Like all games, you don’t start out as a master. You start at the beginning and work your way up as you increase your skills and seek greater challenges.
First things first – if Intermittent Fasting is new to you, that’s the best place to begin. Here’s a post with some materials to get started:
Rules of the Game
Here’s the fun part – you make the rules of this game!
I’ll give you some ideas to get you started below, but first – understand that this is a very important element of the Fasting Game.
The reason why this is so important is because it presents you with an opportunity to bring to the surface all of the unwritten and unspoken “eating rules” you’re already trying to live by – whether consciously or unconsciously.
That’s right, you’re already playing by some set of rules, often those set forth by your family, culture, and the media you consume. This is another reason why this is so important – it’s your chance to consciously decide what rules you’re going to follow, and why. You’ll probably find yourself simplifying things and finding much greater success as a result!
I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.- Anna Kendrick, Scrappy Little Nobody
Start a Fasting Game Journal
It can be a hand written journal in a simple old school spiral-bound notebook, or something much nicer. Or go the digital route and start writing in a note taking app. Either way, now is the time to begin!
Change Is the Name of the Game
Before you go any further, consider this exercise – try writing down in simple language *all* of the eating rules you try to live by. Ever hear someone say how many times you should chew your food before swallowing? Write it down. Do you think about food combining? Have a list of foods you think you should avoid? Times of day that are good or bad to eat? Write them all down. Don’t worry about any particular order, just create a big list of the “old rules”.
Why do this? Because it can be incredibly helpful for you to see out in front of you just why it is that you struggle. If you’re like most health-conscious Americans, you’ve consumed a whole host of ideas about what is right and wrong when it comes to eating, and chances are that some of those ideas are highly conflicting with one another.
The Fasting Game is a way of navigating out of this mess. It’s an invitation to change the rules so that you create a way of eating that is fun for you, but still gets you to the results you desire.
As you begin to generate ideas for your new game, it’s best to simply get the creative juices flowing and write down whatever comes to mind. Don’t stress up front about how the ideas will work together or how you’ll pull it off. Just getting the stuff that’s inside your head to show up outside your head on a piece of paper can be a transformational exercise in itself!
This game is all about change. It’s about how you are going to change your life, your body, and your relationship with food and eating. It’s also going to teach you a lot about how you handle ( or don’t handle ) change itself!
Remember – this is your game. It always has been. You can change the rules as you go. The key is to track your goals and your progress along the way. That way you can learn what works for you and what doesn’t.
Rules are important, but they’re temporary and they’re always supposed to be changed.John Lydon
Getting Started – Simple Example
Keep the list of ideas you’ve started. This is what you’ll use going forward. But it may be a bit much to come up with a complete set of rules you can get started with right away. And that’s the goal – to get started now!
To review, there are a few different basic types of Intermittent Fasting. You’ll see them go by names like 16 8 Diet (or some variation of this), One Meal a Day, Every Other Day Diet, or the 5:2 Diet.
For the sake of simplicity to get the ball rolling here, let’s set up a simple game based on a 16/8 method of intermittent fasting. This method involves eating within an 8 hour window, and fasting for 16 hours.
Objective of the Game
The main objective in this simple example game is to adhere to the eating and fasting durations. In future iterations, you can always add other objectives, but for now, this is a great place to start.
Number of Players
In the spirit of keeping things simple to start – this game is single player. It’s all you!
How Long Does a Game Last?
By “a game”, we mean the cycle of time before you add up your points, gather rewards, and before you consider making changes to the rules. With the Fasting Game, one day is too little time, and going a full month or longer may be too long a time frame.
So for this first example, we’ll set it at One Week.
- Stats – beginning tracking what is important to you here. Weight and waist size are good places to start. Weigh and measure yourself in the morning at the start and at the end of the week. This isn’t the primary goal of this first go, but is important to begin tracking.
- Eating Window – each day contains one eating window. This is a time during which calories may be consumed.
- Max 8 – the eating window should be a maximum of 8 hours in length.
- Fasting Window – no calories are to be consumed outside of the eating window. The only beverages allowed are zero calories beverages such as water, coffee, or herbal tea. (Bonus for avoiding beverages like diet soda that contain artificial sweeteners, as these can cause issues – more on this in later posts.)
- Min 16 – A minimum of 16 hours should elapse in between eating windows.
- Write It All Down – the start time and end time of the eating window will be written down each day.
- Points – let’s start with 10 points per day max. Subtract points for any of the following for any given day:
- If the eating window was longer than 8 hours, take off one point for each hour (ex. if eating window was 9 hours, subtract 1 point).
- If the fasting window was less than 16 hours, subtract a point for each hour.
- Calories were consumed during the fasting window (one point for each time).
- End of the Week
- Add up your points. What’s the percentage of points earned compared to max of 100%?
- Take note of what worked well, as well as what didn’t. If points were lost, where and why?
- Think about 1 to 3 ways you’d like to enhance the game for the next week.
Of course you’ll get the inner reward of a sense of accomplishment if you make it through the week sticking to the eating and fasting windows! But having something more concrete here would be a great motivator.
Do Something Nice for Yourself!
What would that look like? Maybe it’s a quiet salt bath. Maybe you can set aside some money for a massage. Whatever it is, make it something other than food. If you can’t think of anything specific up front, write yourself a Gift Certificate and redeem it when you can.
Note what’s missing here? No mention (yet) of what or how much you should or shouldn’t eat during the eating window. You can still choose to avoid certain foods, like meat or bread, for example. And if you overeat, you’ll probably know it. But don’t beat yourself up.
The most important thing in this first go around is to get accustomed to having a simple set of rules you can actually follow, feel good about, and keep track of. (Just look back at your “old rules” list if you need a little inspiration to feel good about the changes you’re making.)
The point is to set yourself up for success, while also taking steps towards lasting lifestyle changes.
Some Do’s and Don’ts to Consider
- Change the rules of the example ruleset. If you have specific things you want to add, tweak, or remove – go for it, especially if you’re familiar with or already working with Intermittent Fasting.
- Make it easier at first – if you’re completely new to fasting, and the idea of going 16 hours without any calories is terrifying – don’t do it! This is your game, one which leads to a lifetime of change. Start slow. Try going 12/12 your first week instead. See how that goes.
- KISS – Keep It Simple Sunshine! The point of this first go is to get traction and get moving. You may be wondering about all of the various things you should eat or should avoid eating. Or about exercise, or the myriad other things that come up when contemplating losing weight. Set it aside to create some sort of simple, working version of the Fasting Game.
- Write it down! Make sure you’ve settled on some way to track your progress. Write down the start and end times for your eating windows. If you can, also jot down your emotions or frustrations. Write down your failures or mishaps. Any of this will be great material you can use to improve your game!
- Don’t Overdo It – maybe you’re an overachiever or in a hurry. Whatever the case, resist the temptation to throw everything you have into this first go. If you need to lose a lot of weight really fast, for example, this approach may not be the best place to start. The Fasting Game is about making game-changing lifestyle choices. Sure, you’ll lose weight but that’s not *the goal*.
- Don’t Overshare – it’s completely understandable and even helpful to get excited and energized when undertaking big lifestyle changes. That being said, this is a journey of self-discovery as much as it is a journey of weight loss and greater health and vitality. It’s always good to fill in your loved ones with what you’re doing. Trying to explain this to your coworkers or online friends may be a different story altogether.
This is just the beginning. How far you go with the Fasting Game is up to you.
I’ll be sharing additional ideas, along with tips and tricks as we move through the holidays and into the new year.
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