Today, I am sharing the behind the scenes prep I did before starting Intermittent Fasting. With a variable work schedule, and long shifts at the hospital, I wanted to be prepared and flexible! This is the ‘secret prep work‘ I tell my friends to do before they start IF.
Set yourself up for success and try these tips today.
First things first:
It starts by listening. Really!
Shortly after starting IF, I realized I was having a hard time listening to my body. I had picked up little habits over the years that shaped my day whether I was at the hospital or not. My body wasn’t really the boss of when and how I did things. I was.
An easy example: after waking up each morning, I’d have breakfast. Was I actually hungry? Not necessarily, but eating first thing in the morning was something I had done for years. It was a habit I got into, just in case my shift at work got super busy and I didn’t get a chance to eat. (This actually happens quite often!)
What automatic habits do you have?
Figuring out what you do on autopilot is important. Make a conscious effort to really tune into what your body is telling you. Are you thirsty? Hungry? Is last night’s dinner still sitting, like a rock, in your stomach?
It should be no surprise that recognizing habits can be eye-opening. Trying to de-program automatic choices is not easy. Knowing what you are up against is half the battle.
Step 1: Tune into what your body is telling you.
Figure out your habits and rituals. When you discover one, write it down. As silly as it sounds, this will help you spot patterns more easily.
For example: Do you notice you feel full every morning or feel like nothing digested from the previous night? That’s important.
Write down what you had for dinner, when you finished eating, and when you went to bed. This can help you spot trends like eating too much, eating too late, or consuming caffeine too close to bedtime.
You don’t need a super cute journal to track things. Don’t wait until you can go out and buy a notebook for tracking.
You certainly could, but often these ‘minor’ delays are a way of self-sabotaging and putting up roadblocks before you even get started.
Start tracking things today, without a cute notebook. Use some scrap paper or the notes section on your phone. The results will be the same and you can still buy that cute journal later.
Pro Tip: Spend at least one week tuning into your signals and writing everything down. Eat like you normally would.
Make notes about what you ate, how the meal made you feel, how you felt an hour after you ate, and how you were feeling right before your next meal. Were you actually hungry? How hydrated were you? Any bloating after a specific meal?
Then, adjust what you eat, or when, according to how you are feeling. Just keep making small changes and then track how your body is responding and how you feel.
Take your time: Recognizing patterns can sometimes take longer than a week. Just make sure give yourself time to slow down and listen to your body’s signals. It’s a great option to start on your day off or on a weekend, when you aren’t pressed for time.
It may seem silly, but don’t skip this step. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Understanding your body’s signals is something you’ll want to be tuned into, before you get started with IF.
Step 2: Pick a goal and a plan.
There are a variety of goals you can accomplish through IF. De-bloating, restoring gut health, healing your liver, balancing hormones, losing fat, increasing energy, better sleep, etc. The list goes on.
Pick the things that are most important to you to focus on first. Write down your #1 top goal with intermittent fasting.
Do a little research to find a plan that aligns with the results you want. Singular goal-directed plans can ensure you see real results. I suggest also choosing a plan that will guide your food choices.
There’s SO much info online. It can be overwhelming and confusing. One plan says you can have this, the other plan says you can’t. You don’t need the headache or added stress.
For me, I picked a plan that covered food options and stuck to just that. I tried to make this process super simple because I know I have the most success when I follow something simple and straight-forward.
I also realized when I tried to search for something online, if other plans came up, their recommendations sometimes directly contradicted my plan. It was frustrating and I couldn’t keep track of all the nuances and different approaches. I followed one plan as closely as I could and ignored everything else.
Pro Tip: Pick one plan and stick to it.
Wait? Food choices? Do you need to change your eating habits during IF?
Truth time: If you want to see results and feel the benefits of IF, you do need to adapt your eating. Keep that in mind when choosing a plan.
Intermittent fasting is not as simple as just eating during a small window of time. It is also not an excuse to eat anything you want.
My goals were to decrease the amount of ‘junk’ my liver had to process, heal my GI issues, and reduce cravings. I have a massive sweet tooth and also have a hard time saying no to all. the. carbs at dinner, so I wanted to start with that first.
My advice is to find a plan that supports your top goal. There’s always time to add a second goal after you finish your first one.
I followed the Autumn Elle Nutrition Guide for IF to start with. Autumn is a CCN (certified clinical nutritionist) among other specialties and her plans are informative and easy to follow.
She gives science-backed information about how and why her plan works. My science minded brain loves this, so I knew her plan would be a great fit. It also emphasized cutting out sugar which aligns with a top goal of mine.
Step 3: Get familiar with the details.
Regardless of what plan you choose, spend time reading the fine print before you get started. Check out the background and science behind it plan so you understand how it’s designed and know how it can help you reach your goals.
It’s also good to familiarize yourself with meal recommendations too. If the plan has recipes I highly suggest a trial run.
Figure out what meals you want to make and bookmark the ones you love for later. Being excited about the food you will be eating during your eating window is key to sticking with it!
Step 4: Shopping trip.
Make a grocery list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Don’t forget about reusable containers or Tupperware/Pyrex to take your meals to work.
I store leftover and pre-made dishes in the fridge for ‘grab and go’ options throughout the week. It helps streamline my routine and I’ve got nutritious options for my entire shift so there’s no temptation to run to the cafeteria.
Don’t forget ingredients for beverages too. If the plan recommends starting your day with a keto-style coffee, you’ll want put those ingredients on your grocery list too.
Step 5: Meal prep.
You’ve got the plan, recipes, groceries, and storage containers. Now, it’s meal prep time and set yourself up for success.
I usually meal prep on my day off or over the weekend if possible. I like to start by prepping larger, more involved dishes. Then just pre-portion them into storage containers and store in the fridge. Most dishes can last 4-5 days or longer in the refrigerator.
It’s not realistic for me to try and prep every meal, so while a larger dish is cooking, I’ll prep individual ingredients for the week. I chop veggies, pre cook potatoes and meat (or tofu) and hard boil eggs for easy options.
Salads are another easy item to prep. Just be sure to store the salad dressing separately, otherwise, you’ll end up with a soggy mess.
The goal is to ensure you have healthy options on hand, even when you come home from work and are too exhausted to cook. We’ve all been there right?! By prepping ahead, you give yourself healthy options to choose from, instead of drive-thru or ordering takeout.
Stick with it. In the beginning, it takes a little longer to meal prep. Once you’ve done it a couple of times, I promise it goes much faster.
Now it’s your turn!!
Woo hoo!! You are prepped and ready to roll out of bed Monday morning to start your intermittent fasting journey!
If you’ve still got questions about your IF journey, check out this convenient 8 page PDF download designed to answer the most common questions I’ve been asked about Intermittent Fasting!
I hope these tips are helpful and give you a jump-start toward your goals!