Perhaps this is a cruel time to be talking about intermittent fasting since the holidays are coming upon us. But, there has been a lot of buzz about this lately. Just in case you are wondering about what the hype is about, I wanted to get into it a bit, and give you different ways of looking at it that may be helpful if you are thinking this is something that you should be doing. Especially when January rolls around.
It’s Not New
First of all, intermittent fasting is not new. Not even close. In fact, our early ancestors clearly exercised intermittent fasting because food was not always available. Much later, there were wars and disease, scarcity of food, and three meals a day was the norm, if you were lucky. Going without food was something that happened often. And, even post WWII, constant eating and snacking was not the case.
Scroll forward to today. With food available all the time, snacking has become a way of life for some. Afternoons, trips out and about, after dinner, while watching TV, during a golf outing or hike. Some of us even get a little anxious at the thought of feeling hungry…ever.
Live Without Eating All the Time
Looking at it from afar, this “new thing” of intermittent fasting is really a structured way to get back to learning to live without eating all the time. And, it is a way to stop eating frequently and not feel deprived. It becomes a lifestyle, just the way you roll. As a reminder, this is how humans have been “rolling” for eons.
As more and more research comes in about intermittent fasting, it is apparent that our bodies have always had ways to cope and actually thrive while not constantly focusing on the next eating opportunity. Our bodies know how to produce energy for us to live on in between meals and overnight, where we may go without eating for 12 hours or more. Many of us already do this on a regular basis.
The thriving part comes in with a thing that our cells do called “autophagy”. That means that our cells actually like taking a break from processing energy, and move in to a sort of clean-up process that makes them more efficient. For example, many people who fast report feelings of mental clarity, more insights, and enhanced energy. Indeed, people who fast for religious or spiritual reasons often do so for this reason.
What about low blood sugar levels and the many nuances of feeling lousy that comes with it?
Those who fast on a regular basis for different time periods say that it is important, like so many things, to work up to it.
Go Big or Go Home
For some reason we humans have a tendency to “go big or go home.” How many people have you known that go on a crash diet in order to get a jump start on losing weight?
Same thing goes for heading to the gym on day one for a one-hour intense workout. Intermittent fasting is the same way. If you jump into a 5-day water-only fast, it is not going to go well. Just like the other endeavors, you are likely to quit, and conclude that it is just too much torture.
I happen to think that many people could benefit from considering a “beginner’s approach” to intermittent fasting. What do I mean by that? Planned meals, three times a day. Small healthy snack in the afternoon. No eating after dinner. No dessert (but that’s another discussion we could have). That is technically called a 12-16 hour fast.
Many report amazing weight loss with intermittent fasting. Then they report feeling better, feeling sharper mentally, getting off some medications, and improving other chronic health issues. Is it the fasting or the weight loss that is bringing this about? There are a bazillion studies showing that losing excess weight improves your health. Your life span. Your energy levels. Even your depression and anxiety. Fans of intermittent fasting say the same thing.
The bottom line. The science is there. Intermittent fasting, done gradually, and safely, can bring about weight loss, and health benefits. But I also think that many of us can reduce our input by following what they are now calling intermittent fasting. In reality, it is a way to become more mindful of how we eat, and make a lifestyle change toward reduced intake that can greatly benefit many of us.
All the best
© 2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.