Today I am sharing the behind the scenes prep I did before starting Intermittent Fasting. This is the same homework I give my friends to do before starting IF.
Set yourself up for success and try these tips today! Before you start timing your meals or extending your fast, boost your chance of success.
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 each day. My body wasn’t really the boss of when and how I did things.
For example, pretty quickly after waking up each day, I’d have breakfast. I wasn’t necessarily hungry, but eating first thing in the morning was something I had done for years. It was how I started my day. A habit I had done for years.
Spending time recognizing your automatic habits is important. Make a conscious effort to really tune into what your body is telling you. Are you thirsty? Hungry? Do you feel like any of last night’s dinner is now a rock in your stomach?
It should be no surprise that recognizing habits can be eye-opening. Trying to de-program these automatic choices is even more of a challenge. 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. As you discover them, write ’em down. This will help you spot patterns more easily.
For example, if 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 eating too close to bedtime.
Side note: You don’t need a super cute journal to track your body’s signals. Don’t wait until you can go out and buy a notebook to track things.
You certainly could, but often these delays are a way of putting up roadblocks before you even get started. Start today without a cute notebook. You can buy one later.
Spend at least one week tuning into your signals and writing things down. Eat as you normally would. Make notes about how those meals make you feel.
Recognizing patterns can take sometimes take longer than a week. Just make sure you have a little time to slow down and really tune in to your body’s signals. It’s a great option to start this on your day off or on the weekend.
It may seem silly, but don’t skip this tune-in step. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Understanding your body’s signals is something you’ll be glad you did once you get started with IF.
Once you’ve got a handle on what your body is telling you, it’s time for the next step.
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. Pick the things that are most important to you to focus on first. Write down your goals.
Do a little research to find out what type of plan aligns with the results you want. Goal-directed plans can ensure you see results. Another important point is to choose a plan that will guide your food choices during IF.
Wait? Food choices? Do you have to change your eating habits when you are intermittent fasting?
The short answer is yes. If you want to see results and feel the benefits, you will need to adapt your eating. Keep that in mind when you are choosing a plan.
Intermittent fasting is not as simple as just eating in a small window of time. It is also not an excuse to eat whatever you want during that window. Lauren Gleisberg wrote a great post about what happened when she ate whatever she wanted during her eating window. I’ll link that HERE. It’s definitely worth a read.
My goals were to decrease the amount of ‘junk’ my liver had to process every day, heal my GI issues, and reduce my cravings. I have a huge sweet tooth and also have a hard time saying no to bread at dinner so I wanted to deal with that first.
It’s no surprise that you’ll find conflicting information when looking for IF plans. A quick internet search can send you down a rabbit hole.
My advice is to find a plan that supports your goals and follow that. I recommend picking just one to start with. Sometimes plans have contradictory ideas and it’s best to keep things simple.
I followed the Autumn Elle Nutrition Guide for IF. Autumn is a CCN (certified clinical nutritionist) among other certifications and her plans are informative and easy to follow. You can find them HERE.
She includes step by step instructions on what to do plus science-backed information about how and why the plan works. This is something my science side loves, so I knew her plan would be a great fit. It also emphasized cutting out sugar (in nearly every form) which was a goal of mine.
Now you’ve got a plan, it’s time for the next step.
Step 3: Get familiar.
Regardless of what plan you choose, spend time getting familiar with it. Read the fine print, the background, and reasoning behind the plan so you understand how it’s designed. It’s important to know how it works to help you reach your goals.
Familiarize yourself with the food combinations and recommendations for each meal. If the plan has recipes (the plan I used did) it’s a great idea to do a trial run. Figure out what meals you want to make and mark the ones you love to make later. Being excited about the food you will be eating is important in sticking with it!
Step 4: Shopping
Make a grocery list of all the ingredients in the recipes you like. Be sure you have enough reusable containers or Tupperware to take your meals to work.
You can also store them in the fridge for ‘grab and go’ options throughout the week.
If the plan recommends starting your day with a keto-style coffee, you’ll want to get the ingredients for that as well. Usual ingredients include ghee, coconut oil, or MCT oil. This varies by plan so double check the recommendations.
Step 5: Meal prep.
You’ve got the plan, recipes, groceries, and storage containers. You’ve set yourself up for success. Now, it’s time to meal prep.
Spend some free time getting your larger, more involved dishes ready for the week ahead. Pre-portion them into storage containers so they are ready to go.
In addition to prepping more time-consuming dishes, I also prep tofu and meat for the week. You can make salads too. A great tip is to store the salad dressing separately, otherwise, you’ll have a soggy mess.
When to meal prep?
The most common prep time is on the weekend (usually Sunday) before you start the work week. I started my IF journey on a Monday, so I meal prepped on the previous Saturday and Sunday.
Any time that works for you is the right time to meal prep! The goal is to ensure you have healthy options on hand, even when you come home from work and are too exhausted to cook. By prepping ahead, you have healthy options to choose from, instead of ordering takeout!
In the beginning, it takes a little longer to meal prep. Once you’ve done it a couple of times, it does go much faster. I promise!
That’s it!! You are ready to roll out of bed Monday morning and start your intermittent fasting journey!
I hope these tips are helpful and give you a head-start toward your goals! Let me know if you try them and how you prepare for your first week of intermittent fasting!