How are you moving into this new year? Are you starting the year with major changes? Did you pledge to eliminate all sugar from your diet or work out for 8 hours each day? Or are you simply tweaking your existing diet and fitness regimen?
I used to be a fan of giant leaps. I went from long hair (past my butt) to a shaved head (half an inch) in one fell swoop when I completed my Masters degree. (The two things were not really related.) I followed a low fat diet for a decade before reading an article on Atkins in the New York Times Magazine; I promptly switched to bacon, eggs, and steak slathered in real butter. I gave up bread, pasta, potatoes, and most of the foods I had previously lived on. No baby steps or halfway measures for me.
But these days I am more interested in fine-tuning.
I already eat (mostly) a very nutritious diet. And I fast for 16 hours out of every 24. Am I perfect? Nope. I allow myself treats here and there. Gone are the days of extreme dieting, the cabbage soup craze, the juice cleanses. I like superfoods, but I eat a wide variety of stuff. So I don't feel the need to completely overhaul. I might make some small adjustments, though.
How about you? Are you starting from a Standard American Diet? A vegan diet? Weight Watchers point system? It doesn't really matter which diet formula you currently follow. Everyone can benefit from taking baby steps in a better direction.
I currently eat during an 8 hour feeding window (12noon to 8pm) and fast for 16 hours (8pm-12noon). I've become very accustomed to fasting now, as I've been doing this since Thanksgiving. Even on vacation I continued to skip breakfast without a problem, although I gave myself permission to eat any time I wanted. Now I feel ready to take my fasting to the next level. (This is like on The Bachelor when contestants try to get a rose by expressing their feelings, removing their tops, or accidentally having sex in the ocean.) I am planning to try fasting for longer on certain days of the week, ultimately extending my fast to 24 hours without food. I might try 18 hours, then 20, 22, and finally 24 hours. I plan to eventually fast from dinner one evening to dinner the following evening perhaps once a week. Each hour of fasting past 12 hours per day offers additional benefits such as lower levels of insulin in the blood, lower fat storage, greater fat burning, better memory, lower levels of inflammation, less moodiness, and more energy.
Tip: if you have tried fasting and struggled with it, you may have been consuming too much sugar during your feeding window. Reducing consumption of sugar, upping your healthy fats, and eating just enough protein will make your fasting hours much easier and more pleasant.
Let's pretend you currently consume a Standard American Diet. Maybe you are a high school or college student. (I know from watching my daughters how terrible you young people eat!) Perhaps you have some kind of sugary breakfast cereal each morning, like Lucky Charms. You would have no trouble at all finding a healthier substitute! Maybe you could make a tiny adjustment and try something like Honey Nut Cheerios. From there, you could advance to regular Cheerios. Once you are used to a less sugary start to your day, you might even switch to hot oatmeal: 100% whole grain oats with absolutely no sugar added. Each baby step takes you in the direction you want to go, but in a comfortable time frame.
You can use this formula to adjust your own diet. You might choose one meal to start with. Make one small change at a time. You can take as much time as you need to get used to each baby step before progressing to the next. Let me know how it goes!