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Kathy Whelan

Posted on January 31, 2022

As a follow-up to my post of January 9, The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting, I interviewed my dear friend Mary Warmkessel, whom I met during my 2016 health coach training at Duke. Like me, Mary is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach. She is also a practitioner and proponent of Intermittent Fasting (“IF”). Here’s how our conversation went:

Kathy: Hey, Mary, I’m curious how and why you started IF.

Mary: About four years ago, I wanted to lose weight, not a huge amount, just enough so my clothes would fit again. I’d done various diets but with only temporary success. Each time I relapsed, I’d blame myself.

Kathy: Sounds like a lot of people’s experience. How did you break that cycle?

Mary: At my job, I was so busy I didn’t have time to eat during the day. Eating dinner only, I lost weight, but I knew overwork wasn’t a healthy or sustainable way to do it. I’d heard of IF and thought, “Maybe I’m fasting already.” So I researched it and signed up for a 100-day challenge. It worked for a while, and I liked that it made me think more about why and when I was eating. But when the challenge was over and I changed jobs, I reverted to my old ways.

Kathy: What brought you back to IF a few years later?

Mary: With COVID, I began working remotely. Being at home and feeling increased stress, I started eating more and gaining weight. Remembering that IF had worked pretty well before, I researched it again and found many new options: podcasts and supportive communities, just the kind of support I needed. Reading Gin Stephens’ book Delay Don’t Deny clinched it for me. I knew I wanted to try again.

Kathy: Gin’s book is definitely inspiring. What was it about her experience and approach that drew you in?

Mary: She talked about IF as a lifestyle, not a diet, and I loved reframing it that way. She’s very relatable, and she helped me understand the health benefits of IF beyond weight loss. I could join her supportive community without being on Facebook, which I liked. From the first day I joined, I had personal interaction with Gin.

Kathy: Sounds just right for you. What was the hardest part of getting started this time and what was easiest?

Mary: The hardest part wasn’t the fasting itself but the awkwardness of telling other people. I worried they would take it personally if I didn’t eat when they did. I’d thought it would be difficult to give up cream and artificial sweetener in my coffee, but it really wasn't. Overall, getting back into IF was a lot easier than I expected.

Kathy: I know there are many ways to practice IF. What kind of fasting do you do?

Mary: I practice “clean” fasting, meaning I keep my fasts free of anything with calories or sweeteners, natural or artificial. I drink black coffee, water and unflavored sparkling water. Monday through Friday, I fast for 20 hours and eat during a 4-hour time window, usually between 4:00 and 8:00pm so I can eat with my husband. I allow myself more flexibility on weekends, but I never fast for less than 12 hours. My daily fasts average about 17½ hours each week.

Kathy: Those are long fasts. Do you find yourself craving food?

Mary: No, not often. Strangely, fasting has made me think less about food instead of more. I get busy with something and forget about it. On the few occasions when I feel a craving, I try to let that feeling linger for a bit instead of automatically reacting. Usually it passes.

Kathy: Do you still feel awkward telling people? Can you have a normal social life?

Mary: Now I’m very comfortable saying something like, “I’m not hungry right now, but I’m excited to sit here and talk to you while you enjoy your meal.” I plan a little more for my social life. I shift my eating window sometimes, just making sure I hit that 12-hour mark. It’s become a lifestyle for me, not a diet, so I need this flexibility for it to be sustainable.

Kathy: I’ve heard you mention “Non-Scale Victories.” What are those?

Mary: Let me say first that I rarely weigh myself. An example of an NSV would be noticing that my jeans fit better than they did a few weeks ago even though I weigh the same. That’s because IF has changed my body composition by burning stored fat and preserving muscle mass.

Kathy: How long have you been practicing IF this time around, and how long will you continue?

Mary: It’s been 8 months, and I plan to do this for the rest of my life. I’ve not only lost the weight I wanted to lose (and more), I’m also healthier and happier. I think more about what I eat and notice how different foods make me feel. What started as a weight loss program has turned into a health program with the side benefit of weight loss. I’m actually excited about turning 60 this year!

Kathy: That’s a really inspiring story, Mary. What advice would you give someone who wants to learn more and maybe start IF?

Mary: Don’t be afraid to try. Check out the Delay Don’t Deny community, which includes people ages 20 to 80, and listen to some of Gin Stephens’ podcasts. Start with a 12-hour fast and see how it goes for a week or two. Everyone’s life is different, so experiment to find what’s right for you. Of course, IF isn’t suitable for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any conditions or health concerns. Finally, consider adding a coach to your support system.

Kathy: Are you, as a certified health coach, open to coaching others on IF?

Mary: I’d be happy to talk about IF coaching.

Kathy: Great! Anyone who would like to have that conversation with you can contact me at, and I will pass along their information. Mary, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience with IF. Just one last question: who’s that adorable-looking creature on the leash in your photo?

Mary: That’s Liam, our Sheltie puppy. He was born on April 28, 2021, the day I began IF. That day marks the start of a new life for Liam and a new life for me, too.

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