This article appears in partnership with Fastful.

Eating is a part of life. Not only is food essential to fuel our bodies and stay healthy, but gathering with others while consuming meals is an activity. Whether you relish in holiday feasts with family or enjoy giving into late-night snack attacks, exploring intermittent fasting may sound like a chore. However, having a proper plan of attack can set your experience up for success. Here are 8 tips for sticking to an intermittent fasting eating plan.

Intermittent fasting isn’t for the faint of heart. Therefore, it’s best to have a plan before you get started. That way, you can stay in tune with where you may experience rough patches and want to give up.  Here are some tips for sticking to an Intermittent Fasting plan:

Start with a simple intermittent fasting plan. 

If your main goal is to practice OMAD (one meal a day) intermittent fasting, it probably isn’t the place for a beginner to start. Ease yourself into consuming a single daily meal by choosing a good starting plan and work your way up. For example, begin with a 14/10 intermittent fasting plan where your consumption window is 10 hours. Then you can transition to a more rigorous 18/6 program and then a 20/4 fasting plan. Taking steps towards your larger goal will get your body—and mind—used to time-restricted eating.

Treat yo’ self occasionally. 

Fans of the sitcom Parks and Recreation will remember that Tom and Donna had an annual day where they treated themselves with pampering, food, and doing whatever they wanted. Although a solid intermittent fasting eating plan will include healthy foods, don’t be afraid to have an occasional treat. If you’re craving chocolate cake, strawberry ice cream, or BBQ chips, go for it! Unlike Tom and Donna, treat yourself more than once a year, but don’t go overboard. Allow yourself to indulge once or twice a week guilt-free—within your eating window, of course.

Plan your meals, especially the one that breaks your fast.

When folks are hungry, they don’t necessarily make the best decisions. After all, that’s how the word “hangry” came about. Hunger can lead to moodiness, which means that if there’s no plan in place, you may just reach for the first edible substance around. Don’t give in to office donuts or grabbing a milkshake on the way home from work.

Plan the meal that breaks your fasting window. Eat at a healthy restaurant, have a meal ready in the crockpot at home, or keep a handful of nuts in your car to satiate your appetite before you can eat a full meal. A plan of attack will help you maintain a successful intermittent fasting plan.

When you go off schedule, don’t throw in the towel.  

Notice that it says when not if. There will be times where you will have to toss your intermittent fasting schedule out the window. Life happens. Possibly you need to alter your eating habits for health reasons. Maybe there’s a family tragedy and sticking to a time-restricted eating schedule isn’t doable at the moment. Perhaps it’s Thanksgiving, and you just want to feast endlessly for the day. All of that is ok. Truly!

Give yourself the grace to fall off the apple cart for a day, week, or season. Doing so will create mental space for you to handle what life is throwing your way. Even if you have absolutely no reason to cheat other than the fact that you gave in and had a brownie before bed is acceptable, too. Just pick up and restart your fasting journey the following day. That’s the beauty of it—you can move on and begin again whenever you’re ready.

Find an intermittent fasting plan that is right for you.

If you practice OMAD eating, practicality says that your only meal should be dinner. For some or even most, this makes sense. You can wake up, go about your schedule, and look forward to a satiating meal to end your day. However, don’t let what seems normal dictate your intermittent fasting schedule. It’s acceptable to make breakfast or lunch your one meal. Some may find it difficult to concentrate at work without having a morning meal. Others can stave off the munchies until lunch, but not eating makes their entire afternoon unproductive.

Do what works best for you, even if that means switching to a different type of intermittent fasting plan. If OMAD is difficult (and it is), practice it one day a week. Then do a different strategy, such as 18/6 intermittent fasting, the other six days. Give yourself the freedom to create the schedule that works best with your lifestyle and body rhythm.

Drink lots of water while you are fasting.

Water is essential for our bodies to function correctly. It’s also necessary to rid our bodies of toxins and help the processes happening while fasting. Cells are repairing and replacing damaged parts, and hydration helps along the way. You can also drink no or low-calorie beverages, such as tea, as long as it isn’t ladened with calories from additives.

Make your pre-fasting meal count. 

We rarely promote our bars on the blog, but one of the main reasons Fastful came to be is that it’s essential to get the proper nutrition before you fast. Have a healthy meal along with a Fastful bar, which will help your body optimize nutrients and keep you feeling full longer. Setting yourself up for a successful fasting period will make the time more bearable.

Realize that your fasting results may be different. 

Not everyone’s body is the same. We all have different shapes, varying family medical histories, and distinct lifestyles. If you have a specific goal in mind, such as losing weight or lowering blood pressure, be patient. One person may lose weight quickly, while another may experience slow weight loss. Go into fasting with an open mind. Also, realize that although weight loss may be minimal, your body will experience undetectable changes, such as cell recycling and improving your overall neurological health.

When You Shouldn’t Practice Intermittent Fasting

As mentioned above, there are times where fasting isn’t possible. Plus, there are phases of life and certain people who shouldn’t practice intermittent fasting. Here’s what you need to know about when you shouldn’t consider time-controlled eating.

Those Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Pregnant bodies have one job: to ensure that the baby inside grows, thrives, and stays healthy. Although “eating for two” isn’t always necessary, lessening calories and time-restricted eating can keep both mom and baby from getting the nutrients they need. The same principle applies to breastfeeding as the body is also in the mode to give the baby the essentials. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to have a steady flow of vitamins, minerals, and calories.

Those Struggling With an Eating Disorder

Most sources will say that you should stay away from time-restricted eating if you tend towards having eating disorders. However, if you and your doctor feel that you’re in a healthier place and can handle intermittent fasting, do so with your physician’s permission.

It’s a significant concern for those with a history of eating disorders—especially bulimia, which is the practice of eating a lot of food and then purging it. There is the potential to eat too much when breaking the fast. If you’re starved for calories, there is the tendency to overeat, feel guilty, and then fall back into the cycle of binging and purging, which takes a tremendous toll on the body.

Those With Diabetes

People with diabetes have to work hard to maintain a steady level of blood sugar. Therefore intermittent fasting doesn’t pair well with maintaining those levels with the delicacy needed for those with diabetes. It’s better for those with blood sugar issues to talk to their doctor about modifying their eating habits. They may suggest a lighter approach to intermittent fasting, such as a 14/10 schedule. However, don’t be surprised if they recommend staying away from time-restricted eating.

Those With High Blood Pressure and Heart Conditions

Medications to regulate blood pressure or stave off heart disease can cause an imbalance in electrolytes. Pairing those medications with an intermittent fasting plan is prone to throw electrolytes further off-kilter. Electrolytes maintain the pH of our blood, build tissue, and help our bodies perform various other necessary functions. Keeping them balanced is essential for a healthy lifestyle.

Set Your IF Plan Up for Success

Are you ready to begin your intermittent fasting plan? Being aware of potential struggles will help you come with a way to deal with those issues before they ever pop up. Be sure to discuss your intermittent fasting plan with your doctor ahead of time. They know your medical history and can help formulate an eating schedule that is right for you.

Armed with a bit of willpower and knowledge, you can experience the many benefits of time-restricted eating. From increased energy and more conscious consumption to losing weight and being healthier overall, the benefits are worth the effort it takes to stick with your intermittent fasting plan.