If you have heard the intermittent fasting buzz but aren’t sure how to make it work in your busy Mom life, you are in the right place.
As a family physician and mom/step-mom of 5, I get you. I spent so many years HATING what I saw in the mirror. The problem was I didn’t think I had the TIME or RESOURCES to change it. Half-hearted efforts ended in half-hearted weight loss.
My health took the literal backseat to everything and everyone else. And, when I had my youngest almost 2 years ago, the repercussions of those decisions came through loud and clear. I had gestational diabetes, took insulin shots, and saw my little one becoming a budding sugar-freak before she turned one.
That scared me into getting serious about my health THROUGH my career. I went on a mission to find the BEST diet for myself and my family. I started research, obesity medicine conferences, and life coaching classes to get to the bottom of obesity.
And, through my research and trials of diets, I fell in love with intermittent fasting. Here’s why …
Why Intermittent Fasting Is Ideal for Busy Moms
- It literally saves you money – you don’t have to buy much to not eat, right?
- It saves you time – yes, less meals to prep is a real thing.
- The health benefits may be even better than just counting calories – studies show extra benefits over calorie counting alone from a hormonal aspect. Win, win, win.
Any Busy Moms Who Shouldn’t Fast?
Intermittent fasting works for ALMOST anyone. The special considerations would be for those who are:
- Pregnant – please don’t fast when you are pregnant obviously
- Breast feeding – I know, you had a baby and feel like a whale. I have been there. BUT please wait until you finish breastfeeding to start fasting. I know that some of it doesn’t look that different from skipping breakfast but fasting and breastfeeding just don’t go together. You are feeding and growing a little person.
- Post-partum if you are NOT breastfeeding – go for it BUT remember that your body is healing. The fluid shifts accompanying hormone shifts in your body can be serious. Make sure to pay close attention to fluid replacement and supplement electrolytes. (More below)
- Diabetes – you actually can fast with diabetes BUT you need to come up with a plan with your Doctor first. You will need to monitor your blood sugars closely and adjust medications accordingly. (https://doctormome.com/post/intermittent-fasting-with-chronic-disease/)
- Atrial fibrillation – you DEFINITELY need to discuss fasting with your heart Doctor if you have a history of atrial fibrillation. Especially if you choose a low-carb/ketogenic diet to accompany fasting. There have been studies showing it can increase risks due to electrolyte shifts with fasting.
- Serious athletes – Ok, haha. I know that the serious athlete busy Mom who wants to lose weight may be the equivalent of a unicorn. In case you are that unicorn out there, intermittent fasting may not be for you.
Can you lose weight with IF only?
The short and easy answer is YES. That’s it. Jk.
The expected results after 24-hours alone are 1.9 lbs. And I lost just that. I lost 6 lbs in the first week.
You will lose weight with intermittent fasting alone but even more if you change your diet to accompany it.
Who wants to sound smart and quote science?
I could recommend books (Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code, anyone?) that you won’t have time to read. Or will fall asleep reading during your child’s nap.
I could recommend websites to scour (https://www.dietdoctor.com/) with tons of info.
And I can give you the official stance of many big research settings on intermittent fasting (https://doctormome.com/post/what-the-obesity-experts-say-about-intermittent-fasting/). I’ll link more of my posts at the bottom if you would like to research further … for you gunners out there.
All you really need to know, though, is that there IS science to back intermittent fasting as a great weight loss option.
Intermittent Fasting for Busy Moms – It’s all about WHEN you eat.
This is the question I get asked most frequently and is probably the most confusing part of intermittent fasting. There are basically 3 forms of fasting:
Alternate Day Fasting
- This involves fasting for 24-30 hours 2-3 times a week. The other days you eat 3 scheduled meals and abstain from snacking.
- Scientific Research Says: Similar weight loss to other dietary methods. No greater improvement in blood sugars or insulin levels than other dietary choices.
- Doctor Mom E Says: I like this form of fasting as it is super convenient. Going without eating from dinner one day to dinner the next 3 days a week allows for easier meal prep and an easy schedule for busy Moms. You don’t have to bargain with yourself those days – you just don’t eat until dinner. And I have seen many patients and Doctor Mom friends have great weight loss results with this form of fasting.
Time Restricted Daily Fasting
- This involves eating during a set time frame every day. Typically this involves eating in a 6-8 hour period every day.
- Scientific Research Says: Some of the best results were seen with this form of fasting especially if you eat EARLIER in the day. The ideal times being eating 2 meals between 10am and 6 pm. Improvement in blood sugars, blood pressure, and insulin levels were seen in trials. Benefits were proportional to the length of fasting meaning you can just go 12 hours but 16 is better.
- Doctor Mom E Says: I love the studies on this type of fasting. They show great results. BUT I haven’t seen as great of weight loss with it for 2 reasons: people tend to want to make their eating times later in the day and people like to snack in their eating time frames. The weight loss results are great IF you can stick to it.
Or, even better, pick an eating schedule with fasting later in the day …
- This involves eating a reduced calorie intake at 25% of your regular calorie intake 2 days a week (300-400 calories). The other 5 days your calorie consumption is that for your goal weight (typically 1200-1500 calories).
- Scientific Research Says: Weight loss was similar to other methods of fasting at 1 year. Improvement in blood sugars and insulin levels was seen. No improvement in cardiac risk factors were seen.
- Doctor Mom E Says: Jimmy Kimmel apparently lost his weight using this method of fasting. I haven’t tried it. It seems a little complicated for fasting to me as you will have to get back to calorie counting.
Intermittent Fasting for Busy Moms: So, what SHOULD you eat?
What, you still have to eat?
After all of this talk about NOT eating, what should you eat?
In typical Doctor Mom E fashion, I tried intermittent fasting with 3 different diets and compared MY results after 1 week:
- Low-Carbohydrate Diet (typically 20 NET carbs per day) – 6.7 lbs weight loss
- Mediterranean Diet – 5 lbs weight loss
- Regular Diet (what I would have eaten with no changes) – 3.2 lbs weight loss
- For More, check out my post: (https://doctormome.com/post/whats-the-best-diet-with-fasting/)
The most common diet to accompany intermittent fasting is definitely a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet. Both a low-carb diet and intermittent fasting aim at reducing blood sugars and insulin levels.
As you can tell, any dietary changes are better than not changing your diet at all. Find a diet you can stick with – that truly is the key.
Intermittent Fasting for Busy Moms: What about drinks during fasting time?
You will want to be prepared with LOTS of hydration during fasting days.
What you can drink is also debatable (a trend in the fasting world obviously):
Not under debate: water, tea, naturally flavored additives (lemon, lime), broth (especially important for sodium replacement when you first start fasting)
Under debate: coffee, water with artificial sweeteners or natural sweeteners, cream
You just shouldn’t have: Anything with sugar including soda, sweet teas, sweetened waters, milk
For busy Moms I would suggest you allow the coffee and cream. If artificial sweeteners in your water (Crystal Lite, diet drinks) get you through the day, they really isn’t a deal breaker from a weight loss standpoint. There is perfect, then there’s real life. And us Mom’s need our coffee…
I tried fasting both with and without artificial sweeteners and my weight loss was NOT affected. Adding sugar-free calorie-free sweeteners will likely increase your sugar cravings, though. I know it did for me.
Do you really have to hit the treadmill or invest in Peloton?
As a physician, I’m always going to say exercise is important for heart health and so good for your mind. The official recommendation is 30 minutes 5 times a week.
That being said, exercise just isn’t enough for weight loss. We know that. It is important for keeping that weight off, though.
As a busy Mom, if you are already exercising, stick with it. If not, consider adding in some walks. I love walks. I personally find that exercise in the mornings makes me more hungry during the day so I save it for evenings.
If that just destroys your tightly wound schedule, worry about it later. You will lose weight without it.
Intermittent Fasting for Busy Moms: How do you get started?
Alright, now you are ready to get started with intermittent fasting. Wait, you have to get the baby to bed, buy groceries, and remember what time it actually is first. Minor problems.
Before you start, you need to determine the following:
- What will your schedule look like? Any of the schedules WILL give you weight loss. Look at your schedule and decide which will be right for you with the schedule of your family.
- What will your diet look like? Look at your preferences. If you are big on meats and cheese, go low carb. If you aren’t into meats but like nuts and salads, go Mediterranean. Of course, consider your medical history and needs in the process.
- What liquids will you allow? Hit the store and get ready with liquids. They are SO important while fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Tips for Busy Moms
If you are lost and wondering where to start; here’s some special tips on intermittent fasting for busy Moms:
- Start with one fasting schedule and re-evaluate at 2 weeks. I personally like the 24 hour fast but science does support time-restricted eating. If you have no medical history, starting with 24 hours is fine. If you have any risk factors, I would start with a 16 hour fast for the first few weeks then increase.
- Don’t start with a 30 hour fast – that’s just too long to start with. And having dinner every night makes the days easier. If you take medication with food daily, you will be able to do that with a 24 hour fast as well.
- Go off sugar and sugar substitutes for the first 2 weeks – your tastes will change if you do that. Believe me, it’s worth it. I even gave up my Splenda in my coffee – for awhile.
- Drink broth and add a multi-vitamin for the first few weeks – Sodium and magnesium levels seem to be the biggest deficits seen with fasting. Replacement will help prevent the “keto flu”.
- Vary your fasting schedule according to your needs – that’s one of the best parts of fasting. If you have a luncheon, fast on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, instead of Monday, Wednesday, Friday or vice versa.
- No snacking, no snacking, no snacking
- Plan in advance with my downloadable calendars. Sign up below.
- Don’t replace the junk – rather than full blown childhood dietary assault and subsequent rebellion, just don’t replace the junk food when they eat it all. It’s a lot easier as long as you can resist it.
Simple Solution: Intermittent fasting is ideal for busy Moms in many ways. You just have to be prepared for the shift in eating schedule and willing to roll with it as need be. Isn’t that the story of our lives anyway?
Want an easy version of this post to get started? Download Doctor Mom E’s Intermittent Fasting for Busy Moms Guide, by signing up below!
I have SO many posts on Intermittent Fasting. For more, check out: https://doctormome.com/post/top-10-reasons-to-try-intermittent-fasting-with-low-carb-keto-diet/