mood: Better
Hunger levels: Low
Progress charts:

Mental clarity: Much higher, surprisingly. I am feeling more alert, but that could also be due to getting more sleep this week and finally overcoming whatever it is that I felt I was coming down with.

Health notes:
Thursday: This week I noticed that I had been gaining weight despite exercising less (so I’m not gaining any muscle) and was still mildly constipated. I really didn’t understand why this was happening because I have been sticking to the fasting plan really well, and noticed that I was eating less while still feeling full. I also realised that there were days where I was eating meals in the evening just to eat with Jacky when I wasn’t really hungry.

This week I was doing some research into diets etc. and good ol’ YouTube recommended a video about why I may be gaining weight while still getting hungry at the same time. This, of course, led me down the rabbit hole of researching a high fat, lower carb (I guess, keto?) diet to eventually find… this video.

Yes, it’s a 30min lecture but the science was fascinating.

Ironically I found these videos immediately after eating another meal of loaded jacket potatoes, but without the salad part because I used the rest of the mixed greens for Jacky’s lunchbox, making it even more unhealthy. Great.

I have considered a ketogenic diet before, but I’m a Chinese Brit and if you take rice and potatoes away from me you can feel free to just shoot me now. Nonetheless, I am concerned about how carbs affect my health so I spoke with Jacky about potentially going lower carb.

Apparently, he’d suggested low carb as part of our IF journey right from the start but I’d immediately dismissed it. Lol. I don’t remember doing that, but that definitely sounds like something I’d have done so I’m pretty sure I did that and just forgot about it heh heh heh… whoops.

The thing is, I have tried low carb in the past and let me tell you it did not work out well for me. The most recent time I went low carb was in January, where I tried to cut out all processed foods, added sugar, bread and pasta in preparation for my wedding.

I did successfully lose some weight but I was also cranky and had pretty bad cravings for pizza and all sorts of noodle dishes. I didn’t try to cut out rice or potatoes because, well, I know my limits; it was just not going to happen without an insane rebound binge phase. I wanted to lose weight but I wanted to stay away from yo-yo dieting more.

That said, I think we’re now at a stage where I am interested in seeing how our bodies respond to it. So we will be dipping our toes in the lower carb diet waters: not cutting carbs out entirely, but aiming to eat fewer carbs wherever we can.

For example, we usually have bread for breakfast, which we’ll try to omit or eat less of moving forward. If we eat rice, we’ll eat a smaller portion of rice than usual and load up on the veggies or whatever dish we serve it with.

Friday: Lol. Immediately after I’d written those notes yesterday (I had even considered a 20:4 diet as I was concerned about my insulin levels), Jacky made the most delicious-smelling curry, and it was like a trigger was switched in my brain from just the thought of having fewer carbs… and I binged. Like crazy.

I ate a bunch of roasted chestnuts, then 2-3 bowls of curry with rice (initially trying to control my rice intake and eventually giving up), then 3 palmiers, and almost downed half a bottle of Kirkland Signature Prosecco. I ate and ate and it was like my brain just decided to stop feeling full.

Clearly I am triggered by the thought of not eating carbs. I feel like a meal is incomplete without carbs and as far as I am aware it’s difficult for me to feel full on a carb-free diet. Never mind, I am just going to eat as I need to and stop overthinking, because when I was doing that before, I was able to eat some carb-free meals without issues.

I fear I am becoming a bit obsessed with diet at this point because I think about food often, so I am going to stop. I will stop tracking every tiny little thing I eat and drink in the app (which regularly guilts me into feeling like I’m being unhealthy or may be overeating) and only note down my first and last meals of the day. We’ll see how that goes.

Either way, last night’s binge was probs quite bad for me, but necessary because I’m guessing my body needed it. I gained 1lb overnight, but I am no longer constipated today and had more energy to exercise in the morning.

I had less than 8hrs of sleep last night and slept after midnight but I feel I have a lot more energy today. We did a yoga workout this morning and I wasn’t dizzy at all. I originally felt so guilty that I thought I should fast for the entire day, but I almost feel like that’s a path to an eating disorder, so I ate again when I felt like I was hungry and I stopped when I was full.

People have claimed to feel more energetic, or have achieved various health benefits or weight loss from fasting even after just one week, but I haven’t. I haven’t felt extra energy (if anything, it’s made me more exhausted) and it’s made my morning workouts harder.

It’s made me feel constipated and subsequently either bloated or simply uncomfortable. I feel like recovery from illness or workouts have been slower because my body hasn’t had enough fuel to do its job. It might be that I went too hard too fast, so since it’s causing my body to protest like mad, I’ll switch it up a bit the next week and see what happens.

Saturday: Lol. After I ate well yesterday (3 meals, last one being at 8pm) and took my fasting a lot less seriously, I’m at 122.4lbs this morning and last night my sleep was undisrupted.

Sunday: It looks like my weight is back to my starting weight, but at the same time today we realised that my scales are still wildly inaccurate (check the 5/30 update in this post and know that moving it elsewhere did not help). Stepping on and off the scales in succession gave me numbers that fluctuated between 0.6 – 3lbs difference! We changed the batteries but it still did the same thing so we’re buying new scales now.

After ‘failing’ 2 fasts, I went down to a 14:10 schedule, and as of this evening I’ve now changed to a 12:12 fast and I’m feeling much better already. Since I’ve been less strict with myself, I’ve had more energy, I am sleeping better with fewer disruptions and I’m no longer obsessing about food.

I realised the requirement to finish eating during certain hours was subconsciously causing me stress. Every day I’d be clock watching to make sure I start cooking on time so dinner will be ready and I could finish eating by a certain hour. It’s been scientifically proven that elevated stress actually causes hormonal imbalances in your body that causes you to not be able to lose weight.

The app that I was using was also making me feel guilty by saying stuff like “don’t give up now!” in the mornings when I wanted to break my fast early because I was hungry after a workout, or it just made me feel like a failure if I were not able to complete my fasts or ate unhealthily back when I was still religiously tracking my meals. I think their intention was to be helpful and motivational, but in reality all of these things were micro-stressors that my body was reacting to.

In addition, I had previously been trying to eat less during my feeding times, which, coupled with Chloe Ting HIIT workouts 5-6x per week, was probably shocking my body and causing it to slow down my metabolism. As a result, it seems like IF was having the opposite desired effect.

12:12 is basically going back to a regular eating schedule but cutting out the late night snacks. It’s super easily achievable and any time I go over the 12hrs of fasting, my app congratulates me for the number of hours that I’ve gone over.

Being Asian and wanting to be an overachiever, I’ve always tried to push myself to go over the minimum fast times. This mindset meant that even when I accomplished my 15hr fasts before, I still felt like I didn’t do enough. It was messing me up mentally, I think. (This is another issue altogether, but we won’t be exploring the problem with this type of thinking in this post.)

With the 12:12 schedule, I can eat any time from 9am to 9pm. I don’t eat that early or late, of course, but having that option means I feel accomplished every day because it’s so easy to achieve and overachieve on, and if I do really need to eat earlier than 10am or later than 7pm I don’t feel guilty for it. It’s just a much healthier mindset that will work for me longer term I think.

Other thoughts:
Being a wannabe-overachiever, I think I always tend to go too hard too soon with many things (Chloe Ting’s challenges, dieting, fasting, among other aspects in my life…) then I learn the hard way that it’s too much for me. I think something I need to learn in general is to be patient enough to start slow, learn well, find my footing first and then build up from there.


8/2 – Week Four Completed Update.
General mood: Great!
Hunger levels: Fine.
Progress charts:

Mental clarity: Very good.

Health notes:
Mentally I have been feeling so much better this week. I stopped logging the contents and timings of all my meals and beverages, which has been liberating. I also stopped ‘fasting’ and just started eating intuitively; I reached a pivotal point in my health & fitness journey on Day 3 of my Chloe Ting Flat Belly Challenge (click here to read about it) and it’s been a bit life-changing from there.

I have felt stronger and than ever, I’ve started really listening to what my body wants and ended up eating much more healthily because — surprise of all surprises — my body just wanted to eat salads and egg whites and sweet potatoes and non-processed foods and refused to have any more junk snacks.

It did want chocolate on occasion, and any time my body wants chocolate it means I’ll be starting my period soon, so I ate chocolate. My body wanted to fast an average of 14.7hrs/day so I let it. One day my body decided it didn’t want to eat for 16.7hrs and so I didn’t eat until I felt hungry.

I did start getting headaches again on Friday and they’re reminiscent of the headaches I had when I was anaemic, so I’m going to have to watch out there. However, even then the headaches weren’t as bad as they have been in the past. This weekend I was more or less okay. The leafy greens I’ve been eating may have helped as well.

Jacky has basically decided to stop IF because he hasn’t lost weight from it. I haven’t really lost any weight either but I still plan to keep using the Simple app to track how many hours my body naturally fasts when I’m eating intuitively.

I am keeping my ‘goal’ hours as 12:12, and will keep noting the time I started eating and the time I stopped eating daily. I’ll use it to track my weight as well because I quite like the little graph updates it gives each week.

We got some new scales and apparently I’m now 123lbs, but it’d be interesting to see if there are any changes from now, since I’m not really sure about the numbers before that haha. Either way, I am glad we started IF because this journey has allowed me to re-discover how to listen to my body and start to eat healthily again.

Other thoughts:
I was looking back on my challenge details and realised I forgot to talk about the “Drinks to Curb Cravings” part, so here’s a belated update on it from my fresh, week 4 eyes: during my first couple of weeks, I did sometimes drink lemon water in the morning before I learned that it’s apparently a ‘dirty fast’ because of the sugars in lemon.

Also, you’re only supposed to use lemon slices rather than store bought lemon juice – this got me worried that I was breaking my fast by using too many lemon slices. Looking back, I think this was a ridiculous thought because I only ever used 2 slices (which apparently would have been fine) and was a warning sign for a potential disorder. At the time, my response had been to swap to drinking plain water only, or cut down to using one slice on occasion.

Honestly, I can’t believe I was freaking out over drinking water for goodness sake, especially since I’m pretty sure drinking warm lemon water in the morning is supposed to have health benefits.

I also purchased Trader Joe’s decaf to help curb any hunger cravings in the evening. The daft thing is, I didn’t actually have hunger cravings anyway but I figured I should force-feed myself some decaf just in case. That actually made me hungry because it made me think about food. I also did not like the decaf.

Needless to say, I have now stopped drinking both of these to ‘curb hunger’. I’ll drink warm lemon water because I really like it, not because I want it to stop me from eating. I’ll just stick to avoiding the TJ’s decaf though – no point drinking something I don’t like for ‘benefits’ I don’t need or feel.

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