Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting (with meal plan ideas)

by Mama Loves Home

Fasting might seem like a scary and potentially unhealthy approach to dieting at first. However, after much research, we were curious here at Mama Loves to put intermittent fasting to the test – and here now to share with you our findings and how we think it can work for all you mamas too.

Intermittent fasting can be used for short periods of time to assist with weight loss, or you may find yourself enjoying it so much you can build your new healthy lifestyle around it.

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What You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, also known as the fast diet, involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating. You can eat whatever you want (within reason), but only during a specific time period.

During the fasting period, you can drink non-calorie beverages such as water, black coffee and tea to keep yourself from getting hungry.

The important thing is to simply consume fewer calories than you burn each day.

We will cover:

If in doubt, always seek the opinion of a qualified medical professional before starting a new diet

How to approach your first intermittent fasting

There are several different approaches intermittent fasting, you’ll want to choose a fasting plan that’s right for you. Here are five ways of approaching intermittent fasting that might work for busy mamas like you:

  • 12/12 Method. This is the perfect method for beginners to ease yourself in. In fact, you are most likely already doing this! With the exception of dropping those cheeky late evening treats. You can eat for 12 hours of the day, then fast for 12 hours. If your last meal of the day finishes at 6 pm, don’t eat again until 6 am.
  • 16/8 Method. Picking up the ante, you only have an 8-hour time frame to eat each day, then fast for the other 16 hours. If you start eating at 10 am, you finish at 6 pm. The hours are flexible to fit when fits your daily routine best.
  • 20/4 Method. A much more intense daily fasting where you only allow yourself to eat 4 hours a day then fast for 20 hours. This could be, say 12 pm to 4 pm.
  • 5:2 Diet. For 5 days of the week you can eat whatever and whenever you want, but for the other two days you restrict yourself to a bare minimum of 500 to 600 calories.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat. For one or two days each week, fast for a full 24-hours. So you wouldn’t eat anything from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

Whilst they say “eat whatever you want” during the non-fasting period, clearly keeping to healthy and balanced meals that deliver long-lasting energy will have much better results. If you continue to eat fast food and excessive calorie, it will take you a lot longer to see results.

This style of “dieting” best suits someone who has gone on a weight loss plan before, or at the very least understands how calorie intake works. Intermittent fasting of itself is not a diet; it can, however, be combined with other dieting regimes.

What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

Along with losing weight, there are additional benefits that come with the intermittent fasting meal plan, including:

  • Improved cognition and brain function
  • Decreased insulin resistance/risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Reduced inflammation

What I loved was that there’s no calorie counting. No need to keep things tracked in an app or worrying about food types.

Challenges of Intermittent Fasting

In my first month on the intermittent fasting diet, these were the biggest challenges;

Keeping the hangry mornings under control

The hardest part of fasting – in fact – switching to any new diet or healthy eating plan is keeping those hunger cravings at bay. Especially if you have been habitually eating and snacking at certain times of day you will want to create distractions for yourself. At the times when you think the hunger might hit and your mind is wandering to the fridge, can you go for a walk? Read a book? Call a friend? Any little side hobbies you can think of to keep the hunger at bay.

Dining with family

Moving my own meal times was straight forward, but not so easy with a family in tow. Breakfast we have always done our own thing and never normally cooked at home, but dinner was our big game-changer. At first, I would simply eat alone ahead of preparing my family’s meal but slowly I got everyone onto my new timetable!

This was great during the summer where mealtimes were done and dusted early and we could go out and exercise or play in the yard early evening, but will present a larger challenge now we are back to our distance learning school schedule and the evenings are darker.

Dining Out

Not that we are doing much of it these days, but on the few occasions we’ve wanted/needed to dine out, we’ve tried to time it around the lunchtime meal instead of dinner. As intermittent fasting isn’t as restrictive as dieting, it makes menu choices a little easier, but clearly still a big plate of carbs is the temptation when you’re dining out!

Check out some of the meal plan ideas below if you’re unsure about making the “right” healthy choices.

Mid-evening sugar cravings

I’ve always been someone who craves something sweet after a meal – which intermittent fasting does allow – as long as it’s consumed within your time frame (in moderation, of course). If you can switch to dark chocolate this is a good way to meet your sweet needs.

My biggest downfall comes mid-evening when I’d normally head to our goodies stash of chocolate biscuits or a soothing Baileys… Replacing this with a ritual herbal tea around 9 pm has really helped not only distract from the need for sugar but assisted with a better, earlier nights sleep.

Intermittent Fasting Meal Plans

In my quest to learn more about intermittent fasting meal plans, I came across plenty of clean and healthy eating recipes that not only deal with the hunger but keep you filling full for much longer.

No matter which type of fasting you undertake, these recipes are the perfect accompaniment to keep up your nutrient & energy levels whilst losing weight.

  • Skinny Ms 1 week intermittent fasting meal plan – with a focus on lean meats, whole grains & plenty of veggies this will set you on track with a great bunch of ideas spread over 3 meals a day within the fasting period to help you feel fuller, longer.
  • 19 Day Keto Diet with Intermittent Fasting – Any Keto fans in the house? Or looking to give it a try? For the uninitiated, a ketogenic diet – Keto – is essentially a really low-carb but high in fat diet, in which your body is forced into producing more ketones in the liver. If you really want to work on burning fat, this could be the diet & fasting combo you need.
  • What to East and Avoid: Intermittent Fasting Food List– whilst not a meal plan per se, a quick and simple guide to foods you’ll want to include while on intermittent fasting and a few to avoid. A great reminder of what you should be stocking up on in the pantry if you’re feeling creative enough to come up with your own meals.

And the results? Did Intermittents Fasting really make a difference?

Now one month into using the 16/8 intermittent fasting plan, this summer I have managed to shift from a rather uncomfortable 180 lbs to 167 lbs. Still a fair stretch to go until I am down to what I would consider my perfect target weight but with many more healthy habits back on the radar.

As a side effect with the fasting and improved exercise habits, I am sleeping better and my skin is definitely less oily.

There will undoubtedly be more challenges as we try and find our new household routine of work and school timetables, balanced with everyone’s mealtime needs. However, intermittent fasting has proven to be a great body boost and easy to implement without worrying too much about WHAT you eat, just WHEN.

You can check out more from our mama self-care series here.

Remember always seek medical advice before starting any extreme dieting or fasting. These resources are suggestive only from our own research on the topic, we are not medical professionals.

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