The beginning of a new year comes with the annual tradition of setting a resolution to be better, and more often than not, to be healthier. While the start of the new year yields confident and motivated energy for achieving these health goals, only 19 percent of people stick with their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the year, with most being abandoned by mid-January.
If your previous New Year’s resolutions to adopt a healthier lifestyle have failed year after year, consider implementing intermittent fasting as a part of your resolution this year. Intermittent fasting (IF, for short) is a scientifically-proven time-restricted eating pattern that yields promising benefits for a variety of health goals including weight loss, Type 2 Diabetes prevention, improved heart health, and anti-aging. While adopting intermittent fasting alone may not be your overall resolution, the process has been proven to help achieve many other health-related goals.
What makes intermittent fasting a resolution you can stick with?
It’s gradual. Intermittent fasting allows you to build self-efficacy by gradually improving your body’s metabolic processes, and extending the length of your fast over time. The most common intermittent fasting schedule is 16:8, which includes a 16-hour fasting window and an 8-hour eating window. However, a more relaxed schedule with a 12-hour eating period and 12-hour fasting period is also acceptable for beginners. Setting smaller goals like fasting 12 hours a day, and working up to fasting for 16-20 hours per day, gives you a smaller, SMARTer goal to work towards, so you keep improving over a longer period of time.
It’s not as restrictive as a typical “diet”. Intermittent fasting does not restrict what you eat, just when you eat. Unlike many fad diets that fail due to the “diet-binge cycle” (heavily restricting calories which leads to extreme hunger and overeating), IF isn’t a diet at all. It’s simply adjusting the time period that you consume your nutrients. However, the best results are shown when you adopt healthier eating habits overall, such as a low-carb, high protein, and well-balanced diet.
You can do it in your sleep (literally). Most of your fasting window can happen while you sleep, which makes it seem easier to fast, because you’re not typically hungry when you’re sleeping. Our bodies take in nutrients for energy in the form of food as we eat throughout the day. When we aren’t eating (and most definitely when we are sleeping), our bodies are burning the previously stored energy from our fat cells. Because the fat-burning happens during the fasting/sleeping window, IF is directly linked to reduced body mass index (aka weight loss).
If you’re still feeling less than confident that you’ll be able to stick with intermittent fasting longer than January 14th, here’s some tips that can help build self-efficacy to follow through on your resolution.
How to maintain your intermittent fasting lifestyle:
Practice the transtheoretical model of change. According to the transtheoretical model of change, a person must complete five stages before they successfully adopt a major lifestyle change. These stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Before committing to an unrealistic New Year’s resolution (like losing 50 pounds in a month), it’s important to understand and plan for your goal. This also includes doing research on the change that you would like to make, such as reading this blog. (Go you!)
Stock up on the proper nutrients. Even though intermittent fasting doesn’t explicitly restrict what you should eat, it is important to remember that eating nutrient-dense foods and consuming the proper amount of macros will improve your fasting results, and help you stay committed. To successfully maintain your fast, it’s best to fuel yourself with satiating nutrients, such as micellar casein and chia seeds, at the end of your eating window, so your body has enough nutrients to successfully sustain your fast. Fastful bar, anyone?
Seek support. When you set out to achieve any goal, it’s always important to have a support system and community for accountability. Consider joining a Facebook group, online community, or subscribe to a YouTube channel with like-minded individuals. It can be motivating and comforting to get advice from others who are also on their intermittent fasting journey.
Practice consistency. Most New Year’s resolutions fail after 14 days, but it takes 21 days to form a habit, and 90 days to form a lifestyle change. If you are a beginner to intermittent fasting, it will be important to practice discipline and routine with your eating and fasting windows. It’s also important to practice self-compassion if you have a difficult or “cheat day”. Remember that IF is a daily solution to a long-term goal for overall health, so don’t lose motivation during short-term obstacles.
If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution that you can feel confident in this year, consider taking the beginner’s journey to intermittent fasting. It’s an easy lifestyle change with results that will encourage you to stick to your goal all year.