2 Years of Intermittent Fasting

Read time: 6 minutes

This  month marks my two years doing daily intermittent fasting, during which period I’ve developed a lifestyle of typically eating around 4pm until bedtime. It has been the easiest lifestyle that has positively influenced my body-weight management and health.

Below are some things (in random orders) I’ve learned from two years of intermittent fasting and nearly 2 decades of personal training. I want to share this with you, faithful readers of The Lean Saloon, in a post that’s the longest I’ve ever published on this blog.

It’s not so much intermittent fasting that facilitates fat loss or that maintains a lean body. It’s eating less. Intermittent fasting makes eating less simple, and — yes — easier. The effort to eat less is difficult, and anything to make it less difficult will make it more sustainable.


The easiest way to start intermittent fasting for the first time is by skipping breakfast — which lengthens the fasting window from the fast already imposed through sleeping. However, merely lengthening the periods between meals (e.g. lunch and dinner) serves the same purpose. An empty stomach gives your body a chance to metabolize stored energy, allowing a proper energy balance between usage and storage.


Intermittent fasting is effective at teaching you to differentiate true physical hunger from the “hunger” triggered by environmental cues that have nothing to do with your body’s need for food. You just have to actively pay attention to this lesson and learn. Food environment and food businesses are aggressive at triggering limbic hunger, and they manufacture numerous cues that are completely out of line with your body’s true need for food.


Through intermittent fasting, eating less overall means that you also eat less of the foods deemed “unhealthy,” inflammatory, fattening, etc. Which means you can still enjoy some of these foods without fear they will cause havoc on your health or excess body fat.


So long as you’re averaging your minimum requirement for macronutrients (protein and essential fats) and micronutrients (phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals) through time, by eating a varied diet, then you’ll be healthy. More than that and the result is overweight and decreasing health.


Undernutrition is malnutrition, but so is over-nutrition.


I absolutely believe in choosing mostly whole, real food… more as a way to chose less refined food. Refined food (particularly grain-based) tend to be calorically dense, a blank canvas on which aggressive flavoring makes them addictive, and less satiating. But even the inclusion of refined food can be off-set by eating less, because by default its consumption is less overall. Intermittent fasting makes it easier to eat less overall.


Intermittent fasting is not a license to depart from social experiences, such as eating lunch with friends or sharing a nice brunch with a loved one on a Sunday morning. IF, in fact, facilitates the social experience, gathering with others around food without the fear of eating “off-limit items,” submersing yourself in the joy and love of culture and knowing that you can easily balance the food intake through intermittent fasting on a different day.


It is more important to move a lot through the day — more critical than doing formal exercise at the gym. The body is meant to continually metabolize energy through the waking hours, not just for one hour at the gym and then sitting for the other 15.


Although formal exercise supports weight loss, it is through eating less and moving frequently through the day that have a superior impact.


Naturally thin people might have internal (subconscious) cues to stop eating or increase movement, while people who are (or once) overweight might have to rely on external cues to stop eating and to move more.


Goal setting is important, as long as the goal is small and easy to follow. Most people already understand this. But many forget to set goals.


Although there’s evidence that intermittent fasting may improve health in almost all people thin or overweight, it is especially useful for those who want to lose weight. Intermittent fasting provides the external cues that’s important for the overweight and the obese to eat less overall, and to learn how to listen to their bodies.


The concept of formal exercise can be a *disservice* to numerous people who need and want to lose weight, but are afraid to do so because “exercise” is made to seem so complicated, confusing, and specialized. Overweight or obese people need to understand that they just need to find a way to eat less, and then to generally move more.


Moving throughout the day causes cellular metabolism, the best way to “rev up the metabolism.” All other ways to rev up your metabolism (specialized diets, drugs, etc.) are either just myths or unrealistic.


Independent of whether or not you hit the gym, you need to move throughout the day. If you have sedentary habits or a sedentary work environment, then you need an external cue — a goal — to move more. To do this, you can establish a number-oriented goal: accumulate 200 or 300 reps of something by the end of each day. It can be stooping to touch your hands to the ground and then standing to raise your hands in the air — counts as one rep. Do this randomly throughout the day and total 300 reps by bedtime. And do this whether you go to the gym or not.


Cellular aerobic metabolism is critical — and I don’t mean doing “cardio.” What I mean is, throughout most of the day, you should sustain muscular contraction (no matter how lightly) to produce whole-body blood flow, thereby stimulating mitochondrial activities of body cells to metabolize fat and sustain life. Mitochondria, mitochondria, mitochondria!


To be lean and generally fit and healthy, you do not need a gym membership. Be active in the most simplest ways. Regularly produce higher muscular tension. Move a lot. Eat a little.


If you’re looking to be generally fit and healthy, something as simple as a 10-pound medicine ball can be all the gym equipment you’ll need. But even if you have access to state-of-the-art gym weights and a cutting-edge exercise protocol, owning a medicine ball is a great way to stay active with the simplest of movement — the key to body weight maintenance and health.


That’s it for the list today. There are a tone more, and I’m sure many of you can think of a lot to add to this list. Would love to hear some in the comments (or just your thoughts).

This entry was posted in Dietary Habit, Exercise and Physical Activities, weight Loss and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to 2 Years of Intermittent Fasting

  1. Pingback: 2 Years of Intermittent Fasting | Paleo Digest

  2. T says:

    I’ve just begun reading your blog, as a result of having just begun IF (via LeanGains), this being my 7th day into this way of eating.

    I’m encouraged by your blog.

    I hope to have success overcoming hunger issues, regulating leptin and other hunger-related hormonal changes that have plagued me and stalled my progress for far too long.

  3. Jordan says:

    Hi Johnny,

    What a great article! It really sums up what you preach and makes things clear.
    I read older posts and in one of them you wrote: “I believe that the my relatively stress-free eating habit has allowed me to change (probably permanently?) the shape of my body from being overweight to being constantly very lean”
    Do you still believe this to be true? Also can you explain a bit your thoughts on it and how it can be achieved.
    Finally, can you explain what you mean by “Cellular aerobic metabolism” that “revs up metabolism”?

    Thanks in advance, and keep the blog updated. It’s really the most honest and clear one on the internet.


    • Johnny says:


      I still believe this to be true, more than ever. In my experience, the body adapts, if given enough time.

      For me, the first 6 months of IF caused a lower body temp — I was almost always cold. But with time, this diminished, and I believe it was a result of adaptive changes and adjustment to lower calorie intake.

      Cellular metabolism is just that — the cells metabolizing energy. To explain a complex process in simple terms: cellular processes must occur to fuel physical activity, and blood flow stimulates cellular processes throughout the body.


      • Mark says:

        Hey Johnny,
        Thanks for the post. Your reply here was particularly interesting to me as last week I did IF and tried to keep my calories under 1,250 per day in an effort to lose fat quickly. At 6’0″ and 195 lbs, a lot of people said that this was unwise and that I was just going to burn out my adrenal system before long. The plan that was laid out for me was to fix my stress first (sleep until I don’t really need an alarm clock) and then I can start to assess my leanness. So I stopped counting calories and started eating to satiety again. Do you have any thoughts on the stress that under-eating and fasting has on the body and the long-term affects? I have started sleeping more, about 7.5 hours vs 6 hours on the weekdays, in an effort to minimize the stress on my body. As you’ve been doing this long enough, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. I like fasting to lose weight but I’m worried about hurting my body in the long-run.

      • Johnny says:

        The adrenaline response to environment and various behavior patterns is very complex, and we don’t yet understand everything. One study showed that eating one meal per day may reduce the stress hormone cortisol, but in this study the blood sample in the fasting group was taken later in the morning, as compared to that taken in the control group, which was first thing in the morning when cortisol is diurnally (normal) at its highest.

        The point is, your health and weight loss depend on so much more than diet alone. Try to get other stressors in your life under control. Try to stay active, but also get the necessary downtime and relaxation.

        Having said that, I believe that the potential benefits of IF (autophage and a lower, normal body weight) may be worth considering the use of IF while putting effort into controlling stress elsewhere. Having said that, our ancestors also lived in stressful times — maybe not so much the likes of traffic and bosses but that of harsh environmental conditions, predators, and homo-speicies enemies (tribal or land invaders, etc).

        The information on the low-level stress of intermittent fasting is inconclusive at best. But to be safe, whether you IF or not, minimize or eliminate those stressors for which you can control. Not all will be resolved, but stress is just part of life for the past 2 million years.


  4. Emma says:

    Hi Johnny, I posted this elsewhere but you must have missed it.

    What if you have medications that must be taken in the morning and with food? How would you recommend timing your eating window in this case?

    Many thanks,


    • Johnny says:

      Hi Emma,

      As mentioned in this post, merely extending the length between two meals achieve almost the same benefits. In the end, it’s eating less that will result in weight loss and improved health. Don’t get caught up with how you schedule the fast.


  5. Ben says:

    Thanks Johnny, really admire your approach to IF and lifestyle.
    Keep it simple and relaxed. Eat less, move more. A refreshing change to the strict do’s and don’ts of others.

    Found your first point particularly helpful “It’s not so much intermittent fasting … It’s eating less”

    Quick questions:
    By “Cellular aerobic metabolism” do you mean just keeping some muscles (eg abs) tensed for a pr0longed period of time.

    • Johnny says:

      Cellular metabolism is maintained or increased with contractions, no matter how light. But I imagine it should be cyclical between contraction and relaxation. In other words, movement. So avoid sitting for prolong periods.

      You’ve implied something that I believe may be quite useful for those who must sit for extended periods: purposely contracting muscles, like your abs, legs, glutes, arms, etc. This may be useful in creating blood flow (and increased cellular metabolism), thus maintaining normal cellular energy and overall health, not to mention a significant contribution to energy regulation.


  6. Tracey says:

    Hey Johnny, I’d love to work out more at home. Do you have a good exercise program using a medicine ball? Thanks!

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Tracey,

      Remember that the idea in this post is to do more non-exercise activities. But, for general health, fitness, and a lean (and normally toned) body, simple equipment such as a medicine ball suffice.

      Body composition is more than just exercising–it includes not overeating (or eating less to lose weight) and an active lifestyle. So formal exercise can be quite simple in design, if the goal is to support leanness and sufficient, normal muscle mass on the frame.

      There are many great medicine ball exercises that you can find on youtube. I believe that everyone should own a quality medicine ball at home. (Better than that $3,000 treadmill sitting in the corner collecting dust.)

      You don’t need a heavy ball. A light med ball accelerated through different movement patterns can produce forces adequate to stimulate muscle and metabolism.

      Hope this helps,

  7. lolo says:

    mkay i have to admit that my weight is slowly creeping up… im still – relatively- lean, and still fast every single day, for more than 20 hrs, and try to eat ” clean” but yep i guess im eating more, working out less , and then i have to spend all of my days siting in front of this computeres ( work) So is a miracle im not grossly obese by now. Anyway, the “moving more” goal seems logical, ( i do a few chins everyday but lol i guess thas not enough) so up my NEAT go it. im going to do just that. (and mkay, ill eat a bit less and wrkout a bit more) Do you think 400 slow jumping jacks ( throughout most of the day ) is enough? what about timing? im thinking best on a fasted state? Even if you dont reply to this, is good to have you back. Thanks

  8. charlie says:

    And now perhaps, a few suggestions for those of us who have trouble with consistent exercise due to dizziness, stiffness or other physical limitations. I can reach down and touch my toes, but then nearly fall/fall when I stand back up. I have successfully fasted intermittently for several days/week or so at a time, then the ‘limbic’ hunger comes around and I find myself awakening with w powerful hunger and break my fasting routine. Can you elaborate in a future post on this phenomenon? Very useful blog, thanks Oh, could you also comment on the value of good, consistent, adequate rest for good health and weight loss.

  9. lolo says:

    lol, already did like 600, take it low dumbass XD

  10. Jim Hebel says:

    Hey Johnny,
    I’ve been doing IF for over a year now and have been reading your blog almost as long. Have lost 65 lbs and feeling stronger than ever. You have succinctly captured my experience with IF – especially the fact that it has taught me what true hunger is and is not. I very much appreciate your balanced approach to nutrition and exercise and want to thank you for posting such positive, motivating, and informative posts. I particularly like it when you get personal, as when you went on your cruise and ate to your heart’s content, and were able to share with us the aftermath of quickly losing the excess weight you had gained. Such posts encourage and inspire us all that we can live normally while employing IF as a wonderful weight and health tool.

    • Johnny says:

      Really good to hear about your success. There are many weight loss tools out there, but in my opinion IF is definitely among the best. Less than 10% body fat going on two years — I rarely stay under 10% for more than 2 weeks at time in the past — and it has been the easiest dietary lifestyle.


  11. Rahsaan says:

    Hi, Johnny.

    While I do formally work out, I also have a desk job. I do stand all day though. I’ve been standing all day now for about three years, and I wonder if that’s what attributes to my leanness along with intermittent fasting and usual dietary choices. (I do eat junk food occasionally, like pizza and ice cream and pastries from Balthazar here in NYC.) Do you think standing helps facilitate increased cellular metabolism? Also, I tend to walk most days from my home in Brooklyn to my job in Manhattan. Even in the winter months as long as we’re not in the middle of a blizzard.


    • Johnny says:

      Standing requires increased muscular activity for postural adjustment and stability. So, although there needs to be conclusive evidence, I do believe that standing provides significant health benefits over sitting. At minimum, from an energy cost, standing is always better than sitting.

      I have a client whose company has brought in adjustable desks so that employees can stand while working. One of the best things to increase employees’ health, productivity, and even creativity (problem solving, etc.)


      • Rahsaan says:

        Thanks, Johnny. That’s what I thought. Even before I got my employer to buy and adjustable desk 9I’ve had it for about a year), I did ditch my chair… which I found uncomfortable to sit in all day, like all chairs… and started standing. I just had to stick my monitor, computer and keyboard on shelves and boxes. Finally, with a change in bosses, I pleased my case yet again and was able to get an adjustable station.

  12. Audley says:

    A huge thanks is in order for your knowledge, experience and the willingness to share a personal journey to help others. I often refer people to your site. Going against “conventional wisdom” is not always easy. As a personal trainer I am seeing the fitness trends of miles of cardio and tons of carbs to fuel the miles of cardio are very slowly changing.
    You along with Mark Sission, Dr Doug McGuff, John Little, Art Devany and others show that IF, with sensible training along with sensible eating is the way to health.

    • Johnny says:

      Audley, thank you for not only your kind words but also for your continued contribution in the comments.


  13. lolo says:

    tried the standing all day thingy and it just made sore and more hungry… 20 random reps ttday dsnt seem to have that effect so far. jumping jacks, burpees, jumping squats, mountain Climbers, pushups, im picking one ( or all) and bam 500 / 600 reps TTday. not much people around so in mot going to look like a nutjob XD

    • Rahsaan says:

      Standing made you sore and hungry? That’s curious as it doesn’t require any effort at all more than what humans are anatomically designed to do. Are you being daffy for comedy or serious?

  14. Jordan says:

    Hi Johnny,

    I was wondering what is your waist size (at the navel level, and if you know it in centimeters it would be perfect) ? I’m a bit taller than you so it could give me a goal in terms of measurements and it’s better than guessing bodyfat percentage..

    Thanks in advance!

  15. Toto says:


    You said we don’t need a gym membership or a fancy equipment and I also remember that your goal was to be leaner, more streamlined and less bulky. That’s my goal too: a lean and compact but not large or gymlike body. Looking in good shape but “normal”
    A bit like this 21 year old model (I’m 21 too): http://i.imgur.com/JmIl9.jpg

    What should I do to have that physique if I have even less muscles but more belly fat than that right now but I’m afraid to bulk?

    • Johnny says:

      Toto, keep lifting heavier weights until you get to where you want to be. You can gauge your progress in the mirror. Lifting weight won’t make you all of a sudden bigger than you want to be.


      • Toto says:

        Thanks Johnny,
        as far as diet is concerned if I have more belly fat than I want should I eat less? But can I build muscles if I eat less? Don’t I need a bulk-up hypercaloric nutrition to build some muscle? But how can I lose the fat with such a diet?

      • Johnny says:

        You don’t need to eat a hypercaloric diet to build muscle. Lift weight. Be consistent. Gauge your physique.
        Your fat is a component of your food intake. Eat enough real food, but not more than can support your training.
        Don’t get caught up in thinking you must eat more to gain more muscle weight.

        Think of muscle-building like this:

        – muscle mass is a result of either muscle protein retention, or muscle protein loss.
        – you don’t retain more muscle protein simply by eating more (protein or calories).
        – you retain more muscle protein by turning on the stimulus to retain more.
        – the stimulus is proper weight training.
        – genetics determine the rest.


  16. lolo says:

    ok, since doing the 600 rep goal thing every day… i lost 2kg ( wtf) it -might- be mostly water, glycogen, or whatever, and not 100% fat, but my muscle mass is intact, and my pants feel looser, so yep, i think is mostly body fat. Moving more. So stupid. I thought 1 hr of exercise 3 times a week, was enough, but Johnny- once again- is rigth, is all about moving your ass, and finding a way of eating less, joyfully. THANKS!

    @ TOTO, easy: loose the belly fat, and then gain muscle, or better yet, do both. It shouldn’t be to hard, that guy looks kinda flaccid … ( hint, push ups, chin ups, some leg work, good sleep, fast, eat and you are there)

    • Toto says:

      @ lolo, I wished it was so easy. It seems like the more I focus on losing body fat the skinnier my arms, legs and chest become and the more I focus on building some muscles, the more my belly fat increases.

  17. nate says:

    Hi. Your site is very inspiring. I started IF inadvertently about 6 months ago due to stress in life and shortly found that it was effective at weightloss (I’m not much overweight though). After the stress passed in a few weeks I continued and over the 6 months I lost about 20 lbs. I leveled out at about 149-151lbs (I’m 5′ 9″). But still have a small belly I’m trying to get rid of (I think I need to work on the exercise a bit more.)

    I may have read every post in your blog and can only say that what you have achieved is marvelous and the advice and information you provide is very helpful.

    I had a handful of questions that I was hoping you could answer:

    1) Honey in tea or coffee? Do you have any thoughts on this? (While fasting)

    2) Is 13-14 hours of IF enough?

    3) You don’t recommend processed food – what about canned sardines? (or tuna) Your thoughts?

    4) I do 10 handstand pushups against a wall per day (great for arm and shoulders and teaching balance) – and otherwise do bodyweight stuff and work out on rings (not as a gymnast). Can I get similar results to yours without the lifting part? (I have ZERO access to weights).

    5) I know you don’t advise grains generally – where do you stand on steel-cut oatmeal? (or any whole and complete grain such as barley) Beans and lentils?

    I hope this isn’t too much. Thank you again so much for your great site – keep it up!

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Nate, here is my reply:

      1) Honey in tea or coffee? Do you have any thoughts on this? (While fasting) A small amount shouldn’t affect your fast too much. A large amount — say, more than a dozen grams of sugar — will impede. I’m not much into artificial sweeteners, and would just rather learn to enjoy authentic taste of coffee or tea with a little of the real stuff. Stick to about 10 grams of honey.

      2) Is 13-14 hours of IF enough? Yes. In the end, it’s eating less that matters if you want to lose some fat.

      3) You don’t recommend processed food – what about canned sardines? (or tuna) Your thoughts? Not everything is black and white, and there are gradients of things. Fresh is best, but as long as the canned stuff contains stuff that’s closest to its natural state, that’s better than a Chicken McNugget or a McDonald’s Fillet-O-Fish.

      4) I do 10 handstand pushups against a wall per day (great for arm and shoulders and teaching balance) – and otherwise do bodyweight stuff and work out on rings (not as a gymnast). Can I get similar results to yours without the lifting part? (I have ZERO access to weights). This is perfectly fine. If you want more muscle mass, you’ll have to find a way to stress your muscles further. The resistance level matters (i.e. using heavier and heavier weight to create greater muscular tension), but effort is king.

      5) I know you don’t advise grains generally – where do you stand on steel-cut oatmeal? (or any whole and complete grain such as barley) Beans and lentils? If it’s made by auntie Kay, you bet I’ll enjoy a bowl… with honey.


  18. nate says:

    Jonny – Awesome, thanks so much!

    Beans and lentils? I know they aren’t grains per se – but wanted to ask. I’m working to keep this simple, but I eat a lot of those, so just want to make sure they’re not on the “no eat” list.

    Again – you’re great, keep it rockin! (BTW – through IF I’ve actually got a 4 pack for the first time in about 8 years! Just started coming through in the last few days. Workin’ on the 6 pack).

    You’re site has given me the info I need to keep it going and stay inspired to make my goals and be healthy. Thanks so much.

  19. Jordan says:

    Hi Johnny,

    I was reading older posts and I found this one: http://theleansaloon.com/2009/11/24/calorie-counting-a-practice-in-long-term-failure/
    At this time you wrote a lot about how “calories in vs calories out” is wrong and isn’t the important thing in weight loss/gain and that it is a “paleo” (grain free) diet that is crucial. Just wanted to make things clear and be sure that your thoughts evolved and that I’m not wrong while saying that it’s the calorie balance that matters and not the calorie origin (carbs, protein or fat)? I’m asking since I don’t eat a “paleo diet”, I eat what my mom cooks or what available and enjoy it.
    Also, I’ve managed to lose 15 pounds without focusing on a specific macronutriment or so called “healthy foods” (but I make sure to get a multi vitamin and fish oil supplement) but just thanks to fasting until dinner and eating only 1 meal. I’ve planed to stick to this shedule (which is similar to yours after your “glutonous trip”) until I get to where I want. The thing is that I don’t lose that much anymore. I try to go for daily walks also, after dinner, and exercise a bit. Do you have any advice on how I could get to my goal (about 145 lbs, I’m 158 lbs right now) without overcomplicated things and maybe a bit faster?

    Thanks in advance Johnny!

    • Johnny says:

      I don’t hide the fact that my philosophy has changed since that older post. Although I still eat mostly whole, real food (Paleo-ish?), I’ve learned and discovered for myself that simply eating less is more effective at decreasing body fat and achieving greater health.

      I still think that counting calories is not realistic, but for a different reason than what I used to think. The removal of the stress of calorie counting has not only been a blessing but has made body-weight management and good health far more sustainable. This, I can do for the rest of my life.

      In past posts, I’ve mentioned that a Paleo diet helped me lose some weight, but I stalled on the diet. IF, while reinstating a moderate amount of non-paleo food, has resulted in significantly better body composition and I still feel incredibly healthy and energetic.


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  21. Dave says:

    Would you recommend IF to gain weight, muscles? I’m 5’9″, 138lbs, find it hard to put weight on, easy to drop weight!
    I weight train 2 times aweek, squats, deadlifts, power cleans, pull-ups etc. couple of walks, 2 bike rides a week of 30mins.
    I tend to eat 3 main meals with 3 snacks in between, the snacks are out of habit really!
    Any thoughts on this approach? I have read before that IF isn’t ideal for slimmer people.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Dave,

      IF can be for anyone, as it seems to elicit beneficial effects like autophage and causes hormesis. People can do it for health reasons beyond body weight. To gain weight, it doesn’t matter so much what kind of meal pattern you use, as long as you eat more. Eat less if you want to lose weight.

      However, beyond genetics, the best way to gain muscle weight is to use a good strength training program. Meeting your caloric requirement to support your physical activity is important, but don’t mistake that to mean “more calories = more muscle.”

      Genetics and weight training = muscle.


  22. Matt says:

    I think the real success here Johnny is that you’ve created an effortless habit for yourself. Aristotle said “excellence is a habit” and you’ve developed a habit of health excellence. The only point I’d add is persistence is the key to any achievement. If you want to loose weight, do it one tiny bit at a time BUT DO IT EVERY DAY the key is little n often. And that’s why intermittent fasting is so brilliant, because it’s a daily habit that leads to others.

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