The flip side of intermittent fasting is intermittent feasting. When you save all your fuel for the day to eat in a shorter time period, you get to eat pretty luxuriously during that time every single day. This makes intermittent fasting (IF) perfect for the holiday season.
If you haven’t intermittently fasted through a holiday before, you might be wondering how you’re going to handle the questions people will ask you about your new way of eating and whether you’ll have to skip brunch with friends to stay on schedule. Practicing IF through a holiday season and having brunch with your friends is definitely doable. It’s quite possibly freeing if you go into it with a plan.
Here are some tips for how to talk about IF (or not), what to do when someone nice brings you a cookie, whether or not to take a day off, and how to get back on track when you do.
What to tell people
Nothing. Most of the time, you actually don’t have to talk about it.
It’s usually simple to add an hour to your fast or extend your eating window a bit so that parties fall within the time that you plan to eat. In this case, you just fast most of the day, eat something festive with friends or family, and close your eating window. Nothing out of the ordinary there for people to ask you about.
If the event just isn’t going to fit into your eating window—or if the food isn’t worth opening your window for—you still may not need to talk about it. You can get some water or black coffee and focus on the people you came to see. Most people aren’t monitoring what you eat and won’t notice if you don’t.
If someone does notice, you can tell them you ate earlier (yesterday is earlier) or that you have plans to eat later (because you do). That’s enough to handle a lot of situations.
If your friend or loved one is nosier or not satisfied by that explanation, go ahead and explain that you’re doing IF and your eating window opens later (or closed earlier). Hopefully, they’ll be interested and supportive.
If they’re not, I’m sorry. Don’t worry, though. There’s plenty of research to help you stand up for yourself. If they’re worried that you’re crashing your metabolism by not eating, you can point them to this study that shows short-term fasting (between 12 and 72 hours) actually increases metabolic rate.
You might be well-adjusted to fat-burning, feeling great, and seeing results. Mention that. There’s nothing like results to convince skeptics.
If you’re just starting your IF lifestyle and are still in the adjustment phase, you probably won’t have results to talk about yet. In that case, you can point out that everyone actually eats on a schedule. No one eats 24/7 except for infants, and their main goal in life is to gain weight. The schedule you were following before didn’t work for you, so you’re trying a new one.
What to do if someone brings you a treat
People make all kinds of amazing, delicious things during the holiday season. If you are lucky enough to have friends who make and share goodies, you may have the delightful problem of accepting and appreciating treats without breaking your fast.
One option is to say, “Thank you so much! It looks amazing. I’m gonna save it because I’m not hungry now, but I’m excited to try it later.” Then wrap it up in a napkin, go on with your day, and savor it when your eating window opens. Maybe send whoever made it a message to say how much you enjoyed it.
You might think it will tempt you to have it sitting there until your window opens, but you might surprise yourself. When nothing is off-limits in your window, forbidden fruit loses its power. Many people find it’s just not an issue. If it is for you, you can find a place to put it that’s out of sight until you’re ready for it.
Whether or not to take a day off
I’m a firm believer that the way you eat should support your life; your life should not be spent supporting the way you eat. You have better things to do.
Family, friends, and celebrations are some of the things that make life wonderful. Want to have breakfast with a friend who’s only in town once a year? Go for it! Please let the people in your life be more important than food. Going to a celebration at midnight after your window is normally closed? It’s ok to enjoy it. Eat, drink, and be merry. Make a memory. This is your life.
If it’s truly a once-a-year thing, or a friend you’re not able to see often, it can be a good choice to indulge. You’ll have to weigh that against what your goals are, how fast you want to reach them, and the way you’ll feel the next day.
Here’s why taking a day off can affect how you feel the next day. IF works because after you’re adjusted to it, you use up your glycogen stores every day and switch to burning fat for fuel. When you refill your glycogen stores so much that you’re not able to use them all up during your next fast, you may have another mini-adjustment period. You could feel hungry or sluggish the next day as you get back into your normal IF rhythm.
Is it worth it? Sometimes.
Some people really don’t like the way they feel after eating all day, so they choose a longer 8- to 10-hour window on special occasions instead of a complete day off. If you’re just starting, though, an eight-hour window might not feel that long to you. That’s ok. You’re free to do what you need to to make IF support your life.
How to jump back in
If you get the urge to feel guilty, don’t. Life is different every day and that’s not a bad thing.
Close your window when you’re ready on your indulgent day. You can take a shorter-than-usual fast the next day and eat during your normal window. That’s it. You’re back on schedule.
If you have low energy or feel hungry the next day or two, use whatever strategy got you through your first adjustment period. More water, extra naps, or one or two low-carb meals can help. This mini-adjustment after a day off is typically not as difficult or as long as your initial one. You can do it.
Make IF fit your life
IF can be an amazing way to maintain or possibly even lose weight during a season when both are more challenging than usual. Follow your own schedule–or don’t. Enjoy your friends, family, and food to the max. If your times get skewed one day, just fix them the next and keep going.
It’s your life, and you can adjust the way you eat until it works for you. You don’t have to work for the way you eat–especially during celebrations.