The holidays are upon us and you know what that means… A lot of people are in crunch mode to lose a few pounds before the holidays for a work party, a family gathering, or so they can indulge a bit more during those delicious dinners!
One of the methods I have been using on-and-off for the past few months to help me through my plateaus has been intermittent fasting.
Let me preface this by stating that I do this in small durations and for small cycles. I do not treat this as a diet but rather as an eating pattern. In other words, I do not conscientiously alter the foods I eat when I break my fast nor do I do this for weeks at a time. I am also not a medical professional; this is just personal experience and personal research.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a cycle of eating in which there is a period of time that a person does not consume food and other periods of time that they do. Fasting has been a practice throughout time and is still practiced today outside of the health arena. Think about our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors – there were no GrubHub or Postmates or supermarkets, so there were times where eating wasn’t possible. Presently, people who observe Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism all fast at some point for religious reasons.
Why intermittent fasting?
There are several changes to the human body during a fast -some on a cellular level and some even on a molecular level. Many of you may have heard of the diet trend Keto which essentially forces your body to go into ketosis, working on insulin levels and carbohydrate processing. Fasting does something similar without the diet aspect and more.
Hormone levels are altered such as the human growth hormone (HGH) which increases and helps with fat loss and muscle gain; insulin productivity increases which reduce insulin levels and makes stored body fat more accessible (think ketosis); cells throughout the body begin initiate repair which helps process/eliminate protein inside the cells; gene expression occurs which have been linked to longevity and disease protection. Coincidentally, you become more conscientious of what you eat when you stop fasting (or break a fast) which means you opt to make healthier choices overall. Also, I have noticed that I don’t need to eat as much when I am observing a fast in order to feel full.
How do you fast?
There are several different types of fasting cycles. Below are just a few examples, but these can all be customized to fit a person’s needs.
- Circadian Rhythm – Fasting period starts at sunset and lasts till morning.
- 16:8 – A fasting period of 16 hours with an 8-hour eating window
- 18:6 – A fasting period of 18 hours with a 6-hour eating window
- 20:4 – A fasting period of 20 hours with a 4-hour eating window
- Monk Fasting – A fasting period of 36 straight hours
- Eat-Stop-Eat – Fasting for 24 hours, eating for one day, fasting again
- 5:2 Diet Fast – This combines dieting with fasting in which a person only consumes 500 (plus/minus) calories a 2 times a week and then eat normally the rest of the week.
What is allowed during a fast?
Not much which is why the breaks are so important and why I do this only during short durations.
You are allowed to have water, tea, and black coffee – essentially clear liquids only. So no broth, no milk, no food.
I am fasting but I’m hungry (or don’t feel well). What do I do?
EAT. You have to listen to your body and if you aren’t feeling well or you are hungry – you need to eat. This is not meant to deprive you of nutrients or what your body needs. It isn’t worth getting sick over. This is just an eating style.
I started intermittent fasting with a Circadian Rhythm cycle that I then continued into the late morning. Now I do more of a 12:12 or 16:8 cycle because I stop eating around 8 PM and do not eat again until around noon unless I’m hungry in which I will have a light BREAKFAST (does that make sense now…break…fast) of my regular coffee (with almond milk and monk fruit) and usually an avocado toast for a good dosing of healthy fats.
Again, I do this for a few weeks at a time and then resume normal food consumption. This cycle of off-and-on helps me push through some weight loss hurdles and through mindless snacking/binging.
So inquiring minds want to know… Have you tried intermittent fasting? What cycle have you tried? What has your experience been like? If you haven’t, are you interested in trying it?