My almost-nine-month intermittent fasting (IF) journey has been life-changing. Who knew not eating breakfast would make me feel so energized, more focused, and less bloated, as well as help me sleep better and lose that extra baby weight I had been holding onto for years? I love that it gives me the freedom to eat bigger meals and to eat what I want. Sticking with IF has been a no-brainer.
The only issue is, as you can see from the above photo, even though I've kept up with my workouts, I've been chowing on a little too much during my eating window and I've gained a few extra pounds. While intermittent fasting helps me keep my calories in check throughout the day, over the last month, I got in the habit of overeating at dinner.
Not only could I see it in my belly — the first place I tend to gain weight — but I felt so uncomfortably bloated. Stomach pains were keeping me up at night, and feeling bloated in the morning made it hard to push myself during my 5:45 a.m. CrossFit classes. Another side effect: I was feeling super hungry a couple hours earlier than I normally would the next day.
I had to make a change. After talking with fellow POPSUGAR Fitness editor Gina Florio, who also does intermittent fasting but eats between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., I decided to switch up my eating window. Instead of skipping breakfast, I was going to skip dinner and see how I felt.
Instead of eating from noon to 7 p.m., I ate from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., keeping up with the seven-hour eating window that worked for me. Here's what I ate:
9:00 a.m.: Overnight oats with peanut butter, chia seeds, pecans, and blueberries or a protein smoothie with a homemade granola bar
1:00 p.m.: Big kale salad with tofu, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and avocado
3:30 p.m.: Banana with nut butter or Kite Hill almond milk yogurt with berries and nuts
The first three days were f*cking hard. It was weird to eat before noon after not eating breakfast for almost nine months. I hated how foggy-headed I was and how low-energy I felt from digesting.
Here's the part that sucked the most. Having two young kids, family dinner time is everything. I absolutely love cooking and creating nourishing meals. I love sitting around the dinner table, sharing a warm home-cooked meal, talking about our days, laughing, and just enjoying the one time we can all be together during the day that isn't rushed. I was still able to chat with everyone, but sitting there with a cup of tea and an empty plate just wasn't the same. I wasn't prepared for how sad I'd feel missing out. I wasn't hungry at all — I was just sad.
Physically, I did feel much better. Falling asleep was more challenging, since I felt a little hungry and daydreaming about food kept me up. But since I wasn't overeating at night, I had no more evening bloating and I slept well. When I woke up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym, I was unusually starving, though. Hunger pangs went away after I started the workout, but I felt a little less energized to push myself.
I could not wait to go back to my old eating window of skipping breakfast. It just works better with my life and feels way more effortless, so it's something I can maintain. This one-week challenge did teach me a thing or two about controlling my overeating issues, though.
Missing out on family dinner time has reminded me why it's so damn important. I've been putting less food on my plate and really focusing on talking more and eating slower. I realized that much of my overeating happens after dinner is over. So now I don't finish what my kids didn't eat and I put away the leftovers before we start eating so I'm not tempted just to grab extra spoonfuls of pasta or soup just because it's there. I've also stopped nibbling on food while making the kids' lunches for the next day.
Although I loved how amazing my belly felt (and looked) after skipping dinner, there is no way in hell I could maintain this and still be happy. I'll never skip dinner again! If you're going to try intermittent fasting, find an eating window that works with your life. It should be effortless. If it's not, you're not doing it right.