My Healthy 2020

Here’s Why Intermittent Fasting Works for Me (I’ve Been Doing it for 7 Years!)

updated Apr 14, 2020
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Credit: Design: Kitchn; Photo: Courtesy of Laura Rodriguez

“It’s not about punishing yourself and depriving yourself to achieve a certain size or number. It’s really about optimizing your health.” Laura Rodriguez, an automotive engineer and spin instructor based in Tennessee, has combined many styles of eating into something that works for her but credits intermittent fasting for making it possible to do the things she loves the most. “It’s important to strike a balance. Some days, your eating will be perfect. On others, you may go off the bandwagon to enjoy your life, enjoy the holidays, or enjoy that vacation.” I talked to her about how she found that balance and how she wrestled with the concept of good and bad food choices. 

20 people, 20 stories of what healthy means for them in 2020.

My Healthy: Intermittent Fasting

What does “healthy” mean to you?
For me, being healthy means being able to do the things you love while you feel your best.

So health for you is defined in relation to being able to do the things you love. What do you love to do, and how does that work with your way of eating?
I love being active, whether that’s through spin or lifting weights or being able to travel. I want the freedom to do all those things without feeling like my health or my body holds me back from trying something I would like to try. Now, I’ve always been relatively healthy but I think that intermittent fasting has helped me to simplify my choices. When I meal prep, I only think about lunch and dinner and maybe a snack. I don’t worry about breakfast or carry around a lot for a day of eating. In reality, it’s just one large container. 

What eating style helps you feel your healthiest?
I have actually combined several eating styles. I started intermittent fasting, Paleo, eating less gluten, eating more vegetables, and meal prepping in 2012. I discovered Whole30 in 2016, and I currently do a mixture of all of the above in my lifestyle. Whole30 and intermittent fasting have most impacted my healthy eating habits. 

I normally start to eat around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m., depending on my lunch schedule at work. I have a hearty lunch and I’m typically not hungry until dinner. I have dinner around 7 p.m.. I stop eating around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.. That’s a 14- to 16-hour fasting window. In the early morning, I drink black coffee and water and that’s it. 

For the most part, I’m still Paleo. Intermittent fasting allows me to be a little more flexible on what I eat and when I eat. I feel my best when I’m eating in a Paleo and Whole30 way (which, for me, means, I limit my intake of processed foods). 

What were your goals when you made these changes?
I wanted to have more energy, improve my emotional health, and feel less sluggish overall. I wanted to make eating and drinking choices based on how this would fuel my body, mind, and soul instead of seeing food as either good or bad. 

Did you previously see food or food choices as either good or bad?
Yes, especially at the beginning of learning about sugar, gluten and dairy. I figured it was all bad and all needed to be avoided. Now I don’t consume these ingredients as much, but not because I see them as bad; they just don’t make me personally feel so great. It’s a slight shift. It’s mostly about how I would feel better if I don’t eat this or do eat that. Realistically, I’ll eat handmade pasta and I’m okay with feeling sluggish for the rest of day but I don’t see that choice as good or bad. It’s just what’s worthwhile to me and how it will affect me overall. Another example is I will try everything when I travel. That’s feeding my emotional health and my cultural health and takes priority over clean eating all the time. 

How did you make these changes? What motivation pushed you on?
I have never been a huge breakfast person. I just was often running around late and coffee was enough for me. In 2012, I started working at a gym. My boss told me that I was already doing intermittent fasting and I just hadn’t labeled it yet. I started looking into its health benefits. And, overall, my health has been pretty good these last seven years. I maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. On top of that, the more I learn about fasting — the reported benefits on energy levels and insulin levels, how the body gets better at functions like eliminating waste and cells that cause cancer — the overall health benefits keep me going. 

What are you most proud of?
I am really proud that I am working through the negative diet culture in which I grew up. I love that I am no longer at war with my choices or my body. Rather, I want to be in better health, mentally and physically. I am most proud of the fact that this has been a long-term, healthy change, and not a short-term fad.

So what does keep you going? Lifestyle and habit changes are famously hard to make and keep. Do you have a secret?
The secret is that I accepted that there is no secret! There is no magic pill or quick solution to living a healthy lifestyle. It’s about making small choices every day that then turn into habits. What has kept me going is that intermittent fasting works for my lifestyle and also lets me simplify my meal prep and options. Additionally, I have done a lot of research into the health benefits of intermittent fasting outside of maintaining a healthy weight and that really encourages me.

What’s the one food you love the most?

If you were to recommend intermittent fasting to someone else, what is the most important piece of advice you would give them?
I would say start slowly and find something that works for you — maybe start with fasting 10 hours and move to 16+ hours over the course of a few weeks. It’s really important for your mindset to be in the right place, too. If you see intermittent fasting as starving yourself to achieve a calorie deficit, I think you’re less likely to keep with it. 

Also, give yourself some grace! Making changes is tough and it won’t always be perfect. If I am really hungry for some reason one morning, I break my fast sooner. This helps me be flexible with my lifestyle and stick to it overall.

Thank you, Laura! Follow her at @_elle_rod_ on Instagram.

What Is Intermittent Fasting? Start Here.

My Healthy 2020: 20 People, 20 Healthy Choices

Every January people make changes to improve their health. But which ones actually make a difference? We’re sharing the stories of 20 people who changed their lives for the better and stuck — thanks to choices that are individual, diverse, and sometimes wildly different from each other. Read their stories here throughout January. We hope they inspire your own journey to finding your own, unique, individual healthiest 2020.