As a college student, your brain is overflowing with information. Dieting is probably the last thing you want to think about. Personally, with a messy, busy schedule, I find it challenging to keep up with dieting on top of my job, classes, and extracurriculars. In fact, during my first year of college, the only diet that has worked with my unpredictable college lifestyle isn't a diet at all -- it's intermittent fasting (IF).
If you are unfamiliar with the term "intermittent fasting," it can sound intimidating. The idea of fasting brings to mind feelings of deprivation -- the most unpleasant experience of dieting. However, intermittent fasting has gained a reputation for offering fast weight loss without the rigid rules of most diets. After all, IF is not a diet as much as a lifestyle choice.
The basic idea of IF is enticing: eat what you want, as long as it's within your delegated "eating window." Arguably the most popular type of IF is the 16/8 method, which, according to Healthline, "involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours, and restricting your daily 'eating window' to 8-10 hours."
I chose the 16/8 method based on my pre-existing eating patterns. For me, it makes the most sense to eat between 8:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon, resulting in a sixteen-hour fasting period. However, many people choose to eat between noon and 8:00 at night, simply skipping breakfast. In either case, eating and fasting time periods can be adjusted to complement any schedule, making the 16/8 method ideal for college students.
For me, a typical day of intermittent fasting begins with breakfast around 8:00. Usually, my breakfast consists of fiber-rich overnight oats prepared the night before, totaling around 150 calories. I take my vitamins, drink a cup or two of coffee, and leave for work or class.
Usually, I eat a midmorning snack like almonds or a granola bar to power me through my classes and long walks around campus. Then, around noon, I take advantage of my student meal plan for lunch. Making healthy choices at the dining hall is tricky, so I usually default to fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. It's enough to fuel me through an afternoon of work and meetings.
At some point before 4:00 p.m, I eat an early dinner to close my eating window. FSU offers a wide range of dining options with my meal plan, so I pick up sushi, a sandwich, or a protein bowl from one of the restaurants next to my dorm building. After finishing my last meal, I feel satiated enough to last until bedtime at around 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m.
During my fasting window, I find myself able to concentrate remarkably easily without food on my mind and able to fall asleep very quickly. For the most part, IF feels natural to me, and I don't have to put much effort into it.
However, an essential part of IF and any healthy lifestyle is remembering to stay hydrated during both eating and fasting windows. Additionally, I try to time my workouts within an hour of eating in order to prevent feelings of weakness and avoid muscle loss.
Because IF is highly customizable, another person's method may look completely different from mine and work just as well. This is why IF is ideal for college students -- it can be manipulated to fit any schedule, habits, or preferences and still be an incredibly effective way to maintain weight or get lean.
And, perhaps most importantly, at the same time that IF improves your body, it frees your brain from the pressures of dieting, allowing you devote attention to what truly matters to you rather than what you eat.
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