Intermittent fasting can be a comfortable and convenient way to improve your health.
Lunch Hour Lesson #28
Fasting is a traditional practice that many cultures and religions have incorporated.
Fasting can be anything from abstaining from particular foods to foregoing all food entirely, for a specified amount of time before resuming normal dietary patterns.
Intermittent fasting is a little different because it has gained popularity recently for the benefits to health that it conveys, rather than for religious or cultural motivations.
The most common reasons that people practice intermittent fasting is for weight management, and for improving insulin sensitivity in the case of diabetes, pre-diabetes, and neurological disorders. It can also be helpful for regulating hormones.
The word “intermittent” implies that this type of fasting is done at irregular intervals, to keep the body guessing, so to speak.
While an intermittent fast can be to abstain from all food for a whole day or even multiple days, the type of intermittent fast that I’m going to talk about today is more comfortable and affords many of the same health benefits.
The basic goal of this type of fast is eat only within a certain time window of the day. For example, 8 hours of the day would be those in which food is consumed, and for the other 16 hours, no food would be consumed. The 16 hours is the fasting period.
A day might look something like this: Wake up at 7:00am, and drink a full glass of water with lemon and a pinch of sea salt to hydrate. At 8:00am, have breakfast. Do not restrict calories, and focus on consuming adequate protein and fat at this meal.
At noon, have a satisfying lunch that includes balanced fat, carbohydrate, and protein. At 3:00pm, consume a hearty snack or mini-meal that is also balanced in the three macronutrients. Stop eating for the day by 4:00pm.
The important part of this type of fasting is, as I said before, not to restrict calories or fat or try to be on a “diet” for that eating window. It is important to still consume adequate nutrient-dense foods to fuel the body. Otherwise, your results will be less than optimal because your body will slow down its metabolism to conserve energy.
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Eating well and then not eating anything is also much more comfortable to the body (and also closer to what our ancestors would have experienced) than eating small amounts throughout an entire day. In the latter scenario, the body constantly thinks it will get fueled properly, and then this does not happen, causing metabolism to slow.
You can shift the time of day for your eating window, and instead of eating from 8-4, eat from 11-7. Just remember that you want to stop eating about two hours before bedtime for optimal sleep and detoxification processes overnight.
Some people also choose to narrow the window even more, so instead of an 8 hour eating window, they only eat within 6 hours. There is a lot of experimentation you can do to find what is comfortable for you.
I would recommend intermittent fasting for 2-3 non-consecutive days out of the week, and then eating in your normal pattern for the other days. Vary the days of the week that you fast, so your body doesn’t get used to any sort of pattern.
Even though the practice of intermittent fasting doesn’t prescribe what types of foods you should eat, you will be much more successful and able to stick with it if you are choosing nutrient-dense whole foods and staying away from processed and fast foods.
Finally, it is important to note that this type of eating pattern should not be undertaken by pregnant or nursing women, or children, who have different nutritional needs.
Choose a day this next week that you will do an intermittent fast. Remember to restrict food consumption to no more than an 8 hour window, and not to eat within 2 hours of bedtime. Note down how you feel. If you become lightheaded or get a headache, it is appropriate to break the fast. Reduce the sugar in your diet for a week and try again.