Like many first time college students, I was happy, excited, scared, nervous, and a mix of many emotions. I was preoccupied with adapting to the college life while trying to balance out grades, friends, organizations, and other events.
One experience I had that many can probably relate to is the Freshman 15. The “Freshman 15” is a term commonly used to express the amount of weight gained during one’s first college year which is typically 15 lbs, more or less. This does not have to apply to the freshman college group only but can include anyone who has gained extra lbs over the years.
What I Did About “Freshman 15”?
I did just about what many would typically do: Exercise really hard and eat healthy! For my age, I was pretty good in terms of my health and weight. I did various forms of weight training, bouts of high intensity interval training (HIIT), and ate all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and protein. Simultaneously, I avoided as much foods and drinks that contain too much sugars. Of course, I started to lose weight and saw some results within a short time.
Something That Came Up
Although I lost a significant amount weight, I came to later realize…exercising really hard and eating healthy was NOT easy. It worked very well in the beginning stages (when I had A LOT of free time) but it was EXTREMELY difficult to maintain long term. Social event gatherings like potlucks and birthdays would come up often. It was painful to have to avoid such delicious foods because of the strict regimen I put myself through.
Of course, I eventually caved in to the foods and lost motivation to exercise hard and eat healthy. My goals at the time were just unrealistic. I felt heavy, bloated, and tired often. I did find motivation again later to exercise and eat right. But like the first time, I regained all the weight back plus extra. It was quite a discouraging experience.
What I Do Today that Works for Me?
Just as it seems almost hopeless for me to lose weight, I eventually ran into something that DID started to work for me accidentally: Intermittent fasting (IF)! I say accidental ONLY because I got frustrated with dieting and losing weight one day so I started to “starve” myself but eventually caved in later that very same night to eat. Who would’ve known that this was pretty much IF in disguise except IF has a more positive connotation!
Anyways, when trying out IF, you are essentially putting your body in a fasted state for a certain period of time throughout your day with a certain time window for eating. During that fasted state, your body still needs energy to function and so it starts to break down certain molecules for energy and the most readily form is that “unpleasant” looking fat in undesired locations.
A common belief is that muscle is broken down significantly first when in a starvation mode. To some degree, there is a small amount of muscle breakdown but breaking down fat is much more efficient. The presence of high ketones in our urine when doing a fasting blood test is evidence that fat is metabolized. In fact, fat is the energy that is stored and unused so that is EXACTLY what we want to use up. The body also breaks down old, dysfunctional proteins into smaller, usable parts (kind of like spring cleaning for our bodies).
Intermittent Fasting Tracks
- 16/8 method (16 hour fast with an 8 hour window of eating) is the most popular IF track
- Eat-Stop-Eat method (fast for 24 hours and eating 1 meal a day)
- 5/2 method (Eating 500-600 calories on 2 NON-consecutive days, then eating regularly for 5 days)
Here is a YouTube video of those with some amazing results:
My Experience with IF
Starting out with IF can be difficult if you are accustomed to eating 3-5 meals a day with snacks in between. Here’s what I started out with.
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What I did initially was try to remove breakfast from my daily routine. I started off by reducing my breakfast meal size from the regular amount to half. After a week or so, I would reduce to about a fourth of the regular amount. Eventually, I was able to feel satisfied with a protein shake which you can check out here.
By the way, I really love Premier Protein. This product only contains 1 g of sugar when compared with some other brands and it still tastes great. It feels almost as sweet as soda except soda has 20 or even 30 g of sugar). I personally really like caramel and strawberry flavor!
Anyways, I eventually trained myself to skip breakfast. When I became accustomed to skipping breakfast, I eventually trained my body a bit more through even replacing my lunch with these protein shakes. If you are looking to go more into the muscle build, you can check out my other post here and take Whey Protein. Currently, I alternate between the 18/6 and the Eat-Stop-Eat methods.
Some Tips and Recommendations
You do not necessarily need to exercise to see the pounds shed on this diet but it does help speed up the process. Some people may avoid exercising due to knee pain from the wear and tear. Click here to find out how to manage knee pain.
I exercise about 1 to 3 times a week depending on my schedule and mood. The types of exercise depends on your preference. Keep in mind though that higher intensity exercise like HIIT means more burning of calories due to increased metabolism, and this is good. Unfortunately, it also means you’ll be more hungry and wanting to eat more, which is not so good.
In terms of types of foods to eat with IF, you can pretty much eat whatever you like and still lose weight but DO be aware of the foods that are higher in sugar and bad fat content (so moderation is key). These still add up calories and it is still better to eat nutritious foods (Another reason why I like the protein shakes since it has high nutrient content).
Keep in mind the intake (ingestion of calories) and outtake (burning of calories). Focus on reducing intake and increasing outtake. The weight loss will be VERY fast in the early stages but will start to plateau once you approach your targeted weight. To go beyond that would require the addition of something like reduced eating window time, additional day of exercise, etc.
Try to use sleep to your advantage and incorporate it during your fasting hours. Click here if you have trouble sleeping.
I started packing weight through Freshman 15 and approached close to 210 lbs. But after trying out IF? I am currently standing at about 180 lbs. I am satisfied with my weight for now and I haven’t tried too hard to push below 20% body fat with a visible 6-pack. You can kind of say I have a slightly visible 3 pack. Still, this was one of the few health changes that worked consistently for me and it has already become my lifestyle. It doesn’t take too much effort from me anymore to go through my IF routine.
Benefits of IF
In addition to weight loss, one can also experience:
- Reduced Insulin resistance
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved heart health
- Cancer prevention
- Improved brain health
- Slowed aging
IF is a really great way to help you become or even stay healthy especially for those with really busy and stressful schedules. It can be difficult to transition right away so the protein shakes can be used as a meal replacement until you are ready to cut one complete meal like breakfast. As with anything, if you are never sure whether a change in lifestyle is safe or right for you, always check with your physician. Hope IF works out for you too!
Did you enjoy this life hack on how to lose weight? Please leave a comment below!