10 Fasting Tips That’ll Help You Actually Lose Weight (And Not Go Crazy)

Let’s face it: Following a diet can be tough. Really who wants to? Following one that involves fasting (yes, as in not eating)? Well, that can be even tougher. And for some (*raises hand*), just the idea of purposely missing a meal is enough to make them hangry, if not worse.

Yet, there are plenty of folks out there who are up for the challenge—not to mention have even seen some serious results from a structured and scheduled eating plan. So what’s the secret to their success? Following at least one—if not all!—of these 12 tips for acing a fasting diet, straight from nutritionists. But first…

What is intermittent fasting, exactly?

Essentially, intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of eating plan that involves periods of fasting—during which you can consume only water, coffee, and tea—and eating—when you can generally eat what you like. Such freedom to choose your own chow is one of the many reasons the diet’s racked up so many fans, including stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Halle Berry.

And in a world where many of the top trending diets involve a lot of, well, math, IF stands outs for being fairly simple to understand. It doesn’t require counting calories, macros, or measuring ketones. You can eat most anything you want between a specific window of time, although most programs recommend eating healthfully when you do eat. I like counting macros with intermittent fasting.

There are many different kinds of fasting or IF schedules to choose from, so you can decide the diet that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few popular picks:

  • The 16:8 diet: Eat whatever you want (read: no calorie counting!) for eight hours a day and fast for the rest.
  • The 14:10 diet: Similar to the 16:8 method, but you fast only 14 hours and eat for 10, making it easier to follow but not necessarily easier to lose weight.

1. Ease into your new eating plan.

While it might be tempting to jump right into your new eating routine (the initial excitement is real), doing so can be difficult and leave you with increased hunger and discomfort, according to Michal Hertz, RD, a dietitian in New York City. Instead, she recommends starting slowly by, say, doing two to three days of IF during the first week and then “gradually increasing week to week.” Taking things slow isn’t just a great fasting tip, but a great tip for life (just sayin’).

2. Know the difference between needing to eat and wanting to eat.

Once you hear your stomach growl, it can feel like there’s no way you’ll get through X more amount of hours without food. Tune in to that hunger cue. Ask yourself whether the hunger is boredom or actual hunger?

If you’re truly hungry but not feeling weak or dizzy (which are signs, btw, that you should stop fasting ASAP), then sip a warm mint tea, as peppermint is known to reduce appetite, or drink water to help fill your stomach until your next meal.

Now, if you’ve been trying IF for awhile and still feel extreme hunger between periods, then you need to do some thinking. You need to either add more nutrient- or calorie-dense foods during your eight-hour period, or consider that this may not be the best plan for you. Adding healthy fats such as nut butters, avocado, and coconut and olive oils, as well as proteins, during eating times can help keep you stay satisfied and full longer.

3. Eat when necessary.

Technically, intense hunger and fatigue shouldn’t happen when following the 16:8 fasting method (perhaps the most common one). But if you do feel extremely lightheaded, listen up, as odds are your body’s trying to tell you something. You likely have low blood sugar and need to eat something—and, repeat after me, that is okay.

By definition, fasting involves removing some, if not all, food, so don’t beat yourself up for breaking your fast with small—and smart!—bites. Your best bet? Go for a protein-rich snack like a few slices of turkey breast or one to two hard-boiled eggs (to help remain in a ketogenic (fat-burning) state). You can then return fasting, that is, of course, if you feel up to it.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Even when you’re fasting, drinking water and beverages like coffee and tea (sans milk) are not just allowed, but, especially in the case of H2O, encouraged.

5. Break your fast slowly and steadily.

After spending several hours food-free, you might feel like a human vacuum ready to suck up whatever’s on your plate. But chowing down in minutes is actually no bueno for your body or your waistline, according to research. Instead, you want to chew well and eat slowly to allow your digestive system to fully process the food. This will also help you have a better idea of your fullness so that you steer clear of overeating.

6. Avoid overeating.

On that note, just because you’ve stopped fasting doesn’t mean you should feast. Not only can eating too much leave you bloated and uncomfortable, but it can also sabotage the weight-loss goals that likely led you to IF in the first place. Simply put: It’s not necessarily how much is on your plate that can help you stay full for longer but what is on your plate. Which brings me to the next fasting tip…

7. Maintain balanced meals.

Having a hearty mixture of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and carbs can help you ultimately shed those pounds and steer clear of extreme hunger when fasting. Grilled chicken (you want about 4 to 6 oz of protein) with half of a small sweet potato, and sautéed spinach with garlic and olive oil.

When it comes to fruits, you want to opt for those with “a low-glycemic index, which are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized, causing a lower and slower rise in blood glucose. A stable blood-sugar level helps you avoid cravings—and thus is key when it comes to successfully dropping lbs.

8. Play around with different time periods.

For example, if you’re an early riser, eating during the earlier hours, like 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then fasting until the following morning at 10. Remember: The beauty of IF is that it’s easily amendable and flexible to fit you and your schedule

Another option is cutting yourself off earlier and eating breakfast later each day to gradually grow your fasting strength. We all naturally fast once daily—while we sleep—so maybe you practice ‘shutting down the kitchen’ earlier. For example, “close” the kitchen at 9 p.m., and then don’t eat again until breakfast at 8 am. That’s a natural 11-hour fast! Slowly move those times out (e.g. kitchen closes at 8 p.m., breakfast at 9 a.m.), if desired, she says.
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9. Keep track of your journey.

Believe it or not, maintaining a food journal can help you with your fasting diet. A food journal for fasting?! Yup, you read that right. While you might not be chronicling as many eats, actively jotting down details like any emotions and symptoms (hunger level, any weakness, etc.) that come up during IF can help you gauge your progress. (It might also help you notice any trigger points that make fasting harder on you, like drinking the night prior.)

10. Listen to your body.

This. Is. Important. Keep an eye out at all times for symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, (unusual) irritability, headache, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. If you experience any of these, consider breaking your fast. These are all signs that the body is going into starvation mode and may need nourishment.