When you’re busy with work, kids, husbands, and opportunities, those are often the priority. Intermittent fasting really wasn’t on my list of priorities. Then, around Will’s second birthday, I found myself feeling pretty “fluffy” and weighing in around what I did shortly after he was born. It wasn’t the number on the scale that was disheartening. It was more about how I was feeling. Sluggish, tired and not confident in my skin to name a few. I was active and the real issue was over-eating. I’ve basically been consuming the calories necessary for a breastfeeding mom, even though my kid weaned himself 18 months ago. Insert facepalm emoji.
Around that same time, a friend had posted about intermittent fasting, how it was working for her and so easy. I had been introduced to the concept before but wasn’t open to it at the time. Seeing another friend with a similar lifestyle report this as a reasonable option left me curious. So, I decided to do some research. Here is what I found.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is cycling between periods where you don’t eat, and then you eat. Intermittent fasting doesn’t focus on the types of food you eat, but the amount of time you are fasting. Fasting can help with weight loss, protect against disease, and even improve your metabolic rate. If you think about it, we all do some form of fasting.
Most of us fast:
- After dinner to before breakfast
- After breakfast to snack
- Or on any busy day that gets ahead of us
You probably don’t know it, but you are probably already doing a 12 hour fast each night.
The word ‘fasting’ sounds like a scary word:
- When will I get to eat?
- How can my body go that long without food?
- I can hear my stomach growling already!
Truthfully, it isn’t that difficult. You might feel ‘hungry’ when you first start, as your body is getting used to the change in eating times. After a day or two, your body has changed its schedule and will feel better and have more energy while fasting.
Why Should I Fast?
Surprisingly, unlike most diets, there is overwhelming support for fasting. Intermittent fasting is not done strictly for weight loss, although that is a huge benefit. In times when food is scarce, one might be forced to fast. Some fast for religious reasons, instinctively, we all fast in some form when we are sick, and others focus on the metabolic health benefits of fasting.
Here are a few specific reasons why fasting is a benefit:
Intermittent Fasting Promotes Weight Loss
When fasting, your body is forced to use fat stores as fuel. In some instances, fasting may give your metabolism a boost by increasing your levels of norepinephrine, which aids in weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting Improves Blood Sugar
Fasting significantly reduces blood sugar levels and even reduces insulin resistance. These two benefits could keep blood-sugar levels stable, which would prevent spiking and crashing sugar levels, and for Diabetics, this is huge!
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Inflammation
Acute inflammation is normal for the immune process to fight infection. However, chronic inflammation can have serious health consequences. Inflammation is linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease and even cancer. Studies have shown that fasting can help reduce levels of inflammation in the body.
Intermittent Fasting Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Switching up your diet is said to be one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. Fasting has been linked to increased HDL (good) cholesterol and decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Intermittent Fasting Boosts Brain Function
Fasting is said to improve cognitive thinking as well as protect changes in learning function and memory. When looking at the benefits of reduced inflammation, this includes possible prevention of some neurodegenerative disorders. Though most studies on brain function and fasting have been done only on animals, the results so far are impressive.
With so many possible benefits to fasting and more and more current research, it seems like a no-brainer to try. Where do I start? Which method works for me?
Different Types of Fasting
Knowing where to start is the first challenge. When looking at all the different options for intermittent fasting, there are a few ‘methods’ that come up repeatedly:
During five days of the week, you eat normally. Then two days per week, you restrict your calorie intake between 500 and 600 calories. This method seems to fit well for those people that don’t want to think about limiting calories most of the week.
The Warrior Diet
On this diet, you eat as if you were an ancient warrior. During the day, you consume a minimal amount of food (like fruits and vegetables), and at night you eat one large meal. This fasting window is usually 20 hours.
When doing alternate-day fasting, you will not eat for an entire day, although some eat some bits, usually restricting themselves to less than 500 calories. On non-fasting days, you are allowed to eat whatever you want, with the idea that you would be choosing healthy options.
This fast is also known as ‘time-restricted feeding.’ For this method, you are fasting for 16 hours per day and eating during an 8-hour window. This option sounds like the easiest fast to start because you are already fasting for approximately 12 hours after dinner, so adding 4 hours would mean you skip breakfast and start eating at lunch.
These are only four of the many different styles of fasting that I have found, and there are more sure to fit your lifestyle best. While there are so many different methods you can try, the consensus seems to be that the 16/8 fast is the easiest one for beginners. Therefore, that is where I am going to start.
If you have done fasting, leave me a comment and tell me how it worked!