By Christa Wojciechowski

Right now, in the Writer’s Mastermind online writing group, we’re focusing on time and energy management for writers and designing a lifestyle that helps us produce our best work. During the past few weeks, I have experimented with intermittent fasting and am going to share my results.

Intermittent Fasting for Writers

Not only is intermittent fasting an effective way to burn fat, but the latest science also says it turns on latent genes, reverses aging, detoxes the body, and most importantly for writers, improves cognitive function.

So does intermittent fasting really work, or is it all just hype? I will tell you my personal experience so far.

My Intermittent Fasting Routine

  • 3-4 times a week, I fast for 18-hour periods.
  • I drink black coffee and water until 2pm.
    • Tip: I combined the fasting routine with a goal to drink 1 gallon of water a day. It keeps the hunger at bay, so I highly recommend keeping water with you at all times. Herbal teas also help greatly when the stomach is growling.
  • I break my fast with a late lunch and eat a normal dinner.
    • Tip: the word “fasting” makes it sound extreme. In reality, you’re only skipping breakfast and possibly delaying your lunch. I have dinner at 8-9pm, so I must wait till 2-3pm to complete an 18-hour fast. If you eat dinner earlier, then you can break your fast earlier the next day. There are also many combinations of fasting routines that you can experiment with.

The results

I lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks–I expected to lose some weight, but not so much so effortlessly. This was a pleasant surprise.

More energy and alertness—When beginning intermittent fasting, I was a bit foggy. My brain was accustomed to having calories in the morning. But after the first week, my body knew that it would not get breakfast and learned to switch to fat-burning mode quickly. In this mode I noticed better concentration and focus.

More mental and physical endurance—I can work at the computer longer, and I recover from physical workouts more quickly too.

Better sleep and digestion—This is an unexpected bonus. I sleep more deeply, and I digest my food more quickly (no doubt because I’m so hungry by the time I eat).

Increased Productivity—The increased productivity is not only because I am more alert and energetic, but also because I do not have to prepare (or order), eat, and clean up after a meal. It saves time, removes the interruption, and is one less thing on my to do list.

Bonus–There is a food cost savings as well!

How does intermittent fasting work?

According to logic, our bodies evolved to expect long periods without food. As hunter gatherers, there could be days between our last meal and when the next food was found or caught. During this period, our senses were heightened because we needed to be alert and ingenious to locate food sources and track down animals.

During periods of fasting, the body switches to burning its fat stores. It also uses this time to perform autophagy (which actually means eating oneself), a process in which the body cleans out damaged cells and other residue that accumulates from day-to-day processes.

Once we eat, we rest and digest. Our bodies relax. They know they will live to see another day and our systems are busy metabolizing the food. This is a necessary process, but if we are constantly fed, then we are constantly in this low gear. There is no need for us to be in alert mode. We are not as mentally sharp. Fat and metabolites accumulate.

How intermittent fasting has improved my writing

I was surprised at how much of distraction meals are. Simply removing them opened up time and gave me space to focus. And I don’t get hangry because fasting trains the system to operate without the frequent ingestion of calories. Hunger and blood fluctuations can put the brain on a roller coaster. Fasting puts me in a steady hum that allows me to focus for hours.

Of course, you must get up and stretch your legs (and run to the loo if you’re doing the gallon of water challenge). But in my experience, at least, I am able to get into the flow state and stay there long enough to make major leaps in my writing.

This is why I thing fasting is especially good for novelists. We need to hold so much of the story in our heads to make sure all the moving parts work together, and getting back in the right head space after an interruption is a huge challenge.

Is intermittent fasting right for your writing life?

Fasting is definitely not for everyone, and you should consult your doctor before thinking about it, but as a writer, I will tell you it’s worth a try. I don’t think I’ll be going back to breakfast anytime soon!

Have you tried intermittent fasting?

What are your thoughts on it?

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