For my entire life, I’ve had a horrible stomach. It’s a fact that all of my friends, roommates, and coworkers know. It’s the one excuse for not going out my friends never question — if my stomach’s acting up, it’s impossible for me to leave the house.
Over the course of my life, it feels like I’ve tried everything to get in control of my stomach. I’ve cut out food groups, gone to a million different doctors, and have stopped eating out altogether, all to no avail. It’s undoubtedly caused by a sensitivity to (many) foods, and by anxiety and nerves — but has felt completely unstoppable due to the combination of both.
One of the side effects of this is that more often than not, my stomach feels bloated and uncomfortable. For years, no matter how healthy I ate, how much water I drank, or how much I exercised, I was uncomfortable — until I tried intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a diet technique that focuses on when you eat, rather than what you eat. There are multiple different methods to fasting:
- 16:8: You only eat for an eight-hour period every day, and fast for 16.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, you complete a full 24-hour fast.
- 5:2: For two days a week, you limit your calorie intake to 500-600.
By giving your body time to digest everything you’ve eaten and reset itself, intermittent fasting has a ton of claimed health benefits: weight loss, increased energy, reduction in inflammation, and most importantly, help with digestive problems. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a go.
In August, I chose to try the 16:8 method, which meant I would only be eating for eight hours each day. Due to my work schedule, I decided that it was most important for me to be able to eat dinner at home, so I decided my eating hours would be 11am-7pm.
At first, I didn’t think I was going to survive. I get home from work at about 6:30pm, and I’m a huge nighttime eater. One of my worst habits was snacking all night after dinner, so breaking that was going to be a huge hurdle. Also, breakfast was my favorite meal of the day — I woke up early every morning before work to cook something, usually avocado toast or eggs. This also meant I couldn’t drink my usual creamer-filled coffee on my commute every morning. So, I knew I was up for a challenge.
The first week was tough. I found that my biggest problem wasn’t not being able to snack or not eat breakfast, but was actually fitting all of my calories into an eight-hour window (it’s harder than it sounds when you’re used to eating 15 hours a day). Since I was at work for most of that time, I had to pack a ton of food every day, which was a huge adjustment — and a huge pain.
Everyone and their mother knows I love to meal prep, so I had to add breakfast to my usual lunch prep, and after a while ended up prepping for the entire day. I’m now in the habit of bringing a packet of instant oatmeal and some fruit for breakfast every day — it’s just a part of my daily routine. I also look at the plus side, which is that I get to sleep in since I’m not making a huge breakfast every morning.
The weight-loss part of fasting wasn’t what I started it for, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of physical progress over the past few months since I’ve started. I’ve kept up with my usual workout regime (I usually work out around four days a week) and eating habits. For a long time, despite eating healthy and working out consistently, I just wasn’t seeing any progress.
Since starting fasting, I’ve seen a huge change in my body. It’s allowed me to get more toned and lose some of the fat that a tequila-filled senior year had resulted in. I don’t know what the results of fasting would be without exercise and semi-healthy eating (read: lots of salads, but also lots of chocolate chip cookies — they cancel each other out, right?), but I do know that in addition to an already semi-healthy routine, it was the boost I needed for my fitness as well.
When I started fasting, I honestly didn’t expect much. I thought that — if anything — I would lose a couple of pounds, but would be cranky and hungry in the meantime, leading me to quit after a couple of weeks. But since I started, my stomach has done a complete 180. I can count the number of times I’ve gotten sick in the past five months on one hand, and can wholeheartedly say that I cannot believe the change it has made for me. I feel like I’m a different person, and wake up every day feeling like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.
I’m not a doctor, and can’t say that intermittent fasting is a cure-all for everyone with any stomach issue — or recommend that everyone tries it. But I do know that for me, deciding to try it has completely changed how I feel every day, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to not fasting — and it definitely is not as hard as it sounds.