The term "fasting" used to trigger the Hulk in me because I was addicted to eating. For someone who loves the enjoyment that eating brings more than the enjoyment of a satisfied tummy, choosing to fast is a foreign concept.
So what exactly is intermittent fasting? What are the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF)? Why should any self-proclaiming lover of eating consider its merits? Isn't it enough to not eat between major meals throughout the day?
Let's look at what physical state fasting describes. Dr. Mercola's article on IF has been a great resource to me. In plain words he describes why intermittent fasting could make for a healthier lifestyle and how to go about it practically.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Your body is in a state of fasting when all the energy (glycogen) from all your consumed calories have been used up. It takes about 12 straight hours of not consuming calories to reach that stage! I am not a Doctor, so take it with a grain of pink himalayan salt, but the theory of IF is that when you finally are in a fasted state your body will find its energy requirements met by drawing glycogen from your stored body fat. This encourages fat burning which can result in weight loss. Once your body is in this state of fasting, many other healthy processes take place in your body, affecting the long-term health of your brain, your organs (especially your liver), your nervous system, your hormones, with the potential of reversing common diseases of our age, such as heart disease or diabetes.
How Do You Get Started?
Since I have found freedom from being addicted to eating, I have been much more open to considering changes in my dietary intake to increase wellness. The easiest way for me to feel like I was moving towards a lifestyle of intermittent fasting was to go with the "Peak Fasting" approach, outlined in the cited article. At its peak (and you will have to slowly work your way up there if you choose to), you only consume calories for 6-8 of your waking hours. For starters he suggests, and this came by no means as news to me, to make sure that your last bite of food or sip of caloric beverage happens at least three hours before you go to sleep.
As a Personal Trainer, I have known for years that this is good for you and can significantly aid in weight loss but I had no idea about the other, very encouraging, health benefits. Also surprising and new was to be sure to eat breakfast when your blood sugar starts raising in your blood, as that is a sure indicator that your body is consuming its own lean muscle tissue, which is very unhealthy and should be avoided. Doing blood sugar tests on yourself for a few weeks can help clarify what physical sensations represent what kind of blood sugar levels in your body. I have yet to do that, sounds curious!
I specifically enjoyed how Dr. Mercola encouraged to not force Peak Fasting into your day or week but to keep flexible as your body may tell you that this is not for you (yet), or your schedule may get in the way. I don't follow IF religiously, as my day to day activities vary, I get up at different times and teach some late evening classes that require a refueling closer to my bedtime than three hours. This is also not for pregnant or nursing moms as nutritional needs change. But I have to say, I am enticed to keep at it.
Four FASTing Benefits I Noticed
- I am less hungry in general and am fine with smaller portions! I can only deduct that not eating for 12 hours allows the elastic stomach lining to shrink a little.
- I sleep great! At first I struggled with sleeping well after not having eaten for three hours, but I realized that I needed to choose quality fat and protein for dinner in order to truly satisfy my tummy and be able to sleep well. Now I wake up and don't feel hungry for at least two-three hours of being awake.
- Does it bother you to constantly have to put expensive fuel into your car? I still enjoy eating very much but I do appreciate that my relationship with food has grown just a little more healthy. It's truly making me WANT to eat when I am hungry and make me NOT WANT to eat when I am not hungry. The body has a way of getting used to what we do with it on a regular basis (good or bad habits!) and I am feeling like mine enjoys eating when I am hungry and not eating when I am not.
- (Goes along with 3.) Enjoyment comes from having a need or a want met. Snacking after dinner should not be a need if you have nourished your body well during dinner. I feel like I have discovered a new form of enjoyment by enjoying not wanting a snack after dinner. Totally a first-world enjoyment, so besides enjoyment the state of not-wanting, I am also grateful that I now need and want less food.
Additional "Food for Thought"
Here's a few articles to check out if you want to learn a little more about intermittent fasting.
Blessings on your journey,
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.