Updated: Jul 27, 2020
It’s safe to say that a global pandemic and concurrent economic collapse bring about higher levels of stress. The combination of stress and spending all day at home is a recipe for throwing your eating habits out of whack.
I may be a trainer who regularly eats healthy and exercises, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to natural human impulses. I’m actually a very anxious person by nature—one who tends to eat out of impulse and sometimes struggles with self-control. I knew that being quarantined would bring about unique challenges that would potentially throw me off course if I wasn’t careful.
We all have patterns of behavior that make us relatively predictable. These patterns are unique to each of us, and being aware of them is the first step to making a change. Upon studying my own patterns, I realized that being quarantined at home led to two behaviors:
1. I was constantly eating out of anxiety as opposed to hunger.
2. I consumed most of my calories towards the later part of the day.
So I had a problem: I was consuming more calories than usual out of stress and burning less calories than when I was working the physically demanding job of being a trainer. This was a recipe for weight gain.
I needed a solution that would not only help keep my calories in check, but also be simple enough for me to actually follow through with.
Intermittent Fasting to The Rescue
How can you reduce your chances of eating less calories when you know you’re prone to stress-eating? One way is reducing your feeding window, i.e. the range of waking hours during which you eat your meals.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity over the years because it’s a practical way to control caloric intake and reduce the stress of having to figure out what to eat every 3-4 hours. For those who are unfamiliar, IF involves establishing a protocol of fasting for a given number of hours and having a feeding window for consuming your meals. There are many different protocols to choose from, but a popular one is the 16:8—you fast for 16 hours and have a feeding window of 8 hours.
Contrary to what IF fans may say, there’s no magic about fasting. The reason why so many people lose weight while fasting is that they’re reducing their caloric intake, i.e. eating less. Think about it, you’d probably eat less food if you only have 8 hours to eat your meals, as opposed to the average 16-18 waking hours.
It can be a challenge to follow an IF protocol with my previous daily schedule of being a trainer. Having to wake up early and work till late made it difficult to eat within just an 8-hour window. However, being quarantined is the ideal scenario for switching over to this eating regimen.
Now I can wake up, have my coffee and get straight to work (on my laptop, of course). I don’t eat my first meal till 12:30 pm. I’ll have two more meals after that and call it a day. This coincides with my pattern of eating most of my calories in the later part of the day. And that’s the key to sticking to any dietary regimen: finding something that works for your specific behavior patterns, personality, and lifestyle.
Will intermittent fasting work for you? It’s possible, but you may have unique challenges that will require you to tweak your diet until you find something that works. Being quarantined has undoubtedly disrupted life as we know it, but there’s always a solution to our problems if we’re willing to look.