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Many of us in the personal finance world seem to get so caught up on maximizing our savings, earning more income, investing, growing our net worth, and finding ways to optimize every aspect about our finances.
I am guilty of doing this.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t either log into an investment account or search for my next travel rewards credit card. I’m always doing something to try and optimize our family’s finances.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this. I believe that everyone should take responsibility for their finances and live within their means.
Too many people don’t.
And while I think it is important to keep your finances healthy … sometimes many of us miss the bigger picture.
I have written about it before, but I thought it was time to bring it back up.
What good is a huge amount of savings or net worth, if we don’t take care of something even more important?
Today I'd like to share the most important investment I think you can make - your health.
Invest in Your Health
Many of us are probably guilty of not always focusing on this other important part of life, which is our health and the way we treat our bodies.
Personally, I believe that investing in our health is way more important than keeping our finances in check.
Staying healthy is the most important investment that I can make for my family. It is way more important than investing in any passive index fund, dividend stock, or real estate deal.
Without a healthy lifestyle, we really don’t have much. Which is why I have been focusing lately on adding small daily habits into my life that are focused around health.
If you are interested, then I’d like to share one of those habits that I have found effective for staying healthy.
This healthy habit has become so important to my daily life, I now refer to it as my #1 Life Hack.
This habit (or hack as I’ll call it) is known as - Intermittent Fasting.
Healthy Daily Habit - Intermittent Fasting
One of the most effective daily habits that I have been exploring to improve my health is Intermittent Fasting.
Now I want to be clear that I’m not a doctor or an expert on health. You should not listen or trust me in what I say … especially when it comes to health. I’m simply writing about intermittent fasting and how it has helped with my own health.So what exactly is Intermittent Fasting, or IF as it is commonly referred?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not really a diet, but rather a way of eating. I like to think of it more as a lifestyle that isn’t as restrictive as it sounds.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself. Instead, it is about setting a schedule for when you do eat or consume calories.
It is about the timing of when you eat and when you fast.
My Original Intermittent Fasting Schedule - 16:8 Protocol
I began exploring intermittent fasting a few years ago following the 16:8 protocol, usually 3 days per week.
The 16:8 protocol is very simple to understand.
You fast 16 hours straight, only consuming water, black coffee, or tea. Some opinions differ on what is allowed during a fasting window … but I like to follow these rules.
The remaining 8 hours in the day is your feeding window.
When I first experimented with IF, I followed this protocol.
This meant that on the evening of Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday I would stop eating around 8:00 PM. No calories were allowed … only water, black coffee, and tea.
Then I would basically skip breakfast the next morning and eat my lunch after 12:00 PM on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.
At first it was difficult to follow this routine but after about two weeks my body seemed to adjust.
The hours that you fast can vary to fit your schedule … just as long as they are for 16 hours straight.
Personally I find that starting my fast in the evenings and sleeping through many of those hours makes it much easier. Then it is a matter of skipping breakfast … which gets easier over time.
I recently wanted to further optimize my intermittent fasting schedule from the 16:8 protocol 3 days per week, to an even stricter schedule as I have highlighted below.
My Latest Intermittent Fasting Schedule - 20:4 Protocol
The more I read about fasting and how we are programmed to eat … the more I believe that when and how we eat is just as important as what we eat.
I think both are critical in living a healthy life -
The more hours that we can go without food (thus reducing our insulin demands), the healthier we can be. That is why my weekly routine is now made up of several longer daily fasts.
At a minimum, I follow the 16:8 fasting protocol every single day now.
So really I simply skip breakfast every day and don’t allow myself to eat lunch until my 16 hours of no calories is up.
During my fasting hours, I still only consume water (as much as I can) and black coffee. I occasionally drink some herbal teas.
What I’ve also added to my weekly routine is to include a 20:4 or 18:6 fasting window at least 2 days and sometimes up to 4.
I don’t stick to a hard and fast schedule … but simply alternate when it works best for me.
Similar to how the popular 16:8 intermittent fasting protocol works, the other protocols are similar -
- 18:6 - fast for 18 straight hours, feeding window is 6 hours
- 20:4 - fast for 20 straight hours, feeding window is 4 hours
I have found that the smaller my feeding window is, the healthier I get.
I’ve also discovered that as you work up to these longer fasts, your body will get used to it.
So if you are just starting out, I’d suggest going for a 16 hour fast or at least anything above 12 hours.
Note - I have even completed 24 hours of straight fasting on a couple of occasions. I haven’t yet experimented with anything past 24 hours though.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
I can only speak about the benefits that I have seen from intermittent fasting. And just like with investing in a passive index fund … it takes some time to see the compounding returns.
Here is a quick rundown of the benefits of intermittent fasting that have helped me get healthier.
1 - Reduced Bloating
The very first benefit I can always see after starting an intermittent fasting protocol is reduced bloating.
My pants fit better. I feel leaner. And generally I just feel a bit better with more energy.
For me, intermittent fasting isn't some magic pill that will solve all of my health issues. I simply use it as one tool in my journey to stay healthy … especially as I get older.
The bloating that I often experience on a traditional way of eating (i.e. all day) goes away when I do intermittent fasting, which psychologically helps me stay motivated. And it usually happens within a few days.
This is a big deal for me as I can actually feel the results rather quickly after fasting.
2 - Weight Loss
If I stop eating clean and don’t take care of my body, intermittent fasting helps me get back on track rather quickly.
Again, IF isn’t some magical weight loss pill you can take … but I will always drop 8 to 10 pounds in about a month once I pick back up on an intermittent fasting protocol.
I’ve experimented even further with longer fasts (like a 20:4) and the weight loss is usually even more.
What I’ve found from fasting is that it is almost a guarantee that you will eventually lose weight. I just can’t consume the same number of calories when I have a narrow eating window. No matter how hard I try!
3 - No More Decision Fatigue
At a minimum, I do a 16:8 fast every single day. That means I never eat breakfast anymore … which removes any decision fatigue on what to eat every morning.
Sounds a little corny I know. But it seriously has helped me get moving every morning.
Even better is when I follow a 18:6 or 20:4 fast, I don’t have to pack a lunch for work either!
I used to get stressed each morning trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast and pack for lunch before leaving for work. Now I just make a cup of black coffee and drink a glass of water every morning before I leave.
Just makes life simpler … which is what I am all about!
4 - Saves Money
I won’t say that we can retire early because of intermittent fasting, but it does save us some money.
I just can’t consume as much food in a smaller feeding window. So of course … less food eaten means we don’t need to buy as much.
My wife also does 16:8 fasting several times per week, so we are saving a little bit more there too.
The real money saving benefits of intermittent fasting come more from not eating out and buying convenience foods. Since I already know I’m fasting on a given day … there is no temptation for going out to eat at lunch or breakfast for that matter.
Again … not saying intermittent fasting will save you boat loads of money, but it can help you cut back a little.
The Best Life Hack - Intermittent Fasting
On its own, intermittent fasting won’t make our family rich or put me in the best shape ever.
For example, even if I only ate 2 hours every day … but consistently ate tons of processed food … I probably wouldn’t be that healthy.
And we wouldn’t save that much money … considering an unhealthy diet would likely lead to higher medical costs down the road.
However, intermittent fasting in combination with a quality diet (say paleo or keto) would likely make me healthier and probably would save us some money too.
Other important healthy life hacks that would compound my positive results could include - getting more sleep, eating a whole foods diet, exercise, getting outdoors in the sun more, and staying active all could contribute to being healthy.
I like to think of investing in my health the same way as we do our personal finances.
Making small incremental healthy life hacks (like intermittent fasting) over a long period of time has the potential to compound into something great.
Just like with our investments and growing our net worth … steady and slow is a great way to reach financial independence. That is why I am taking the same approach to living a healthy lifestyle.
What other healthy life hacks can you suggest that have worked for you … similar to how intermittent fasting has worked for my wife and I?