Overcoming Barriers to Intermittent Fasting: A Guide to Sustainable Success

Written by Stephen Anton PhD on June 12, 2024

A cartoon graphic is displayed, demonstrating the barriers to intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity for its numerous health benefits, including weight loss, improved metabolism, and enhanced mental clarity.

Sticking to a fasting routine over the long term, however, can be challenging as there are a number of potential challenges to overcome to successfully adopt this habit.

If you have attempted to follow a fasting schedule recently or perhaps in the past but stopped due to barriers you encountered, this blog is written for you!

Let’s explore some common barriers that almost everyone encounters when adopting an intermittent fasting practice and potential strategies you can use to overcome these obstacles.

Social-Environmental Factors

Social norms and the constant availability of food can make fasting difficult. Food is often a central part of social gatherings, making it hard to stick to your eating schedule. Family meals and traditions can also conflict with your fasting routine.

Strategies to Tackle Socio-Environmental Challenges

1. Meal Planning and Preparation:

Plan and prepare nutritious meals ahead of time. This reduces reliance on convenience foods and minimizes the temptation to eat outside your desired eating windows. Meal prep can also save you time and reduce stress during busy days. Consider cooking in batches and freezing portions for easy access throughout the week.

2. Create a Supportive Environment:

Remove or minimize unhealthy foods at home to reduce temptation. Stock your pantry with healthy, fasting-friendly options. Surround yourself with a supportive community, whether it’s family, friends, or online groups. Sharing your goals and challenges with others can provide encouragement and accountability.

Navigating Social Events

1. Eat Beforehand:

Have a satisfying meal within your eating window before attending social events. This helps reduce hunger and temptation to indulge in non-compliant foods. Eating a nutrient-dense meal with plenty of protein and fiber can keep you feeling full longer, making it easier to resist snacks and treats at gatherings.

2. Bring Fasting-Friendly Beverages:

Carry calorie-free drinks like herbal tea, sparkling water, or black coffee to social gatherings. This ensures you have options that align with your fasting goals. Having a beverage in hand can also help you feel more included in social activities that revolve around eating and drinking.

3. Be Mindful of Portions and Choices:

If you do decide to eat at social events, be mindful of your portions and choose healthier options when available. Focus on enjoying the company and conversation rather than the food.

Managing Family Influence

1. Open Communication:

Discuss your fasting regimen with family members to gain their support. Explain the benefits and how it improves your health. Be clear about your fasting schedule and why it’s important to you, and encourage your family to respect your eating windows.

2. Mealtime Compromises:

Adjust eating windows or involve family members in meal planning and preparation. Finding common ground can help integrate fasting into family routines. For example, you might shift your eating window to coincide with family dinners or involve your family in cooking healthy meals that everyone can enjoy.

3. Set Boundaries and Find Balance:

It’s important to set boundaries with family and friends regarding your fasting schedule. At the same time, be flexible and willing to adjust your approach when necessary to accommodate special occasions and family traditions.

Psychological and Physical Factors

Stress and boredom are significant hurdles. Stress can lead to emotional eating, while boredom might trigger cravings and unplanned snacking. Additionally, managing hunger, especially in the initial stages of fasting, can be overwhelming as your body adjusts to the new eating pattern.

Handling Psychological and Physical Challenges

1. Stress Management:

Practice stress-relief techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises on a daily basis. By lowering your stress levels, you are much less likely to engage in emotional eating or be tempted to eat during your fasting period. Regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and hobbies that bring you joy can also contribute to better stress management and overall well-being.

2. Stay Engaged:

Keep yourself occupied during fasting periods to avoid boredom-related snacking. Engage in hobbies, read, or go for a walk. Keeping busy can distract you from hunger and make fasting periods feel shorter.

3. Ease Into Fasting:

Start with shorter fasting periods and gradually increase the duration as your body adapts. This helps you avoid intense hunger and makes the transition smoother.

4. Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to how your body responds to fasting and make adjustments as needed. This can help you find a fasting routine that works best for you. If you feel unwell or excessively hungry, adjust your fasting window or consult a healthcare professional for advice. It’s important to prioritize your health and well-being over strict adherence to a fasting schedule.

Additional Tips for Long-Term Success

1. Set Realistic Goals:

Start with achievable goals and gradually build on them. Setting realistic expectations can help you stay motivated and avoid frustration.

2. Track Your Progress:

Use a journal or app to track your fasting hours, meals, and how you feel. Monitoring your progress can help you identify patterns, stay accountable, and celebrate your successes.

3. Stay Flexible:

Life is unpredictable, and it’s okay to adjust your fasting schedule when necessary. Flexibility can help you maintain a sustainable fasting routine without feeling restricted or stressed.

4. Educate Yourself:

Learn more about intermittent fasting and its benefits. Understanding the science behind fasting can reinforce your commitment and help you make informed decisions about your eating patterns.

5. Seek Professional Guidance:

If you have any health concerns or need personalized advice, consult a healthcare professional or nutritionist. They can provide guidance tailored to your individual needs and goals.

Understanding Sustainability

Sustainability refers to maintaining a behavior or practice over the long term. It’s about creating habits and routines that are not only effective but also feasible and enjoyable. Your environment, mindset, and support system play crucial roles in your ability to sustain healthy habits.

Recap and Reflection

Embracing these strategies can help you overcome common barriers to intermittent fasting, making it a sustainable and effective part of your lifestyle. Remember, consistency and flexibility are key to long-term success, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of fasting while maintaining a balanced and enjoyable approach to eating.

By addressing these barriers with practical strategies, you are likely to be better able to follow a fasting routine. You may even find the practice of intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating to be a rewarding experience. Stay committed to your goals, and remember that making small, consistent changes can lead to lasting success.


Dr. Anton

I’ve had the privilege of studying the fields of obesity, metabolism, and aging for the past 20 years and felt an increasing desire to share what I’ve learned with as many people as possible the past few years.


16/8 Intermittent Fasting: Tips from an Industry Expert

Written by Stephen Anton PhD on June 30th, 2023

The 16:8 intermittent fasting plan, also known as the 16:8 diet or time-restricted feeding, is a popular fasting method that involves restricting your daily eating window to a specific time-period and fasting for the remaining hours of the day.

16/8 Intermittent Fasting Plan

The “16:8” refers to the fasting and eating windows within a 24-hour cycle. Here’s how the 16/8 intermittent fasting plan typically works:

Fasting Window

During the fasting period, you abstain from consuming any calories, allowing only calorie-free fluids such as water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee. Some variations of this plan may allow for minimal-calorie intake during the fasting window, such as a small amount of cream in your coffee.

Eating Window

You designate a specific period of approximately 8 hours during which you consume all your daily calories and meals. This window is the time when you can eat your meals and snacks.

5 Reasons for the Increased Popularity of 16/8 Intermittent Fasting

The reason this approach has become so popular is that it’s highly sustainable and easy to follow once the body has adapted to this way of eating.

The 16:8 intermittent fasting plan gained popularity through a combination of factors, including scientific research, anecdotal evidence, and increased interest in alternative approaches to weight loss and health improvement. Here are a few key factors that contributed to its rise in popularity:

1. Research on Intermittent Fasting

Over the decade, a growing number of studies have explored the benefits of intermittent fasting approaches, with the 16:8 plan being most frequently tested. Findings from research to date has suggested that this approach has a number of potential benefits including fat loss, muscle preservation, enhanced energy, and greater mental clarity.

2. Simplicity and Flexibility

The 16:8 plan offers a simple and flexible approach to fasting. With an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting window, it can be easily integrated into daily routines. Unlike more extreme fasting methods, such as prolonged multi-day fasting, the 16:8 plan allows for regular daily meals while still providing a fasting period. This simplicity and flexibility made it appealing to individuals looking for a sustainable fasting regimen.

3. Aligning with Circadian Rhythms

The 16:8 plan is designed to align with our natural circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep-wake cycle and metabolic processes. It takes advantage of the overnight fast that occurs during sleep and extends it to create a longer fasting period.

4. Weight Loss and Wellness Communities

The rise of online communities, social media platforms, and wellness influencers played a significant role in popularizing the 16:8 plan. As individuals shared their personal experiences and success stories with intermittent fasting, it gained traction within weight loss and wellness communities. The accessibility of information, success stories, and tips shared online helped spread awareness and generate interest in the 16:8 plan.

5. Promotion by Health and Fitness Experts

Health and fitness experts, including doctors, nutritionists, and fitness influencers, have also played a role in promoting the 16:8 plan. These experts highlighted the potential benefits of intermittent fasting, including the 16:8 approach, through books, articles, podcasts, and media appearances. Their endorsement and expertise helped increase awareness and credibility around the plan.

Points to Consider While Practicing 16/8 Fasting

The 16/8 plan offers flexibility in choosing the eating window that suits your schedule and preferences. Common approaches include starting the fast in the evening after dinner and skipping breakfast the next morning or delaying the first meal of the day until later in the morning.


For a healthy and metabolically flexible individual, the metabolic switch may be activated after a short fasting period of 12-16 hours but for many individuals longer fasting periods are needed.


Potential benefits of the 16:8 IF plan include fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced cellular repair processes, and better metabolic health and brain function.

Balanced Nutrition

While the 16:8 plan focuses on when you eat, it’s still essential to prioritize a balanced and nutritious diet during your eating window. Pay attention to portion sizes, choose whole foods, include a variety of fruits and vegetables, incorporate lean proteins and healthy fats.


Staying hydrated is crucial during fasting periods. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to support your overall well-being.


It’s important to consider your individual health status, dietary needs, and any underlying medical conditions. If you have concerns or specific health conditions, regimen.

Remember, consistency and sustainability are key factors in any dietary approach. It’s essential to find a pattern that works well with your lifestyle and promotes a healthy relationship with food.

Muscle Growth and 16/8 Intermittent Fasting

The 16:8 intermittent fasting plan may not be considered the optimal approach for maximizing muscle growth compared to other dietary strategies.

Muscle growth requires an adequate intake of nutrients, particularly protein, to provide the necessary building blocks for muscle synthesis and repair.

In the 16:8 plan, there is a limited eating window of 8 hours, which may make it challenging for some individuals to consume enough calories and nutrients, including protein, within that time frame.

This could potentially hinder muscle growth if nutrient intake is not properly managed.

However, as described in the blog “Intermittent Fasting for Bulking” this is certainly possible and I believe that fasting and bulking (muscle growth) can be combined successfully.

Maximizing Muscle Growth While Fasting

Compared to standard bulking approaches, intermittent fasting and bulking is healthier, more effective, and produces less body fat gain. You will also experience healthier cells, improved muscle maintenance, higher quality muscle growth, and increased human growth hormone.

To maximize your results, remember to focus on consuming calories during your natural anabolic windows. For most people, that means when you first break your fast (typically in the late morning), and right after your evening workout.

16/8 Fasting and Your Circadian Rhythm

The 16:8 intermittent fasting plan can be designed to align with circadian rhythms, which are the natural biological rhythms that regulate various physiological processes in the body, including metabolism and sleep-wake cycles.

Our circadian rhythms are influenced by external cues, such as light and darkness, and play a role in regulating metabolism. The timing of food intake can impact the synchronization of our internal body clocks and optimize metabolic processes.

By aligning the eating window of the 16:8 plan with the body’s natural circadian rhythms, it is believed to promote better metabolic health and overall well-being.

How to Time the 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Plan

Early Time-Restricted Feeding

With the 16:8 plan, individuals often choose to have their eating window earlier in the day, such as starting eating around mid-morning and finishing by early evening. This aligns with the body’s natural metabolic patterns, as our metabolism tends to be more efficient earlier in the day and gradually slows down in the evening.

Fasting During Sleep

By fasting for 16 hours, a significant portion of the fasting period occurs during sleep. This allows the body to tap into stored energy (glycogen and fat) and promotes fat burning during the fasting phase.

Meal Timing and Sleep Quality

Eating too close to bedtime can negatively affect sleep quality. By adhering to the 16:8 plan and finishing your last meal a few hours before bedtime, you give your body enough time to digest the food, promoting better sleep and allowing the body to focus on repair and rejuvenation during the fasting period.

Hormonal Balance

Circadian rhythms also influence the release of hormones, including insulin, cortisol, and melatonin. Proper alignment of meal timing with circadian rhythms can help regulate these hormone levels and support metabolic health.

16/8 Intermittent Fasting Final Thoughts

While the 16:8 intermittent fasting plan can be structured to align with your circadian rhythms, individual variations exist, and what works best for one person may not be suitable for another.

For this reason, it is essential to listen to your body, adapt the fasting plan to your needs and preferences, and seek guidance from a healthcare professional or registered dietitian if necessary.


Dr. Anton

I’ve had the privilege of studying the fields of obesity, metabolism, and aging for the past 20 years and felt an increasing desire to share what I’ve learned with as many people as possible the past few years.


Get the Introduction to Dr. Anton’s Upcoming Book: Magic Morning Routine

Take advantage of this 100% free PDF and learn how to create a morning routine that helps you feel and perform at your best.


    Dr. Anton

    I’ve had the privilege of studying the fields of obesity, metabolism, and aging for the past 20 years and felt an increasing desire to share what I’ve learned with as many people as possible the past few years.


    Get the Introduction to Dr. Anton’s Upcoming Book: Magic Morning Routine

    Take advantage of this 100% free PDF and learn how to create a morning routine that helps you feel and perform at your best.

      Get the Introduction to Dr. Anton’s Upcoming Book: Magic Morning Routine

      Take advantage of this 100% free PDF and learn how to create a morning routine that helps you feel and perform at your best.