Six times you may want to extend your eating window or take a break from intermittent fasting.
I love intermittent fasting, and I truly believe that it is a completely sustainable lifestyle.
I also believe that in order for intermittent fasting to work the best for weight loss and all of the other health benefits, you need to be consistent.
However, being consistent does not mean being perfect.
There may be times when you need to extend your intermittent fasting eating window, or even take a break from intermittent fasting altogether.
* Please note that I am not a health or medical professional. All of the information contained within this blog are based on my own experience and research and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your own health or medical professional before starting any new weight loss, health or fitness program.
When You’re Sick
Should you continue to intermittent fast when you’re sick? I’m going to go with my standard answer here, of listen to your body.
If you have the stomach flu, usually the decision is made for you. You may want to eat a bit extra and extend your eating window when you do feel like eating again.
If you have a cold, you may be perfectly fine to continue with your regular intermittent fasting schedule.
Or you may be hungrier then usual, in which case you should probably go ahead and eat more.
Whether your body needs extra energy to heal or you just really need some comfort food to feel better, it’s ok to have a shorter fasting period, or even to take a few days off.
Unlike other diets where you might dread going back to your low calorie or low carb lifestyle, if you love how intermittent fasting makes you feel the way that I do, it’ll be easy to get right back to it once you feel better.
For anything more serious, always default to what your doctor or healthcare professional says. Particularly if you need to take medications with food, make sure you’re following those instructions by either extending your eating window or taking time off until you’re better.
The number one priority is always to take good care of yourself. Don’t worry about weight loss when you’re sick, just worry about getting better.
When You’re on Vacation
This is purely a personal decision. My number one piece of advice though, would be to not stress out about whatever you decide. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed!
There are a number of things you may want to take into consideration when making your decision.
Are you on vacation with people who know that you intermittent fast and will be supportive if you’re not eating with them all of the time?
Of course it’s always your decision, but sometimes people will worry or feel bad if you’re not eating.
Maybe you’re just not ready to share your intermittent fasting journey with others yet.
In this case you need to decide whether the possible confrontation is worth it to maintain your intermittent fasting schedule.
Is your vacation food centric?
If you’re on a cruise or travelling to a new place with new delicious foods to try, then taking time off or extending your eating window will definitely be worth it.
If you’re anything like me, just being on vacation and off my regular schedule makes it more difficult to stick to my regular eating plan and schedule. I want to enjoy my time off without worrying about weight loss!
Whatever you decide, enjoy yourself and know that you can return right back to intermittent fasting when you get home, and if you gain a few pounds it will likely be mostly water weight that will come off soon enough.
During Holidays or Special Events
This is very similar to how I feel about vacations, however since it’s usually only a day or two versus possibly a week or two, in my opinion the decision to extend your eating window or take a day off from intermittent fasting should be even easier.
Only, of course, if you want to.
If the holiday or even includes a special dinner (maybe Thanksgiving dinner?) and you usually eat one meal a day, then you can absolutely make that your OMAD and enjoy it!
But if you usually eat in an 8am-2pm window and Thanksgiving dinner isn’t until 4pm, you have a couple of options.
Extend your fast from the day before and move your eating window to 2pm-8pm for just that day.
Simple enough, for sure, but not always easy. It would involve fasting for over 24 hours, which is great, but if you’ve never done that before perhaps Thanksgiving might not be the best time to try it out.
Extending your eating window by pushing back the time you would normally break your fast by a couple of hours might be a more gentle and realistic way to keep intermittent fasting.
Perhaps a 10am-6pm or an 11am-7pm window, depending on what time you think you will be done eating dinner.
Finally, of course, you can choose to eat your normal 8am meal and take the day off from intermittent fasting and fully enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner, then resume your normal eating window the next day.
Intermittent fasting is so flexible and freeing, there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about living your life!
During Emotionally Difficult Times
Perhaps you’re going through a break-up. Or a loved one gets very ill or passes away. Should you continue to intermittent fast?
My advice is always going to be to be easy on yourself. However it’s also important to strike a balance with continuing to take care of yourself during difficult times.
I’ve definitely been there: a bag of cookies or a pint of ice cream can be magic for taking the pain away for a few moments.
If you find yourself turning to comfort food, the most important thing is to not add guilt on top of the other emotions you’re going through.
Instead, realize that being emotionally healthy and physically healthy are connected.
What can you do to keep taking care of yourself?
Perhaps it’s a great time to take some time for yourself and go out for a walk every day. Maybe OMAD feels impossible right now, but an 8 hour window with at least a few healthy choices would be more sustainable.
As before, taking a few days of from intermittent fasting is perfectly acceptable. Intermittent fasting will be right there waiting for you when you’re ready.
When You Have PMS
These next two issues have to deal with intermittent fasting for women specifically. Particularly those still in their child-bearing years.
Should you continue to intermittent fast when you have PMS?
Guess what? Listen to your body. It’s likely going to be telling you different things every month.
In March, a day or two before my period I had intense fast food cravings and extended my eating window from 4 to 8 hours to go have a late night fast food meal.
I’m pretty sure my body was asking me for salt, because I immediately felt physically better.
In April I just wanted chocolate. So I had chocolate.
I’m sure there’s some kind of mineral in chocolate that our bodies sometimes need during PMS, but all I know is that my period was much easier to get through when I gave my body what it was asking for.
Sometimes I keep my regular fasting schedule all the way through my menstrual cycle, and sometimes I take a day off.
The important thing here, once again, is no guilt. We don’t intermittent fast to punish ourselves or to “be good” we do it to be healthy.
When You’re Pregnant or Breastfeeding
I’m not going to say much about this one. I am 40 and done with having babies.
It seems the general consensus from the experts on the Internet is to not intermittent fast when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, since you need the extra nutrition to grow a baby.
This is where I’m going to default 100% percent to your doctor or healthcare professional. They can guide you on this much better than I ever could.
The most important thing to always remember is that even if you take a break from intermittent fasting or change up your intermittent fasting schedule, you can always go right back to it when you’re ready.
Intermittent fasting is a very flexible way of eating, and it will be much easier to stick with over the long term if you adjust as necessary instead of trying to force yourself to intermittent fast and making it a chore or something you resent instead of fitting it into your lifestyle and making it something you enjoy.
Can you think of any other times when you may want to take a break from intermittent fasting or extend your eating window? I’d love to hear from you, leave me a comment!