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There is no escaping news of the many benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). There are hundreds of books, articles, podcasts, testimonials, and first-person accounts from friends.
What’s more, there are multiple fasting methods offering options that work best with varying lifestyles.
One option is to choose two days per week on which you eat only dinner.
Another common method is a restricted eating window of 12-16 hours or more.
Some people engage in alternate-day fasting and others in fasting for multiple days.
It probably goes without saying that no dietary fasts or calorie restriction diets should be undertaken without consulting a medical professional, but we'll say it anyway. Consult a medical professional before engaging in dietary fasting.
Despite all the press and the growing popularity, there are still far more resistors than adherents to this way of life.
A February 2020 poll suggests only 24% of Americans have tried intermittent fasting.
If you haven’t yet been motivated enough to try a dietary fast, might the financial benefits of fasting tempt you?
What’s all the Fasting Fuss About?
The touted physical benefits of dietary fasting border on the miraculous, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases to making you young again.
According to one well-known scientist and author, who’s progressed to eating just one meal per day (!), fasting is an integral part of a reverse-aging strategy.
Not just SLOWing the aging process, actual reversal.
While results will vary, among the many other health benefits culled from numerous sources1,2,3,4 fasting:
- Helps control blood sugar
- Fights inflammation
- Improves memory
- Enhances physical performance
- Aids weight management
- Reduces cholesterol
- Improves blood pressure
- Helps prevent heart disease
- May reduce tumor growth
Missing from this scientifically proven list is the benefit of fasting on your fiscal health.
In fact, it was not on my radar either before committing to a restricted eating window of 8 hours between 12 pm and 8 pm (a 16-hour daily fast).
Is Fasting Good for Your Budget?
As a financial planner, I normally consider the financial impact of almost every decision.
Yet in this case, I was so consumed with how I would survive so many hours without food intake that it did not occur to me.
So it was a pleasant discovery to realize, several months in, that my grocery spend decreased by at least 25%.
Why not 33.33%?
For the mathematically inclined, it might be tempting to look for a reduction of 1/3rd or 33.33% of your food budget.
And for some fasting aficionados out there that may in fact be true. However, I find that I eat a bit more during my 2 remaining meals.
On a recent trip across the country, I was able to avoid buying pricey airport food or packing a meal. I simply fasted until my normal eating time in the new time zone.
A 25% spending reduction is still significant to my combined $600/month grocery and restaurant budget.
I’m still considering where to reallocate the annual savings of $1,800/year but for many people that amount could help pay down debt, amp a savings goal, or make for a nice vacation.
And that doesn’t even factor in the harder-to-measure cost savings resulting from better health…such as lower out of pocket spending for deductibles and co-pays.
The Inflation Factor
Recent, and rather dramatic, inflation rate upticks mean food will become a larger budget item for everyone.
The rate of inflation from April 2021 through March 2022 was a whopping 8.5%.
As a point of reference, inflation has been averaging about 2% for the past 15+ years.
As a result, the fasting community is sure to experience an even greater savings in the near future as compared to recent years.
Additional Fasting Fun Facts
Some fasters believe you can eat anything within the eating window without consequence due to the otherwise healing benefits of fasting.
I don’t quite buy that argument and neither does our previously mentioned longevity expert.
Garbage in is still garbage out.
Further, when you're only eating twice (or once!) per day, I believe you’re actually more mindful about what you consume.
There are fewer opportunities in the day to take in the recommended amount of essential nutrients.
If improved physical and fiscal health were not enough, there's a notable time savings.
There’s one less meal to think about, buy for, prepare, consume and clean up after.
Additional benefits include increased mindfulness and a greater sense of self-control as you incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.
I attempted intermittent fasting and gave it up after a couple of weeks a full year before successfully adopting the habit.
There’s no argument that it’s difficult to break deeply ingrained physical and psychological habits of eating 3, and sometimes more, meals per day.
After learning that it takes 2-3 weeks before your body adjusts to the new normal routine I was inspired to try again.
Just knowing that it would absolutely get easier after a few weeks helped me to stick with it.
Another helpful hint is that calorie free liquids are your best friends.
Lots and lots of water, black coffee, black and green tea, herbal tea, etc. will help dampen those hunger pains.
It’s generally recommended that you refrain from milk, sugar, or anything caloric in your beverages during the fasting periods of time.
Still, like any other long lasting and beneficial habit, it’s perfectly acceptable to ease into it.
One friend of mine is working her way there by increasing her fasting window from 11 hours (8 pm to 7 am) to the recommended 16 hours (8 pm to 12 noon or whatever 16-hour window works for you) in 30-minute increments.
Each day she delays her ‘breakfast’ (the word takes on renewed meaning now) by one half hour.
Final Fasting Thoughts
Current research suggests that the longer you extend the fasting window each day, the more the benefit.
I’m not sure I will ever reach the one meal per day fasting goal, nor am I sure that I want to, but I can at least imagine the possibility.
It certainly enhances the motivation to contemplate the stacking of benefits…physical, psychological, AND fiscal that such a move would achieve.
Article written by Carol Christie, a longtime financial coach and a candidate for CFP® certification. She pursued FIRE before FIRE was an acronym and loves the like-minded souls that make up that community. Carol partners with individuals and couples on their path to financial freedom through her hourly coaching business Free to be Finance.
Carol previously contributed to Women Who Money with this post about building your financial house.