There are several reasons why you may want or need to take a break from intermittent fasting.
A few weeks ago, I got a pretty bad cold where all I wanted to do was stay in bed and eat comfort food.
Right around the same time, my sweet kitty Ellie got a cancer diagnosis and had to be put down.
To top all of this off, it was PMS time.
I fell off of the intermittent fasting wagon hard!
Life is going to happen.
Maybe you had a weak moment when you ate outside of your normal eating time, and then found it difficult to get back to your regular schedule.
Maybe you got frustrated that the scale wasn’t going down, or wasn’t moving as quickly as you liked and the frustration pushed you back into your old eating habits.
I’ve been there.
I’m definitely guilty of falsely believing that I need to be perfect in order to lose weight. However, when I read about intermittent fasting success stories I realize that weight loss very rarely involves perfection.
Most successful intermittent fasters experience some weight regain, need to experiment with different methods, or even try other things before coming back to intermittent fasting.
I know that to truly make intermittent fasting my forever lifestyle I’m going to have times where I need a restart.
Here are some things to help get back on that intermittent fasting wagon.
Remember Why You Started
What were your original goals when you started intermittent fasting?
Most of us want to lose weight and be healthy, but go deeper than that.
- Do you want to manage or cure a specific illness?
- Do you want to feel healthy and confident enough to run a 5K for the first time?
- Is there a clothing store that you would love to shop at but don’t fit into their sizes?
- Maybe you want to be able to wear a bikini on a beach vacation someday?
We all lose motivation, especially when we lose site of how much we want to meet those goals or if it’s taking longer than we think it should.
Reevaluate why you started intermittent fasting, and focus on the big picture.
Maybe you won’t lower your blood sugar into the normal range in 30 days. You certainly won’t drop three dress sizes in the next two weeks.
If we do nothing, then we will never achieve those results. If we take action and resume our intermittent fasting lifestyle, we can do anything we put our minds to.
We just need to be patient and consistent.
Set Small Goals and Celebrate Small Victories
Depending on how long your break from intermittent fasting was, it’s probably not a great idea to think you can easily go back to fasting the same way that you were. Just like in the beginning, it’s going to take time to rebuild your fasting muscle.
Start small and set an easy goal that you know you can achieve today.
Perhaps that’s twelve hours of fasting.
If you were previously doing one meal a day, you can set a goal that just for today you will only eat two meals.
If you think you need a little more of a jumpstart, maybe try setting a goal that’s achievable but something you’ve never done before.
Try a twenty-four hour fast, or beat your previous fasting record by an hour or even just five minutes.
Sometimes we get so focused on the big picture and the big goals, that we forget to celebrate the little things that we accomplish every day.
Many people feel like they can’t go even a few hours without food.
Look at us go, being able to fast for sixteen hours or more!
Find non-food related ways to reward your progress. Buy yourself a new lotion or scented candle. Give yourself permission to binge watch that show you’ve been wanting to but felt guilty about. When you start dropping inches, indulge in a new or new to you outfit.
Take it one day at a time. Soon those small victories every day will turn into big victories over time.
Evaluate Why You Stopped Intermittent Fasting
Were you practicing intermittent fasting successfully for weeks, and then an unexpected circumstance happened? So, you took a break and then just found it impossible to start again?
You may want to consider taking a planned day off every week or every month. This way you can practice going on and off of intermittent fasting.
Sometimes we measure our success by the number of days we’ve been on plan. Then, when we take a break we’ve broken the streak and feel like we blew it for good.
By going on and off plan on purpose, we can realize that perfectionism isn’t necessary. Just because we didn’t intermittent fast yesterday, doesn’t mean we can’t do it today.
Maybe you took a break from intermittent fasting and felt guilty. It’s easier said than done, but the truth is that guilt doesn’t help us.
I’ve found that beating myself up for not being on plan only makes it less likely that I will get back on.
We need to remember that the goal is progress, not perfection.
Did you take a break from intermittent fasting because you were bored with it? Did you find yourself hungry all of the time? Perhaps you weren’t having any success?
Maybe things just kept coming up in your life that made it feel impossible to stick to your chosen intermittent fasting plan?
In this case, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re intermittent fasting.
There are several different intermittent fasting schedules to try. Experiment with different methods or create your own method. Find one that’s easy for you, that you enjoy doing and that helps you meet your goals.
Remember that you are in complete control of your intermittent fasting plan.
It’s extremely important that whatever plan you follow fits into your lifestyle.
For example, you decide on a morning daily eating window from 8am-12pm. You find yourself missing out on dinner with your family every evening which makes you miserable. This is probably not going to work in the long term. Maybe a 4pm-8pm window would work better for you.
If you’re doing true alternate day fasting, you might find it nearly impossible to fast on the weekend. Try a 4:3 schedule where you fast Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and see how that goes.
If there’s an aspect of your chosen intermittent fasting plan that is proving difficult and causes you to not stick to your plan, change it. Even if a longer eating window means slower results, getting some results is so much better than giving up.
However, it’s also important to remember to give yourself some time with your intermittent fasting plan.
Sometimes we give up before the magic happens, so to speak.
If your plan fits into your lifestyle, but you’re not seeing the results you want right away, it can be easy to assume it’s not working.
Our bodies may need time to heal internally before we start seeing those external changes that we long for.
Focus on the benefits of intermittent fasting that aren’t as obvious as the numbers going down on the scale.
If you have more energy, start to crave healthier foods, your skin is clearing up, or you just feel better, then your plan is working. Focus on those results for motivation to restart or continue with your intermittent fasting plan.
Try Something Different to Kickstart Your Motivation
I am a sugar addict, and truthfully a food addict in general. Sometimes the reason I fall off of the intermittent fasting is just because I want to eat all of the things.
In this case, something I’ve found that helps is doing a fat fast.
You’ve probably heard of it if you’ve ever been into the online keto world. Usually it involves eating 1000 calories of small meals with 90% fat several times a day for 2-3 days like in this example.
I prefer the method suggested here where you eat as much very low carb, high fat foods as you like, but you stick to the same basic meals.
The idea is that the fatty foods will satiate you, making fasting easier. I think there’s more to it than that, though. I think that by limiting the variety of foods available, we eliminate some of the decision making and stress that comes along with it.
Having unlimited choices of what to eat overcomplicates our lives, but if we eat the same things it becomes easier to make the healthy choice.
I remember reading about this in one of the many diet books I read years ago. I believe it was Dr. Oz’s You on a Diet. He recommended making one or two of your meals the exact same thing every day.
If you make eating boring you take away the entertainment aspect of it. You also eliminate having so many choices, and make the healthy choice easy and automatic.
Along these same lines, you could also try an egg fast or any other short term food elimination plan and use it to transition back into your intermittent fasting lifestyle. I’ve even heard of a potato fast on Pinterest, although I’ve never tried that one. Yet!
You could also try just switching up your eating plan. Give keto a try or perhaps do a Sugar Detox or Whole 30 Challenge. While you technically can eat whatever you like while intermittent fasting, sometimes changing up what you eat can help you meet your goals faster. And make it easier to stick to intermittent fasting in the long term.
Recognize Your Triggers and Plan for Them
Most nights I work until two o’clock in the morning. No matter how much sleep I’ve gotten the day before, I come home tired.
Being tired is a huge trigger for me to want to eat things I shouldn’t.
Before I started intermittent fasting, I would come home and fix myself a snack to enjoy in front of the tv. It was rarely a healthy snack, because let’s face it, who ever heard of a 2am salad.
This is one of the reasons that an intermittent fasting lifestyle has worked so well for me, because it meant ditching this bad habit of eating junk food before bed.
I’ve planned for this by not looking in the refrigerator or the cupboards when I get home.
Instead, I immediately get ready for bed and brush my teeth, and tell myself that I can have whatever I like if I wait until tomorrow.
While there are still days when I come home for a snack, more often then not this works well for me.
Assess what makes your intermittent fasting plan harder to stick to and then make changes accordingly.
Your trigger may be that when you close your window with something sweet you crave sweets more later when your eating window is closed. You might consider either saving the sweets for special occasions, or eating them earlier in your window.
Perhaps your trigger is stress or boredom. Recognize this and come up with a few ideas to manage your stress or things to do when your bored.
Yoga, walking, reading, talking with a friend, or taking a nice relaxing bath are all things that come to mind that would combat both stress and boredom.
Use the time your saving from not eating as often to develop a new hobby or spend more time on whatever it is you currently enjoy. I love that I now have so much more time to work on my writing and researching.
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes we find it difficult to continue or restart our intermittent fasting lifestyle because we’re not achieving the results we think we should be.
It’s important to remember that our weight loss and health journeys are not going to look the same as someone else’s.
It’s great to read success stories for motivation, but sometimes seeing their end result reminds us of how far we have to go. This can be discouraging, but the truth is that intermittent fasting truly is a lifestyle and not something we should be planning to do only until we reach a certain goal.
There are so many more benefits other than losing weight, and being the healthiest person we can be, both physically and mentally should always be our primary goal.
When I say be realistic, I do mean that your results may take longer than someone else’s and it’s important to focus on your own journey.
I also mean that we need to assess and reassess our intermittent fasting plans as we go along.
While 16/8 is a great place to start, and may be all you need it might not be enough for some people. There are plenty of benefits to an OMAD lifestyle, but that may be too much fasting for some people, or just not a realistic plan to stick to.
Drinking coffee with cream or chewing gum might work just fine for some people.
My experience has been however, that clean fasting makes a huge difference. I find it so much easier to stick with intermittent fasting when I drink only water or unflavored plain tea or coffee.
You’ll never know until you give it a try!
To me, being realistic also means letting go of the guilt.
Never in my life has guilt pushed me toward sticking to my goals, in fact quite the opposite.
Going off plan is going to happen, eventually. There’s always going to be an unexpected social occasion, extra stress, or a delicious looking dessert that you just can’t resist. Feeling guilty about it does absolutely no good!
Accept that today you didn’t fast as you had planned, and just move on to the next day. No shame, no guilt!
I know I sometimes get into the mindset of restarting my weight loss plan after vacation, or at the start of the next season, or after a certain social event.
The most important way to get back to your intermittent fasting lifestyle, is to just do it today.
Don’t wait until Monday, the first of the month, or January 1st.
The longer you wait, the longer you put off your goals. Start right now, and before you know it you’ll be experiencing all of the benefits of intermittent fasting and celebrating meeting all of your goals!
Do you have a tip for getting back on the intermittent fasting wagon? Let me know in the comments!